Courtesy of Shutterstock
There’s the Caribbean of all-inclusive resorts, frozen cocktails, and sunset catamaran tours on repeat, and then there’s Grenada. Closer to Venezuela than Florida, this small archipelago—the larger Grenada, along with Carriacou and Petite Martinique to the north—is a veritable Spice Isle, where coco…a and nutmeg plantations outnumber resorts, waterfalls and untamed coastlines are ripe for exploration, and a different kind of vacation awaits intrepid travelers. Bring your bathing suit, casual clothes, and hiking boots and prepare to fall in love with one of the Caribbean’s friendliest and most unspoiled destinations.
What to know before you go to Grenada
Just 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela, on the southern lip of the hurricane belt, Grenada is a good place to visit any time of year. Temperatures are generally steady and tropical, hovering in the mid-80s and tempered by the northeast trade winds. There are really only two times to consider when planning your trip to Grenada—dry season and rainy season—and believe it or not, each has its distinct appeal. Dry season (November to April) brings hot, humid weather that’s perfect for the beach, while rainy season (May to October) is when Grenada’s many flowers and tropical fruits are at their best—the mangoes, in season from June to September, will ruin you for all others.
In general, mid-December to mid-April is the busiest time in Grenada—and when the island sees the least rainfall. Go in February or March to catch some of the best festivals or between late March and early April to witness the spectacle of nesting sea turtles on the island’s north coast. May to early June is considered shoulder season and proves a great time to experience the island like a local, while August brings party people to Saint George’s for annual carnival celebrations.
Travelers to Grenada arrive through the island’s only airport, Maurice Bishop, located about five miles north of Saint George’s. From there, you can catch a cab to your hotel for a fixed rate set by the government. Private taxis are also available for transport around the island, and many drivers double as tour guides if you’re looking to hire someone for a day trip or multi-day tour. Just ask your hotel concierge to recommend trusted drivers, and be sure to negotiate rates before agreeing to a ride so there’s no confusion when it comes time to pay.
That being said, as long as you feel comfortable driving on the left side of the road (as is the norm in Grenada) and you’re at least 18 years old (the legal driving age on the island), renting a car will help you make the most of your stay. Visitors must obtain a local license, but you can easily get one through your car rental agency for around $25 after showing your home driver’s license. Saint George’s is the only place you’ll encounter anything resembling traffic, though people and animals tend to gather in the streets after dark, so avoid driving at night when it’s hard to see. Also be aware that coastal roads can be winding and guardrails aren’t always present.
Grenada’s public mini buses are efficient if crowded, should you want to try traveling the local way. Routes start at the main bus terminal in Saint George’s and cover most of the island, costing anywhere from EC$1 and EC$4.50 (US 40 cents to US$1.70). Drivers accept cash only; avoid using U.S. dollars and try to pay in small denominations. There are also brightly colored wooden water taxis that operate between Saint George’s and Grand Anse Beach. Be sure to bring a change of clothing, as rides can be wet.
- Those visiting Grenada for relaxation should head straight for Grand Anse Beach, which stretches for nearly two miles and boasts clear, calm waters. For something more active, certified scuba divers should check out the Bianca C wreck—a former Italian cruise ship, nicknamed the “Titanic of the Caribbean,” that sank in Saint George’s harbor in 1961.
- Grenada is known as the Spice Isle for its abundant nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cacao. To get a real feel for the island, tour a spice plantation or factory during your stay. Belmont Estate is a good place to start.
- Grenada is famous for its waterfalls, with Concord Falls being among the best. Located on the island’s west coast, the series of three waterfalls includes one cascade that’s easy to reach by car, no hiking boots required.
- Food-obsessed travelers will want to make a reservation at Rhodes at Calabash, one of Grenada’s top fine-dining restaurants, where cured mahi mahi and poached lobster are served in white-linen surrounds.
- Party people should plan to visit Grenada in August, when the island’s annual carnival, called Spicemas, takes over the streets of Saint George’s with music, parades, and all-out pageantry. One of the region’s biggest summertime bashes, the event celebrates Grenada’s rich African, French, British, and Caribbean heritage.
- Tipping is optional in Grenada, but if you appreciate the service at a restaurant, leave around 10 percent of your bill.
- On Grenada, everything grows. From the breakfast buffet at your hotel to the open-air markets along the road, expect to find the freshest fruit and vegetables all year round. Spices like nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa are also everywhere—consider stocking up on the dried variety as a souvenir with a real sense of place.
- Don’t leave Grenada without trying the national dish, oil down. A melting pot of a meal, it features breadfruit, callaloo, bananas, plantains, chicken, salted pig parts (snout is a favorite), coconut milk, turmeric, and more, and is typically prepared over an open fire in social settings to feed a crowd. Find it at the market in Saint George’s and small restaurants like Deyna’s Tasty Foods, which caters largely to locals.
- If you’re visiting Grenada during the Christmas season, a slice of black cake is a must. Said to be a relative of British plum pudding, the dense dessert is made with ground fruit soaked in cherry brandy, plus nuts, bitters, and fragrant island spices for a festive take on rum cake.
A mix of African, Caribbean, and Amerindian cultures, Grenada is best experienced through its many festivals. Major events like Spicemas are a great way to dive into the pulse of the place, but also consider visiting for smaller celebrations like the River Sallee Sakara festival, which takes place on the first Friday after Easter and honors the island’s African roots with food, dancing, and drumming.
Also worth experiencing is Grenada’s Emancipation Day. The public holiday is celebrated on the first Friday of August as part of the lead up to Spicemas and includes a speech by the prime minister, followed by fireworks.
- Bathing suits are for the beach. Locals never wear them on the streets or in shops, and neither should you.
- Greet everyone you meet with a familiar “good morning,” “good afternoon,” or “hello.” Friendless is the fabric of Grenadian culture.
- When buying spices in the market, always negotiate the price.
- Visitors from the United States to Grenada must have a passport valid for at least six months from their date of departure to visit the island.
- English is the official language, though many people also speak English or French Creole.
- The currency is the East Caribbean dollar (EC). U.S. dollars are accepted, but if you use them to pay, you’ll likely receive change in EC.
- Electricity is 220 volts, and sockets are type G (three rectangular pins in a triangle pattern). You may also sometimes see type A (U.S.-style two-pin plugs).
- Driving in Grenada is on the left side of the road, so use caution both behind the wheel and when crossing the street.
- It’s customary to tip tour guides for such things as guided walks, scuba diving, and the like.
read before you go
Based in Florida, freelance travel writer Terry Ward is an avid scuba diver who has explored most of the Caribbean islands in pursuit of her passion. She’s written for National Geographic Traveler, BBC Travel, the Los Angeles Times, CNN Travel, AFAR, and many others over a career that spans two decades of near-nonstop travel and reporting. Read more of her work on terry-ward.com.