The Spice Island

© Lyn & Arthur Dobrin.

When Christopher Columbus came upon the island, his men called it Grenada, as it reminded them of the Andalusian coast of Spain.

The British retained the name Grenada when they took it from the French in 1763, although they changed the pronunciation to Gre-NAY-da. It remains the name of this postage stamp-size nation, an idyll of a Caribbean vacation.

Grenada is a country of miles of beaches in protected coves, a cloud-covered mountain forest in a nature preserve in the island’s center, lovely hotels and villas, good restaurants and, best of all, tranquility.

Maca Bana Villas

Just minutes after landing on an Air Jamaica flight, we were at Maca Bana . The resort consists of seven villas, each named after a local fruit (ours was Avocado).

Maca Bana stands on a bluff overlooking one of the Caribbean’s best protected harbors that stretches to the capital, St George’s, a couple of miles away. Maca Bana is beautifully landscaped, its gardens and villas demonstrating the owner’s artistic eye.

The occasional green lizard painted on our wall is an example of the playfulness that defines Maca Bana. The owner also provides art lessons for those interested in learning to see the island as an artist does, tuned into colors and shapes in new ways.

At Maca Bana, palms rustle in the trade winds, there is an herb garden, a tree by each villa that reflects the villa’s name, and decorative pools with turtles and falls. The infinity swimming pool overlooks the white sand beach below.

Sampling Grenadian Cuisine

Maca Bana can arrange for a chef from its restaurant to prepare a meal for guests in their villa. Ours arrived at five in the afternoon bearing trays of ingredients that he would cook in our fully equipped kitchen.

We had heard that callaloo (a green leafy vegetable high in iron, similar to spinach) was a local favorite, so we had asked him to use that.

. Three hours later we were more than happy, having had a meal of spanakopita, cannelloni, and pork tenderloin, all using callaloo.

Later under a moonlit sky, we soaked and massaged in the Jacuzzi on the deck outside our sitting area. Strong winds kept the air cool but still pleasant enough, especially under the sky lit by a full moon.

The next day we ate at Mi Hacienda, a boutique hotel constructed in the French Colonial style. It stands high on a hill with a commanding view of the harbor. This is the place to watch the sunset over the turquoise sea. The beach is a fifteen-minute walk downhill, and car service is available from the hotel for those less inclined to hike.

Checking into Spice Island Beach Resort

Our next hotel, Spice Island Beach Resort , is situated on Grand Anse, Grenada’s premier beach.

We checked into Royal Ginger, a suite with its own small swimming pool and free-standing sauna big enough for two. The suite is totally private, with a four-poster bed that looks out through sliding glass doors over the swimming pool and onto the secluded patio with its tropical foliage. There is also a sitting room with a settee and chair, a flat screen TV and a refrigerator stocked with soft and alcoholic beverages.

We took the afternoon to nap, play in the calm surf, walk along the beach, read, and take a sauna. We were tempted to switch to a Spice Island Resort suite on the beach but decided to stay put. It was a tough choice, but we preferred the seclusion behind the garden wall to the view of the picture-perfect beach.

The tropical panorama is available at Oliver’s, the hotel’s restaurant, where guests dine amidst palms and almond trees, the sand and sea just yards away.

Next page: Touring Grenada >

Grenada is remarkably diverse.

We discovered this on an all-day island tour with Mandoo, a former merchant marine and himself a local institution.

Our guide's encyclopedic knowledge of all things Grenadian kept us engaged as he showed us picturesque St. George’s, a city with more than 100 buildings preserved from the French and later British colonial periods.

We also stopped at River Rum Distillery, a rum producer that has been in continuous operation since 1785.

The grinding wheel is still water-powered and the air smells from sugar cane and distilled alcohol.

Lunch was at Belmont Estate cocoa plantation and followed by a factory tour. The aroma that we smelled during lunch was the drying cocoa beans spread out on trays to dry in the sun.

Belmont is also one of the few places in Grenada where visitors can buy locally made chocolate bars, two kinds, both bittersweet. Another is at Real Value Supermarket, a short walk from Spice Island Resort.

Grenada's National Park

The mountains in the center of the island are a national park. This area, which covers about ten percent of the country, is a rain forest. The semi-wild mona monkey that we saw at Belmont has come down from the hills nearly afternoon since Ivan.

Mona monkeys are not native to the western hemisphere, but instead were introduced from Africa. These monkeys, despite their docile appearance, are not tame.

Lazing in Grenada

Our choice the next day was to stay near the beach. We strolled down Grand Anse, read on a chaise lounge under a straw umbrella, played in the clear water and napped on the villa’s bed, the glass doors wide open, better to see the blue sky.

The greatest exertion of the day was a couples’ massage at Janissa’s Spa, a new building on Spice Island property.

The spa also has a fully equipped exercise room.

Couples have the option of taking bicycles for an easy ride into town, kayaking, snorkeling, or taking out a sailboat from the Spice Island property. Visitors can also go on or fishing and scuba diving expeditions.

Those who are interested in a day trip to look for turtles, can go to the nearby, but different country, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The trip leaves at nine in the morning and returns participants to Grenada by 5:30 that afternoon.

Thoughts about Grenada

  • It is safe. No one cautions visitors against walking around. No hotel is a compound, removed from local life. The crime rate is very low.
  • It is hassle-free. There are few beach vendors and those there take “no thank you” at face value and move on.
  • It is healthy. Although Grenada is in the tropics, water everywhere is potable and there are no tropical illnesses.
  • It isn’t overrun by tourists. Only St. George’s is crowded, when a big ship or two pulls in to port.
  • People are unfailingly friendly, but with a hint of British formality. English is the official language.
  • And Grenada is beautiful, from the sea to the 2,000 foot high mountains.