Grenada is one of the Caribbean’s lushest landfalls, rich in rain forest, waterfalls and agriculture. The island so reminded early Spanish sailors of the beloved green hillsides above their home port, they named it Granada. However, the French and British later corrupted the name to a different spelling and pronunciation. The Spanish city of Granada is called “Grah-NAH-dah,” while the deep Caribbean island of Grenada is known as “Greh-NAY-dah.”
Located 158 miles southwest of Barbados and 100 miles north of Venezuela, Grenada is only 12 miles wide and 21 miles long, yet its mountainous interior provides some of the Caribbean’s most scenic—as well as most accessible—hiking and nature trails. Grenada began protecting its natural resources well before the concept of ecotourism was invented, so much of the landscape is unspoiled.
Known as the spice basket of the Caribbean, Grenada produces 12 different spices, including cloves, nutmeg, mace, ginger and cinnamon. Sailors claim they can smell their sweet fragrance as far as 20 miles out at sea. There are said to be more spices here per square mile than anywhere else on earth. Grenada’s most important spices are nutmeg and mace, supposedly introduced to the island in 1843 as a surprise addition to the rum punch at a local bash. Since then, no one in Grenada would consider drinking rum punch without it. Grenada is the world’s third largest producer of nutmeg and mace.
The picturesque capital and main port city of St. George’s lines a horseshoe-shaped harbor known as the Carenage at the southern end of Grenada. St. George’s Saturday market is incredibly lively and colorful, perhaps the best open-air market in all the Caribbean.
Grand Etang National Park in Grenada’s high mountains receives more than 160 inches of rain a year, creating a verdant rain forest with 450 species of flowering plants and 85 different types of trees. Most of the island’s 150 types of birds live within the sanctuary as do free-roaming mona monkeys. Grand Etang National Park also has an outstanding system of nature walks and mountain hikes. Grenada has no poisonous snakes and few biting insects. Grand Etang is too high for mosquitoes to be much bother.
Grenada’s Grand Etang National Park … Hike Mount Qua Qua and other well-marked trails in Grenada
Grenada is busiest during the winter high season, when hotel prices are significantly higher. Winter also is the dry season, which makes it the best time for mountain hiking (less slippery mud) and scuba diving (less runoff from rainfall).
Summer is popular because everything is more laid back and hotel prices may be as much as 40% less. Summer also is the main cruise ship season. The capital city of St. George’s is more crowded when the ships are in but with many cruisers out touring the island, traffic away from the cruise port usually flows easily.
One of the best times to visit Grenada is the last two weeks of April and the beginning of May. High season prices are over and it is before the wet season begins in mid-May.
If you’re willing to gamble, hotel and cruise ship prices are at their lowest in September and October, some of the rainiest months during hurricane season. But you might enjoy nothing but sun and blue sky. With the weather these days, you never know.
Most vacationers spend at least a week or 10 days in order to make up for their lost travel days. On arrival days, many flights land in mid-afternoon or early evening. On departure days, your plane may leave as early as 7:30 a.m. These schedules severely limit what you can do on your first and last days.
Grenada’s high and low seasons are similar to those of other Caribbean islands. The more expensive high season extends from about mid-December to mid-April, the best weather months for Grenada and the coldest back home. The high season is the island’s most busy time of year.
Grenada’s temperatures vary from the low 80s to the 70s in winter. The wind chill caused by a brisk breeze makes it feel much cooler, so have a jacket for the winter months. In summer, temperatures might creep near 90 but generally go no higher than the 80s. Cooling northeast trade winds temper the hot days.
January to May is the dry season. It does still rain during these months: an average of just under 5 inches in January, a little over 3 inches in February and less than 3 inches in March and April. Although rains typically start in May, June through November is the wet season. An average of over 8 inches falls in those months. In October and November, precipitation approaches 10 inches. In December, rains begin to lessen with an average of 7.5 inches.
