Melanie Tomlinson from our Holywood branch hot-foots it to the sun-kissed ‘spice isle’ of Grenada in the Caribbean, travelling with The Inspiring Travel Company and Virgin Atlantic
Spice crops have been at the heart of Granada’s culture and economy for more than a hundred years, (the nutmeg even features on the national flag), but these days you can add luxury tourism to the mix.
I travelled with The Inspiring Travel Company which created a truly inspiring four night fact-finding trip. It seems a lot to cram into a short time but, as I discovered, Grenada is eminently do-able in even that short time span. I flew with Virgin Atlantic London to St Lucia, then made the relatively short hop to the Maurice Bishop International Airport on Grenada. If I were planning a holiday I would definitely look at using this service but making it a twin centre break, taking in the charms of both St Lucia and Grenada. However it is also possible to fly direct from London to Grenada with BA.
I left London on a typically damp and dismal day and arrived in Grenada to stunning sunshine and a totally different vibe … the tropical setting, the glorious coastline and the wonderful weather provide an instant feel-good factor, boosted still further by the high standards which prevail in the island’s beautiful hotels. Grenada was completely untouched by the recent hurricane which devastated so many of the other islands in this part of the Caribbean and its tourism industry is flourishing.
My first stop was the six star, all inclusive, Spice Island Beach Resort, owned and managed by Sir Royston Hopkin and his extended family: a major force in shaping the high standards which prevail across Grenada’s hospitality sector.
Set on the beautiful Grand Anse Beach with access to more than two miles of golden sands, the resort is visually stunning and oozes elegance. Given the attention to detail and the exceptional customer service offered here, is isn’t hard to see why there is such a huge repeat clientele. The staff are wonderfully attentive, yet always unobtrusive, emerging at just the right moment with those cool towels, refreshing drink or fruit kebabs. It may all appear effortless and laid-back, but I pay full tribute to the management skills which create this perfection!
I stayed in a ‘Sea Grape’ ocean-front room just steps from the beach … and of course I had my very own hammock, perfectly positioned to take full advantage of that spectacular sea view. The beach along this stretch is open to the public, but little used by locals.
Entertainment is low key with a weekly BBQ and manager’s cocktail party complete with Caribbean Steel Band … all very laid back and pleasant. Relaxation is very much the name of the game here so I took full advantage of the luxurious Janissa’s Spa on-site.
Food is (or should be) a holiday highlight and the Spice Island Beach Resort certainly didn’t disappoint, from the extensive buffet breakfast (with waiters on hand to carry your plate back to the table for you, of course!), to light and creative lunches with the emphasis on fresh local produce. Dinners are quite formal affairs, with five carefully selected and beautifully prepared courses – well worth lingering over. If you fancy something that isn’t already on the menu or have special dietary requirements, staff will be only too happy to cater to your specific needs.
While at Grand Anse Beach I took the opportunity to set the flip flops and sunglasses aside to don hard hat and steel toecap boots for a site visit to the new Silver Sands Hotel, still under construction and due to open later this year.
It was still very much a construction site, but it was clear that this is set to be something ultra-spectacular. On completion it will have the largest pool in the Caribbean and its design and layout take full advantage of its beautiful sea-front location.
I also visited Coyaba Beach Resort, set on Grand Anse Beach just along from Spice Island Beach Resort. All-inclusive, this resort is particularly affordable and well suited to families and those in pursuit of value.
Accommodation features natural wood and colourful accents, with modern amenities as balconies or patios. Upgraded rooms have sea views. There are two restaurants and three bars, including a swim-up bar at the outdoor pool. A gym, a spa and a tennis court are available, and there’s also an on-site dive centre.
I spent two glorious nights at the Calabash Luxury Boutique Hotel & Spa, the famously elegant intimate resort owned and managed by the Garbutt family and part of the Relais & Chateaux grouping of outstanding hotels worldwide. Fronted by lovely gardens overlooking a horseshoe bay dotted with small yachts and private homes, this is a spot brim-ful of understated charm: a perfect holiday retreat. The hotel offers a choice of B&B or Half Board.
Relax in the infinity pool, revel in a spa treatment or try your hand at scuba diving or (as I did) paddle boarding or head off in search of turtles on a snorkelling trip at the onsite water sports centre … there is plenty to do and all day to do it! If you feel like exploring check out the West Indies Craft beer bar just a few minutes’ taxi ride away from the Calabash, with fab beers and ciders on sale and local bands adding to the atmosphere. There’s evening entertainment within the hotel too, low key with a weekly cocktail party.
Breakfast can be served at the beach club with your feet in the sand or, if you prefer, delivered to your terrace or balcony and served, complete with white linen tablecloth, on your private table …an amazing treat and I can think of no better way to start the day than with a beautiful view of lush tropical gardens leading to seascape beyond and with birds providing the musical accompaniment.
Complimentary canapes are delivered each evening to your terrace or balcony … and, for a small extra charge, you can add a mood-enhancing pre-dinner glass of something perfectly chilled alongside; a great start to memorable dining at one of the hotel’s two renowned restaurants, The Beach Club and Gary Rhodes Restaurant.
Not yet content with all that luxury I also found time to fit in a brief tour of LaLuna Hotel, a beachfront Balinese-style property adored by travellers for its emphasis on intimate, relaxed getaways. There is a romantic 16-cottage boutique hotel and adjacent, you’ll find the Laluna Estate with its luxury villas.
No one word encapsulates the visitor offer here, for the hotel is at once bohemian and luxurious … in a laidback, eco-friendly style. Known for its beach yoga pavilion and unique Asian spa, the venue blends Balinese, Caribbean, and Asian influences with some terrific Italian dining. Think ‘fusion’ and you’ll be on the right track. I loved the friendly personality of this very special retreat.
‘Friendly’ is the perfect word for Grenada, for I found a warm welcome at every turn. It is a truly lovely Island, with rather more to see and do than in many other ‘paradise islands’. The capital, St Georges, is charming it itself but it also offers some standout activities … from here you can, for example, drive to see an underwater sculpture park, while the Grenada National Museum will give you a valuable insight into the history of the island and its people.
Inland, visit some magnificent natural waterfalls and enjoy marvellous landscapes but, whatever you do, be sure to visit one of the many spice gardens and nutmeg factories in Grenada. You may be surprised to see for yourself the exotic origins of the many spice powders which we all have in our larders … and this is a taste or Grenada which you can bring home as a souvenir!