Volcanos and vinyards

We last visited the island of Grenada in 1998 and I remember it as one of the most friendly places that I had ever visited. 23 years later and we are not disappointed - still lovely warm welcomes and super helpful people everywhere that we go. We are here with friends for some winter sunshine, diving, touring and birdwatching and just unwinding on the beach. This time we stay at the Mount Cinnamon hotel, a quite small, friendly hotel that also has timeshare/rental villas and is set back above the gorgeous Grand Anse beach - famous as one of the top beaches in the Caribbean. Our rooms, the Cinnamon Suites, were gorgeous, the food was good, staff wonderful and the hotel's beach bar made a great base for relaxing on Grand Anse Beach.

Mt Cinnamon hotel

Mount Cinnamon hotel

The island of Grenada is situated in the Eastern Caribbean at the top of the Grenadine chain of islands. It is popular with sailors who will often start a trip down the Grenadines from here. Two smaller islands to the North are also part of Grenada, Cariacou and Petit St Vincent and these are great spots for those really wanting to get away from it all. In 1983 the island was invaded by the US who had been 'invited' to come and depose the socialist parliament led by the charismatic Maurice Bishop. Bishop and his cabinet were marched up to Fort St George, lined up against the wall and shot. Now he is more fondly remembered and the airport and main road into town are named after him.

Grenada is a volcanic island with steep peaks and lush rainforest. The capital, St George, is in the southwest of the island and as you drive north or east things rapidly get quieter and less populated. When we arrive in November 2021 COVID 19 restrictions are gradually being reduced. PCR tests at the airport have now been dropped as has a curfew. The island imposed strict measures to prevent the spread of COVID and this had a huge impact on the economy that depends greatly on tourism. We did our best to contribute with meals out, tours of the island and purchases in the St George market and shops!

St George's harbour

St George harbour from the fort, and the 'carenage' at sea level

St George's market and streets

St George's market and steep streets

We started our walk around St George at Fort George on top of the hill, scene of the demise of Mr Bishop and alternatively occupied by the French and British over the years. From here you can wander down the steep streets to the market and then along the harbour front or 'carenage'. The centre of town is pretty small so it doesn't take long. The market is a great spot to buy spices for all your friends and there are some fun eating spots in town. We tried Sails and BB's which both have waterfront locations. The highlight was a visit to Dexters - a tiny restaurant attached to the side of Dexter's house. This classically training chef serves a five course meal with a local spin inclusive with wine if you want it! Very delicious.

Island tour

Peaks and forest, Mona Monkey, Sea moss farming

Island tour

Spices and rum tasting, Annandale Falls, Rum shop

Heading out of St George steep roads climb up towards the centre of the island with great views back to the coast. On our day tour we stop at the Grand Etang national park where we are set upon by Mona monkeys. These were transported to the island on slave ships from Western Africa in the 18th century and seem to be thriving here. After stopping at the Grand Etang crater lake we head back down the hill for a visit to a spice garden and rum shop. Grenada is famous for its nutmeg (front basket above left) but also grows a wide variety of spices, herbs and fruit including cinnamon, ginger and turmeric, cocoa and coffee beans and Caribbean favourites like breadfruit and callalou spinach. We have a great tour of a much bigger garden - Laura's spice garden - later in the day. The rum shop is almost next to the Annandale falls. There are lots of spectacular waterfalls that you can visit on the island. Annandale is not super spectacular but is close to the road and very refreshing for a swim.

Some sites are still closed so we miss a tour of one of the many rum factories on the island. We do however stop at a great beach bar in the southwest of the island and take in more views of bay and islands before returning to St Georges.

Breakfast birds

Breakfast companions - Kiskidee, Tanager and Bullfinch

Oystercatcher, sandpiper and mockingbird

Grenada has a wonderful variety of birds and we don't need to go further than our breakfast table to see tanagers, hummingbirds and cheeky bullfinches that come and try to steal our fruit and toast. To see more we book an early morning start with Simon and two friends who take us over to a fine spot on the east coast to explore a number of habitats. We watch pelicans diving for fish while oystercatchers and sandpipers stay on the shore, and in the trees and bushes inland we look for mockingbirds, pigeon, and hummingbirds but fail to spot the rare Grenada pigeon. By a swamp Simon points out an opposum nest up a tree and tells us how, as a child, he would climb the trees and poke the nests and his dog would catch the falling opposums for bush meat!

Squirrelfish with soft corals and sponges

As keen divers we had to spend some of our holiday underwater and fortunately there is a good dive outfit, Dive Grenada, in the grounds of our hotel. We did six dives covering a mixture of reefs and wrecks. The diving compared well with other Caribbean islands we had visited although there was a noticeable lack of larger fish, probably as a result of pressures to survive the COVID lockdown. The soft corals and sponges were very pretty, particularly the luminous azure vase sponges, and the enormous wreck of the Bianca C, which we last dived in 1998, is still very impressive. For more about the diving in Grenada you can check out my diving page here.

La Sagesse beach, 61 West on Grand Anse beach

If you are lucky enough to get to a Caribbean island you don't have to do anything! Just laze under a palm tree, wander along sandy beaches, float in the sea or sip a rum punch in a beach bar. As well as the fabulous Grand Anse beach by our hotel there is a gorgeous little bay just over the hill, Mourn Rouge beach (below), where we chilled in the beach shack and watched the sun go down. We also found a lovely beach and restaurant at La Sagesse on the south east coast. I am sure there are plenty more to explore but go soon as there is a lot of development on the island and it may not stay so unspoilt for ever!