The sun may shine in coastal areas during the wet months while rain falls in the mountains. Some peaks receive as much as 160 inches of precipitation annually. Rain may last for several days at a time in summer although showers of under an hour can occur. Have a rain jacket or umbrella handy.
Hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts until the end of October. Tropical storms are most active from mid-August through October. If a hurricane definitely is headed toward Grenada during your planned vacation, see if your airline and hotel will provide refunds. Do not visit the island after a hurricane strike for at least several weeks, perhaps longer depending on the extent of damage.
These are the major holidays in Grenada.
New Year’s Day, January 1
Independence Day (National Day), February 7 commemorate Grenada’s Independence from the United Kingdom in 1974.
Good Friday, varies
Easter Monday, varies
Labour Day, May 1
Whit Monday, honors a religious festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Varies by year.
Corpus Christi, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist in Grenada.
Emancipation Day, the first Monday of August
Carnival (called Spicemas) is at its most colorful and musical on the final two days, the second Monday and Tuesday in August.
Thanksgiving Day, celebrated October 25 to mark when U.S. and Caribbean troops invaded to restore order following the execution of Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Most Grenadians obviously welcomed the military invasion.
Christmas, December 25
Boxing Day, December 26 commemorates when servants and tradesmen received a “Christmas box,” a gift from their masters, employers or customers.
Grenada is on Atlantic Standard Time, which is 1 hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 4 hours behind GMT.
Pack light casual clothing and a protective sun hat and sunscreen for summer. Winter evenings can be cooler and may require a light coat. For visiting the countryside and hiking, bring long pants, long sleeve shirts, tops and trekking/hiking shoes. For the rainy season, pack an umbrella or rain jacket or both.
When dining at a resort or hotel restaurant, shoes, collared shirts and slacks are expected of men and a dress or smart casual outfit for women at dinner. Breakfast and lunch are more relaxed but no swimsuits ever except at poolside restaurants.
Note: By law, swimwear is not permitted when walking or cycling on the main roads, in bars, restaurants or shops. Guests who show up in such attire probably will not be admitted.
Grenadian law also prohibits civilians from wearing camouflage clothing, including hats and shorts. If discovered at entry into the country, camouflage items may be confiscated. If you wear camouflage clothing in public, that is a different problem. If you have it, leave it home.
Clothing that disrespects the American flag could provoke a reaction. Remember, Grenada celebrates a national holiday commemorating the 1983 invasion of U.S. troops to help restore civil order.
To make the most of your vacation, visit during Carnival Spicemas in August. It’s colorful, loud and a lot of fun. Or attend one of the many festivals that include a Chocolate Festival, an Uncorked Beer & Wine Festival and a Music Festival. Check the events calendar for dates, times and places.
Grenada is not an island overrun with large hotels and mass tourism. Only a few large resorts approach 250 rooms. Many hotels have fewer than 100 rooms and a good number are small boutique hotels emphasizing personalized service.
Accommodations come in all price ranges, from apartments, inns and homestays to private cottages, high-rise hotels, single story beach resorts and luxury properties featuring spas and lots of personal pampering. The venerable Spice Island Beach Resort has one of the highest distinctions for a hotel anywhere: a AAA Five Diamond Award. Only six other resorts in the Caribbean and 118 hotels worldwide hold a AAA Five Diamond.
Choose your hotel from the categories offered by the Grenada Tourism Authority. For a description of Grenada’s accommodations both large and small, click here
When it comes to dining, be sure to try some of the local restaurants. Ask staff at your resort for recommendations and where they go. Evening meals at resorts may be expensive, starting at US$30 and up just for the main course.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on airline capacity, seasonality and hotel deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => Up to $15 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $16-22 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => $23 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
Airline service to Grenada is offered from the U.S., Canada, Europe and other Caribbean islands. International and regional flights arrive and depart from the Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND) is located on a narrow spit of land only about 5 miles north of St. George’s, the capital city. The Maurice Bishop International Airport formerly was called the Point Salines International Airport.
