Grenada: Sweet Spice, Flammable Rum & a Frisky Monkey

photo, image, cocoa

Who knew this is what cocoa looks like in its natural state?

Up until a few months ago, I had never visited the Caribbean. In fact, I had never been anywhere with a tropical climate. This was largely by choice, as I am not a fan of the heat – and I don’t even want to talk about what the humidity does to my hair!

However, when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to visit Grenada. And I am so glad that I did.

Grenada strikes me as a place that understands what is special about it, and focuses on doing a few things really well. It has a laid-back confidence that is very appealing. I think this maturity is part of what makes it feel so safe for a solo traveler.

The Isle of Spice

Visiting Grenada offered me the opportunity to see a number of spices growing, that I had previously only seen processed or in a jar. Vanilla, cinnamon, bay leaves, mace… I had no idea what cocoa looked like in its natural form, or even that it grew to the size of a pineapple, or on a tree. But of course the most impressive of the spices grown in Grenada is nutmeg. Grenada is one of the largest producers of nutmeg in the world, second only to Indonesia. Touring the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station was a revelation. Everything is still done without machines. The quality of the spice is determined by whether it floats in water. It is laid out in racks to dry. Women sit at low tables, hand-sorting the nutmeg.

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Nutmeg shells line walkways and are used as mulch.

I love that this one spice is used in so many ways on the island. In addition to being used in cooking, it appears in soaps, oils, lotions and other cosmetics. It is boiled down into jams, jellies and syrups, and is made into La Grenade Liqueur. The cracked shells are used to line walkways, and in gardens to keep weeds at bay. Nothing is wasted.

Natural Beauty

Grenada is simply gorgeous to look at. And by simply, I mean that they haven’t complicated it with tourist traps and amusement parks. The waterfalls are beautiful, the rainforest unspoiled, the beaches stunning.

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Annandale Waterfalls.

On the walk down to the Annandale Waterfalls, I passed a man with a monkey on his knee. As I passed by, I thought I felt someone swipe my behind. I quickly turned around, but all I saw was the man and the monkey, and neither were even looking my way. Could it have been the monkey, I wondered? I assumed I must have been mistaken, and carried on.

The waterfall was lovely, surrounded by lush vegetation. A few local guys hung about, waiting for the opportunity to be paid by tourists to jump off the top of the falls. On the way back up, the man asked me if I wanted the monkey to sit on my shoulder. I was pretty sure that I did not, as I was already a little suspicious of the critter. However, the next thing I knew, the monkey was on my shoulder. It was a strange sensation, but it didn’t last long, as moments later he had climbed up onto my head. He then proceeded to crack open a nut, which promptly fell into my cleavage. This, I thought, is about to get tricky! So I insisted that the man take his monkey back so we could all part friends.

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Concord Waterfalls

By contrast, my visit to the Concord Waterfall was much less eventful, though equally beautiful. It is actually a series of three waterfalls. Where the water at Annandale was somewhat cloudy, here it is crystal clear, flowing over and around rocks – very inviting on a hot, sunny day! At Concord I met a local man named Elvis, who, it turned out, had only been to Canada once, and had visited family just a few miles from my home. It really is such a small world.

Sticking with What Works

Grenada is home to the oldest operating rum distillery in the western hemisphere. A visit to the River Antoine Estate is like a trip into the past, where again, so much is done by hand. Since 1785, they have been growing sugar cane, pressing out the juice, then boiling, fermenting and distilling it into Rivers Rum.

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Mounds of sugar cane waiting to be crushed.

Powered by the only remaining operating water mill in this part of the world, it is a process that is in turns fascinating, disgusting, impressive and overwhelmingly, shall we say, fragrant. Virtually all of the rum that is produced here is consumed locally, and frequently straight up. And the wrung-out sugar cane? It is dried and used as fertilizer. As with the nutmeg production, nothing is wasted – although I suspect I would have been, had I had the nerve to drink this 152 proof concoction!

 A Wide Range of Options

In terms of accommodation, Grenada has something for everyone. From the super luxurious Spice Island Beach Resort, to the decadently relaxing LaLuna Resort and Wellness Centre, to the active and proudly solo traveler-friendly LaSource, to the laid-back and budget-friendly cottages of Almost Paradise to the assortment of low-cost Inns and Guest Houses scattered around the island, every price range and preference is covered.

