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The Caribbean island of Grenada has earned its nickname “The Spice Island” due to its abundant spices and produce. While the resorts and beaches are beautiful, Grenada visitors should venture out at least once on an agricultural-based excursion to get a real feel for the island. This is relatively easy, since the island is a compact 21 miles long and 12 miles wide.
An ideal way to do a day of exploring Grenada is to combine visits to Belmont Estate, a working farm that processes cocoa into chocolate; and River Antoine Rum Distillery, a still-functioning distillery that dates back to 1785.
The two attractions are located in the northern part of the island and only minutes away from each other, making them a convenient pairing for a visit. If your clients are staying in the southern part of the island — where the greatest numbers of resorts are located — it will take about an hour drive to Belmont Estate and River Antoine Rum Distillery.
One way to arrange the day would be to check out the distillery during the morning, then tour the Belmont Estate with a visit that can be capped off with a traditional Grenadian lunch in Belmont’s airy and spacious 250-seat restaurant.
River Antoine Rum DistilleryThe first thing visitors see when they drive into River Antoine Rum Distillery’s grounds is an ancient stone building covered with tropical blooms. Though it feels like driving onto a colonial estate, with a quick look around, it’s soon clear that this is a working rum distillery. All mechanical energy at the plant is supplied by a water wheel dating back to 1840.
“By utilizing traditional methods, the distillery not only keeps traditions alive, it also preserves jobs for local islanders,” said Whitfield Lyons, supervisor of tours at River Antoine. “We don’t export any of the rum we make. In fact, we can’t even make enough to meet local demand.
Presently, River Antoine has 80 employees. Watching them go about their work of crushing the cane and managing the fermentation process is part of the tour’s appeal. The experience ends with a chance to sample a selection of the distillery’s rums.
If your clients decide to purchase rum to bring home, advise them to choose the lower-proof rums. River Antoine makes a popular 150 overproof variety called River Antoine Royal Grenadian Rum. This rum is so potent that it’s not allowed to be carried onto airplanes, since it’s considered a flammable liquid.
Belmont EstateWhile Belmont Estate is a working plantation that dates back to the 17th century, it is a smooth-running tourist attraction as well. My visit focused on the agricultural aspects of the estate, although there is also a heritage museum, petting zoo and craft cooperative, where visitors can purchase work by local artisans. The estate grows an array of fruits and spices, including bananas, papaya, noni, cloves, cinnamon and pimento. The main crop is cocoa, and an estate tour concentrates on cocoa production, from growing cocoa pods to harvesting and processing the cocoa beans using traditional methods of fermentation and drying. This is a working plantation, so during our stroll through groves of fruit trees, we came upon workers harvesting cocoa pods using long sticks with a knife at the end.
After a leisurely walk through the estate grounds, visitors can purchase a variety of organic chocolate from The Grenada Chocolate Company. There’s everything from 100 percent chocolate bars to ones with cocoa nibs (roasted cocoa beans).
If the time is right, travelers can head to lunch in Belmont Estate’s restaurant. During my visit, they were serving island cuisine including callaloo soup and stewed pigeon peas, as well as fresh juices made with fruit grown on the estate.
Additional Stops and TipsIf your clients are staying in one of the resorts near Grand Anse Beach and St. George’s, Grenada’s capital city, they’ll pass through the town of Tivoli on the way home. This is a real slice-of-life town that’s worth a stop, filled with locals and non-touristic shops. It presents an authentic glimpse into everyday Grenadian life.
Self-drive tours are a fantastic option on Grenada. The roads are well-maintained, and Grenadians are English-speaking and remarkably friendly, making it easy to ask for directions. But, even so, the roads are narrow and twisty, which could create a white-knuckle experience for the average driver.
During my recent trip to Grenada, I had an accomplished driver: Roger Augustine at Ambassador Tours (473ambassador [email protected]). To have a relaxed day on the road, I recommend agents steer their clients in the direction of hiring an experienced guide.