Deciding when to book a reservation has become a game between airlines and consumers. Fares constantly change but are usually lowest on Tuesday evening or Wednesday. Try to fly on the day fares are cheapest. Friday and Sunday may be the most expensive days to travel while Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday may be the least pricey. You need flexibility for the best fares. Booking a flight six weeks out may be the best time but deals can pop up anytime. Less than three weeks out the fares often skyrocket. Sign up at Kayak and Airfare Watchdog, which will alert you when fares go lower.
Good places to search multiple fares at once include Kayak, Google Flight Matrix and Momondo. They all display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites. Never ignore an individual airline’s site. since some of their lowest fares may be listed there. Many airlines also share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mails. Sign up for email price alerts at Kayak. If a fare decreases after you purchase tickets, contact the airline for a refund or voucher.
On departure from Grenada, Maurice Bishop International Airport offers an Executive Lounge on the Upper Mezzanine Floor of the airport Departure Hall. All passengers regardless of ticket class may visit the lounge where the fee includes drinks (including alcohol) and snacks are available. Advance lounge reservations and admission fee here.
Rental cars range from US$50 to US$75 per day. Rates increase US$15 to US$20 per day in high season. In addition, every person driving a rental car needs a local driving permit costing EC$60. These usually can be obtained from rental companies.
Some of the biggest international names in rental cars such as Budget and Hertz do not operate in Grenada. For a list of the many local car rental agencies, click here. Be sure to click the Grenada box or you’ll be directed to agencies on other islands.
You can rent a car on arrival at the airport from these on-site leasing agencies. Or you can have one delivered at your hotel. Most rental agencies require drivers to be at least 25, while some will rent to those 21. Gas stations are limited outside of city areas so always start the day with at least half a tank. Grenada may be small in size but many of the roads are hilly with sharp turns, so vigilance is required. The paved roads usually are in good condition around the island.
Because of so much congestion in St. George’s, traffic laws there are very strict. Parking in a no parking zone could result in an EC$1500 fine or 12 months in prison or both. Once you see the narrow roads winding up and down steep hills, the reason for such strong enforcement is obvious.
Ask your rental agency about all the local driving laws. Always remember, driving is on the left.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), insurance is probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling at a hurricane-prone time of the year, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case”
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework — check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with one of the above companies).
If you have pre-existing health conditions
This is one reason to consider buying travel insurance. Many policies have exclusions for pre-existing medical condition. However, companies may waive that exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip. Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance
If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Does your health insurance policy cover you when you are out of the country? And what guarantee can you offer that you are able to pay for hospital and other expenses when in Grenada? To ensure health coverage, consider purchasing travel health insurance. If you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center back home, an air ambulance may cost from $30,000 to $50,000 depending on circumstances.
If you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick and you have to return home before your trip is scheduled to end, the insurer may often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel to your destination or return home.
Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Cancel For Any Reason
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. The cost of these may be greater (often 10% or more) but this type of policy it is worthwhile for certain travelers.
US dollars are accepted throughout the island. The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC) at an exchange rate of EC$2.67 for US$1 cash. Traveler’s checks do slightly better, receiving EC$2.68 for each US$1 when cashed at banks. Grenada’s banks are open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays.
For U.S. citizens, there is no need to exchange money since dollars are accepted everywhere. The change you receive for a purchase often is in EC$ bills or coins. Ask for change in dollars and you might receive it for paper currency but not for coins. Those are yours to keep and hopefully spend without needing to exchange before departure.
ATMs are offered by many banks in St. George’s and the cities of Gouyave, Grenville and Sauteurs. Some Grenadian banks do no charge for ATM use but still expect to pay your bank back home its usual fee. ATMs are also available on the neighboring island of Carriacou in Hillsborough.
Most credit cards are readily accepted at resorts, car rental agencies and stores.
