Grenada is a small volcanic island in the southern Caribbean near Trinidad and Tobago. I have been travelling here to visit my son, Cristofre, and his wife, Tammy, for fourteen years. Many call it ‘paradise’. Sick and tired of a long Canadian winter with snow showers still falling and temperatures hovering around -2 Celsius, it is no wonder that most of the people around the pool at the Starfish Resort are Canadian.
Fourteen and a half years ago, the people of Grenada were trying to come to terms with the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan in the south part of the island and Hurricane Emily in the north. Ivan arrived on September 7, 2004, and damaged 80% of Grenada’s buildings. It was common to see houses without roofs and many of the locals called the category 3 storm, ‘Hurricane Rufus’ or ‘Ivan Rufus’ due to the tragic situation of the homes covered with blue tarps trying to keep them dry. Everyone had a story about where they were when the storm struck. Packs of wild dogs roamed everywhere and at night if one of them barked, all of the others started. The palm trees along Grand Anse Beach, one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world, were torn from the sand, their branches scattered hither and yon.
Well, that was nearly fifteen years ago. Today, the palm trees have grown back lining the white sandy beach again along with a growing number of luxury hotels. What used to be $100 a night at an all-inclusive hotel right on the beach, will be more than three times that now, without meals. One of the newest, if not the latest offering, the Silversands Grenada has the longest infinity pool in the Caribbean and has, at the top end, four bedroom beachfront villas measuring 2,071 square meters (22,292 square feet), four and a half bathrooms, private pools, and outdoor dining to name a few of the amenities. Indeed, Grenada has set itself up for the 5-star market as opposed to the budget traveller according to many of the locals. It is, thus, interesting that one of Canada’s leading charter airline companies, Sunwing Airlines, has recently purchased the Starfish Resort and will begin a refurbishment on May 15. Today, this hotel is a good value for families that want an all-inclusive break. The resort sits on Magazine Beach. The grounds are immense with some rooms facing a central pond with bridge and islands with trees laden with the beautiful white Egret. The white ‘things’ in the second tree left of the waterfall are Egret.
Some shots of the current Starfish resort:
And while the rooms are a little tired and yes, there are a lot of stairs, the views are incredible and the staff are friendly and helpful. There is, however, only one a la carte restaurant, The Oriental, while I am told that the Silversands has fifteen. The point that I am trying to make is that Grenada has changed significantly in the past decade and continues to make progress in attracting tourists back to the island. Recent promotions have really helped. The economic boom can be seen in Spice Island Mall doubling its capacity, the number and variety of restaurants, tour companies, hotels, and shops. When once you could only get the local fare, today you have a choice of almost anything you could want ranging from sushi to East Indian to pizza and fried chicken alongside road stands selling roti and jerk chicken. That said, I would personally encourage resorts like the Starfish to provide local fare including roti for their guests. The other big difference in this growth is the number of airlines serving this small island paradise. Air Canada and Caribbean Airlines have direct flights from Toronto. Delta, British Airways, and American Airlines handle the American and European markets. And with Sunwing entering the market, there will be more options. The average temperature is around 27 degrees. The rainy season begins in June-July and ends normally in October. I have been here over the Christmas holidays when it poured every day. It never seemed to bother too many people at the beach!
You can come to Grenada and just sit at the beach. You don’t have to do anything. But, if you like to snorkel or scuba dive, you are covered. You might get lucky and land a Marlin if you go deep sea fishing but, you can also hook up with one of the locals and go out for something a little smaller. Other water sports abound near Grand Anse Beach. There are tours of the island and I suggest that everyone who comes here for the first time compare prices and go out and see the waterfall, the old plantations, one of the cocoa processing plants (it is all organic), hike through the rainforest or check out the 160 species of birds on the island. Here is a great shot of a blue heron at sunset the other day:
The food offerings in Grenada have changed immensely since I first began travelling here. You can even get schnitzel! Yes, in downtown St George’s! You apparently need to make an appointment but the food is, apparently, out of this world. Check it out if you find yourself here. And there are enough fast food chains like Subway, KFC, and Pizza Hut to keep people happy if they tire from the all you can eat buffets at the hotels or want something more familiar. But the small mom and pop stands that sell one specialized local item remain popular. Stop and have some of the local jerk chicken, the roti or doubles (originally from Trinidad I am told with the jerk from Jamaica). Find someone to take you off the main drag to find them. You will be glad you did.
No visitor should leave Grenada without at least visiting a shop in the old part of St. Georges, Art Fabrik. Chris Mast and Lilo Nido are creative designers. They have been here through the economic downturn following Hurricane Ivan and survived. They do the design work and have more than 45 women in the local community sewing the shirts, hats, dresses, and beach covers along with all manner of scarves and soft toys. They are truly local – nothing is made in China but sold as being Grenadian. You will be so happy that you did. Their large batik wall hangings are magnificent and have won awards internationally. If you are in Grenada long enough they might be able to whip something up especially for you.
Other local items to take home are the local organic cocoa. There are now five cocoa processing companies on the island. You can buy their products at the Chocolate Shop across from Art Fabrik or any of the tourist shops. Some are available in the grocery stores and are often less expensive for the same item. Nutmeg is another local crop and if you have lots of uses for it or need unique gifts for your friends, you can go to the Nutmeg Corporation and buy ten pounds of the latest crop. The nutmegs that I bought five years ago are still good! And if you learn to love the local nutmeg ice cream a quick way to make it is to take a vanilla ice cream, let it soften and add 1-2 nutmegs grated to a half gallon and let the ice cream re-harden. Of course, you can make your nutmeg ice cream from scratch using a vanilla recipe and adding 1 grated nutmeg to a batch. And then there is the rum. Lots of rum ranging from average to outstanding. Westerhall is one of the local ones but you can also pick up the award-winning El Dorado Rum from Guyana.