If you’re looking for proof that there’s more to the Caribbean than white sand and turquoise waters, the tiny independent nation of Grenada is a good place to start. Located in the southern Grenadines, the island offers picturesque beaches and underwater adventure (divers, bring your C-cards!), but also boasts lush, mountainous hinterlands and a reputation as the Caribbean’s original Spice Island. Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cacao all grow here in fragrant, fertile soils, and life rolls along at a sweetly slow pace.
Whether you come to Grenada to chase waterfalls, explore a crater lake, snorkel through an underwater art exhibit, or dive the Caribbean’s largest wreck, you’ll leave with a whole new perspective on the region. Read on for even more ways to go beyond the beach on this surprising island.
Take a hike in Grand Etang National Park & Forest Reserve
For Grenada’s best hiking, head to the island’s mountainous interior, where well-marked trails radiate out from the tropical surrounds of Grand Etang National Park & Forest Preserve. Warm up with a 15-minute stroll along the shores of Grand Etang Lake, which is actually the 36-acre crater of an extinct volcano (swimming is unfortunately not allowed), or get down to business by hiking to the gorgeous cascades of Seven Sisters Waterfalls (where taking a dip is entirely welcomed). Frogs, birds, and lizards abound in this forested area, as do armadillos and mona monkeys, which were transported here during the 18th century via slave ships from Africa.
Tube down the Balthazar River
Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, take a refreshing tube run down the Balthazar River. It’s just three miles long, but locals call it the “Great River” and there’s plenty of space for morning and afternoon tours with Island Routes. The outfitter’s trained guides can help you navigate the gentle rapids and arched stone bridges along the route, which cuts through a tropical rain forest of mango trees, palms, and stands of bamboo. They’ll even save time for basking in some natural pools, and provide the refreshing rum punch or natural fruit drink you need to toast Grenada’s lush natural beauty at the end of your adventure.
Pay a visit to Belmont Estate
A 300-year-old former plantation in the north of Grenada, Belmont Estate houses one of the island’s prettiest restaurants. While it’s worth the drive here just to taste authentic Grenadian cuisine like callaloo soup and handmade bergamot ice cream, the estate also offers a range of fun activities. Take a tour of the cocoa processing facility to witness how chocolate goes from bean to bar; walk through the tropical garden and discover Grenada’s many medicinal herbs; explore the surrounding forests and fruit orchards on an ATV; or browse the heritage museum to learn the plantation’s history. Before heading home, be sure to also check out the goat dairy and petting farm, and buy some organic produce in the farm shop.
Swim beneath the Royal Mount Carmel Waterfalls
Just south of Grenville, on Grenada’s east side, is where you’ll find the island’s largest waterfalls, which plunge into a pristine pool from 70 feet overhead. Though the Royal Mount Carmel Waterfalls are a sight to behold, part of the joy is in getting there via an easy, half-hour hike through a private plantation, where local spices and tropical fruits grow in tidy rows. It’s easy enough to find the falls on your own from the gate, where you’ll be charged a small fee (less than US$1) to enter the property, but consider engaging the services of a plantation guide, who can offer fascinating local insight into everything growing around you. Your reward at the end of your hike through the jungle will be the chance to swim and slide off natural rocks in the pool at the base of the falls.
Stroll around Saint George’s
Easily one of the prettiest port towns in all of the Caribbean, the capital city of Saint George’s fronts a picturesque natural harbor on Grenada’s southwest coast. Historic Georgian buildings painted in cheerful hues line the waterfront area, called the Carenage, and creep up the steep hills cradling the town. For some of the best views, hike up to Fort George—a cannon-heavy French battery built in 1705, from which you can see the colorful sprawl of town and the sparkling blue waters beyond.
Learn island history at the Grenada National Museum
Located in a preserved waterfront building in Saint George’s pretty downtown, atop the foundation of former French military barracks, the small but well-edited Grenada National Museum is worth a visit. The collection includes artifacts from Grenada’s indigenous Arawak people, as well as plantation-era relics, displays detailing Christopher Columbus’s 1498 “discovery” of the island, and memorabilia from the U.S.-led invasion of 1983.
Discover the Bianca C wreck
Off Grenada’s southwest shores, certified advanced scuba divers have the chance to explore the largest—and one of the most storied—shipwrecks in the Caribbean. A 600-foot-long Italian cruise ship, the Bianca C earned the nickname “the Titanic of the Caribbean” after an explosion in its boiler room caused it to catch fire and sink in Saint George’s harbor in 1961. Today, it rests upright on its keel in about 167 feet of water, inviting divers to explore deeper. The ship’s most famous feature is its onboard swimming pool, perpetually filled with water these days; equally captivating are the schools of Atlantic spadefish, eagle rays, and barracuda that regularly patrol the wreck. Several island dive shops offer guided trips to the Bianca C, but for small groups and great service, turn to Dive Grenada.
Snorkel through the Underwater Sculpture Park
Although it was created to give the island’s other reefs a break, the Underwater Sculpture Park, located along Grenada’s west coast, is among the most moving artificial reef installations in the Caribbean. Here, both scuba divers and snorkelers can explore the underwater sculptures, including the impressive Vicissitudes—a grouping of life-size figures modeled after local children, all holding hands in a circle. Located in a relatively shallow, sandy part of the Molinière-Beauséjour Marine Protected Area, the statues are predominantly made from concrete and rebar and serve as a great base for attracting new coral life. Expect to see a variety of colorful fish as you fin past everything from The Lost Correspondent (a desk scene that nods to Grenada’s history with Cuba) to The Amerindian Petroglyphs (a set of 14 sculptures referencing indigenous art). If you’d rather go with a guide, turn to Grenada Seafaris, which hosts snorkeling trips to the park.
Get a taste of Grenada at the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station
If you’ve ever sprinkled nutmeg on eggnog or baked it into a holiday recipe, there’s a good chance it came from Grenada. After all, the Spice Island produces nearly a third of the world’s nutmeg supply, in addition to copious amounts of mace, ginger, cloves, and more. It’s fascinating to stop into the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station on Grenada’s west coast to breathe in the intoxicating scent of the island-grown spice and see it being processed and dried within a large building fronting the water. After a tour, you can shop for freshly ground nutmeg, nutmeg jam, and other spiced souvenirs in the on-site gift shop.
Take a day trip to Carriacou
A 90-minute catamaran ride or 20-minute flight gets you to Grenada’s sister island of Carriacou, a speck in the sea, but still larger than neighboring Petite Martinique (Grenada’s other sister island). Come here to snorkel in crystal-clear water at Sandy Island or hike up High North Peak, Carriacou’s highest point at 995 feet. Afterward, head to the island’s main town of Hillsborough, which is lined with colorful wooden houses. The vibe is warm and friendly along Main Street, where you’ll find a few bars and restaurants with water views. For pizza and sunset vistas, join the locals at Butterfly Bar.
>>Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Travel Guide to Grenada