Tipping and Room Taxes
An 8% Government tax is automatic at hotels and restaurants. Most hotels and restaurants automatically add a 10% service charge to bills. Anything more is at your discretion, although a 15%. tip is becoming more common.
For taxi drivers, a 10% to 15% tip for a fare or tour is customary. Porters and bellhops receive US$1 per bag.
Grenada has no departure tax.
Costs That Add Up
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with every vacation. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and drug stores will be cheaper than tourist shops or your resort for all of the above.
Some people don’t want to deal with a rental car and would rather sign up for group island, hiking or dive trips. These costs add up quickly if you take just one tour a day for four or five days. Some operators, especially dive operators, may offer a package with lower rates.
For land tours, ask what discounts you can receive if you bundle several days’ worth of tours with a company. Don’t look for this information on their websites. Ask about it over the phone or in person. The more people on a tour also brings a lower per person rate. Bring people from your hotel who are interested.
Never overlook the possibility of a taxi for an island tour. The taxi fare covers multiple people where guided tours are priced per person.
Carnivals & Festivals
To really witness Pure Grenada and get the most value from your vacation, visit during Carnival (Spicemas in August). This being the Caribbean, everything may not run on real time but it will happen and it should be fun. And attendance usually is free. Just find a space to watch the fun.
Or maybe visit during the various festivals, such as the Chocolate Festival, an Uncorked Beer & Wine Festival or a Music Festival. Check the events calendar for time and place.
Flights to Grenada land at Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) just five miles from St. George’s. The 42,000-square-foot facility offers upper scale services such as spa shower facilities, private Customs and Immigration processing, high speed Wi-Fi and–this has to be a first–luxury golf cart transportation to or from your aircraft; Grenada likes its visitors to be well treated. MBIA also is the place to take an inter-island flight to Lauriston Airport on the neighboring island of Carriacou for a day trip.
The island’s cruise terminal, Melville Street Cruise Terminal, is in St. George’s. It is a short walk from there to the downtown area and the waterfront Carenage. A water shuttle to Grand Anse Beach also leaves from the cruise terminal. These shuttles run regularly and are cheaper and faster than a taxi. It is only a short climb from the cruise terminal to Fort George for a terrific view of St. George’s Carenage, cruise port and the open sea.
Those staying on Grand Anse Beach should take advantage of the water shuttle between there and St. George’s harbor. The shuttle is easier and faster than driving a rental car with no need to find a parking space.
All international flights arrive at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (IATA code GND) located at Point Salines just outside St. George’s. Locally, the airport is known as MBIA after its initials.
Airlines flying to Grenada include American Airlines, Caribbean Airlines and Delta Airlines which provide direct flights from New York, Miami or Puerto Rico. Caribbean Airlines also operates regularly scheduled flights via its Trinidad hub. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have weekly direct flights from London’s Gatwick Airport.
Air Canada operates weekly service from Toronto during the high winter season (December to April) with connections from Halifax, Montreal and Ottawa. Air Transat flies once a week from Toronto during the summer season (July to September). Year round, Air Canada operates regularly scheduled flights from Toronto and Montreal to Barbados and Trinidad with connections to Grenada via LIAT.
You can keep track of MBIA’s daily arrivals and departures here.
SVG Air serves neighboring Carriacou’s Lauriston Airport. Flight availability is based on demand. A flight in the small planes from MBIA to Carriacou takes about 20 minutes,
Ferry Service to Carriacou
Osprey Lines ferries leaves from the Carenage in St. George’s. The ferry docks in Hillsborough, Carriacou. The crossing takes about two hours. The travel distance between harbors is about 39 miles.
Cruise Ship Terminal
Cruise ships dock at the modern Melville Street Cruise Terminal, a short distance for a convenient shortcut to the Carenage if you walk on the side of the Sendall Tunnel to stay out of the way of traffic. The Melville Street Cruise Terminal includes jewelry shops, souvenir stores, a handful of eateries, spice shops and more. Many of the duty-free store are located in the Esplande Mall, an extension of the cruise terminal.
