Travel Guide, Winter 1995-1996
The mention of Grenada usually recalls the Reagan-era invasion of this 133-square-mile island, whatever that was about. Not to worry--its welcoming atmosphere has returned, and this verdant, mountainous island about 100 miles north of Venezuela has reclaimed its reputation as a great place to hike, bike, dive, or just hit the beach.
Most people stay in the island's southwest corner, where the best beaches, the airport, and most hotels are located. Also here is St. George's, a hilly town of red-roofed houses surrounding a horseshoe-shaped harbor. To the north lie Grenada's satellite isles, 13-square-mile Carriacou and 586-acre Petit Martinique, the de facto smuggling capital of the Grenadines (mostly electronics, alcohol, or anything that's subject to the Value Added Tax).
Head north and east out of St. George's, and you'll find relatively unspoiled terrain: the Central Mountain Range and the Grand Étang Forest Reserve, named for the large crater lake nestled at 1,740 feet on the slope of 2,300-foot Mount Qua Qua. The highest peak, 2,756-foot Mount St. Catherine, is just to the north of the reserve, where you can undertake several hikes. The Seven Sisters Trail is an easy four-hour trek amid waterfalls and thick rainforest, while the tougher Camp Fedon Trail is a steep, five-hour scramble using vines, roots, and rocks as sometimes precarious handholds.
In 1994, Levera National Park, in the northeast corner of the island, opened its 450 acres of coastal beaches and ponds, as well as the River Sallie Boiling Springs. The Forestry Department (809-440-2934) supplies detailed geologic maps that indicate hiking trails, but for the little-known trails that don't show up on any map, call Henry's Safari Tours ($30-$70 per person; 809-444-5313).
The rugged road that traces the island's north coast takes you along a 60-mile stretch of the Central Range and through dozens of small villages, revealing vistas of windswept beaches and intensely green mountains. To see it from a mountain bike, call Ride Grenada on Grand Anse (809-444-3263), which rents 15-speed mountain bikes for $10 per day.
Off the west coast, divers explore Molinere Reef and its tropicals (yellow-headed and mottled jawfish, spotted drums) and morays, as well as the wreck of the Buccaneer, a two-masted sloop in 80 feet of water, and the Bianca C, a 600-foot cruise ship sunk in 167 feet of water. Another great west-coast dive site is Whibble Reef, frequented by jacks, turtles, and rays. Just south of St. George's on Grand Anse, the prettiest and most popular beach, Dive Grenada (two-tank dive, $50; 809-444-1092) and Scuba World (two-tank dive, $65; 809-444-4371) provide certification courses and trips to these and other sites.
Most hotels are clustered south of St. George's. On Grand Anse, the Grenada Renaissance Resort (doubles, $180 to $550; three- to seven-night dive packages, $343-$1,103; 800-468-3571) has a complete water-sports center for diving, boardsailing, and sailing. The smaller Flamboyant Hotel (doubles, $85; 809-444-4247), with 39 cottages on the beach's southern end, is a low-key alternative. To the north in St. Patrick's you'll find Morne Fendue Plantation House (doubles, $50-$75, breakfast and dinner included; 809-442-9330), a classic hilltop plantation house with a good restaurant and the best rum punch in the Caribbean. In the southeastern corner, try the 77-acre Sagesse Nature Center (doubles, $50-$100; 800-322-1753 or 809-444-6458), with four simple guest efficiencies on a quiet inlet and nine miles of hiking trails adjacent to the property. Farther south, the Moorings has its Grenadines sailing base at the Secret Harbor Resort on Mount Hartman Bay (40-foot yacht, $2,310- $3,780 per week, crew and provisions extra; 800-535-7289).
One of the Caribbean's most beautiful beaches, Anse la Roche, is on Carriacou's northwest corner at the base of 955-foot High North, the island's tallest point, and is accessible only by boat or on foot (a 50-minute walk from Hillsborough). A longer walk heads north from Hillsborough, wrapping around High North and passing the bird-dense mangrove swamps of Petit Carenage Bay en route to the village of Windward. From Windward, the Grenadines' boat-building center, you'll have great views of colorful wooden boots carenaged along the beach and the neighboring islets of Petit Martinique and Petit St. Vincent in the distance.
With a little haggling, you can hire a boat to take you to Petit Martinique, where there's little to do but sit on the beach. To overnight there, stay at Sea Side View Holiday Cottages (doubles, $40; 809-443-9210), the only lodging on the island.
Carriacou's best dive sites are Kick 'em Jenny, with 80-foot visibility and a wall with abundant coral; Sandy Island, full of turtles, a good night-dive site; and Bonaparti Rocks, on the Atlantic side, a drift dive for experienced divers only. Book your trips through Carriacou Silver Diving in Hillsborough (two-tank dive, $70; 809-443-7882).
The preferred place to stay is the Caribbee Inn (doubles, $110-$150; $35 extra for breakfast and dinner; 809-443-7380), on a bluff overlooking Hillsborough Bay, only a 20-minute walk from Anse la Roche.