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Pink Gin Beach.

Interestingly, LaSource averages 18% solo travelers year-round and charges no single supplement. They also reserve a large table at lunch and dinner for solo travelers who want to meet and mingle with others who are traveling alone, and have it hosted by a staff member to facilitate interaction. They have solo guests who return year after year.

I too would return to Grenada, without hesitation. Though I might avoid monkeys. And rum shots.

I visited Grenada as a guest of the Grenada Board of Tourism.

  • http://feedingyourself.weebly.com Barbara

    I wanted to go to Bequia as it’s my favorite island, but the plane/ferry connections are complex. I plan to take a day ferry to Carriacou, with is a charming and sleepy little place except at festival time.

  • http://feedingyourself.weebly.com Barbara

    I’m booked for 2 1/2 weeks in Grenada in January. I’m staying in an an apartment up above St. George’s. I’ll rely on local bus (van) service, shop in the market down by the water, and cook a lot. I wonder if rum and soursop go well together?

  • onewoman

    I have heard that LaSource closed–I previously went when I was married. Now that I’m alone, I would like to visit the islands, but they seem to cater to couples. Can one have a great time and not feel like a freak of nature being single? Is BVI a good choice if you like sailing and snorkeling? What islands are the most solo friendly? Thanks for any info. I’m newly divorced after 31 years married! Have a lot to learn about being alone and liking it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/okromain Kijana Romain

    Wonderful article tracy. Please share on the Grenada Board of Tourism’s official facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/discovergrenada

  • Sistasvoice

    Home Sweet Home>>>I Love It>>> I am Home sick Right Now From The Different Views>>>
     

  • TraceyN

    Lucky you – I would love to visit again!

  • TraceyN

    Oh yes, I ate very well in Grenada! Here are some of my favourite taste experiences:  http://solotravelerblog.com/grenada-top-tastes/

  • suzieqcubabound

    :) Grenadians will drink ANY rum straight shots!  Our friends there go bah! when we give them something that is regular 40proof :)  but it keeps them sane (our rum, that is) – Westerhall Light… Stay away from the Clarke’s Court & Jack Iron if you want to stay standing LOL

  • suzieQgrenadabound

    What a great article, found totally by chance!  it is a second “home” to us too – back again, looks like, for our 5th visit in November….   Keep enjoying!

  • http://twitter.com/jaywalk1 James S. Walker

    My family is from Grenada. Glad you enjoyed your time there. This post reminded me that I’m long overdue for a trip. 

  • http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/ Nora – The Professional Hobo

    Aah….Grenada – A place that is quickly becoming “home” for me….(whatever that means, being a hobo and all)! I must have missed you when you were here! Boo. 

  • Noushin Zamanpour

    Very informative and beautiful pictures too, thanks for telling us about Grenada.

  • Ruth

    Great article, Tracey! I’m totally sold on Grenada now!

  • http://www.facebook.com/vijaykrishna.ranganathan Vijaykrishna Ranganathan

    very cool tracey! interesting info about nutmeg ! Did you try the local cuisine and any favorites :)

  • Kirsten Acton

    What a fantastic looking place! I love the nutmeg shells on the walkway. 

  • http://hikebiketravel.com/ Leigh_mcadam

    I’ve never been to Grenada and only a few times to the Caribbean. It looks and sound beautiful.

  • Tracey

    Thank you – I think I brought home a lifetime supply of nutmeg!

  • Tracey

    Thanks, Brock! Everything was just so lovely in Grenada.  :)

  • Tracey

    Yep, 152 proof – you can’t take it on a plane because it’s flammable at such a high percentage of alcohol. And they drink it in shots!

  • http://www.backpackwithbrock.com/ Brock – Backpack with Brock

    Thanks for the post! Your pictures are beautiful!

  • http://twitter.com/OverYonderlust Erica Kuschel

    152 proof? Good lord. The communal type table does sound like an awesome idea though…

  • http://www.butterflydiary.com/ Charu of Butterflydiary.com

    I’ve visited Grenada and love the spices too–it’s a very raw and fragrant island. Love the post!

  • http://www.borderless-travel.com/ Beautyuganda

    Looks amazing! Diverse as the pictures tell….