Grenada is twice the size of Washington, DC, but much easier to move around. Grenada has 427 miles (687 km) of paved roads and 273 miles (440 km) of unpaved roads.
It is possible to travel much of the area by public mini-bus, which is quite reasonable. On main routes, service is frequent during the day from Monday to Saturday. Drivers typically pick up and drop off passengers anywhere on their set routes. The destination for a bus is posted on its windshield. Buses tend to be crowded. Public buses are an efficient and inexpensive way to move back and forth from Grand Anse to/from St. George’s.
Grand Anse Water Taxi
The Grand Anse water taxis leave from the Carenage in St. George’s and Melville Street Cruise Terminal when ships are in port.
Reserve one at the airport or have a car or Jeep delivered to your hotel. It is not necessary to rent a car for a week. You could rent one for 1-3 days, although the one-week rate usually is the least expensive.
Fares are fixed but always check the cost before entering the cab and whether the price is in EC$ or US$. Renting a taxi and driver for an island tour may not only be the most convenient method but also a better value since the charge covers two or three passengers. Guided tour rates are per person. Ask around what an island tour by taxi should cost and then starting negotiating your trip. These fares can be very flexible.
For the current taxi fares from the Maurice Bishop International Airport to areas around St. George’s and other parts of the island. click here.
By far the easiest and best way to see St. George’s. The pace is up to you and you can poke around where you want for as long as you want.
International Air Terminal
The Maurice Bishop International Airport ((IATA code GND) is located at Point Salines, a short distance from St. George’s.
Minibuses leave from Melville Street in St. George’s to points around Grenada, including Grand Anse Beach, Grenville, and Gouyave. Public bus license plate numbers begin with the letter H.
Ferry to Carriacou
The Osprey departs from the Carenage in St. George’s.
Found in St. George’s and at many resorts. Taxis have fixed rates to destinations. Check before entering the taxi whether the quoted fare is EC$ or US$. The license number of all legitimate taxis begin with the letter H.
The Melville Street Cruise Terminal has a step-free cruise dock and a ramped exit. Some ships, however, may anchor in St. George’s harbor and tender passengers in, which is much more difficult. When booking a cruise, note if a tender is required for Grenada.
Maurice Bishop International Airport offers wheelchair accessible washrooms and wheelchair assistance at airlines counters.
Otherwise, the situation on Grenada is not good. Only a limited number of hotels are accessible. Few if any taxis are able to transport a wheelchair. Minibuses cannot. The streets of St. George’s are narrow and steep, another hindrance to easy movement. Moreover, attractions around the island tend to be in mountainous terrain with no access other than walking.
The three main islands that make up the nation of Grenada lie at the southernmost tip of the Windward Islands, off the coast of Venezuela. They are Grenada, Carriacou (pronounced Carry-a KOO) and Petite Martinique (pronounced Pitty Mar-ti-NEEK). Grenada is home to 45 white sand beaches and nine black sand beaches, a rich tropical mountain rainforest and some of the Caribbean’s finest resorts and dining. With Grenada the spice basket of the Caribbean, how can the cuisine not be good?
Activities on and under the Caribbean are popular here. Just off Grenada is the wreck of the Bianca C, one of the Caribbean’s largest wrecks available to advanced divers. The ships was in St. George’s harbor when it was rocked by an explosion in 1961. A flotilla of local boats rescued all of the 600 passengers and crew. A statue on the Carenage marks the event. The Carenage itself takes its name from the days when wooden ships were periodically ‘careened’ or beached in the harbor to clean barnacles off their hulls.
Grenada also features an Underwater Sculpture Park with original sculptures by a British artist. Over time, the statues have transformed into a shallow artificial reef colonized by fish, corals and sponges. Not surprisingly, this is a favorite snorkel spot. Numerous reef dives are a short boat ride off Grand Anse Beach. Grenada has a total of about 15 sunken wrecks.
