The Caribbean Island Tourists Overlook and Locals Love

This cluster of Caribbean islands escaped the wrath of 2017’s hurricanes and is open for business. With its unusual wildlife, unsullied beaches, and air perfumed with cinnamon and nutmeg, there’s no better time to go.

The Caribbean Island Tourists Overlook and Locals Love

Photo by Joshua Yetman

The small island nation of Grenada—situated off Venezuela’s northern coast near Barbados and Saint Lucia—is one the Caribbean’s most under-the-radar destinations. The group of islands avoided damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria (it’s located outside the Caribbean’s hurricane belt), and still hopes to host tourists this season. Here are the three best ways to get to know Grenada.

By land

Grenada comprises a trio of islands south of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and north of Trinidad and Tobago. The main isle of Grenada is 12 miles long and 21 miles wide, its territory carved into six parishes. Most travelers base themselves in the colonial capital of St. George’s, then spend a day exploring the ring road that circumnavigates the island.

The route is narrow and winding throughout, so it’s best to hire a driver. The first stop should be La Sagesse Nature Center, a secluded reserve with mangroves and a pristine beach. Continue up the eastern coast, through Grenville, pausing for a 150-proof rum tasting at River Antoine Rum Distillery, operational since 1785. (It’s the oldest water-powered distillery in the Caribbean.) Farther north is stunning Levera Beach, part of the 450-acre Levera National Park and a nesting spot for leatherback turtles.

Hook around the top of the island and stop in Gouyave, where an oceanfront factory processes nutmeg, Grenada’s largest export and part of the inspiration for its nickname, the Spice Island. Continue down the aquamarine coast until you hit Grand Anse Beach, just past St. George’s. The island’s liveliest and most popular stretch of sand, Grand Anse is dotted with beach bars and scuba diving supply shops. Before turning in for the night, treat yourself—and your driver, who has probably logged a good six to eight hours at this point—to a locally brewed IPA from the West Indies Beer Company in L’Anse Aux Épines. Growlers and mini-kegs are also available, if you want to take the party back to St. George’s.

By sea

In Grenada, life happens on, around, and in the water. Danny Donelan of Savvy Sailing Adventure runs full-day, half-day, and sunset tours aboard a traditional sloop. Private charters fit six to 16 guests and can be tailored to a group’s interests. The most popular stop is the Underwater Sculpture Park in Molinere Bay, where British artist Jason deCaires Taylor’s life-size sculptures cast from the bodies of real Grenadians are submerged up to seven meters below sea level.

By its dependencies

It’s hard to believe an island could get more relaxed than Grenada, but Carriacou (population: 6,000) and Petite Martinique (population: 900) have their big sister beat. Carriacou is about two hours from Grenada by ferry, or 20 minutes by plane.

After strolling through Hillsborough, the sleepy main town on Carriacou, head for the aptly named Paradise Beach or hire a boat and snorkel the calm waters off Sandy Island. For dinner, check out Bogle’s Roundhouse for callaloo tortellini or other contemporary Caribbean fare at.

With 22 rooms and beach views, the newly renovated Mermaid Beach Hotel is the best place to bed down for a night or two. When you’re ready to bounce to Petite Martinique, hop a local ferry or charter a private yacht. (There is no airport.)

For such a tiny island (586 acres), it proffers a surprising number of diversions: snorkeling at Palm Beach and hiking the Piton volcano, for instance. If you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with a ceremonial boat-launching, when the whole island gathers to sing hymns, and the new vessel is blessed by a local priest.

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