Grenada is an island country in the Eastern Caribbean. It includes the islands of Grenada, and much smaller Carriacou and Petite Martinique. It is a tiny country with less than 110,000 people, which adds to the appeal of its unspoilt beaches, warm-hearted inhabitants, and laid-back lifestyle.
The smallest of the three islands, Petite Martinique, covers a land area of less than 1 square mile and has a population of less than 900 inhabitants. In contrast, the island of Grenada, the largest of the three, has a land area of about 130 square miles which encompasses lush rainforest, pristine beaches, nature reserves, spice plantations, and bird sanctuaries.
Visitors to Grenada will discover abundant spices, colorful fruit markets, rich colonial heritage, white sand beaches, pristine nature reserves, charming people, and one of the most attractive capitals in the Caribbean (St. George).
Carriacou and nearby Petite Martinique are less than two hours by ferry from the more frequented island of Grenada, and worth the trip. In Carriacou and Petite Martinique, modern commerce and tourist bearing cruise ships have had far less influence on daily life. The islands offer a refreshing taste of authentic local culture with their strong African and Amerindian roots, especially notable in local music, dance, and storytelling traditions.
European influences, particularly French and British, are also evident in the language, food, and traditions of the people. Fishing and ship building are the primary livelihoods for many local people, who are extremely skilled in the art of ship building.
In Grenada spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and allspice scent the air and at least one rum distillery still produces sugarcane rum using a water wheel and traditional methods virtually unaltered since the 1800s.
Raw, sweet, potent, and producing a totally unavoidable chill-out effect, a taste of the ubiquitous local rum is something like visiting this captivating island nation that smells of spices, tastes of the sea, and sedates the visitor with its kind people, reggae rhythms, and Caribbean beauty.
The people of Grenada are friendly, laid-back, hospitable, and greatly cherish friends and family. Traditions are important, especially on the smaller islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Music, dance, art, and food are all important ways the local people express themselves.
The majority of Grenadians are of African ancestry, many of whom are descendants of Africans originally brought to the islands to work on plantations. The second largest group is of Indian descent, and the majority of the remaining population is of mixed and European descent.
The original inhabitants of the islands were Amerindians arriving from South America, whose influences are still evident in certain craft, agriculture, and culinary traditions, and whose history can be explored in several cultural and archaeological museums on the islands.
There are a great deal of converging influences in Grenadine culture including African, Caribbean, European, South American, and Indian.
In Carriacou and Petite Martinique boat building, agriculture and fishing are predominant activities. The same activities are also practiced in Grenada, in addition to more active tourism and trade industries.
Music – including calypso, soca, and reggae – is a vitally important and a pervasive part of daily life in Grenada. Popular festivals include Carnival in the spring, the Carriacou Maroon Music Festival in April, the Grenada Drum Festival, and the Carriacou Regatta in August. Another smaller music festival, the Carriacou Parang Festival, is held in December. All are excellent for experiencing the music, dances, traditions, and authentic food of the islands.
The food from Grenada includes influences from Amerindian, Indian, African, Caribbean, and European cultures. Indian food is popular, and curries and seafood are prevalent. Coconut milk is used, such as in the national dish called “oil down,” a rich, comforting dish in which root vegetables and breadfruit are simmered slowly over an open fire with meat or salted fish, cabbage, spices, callaloo leaves, and fresh coconut milk. The ingredients are slowly saturated with the coconut broth, becoming tender and flavorful until all the liquid is absorbed. Oil down is often eaten with friends, outdoors, at the beach, or for special celebrations.
Grenada has a rich agricultural tradition, producing vegetables (especially root vegetables such as taro, cassava and yam), tropical fruit such as banana, mango, guava, and breadfruit, cocoa, and plenty of spices including nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and allspice. Grenada is known as the Island of Spice, and it produces a large percentage of the world’s nutmeg.
The market in St. George is an excellent place to scout out local products, meet the locals, and savor luscious tropical fruits.
To drink, try Grenadian rum, or the locally produced beer called Carib. An interesting drink called mauby (non-alcoholic) is made from the bark of a local tree and sweetened. Special Grenadian sweets include spice cakes and decadent nutmeg ice cream
Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC).
Note: The US dollar is also accepted. The best exchange rates will probably be found in banks, so best to exchange your currency there. Banks are usually only open until about 2 pm, Monday through Thursday (sometimes later on Friday). Credit cards are widely accepted.
When to Go
Grenada is suitable to travel to most of the year thanks to its warm tropical climate. There is not much temperature variation between seasons, with average temperatures ranging from about 75 degrees to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The dry season is January through May. The rainy season runs from June to December.
If you’d like to attend a local festival such as the Carriacou Maroon Music Festival (April), or the Carnival celebrations, plan accordingly.
Dress in Grenada is casual. Light layers are recommended because of the warm weather and ample sun, though a gentle breeze can cool things down in the evening. High altitudes will be somewhat cooler. Besides the beaches, for which swimwear is recommended, there are many hiking trails and beautiful waterfalls worth trekking to. For this a bathing suit is recommended (if you are hiking to a pool or waterfall) as well as clothes suitable for hiking – sturdy shoes, longs sleeve shirt, and pants.
Beach attire is not recommended when walking around the cities or towns, though casual warm weather clothes (shorts, t-shirt, tank tops, sandals) are acceptable.
Most people arrive in Grenada by boat or by plane. If arriving by boat, you will likely enter through the main port in St. George (though there are other ports as well). There are regular flights from Europe, North America, and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Ferries travel frequently (usually once or twice daily) between the islands of Grenada and Carriacou and nearby Petite Martinique. It is about 2 hours by ferry from Grenada to Carriacou. It is also possible to fly from Grenada to Carriacou, which only takes about 15-20 minutes.
Buses and minivans provide basic transport around the island. Roads are good, and car rental is an option on Grenada. There are plenty of excellent hiking paths.
Health facilities in Grenada are good. The main hospital is located in St. George (Grenada island), though all the islands have health facilities and some small clinics. Be sure to bring adequate protection from the sun including a hat, sunglasses and sunblock.
Citizens of the USA, Canada, the UK, Japan, many European countries, and most Caribbean countries can enter Granada without a visa. A valid passport and return ticket or proof of sufficient funds for onward journey is required for all visitors to the country.
Top 5 Sites
1. Duquesne Bay petroglyphs (Grenada)
2. National Museum (St. George, Grenada)
3. Fort Matthew (St. George, Grenada)
4. River Antoine Rum Distillery (Grenada)
5. Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park (Grenada)
Top 5 Things to Do
1. Attend the Carriacou Maroon and String Band Music Festival in April (Carriacou)
2. Visit the St. George market (Grenada)
3. Attend the animated Shakespeare Mas (Carriacou)
4. Join the Carriacou Regatta in August (Carriacou)
5. Hike past numerous cascading waterfalls to Seven Sisters Falls in Grand Etang National Park (Grenada)
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