A four-day billfish tournament held each January highlights the popularity of fishing for blue marlin, sailfish and yellowfin tuna. Pleasure boats and yacht charters attract numerous sailors who sail to the beautiful Grenadines, an island chain part of Grenada and the island nation of St.Vincent. Nearby Carriacou is the largest of the Grenadines.
Beach resorts routinely offer Hobie cat sailing, parasailing and kayaking for their guests. Personal watercraft, however, are banned in Grenada (and many other Caribbean islands) due to the danger they pose to snorkelers and kayakers.
Colorful St. George’s is recognized as one of the Caribbean’s most colorful and picturesque harbors. The Carenage, the walkway and thoroughfare around St. George’s horseshoe-shaped harbor, is lined with French and Georgian English buildings from the 19th century mixed with pastel-painted warehouses with roofs covered in orange fish scale tiles. Enjoy a good view of all this from the heights of Fort George in the afternoon when the sun shines brightly on the city. From here, it is easy to appreciate how the harbor formed as part of an old volcano crater, with St. George’s buildings now attached to the crater’s side.
The population of Grenada is 110,694, with about 38,000 living in St. George’s. The median age of Grenadians is 34. Carriacou, known as “the land of many reefs,” has a population of about 8,000. Petite Martinique has only about 600 residents.
The standard is 220 volts – 50 cycles. Appliances rated at 110 volts – 60 cycles (US standard) normally work with a transformer; hotels rarely have enough to loan their guests. Many hotels provide hairdryers.
Tap water is safe to drink except during periods of especially heavy rains. Bottled water should be used then, especially in the city of St. George’s.
Crime and Safety
According to the U.S. State Department, when crime occurs in Grenada it often takes place in isolated areas where thieves take money, jewelry, cameras, credit cards and even U.S. passports. If your passport is stolen, contact the U.S. embassy in Grenada. Crime also occurs after dark near resorts, restaurants and beaches. These usually involve purse snatching and mugging. The remedy: stay in well-lit areas and do not go out wandering alone at night. It is recommended that hotel rooms be kept locked at all times. St. George’s main market square and the Grand Anse area known as Wall Street have experienced decreases in crime. In terms of general safety hazards, many parts of Grenada have no sidewalks and few streetlights, forcing pedestrians to walk in the road. Just as in the U.S., the emergency number is 911.
Possession of illegal drugs is dealt with harshly. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences as well as heavy fines. Use of foul language in the presence of a police officer may result in prosecution. Grenadian law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activities between men and the locals may be hostile to it. Actual prosecution of tourists under the law is rare. Grenada takes a dim view of wearing skimpy clothing in public. Never wear only swimsuits away from the beach. Wear a cover-up. Never walk or cycle on a road only in a swimsuit. That is illegal and the law is enforced.
Columbus finally sighted Grenada on his third voyage to the New World in 1498 but did not land. He named the island “Concepcion.” Early explorers say Amerindians living on the island called it something like “Camerhogne.” Spanish sailors soon called the island “Granada” after the city in Spain. When the French took over, “Granada” became “Grenade” which the British later changed to “Grenada.”
Grenada was inhabited by the fierce Caribs, who drove off the first British attempt at settlement in 1609. The more persistent French in 1650 bribed the Caribs with trinkets and strong drink but these distractions had no lasting appeal. The Caribs and French went to war with the outgunned Indians having no chance of victory. The final battle took place in 1651 atop Le Morne de Sauteur at a site now known as Leaper’s Hill. Deciding death was preferable to enslavement, the Caribs hurled themselves over the cliffs onto the rocks below. The historic site is a regular stop on day tours around Grenada.
The 1783 Treaty of Versailles awarded Grenada to Britain but the French heritage strongly survives in many of the island’s geographical and city names as well as the African-French patois still spoken by many islanders. English, however, is the official language.
Grenada became an associated state within the British Commonwealth in 1967. This status allowed the island control over its internal affairs only. Complete independence was achieved in 1974. Shortly afterwards, a famous but brief period of political upheaval and violence made Grenada internationally famous for a time.
Political Turmoil & U.S. Troops
The politician responsible for Grenadian independence was Sir Eric Gairy. In 1979, when he was away visiting the United Nations, his chief rival Maurice Bishop seized control of the government and established a People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG). Bishop established strong ties with Cuba and the Soviet Union. One of his most lasting legacies was the construction of a new international airport by Cuba.
In 1983, a pro-communist faction within Bishop’s movement placed Bishop under house arrest and took control of Grenada. Bishop and several aides were eventually executed. After Bishop’s death, Grenada was characterized by violence, anarchy, and martial law with a shoot-on-sight curfew in effect.
During Bishop’s tenure, U.S. President Ronald Reagan was concerned about the new Cuban-built airport and that Cuba could use it for supplying arms to Central American insurgents. Bishop had claimed the purpose of the airstrip was to allow commercial jets to land. When 800 U.S. students enrolled at St. George’s School of Medicine were perceived to be in danger due to the unrest under Grenada’s new government, Reagan decided to act.
On October 25, 1983, U.S. Marines invaded Grenada to rescue students and restore stability. The mission was quickly accomplished. Afterwards, U.S. aid helped rebuild and improve the island.
Most Grenadians were glad U.S. Marines landed on October 25. The date has been a national holiday for the island ever since.
African descent 89.4%, mixed 8.2%, East Indian 1.6%, other 0.9% (includes indigenous)
Many Grenadians have been able to maintain their African tribal heritage through their tribe’s distinctive drum and dance style. These different rhythms are often performed at Big Drum festivals. The Carnival held each August is another important time for islanders to celebrate in song and dance.
The French settlers and the African slaves that came with them formed the basis for Grenadian culture. After slavery was abolished in the early 1800s, a large number of Indian workers came to Grenada. Just like families of African descent, the East Indian community has upheld their art, music, and literature traditions. Together, the two groups have made distinct contributions to Grenadian culture and cuisine.
Grenadians are very friendly people and expect to be treated with courtesy and respect. As a rule of thumb, it’s never wrong to speak first when meeting an islander.
Grenadians usually do not like someone to take their photo without first asking permission. If permission is denied, don’t take it personally and move on.
Swimsuits, other beach attire or revealing clothing should not be worn in shops, restaurants, cities, and towns. By law, swimwear is not permitted when walking or cycling on the main roads.
Grenadians usually dress well for dinner. Visitors should dress casually but neatly. Leave the jeans and shorts back in the room.
Schoolchildren often show public displays of affection especially those of the same sex. Girls often hold hands on the street. Boys walk with their arms draped around each other’s shoulders. There is nothing sexual about it.
Nutmeg is so important to Grenada that the spice is represented on the national flag. The island produces about one-third of the world’s nutmeg, which also is put to good use in flavoring the island’s famous rum punches. Some claim Grenada’s rum punches are the best anywhere due to the sprinkling of fresh nutmeg.
In Grenada, nutmeg helps flavor a wide variety of foods and drinks. It can be grated into soups, stew, vegetables, sauces, pastas, and cakes. Nutmeg-based products include ice cream, cheese, coffee and even a nutmeg-flavored liqueur, wine and rum.
The apricot-colored soft fruit surrounds a nut of red mace that also helps flavor the island’s foods. As do locally grown cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice and wild coffee. Most of these plants are featured in the island’s botanical gardens.
The national dish is Oil Down (pronounced “ile dung”), a one-pot meal of salted meat, chicken, turmeric dumplings, breadfruit, callaloo (dasheen) leaves and other vegetables stewed in coconut milk, herbs and spices. The popular dish is served in some local restaurants. If you want to try making it yourself, here is the official government recipe.
Indian restaurants, small in number in St. George’s, are highly sought out by visitors in a mood for curry.
Roman Catholic and Protestant have about the same number of followers and account for about 90% of churchgoers. About 3.6% of Grenadians profess no religious belief.
English is the official language but Grenadians often speak their own version of a French-African patois.
Island Caribs and French Settlers in Grenada, 1498-1763 by John Angus Martin, 2015
Grenada: Island of Conflict by George I. Brizan, 1998
Grenada: A History of Its People by Beverley A. Steele, 2003
We Move Tonight: The Making of the Grenada Revolution by Joseph Ewart Layne, 2014
Grenada: Revolution and Invasion by Patsy Lewis (Editor), Gary Williams (Editor), Peter Dr Clegg (Editor), 2015. The book includes essays by academics in the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Message to the People: The Course of African Philosophy (On Grenada) by Marcus Garvey, 1986. Lessons from the leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, once the largest international mass movement in the history of African peoples. This is the first publication of Garvey’s 1937 papers.
Morgan Freeman and Friends: Caribbean Cooking for a Cause by Wendy Wilkinson and Donna Lee, 2006. Freeman and other celebrities contribute exotic recipes and personal island tales in a cookbook created to help rebuild Grenada after the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Freeman is a yachtsman who spent time in Grenada and came to care for the people. He wrote the book’s introduction. Recipes have more of an American than Caribbean flavor.
Grenada Dive Map & Reef Creatures Guide Franko Maps Laminated Fish Card Map, 2013. Laminated two-sided card with 34 dive sites, shipwrecks and fish identifications.
Grenada’s most internationally famous artist probably was Canute Caliste who lived and painted on Carriacou. Self-taught, Caliste painted the life around him in his trademark style, often including handwritten descriptions and word balloons over his subjects. He claimed he was inspired in a dream as a child when a mermaid promised him great things in life if he followed the Bible. The prophecy became reality. Caliste painted effortlessly, producing as many as 16 to 20 paintings a day. His paintings were featured in the book The Mermaid Wakes: Paintings of a Caribbean Isle, published in 1989. This later was made into an Off-Broadway play. The book brought international attention to Caliste’s work. Even in his later years, he could turn out an original painting in an hour, as he once did for me.
The Grenada Arts Council has an exhibition every year.
St. George’s has a number of art galleries featuring local works.
Island in the Sun (1957) was filmed partially in Grenada. This very popular movie starred James Mason, Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine, Joan Collins, Dorothy Dandridge and Michael Rennie. The title song “Island in the Sun” was written by Harry Belafonte and Irving Burgie. It has been covered by more than 40 other artists including The Righteous Brothers. It also was used in the 1992 film, The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Heartbreak Ridge (1986) about the invasion of Grenada was made by Clint Eastwood when he was mayor of Carmel, CA. Part of the film was shot in Grenada.
Blinded (2006) is a film about domestic violence. It was made in Grenada.
Calypso is the music native to Grenada. Other common music forms are a fusion of parang, reggae, dancehall and popular music.Musical expression done ex tempore, where singers use impromptu lyrics to standard tunes, has it followers..
In recent years, French Caribbean music known as ‘zouk’ and steel pan (steel drum band) from Trinidad and Tobago have gained prominence. Jazz and some country music are popular among some Grenadians but it is zouk with its fast jump-up carnival beat you’ll probably hear blare from taxis, buses and some stores.
Pure Grenada, the official tourism website for the island of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique.
Maurice Bishop International Airport, the country’s international gateway.
Melville Street Cruise Terminal, where the cruise ships dock in St. George’s.
Grenada island interactive map
St. George’s city map
Road map of Grenada
Carriacou & Petit Martinique interactive Google map
Not only can it be some of the Caribbean’s strongest (80% by volume), Grenadian rum has a unique flavor. Perhaps due to nutmeg? If you do buy some with high-octane rum, sip it slowly even if it is mixed. Don’t treat it like a normal strength rum, which also is available. You have been warned.