Skinny dipping and more in Grenada

Skinny dipping? Here? How is that possible? I’ve just checked into Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada and now a staff member is showing me to my room (OK, villa).  Using a key, she opens the first of two doors and I find myself in a mini courtyard with a shimmering turquoise pool, a patio, a shaded sitting area and steps leading up to my lodgings. Private, concealed, a Caribbean secret garden — and for the duration of my stay — all mine.  In this sunny, clandestine enclave (pre-Covid) with or sans bathing suit, pool, here I come.

When safe to do so, put some spice in your life.

Some islands, like people, luxuriate in their privacy. They lack no social graces and enjoy playing host to visitors, but they’re also comfortable being left alone.  This, in many ways, is Grenada. The island’s character results, in part, from being a land of plenty — fishing nets heavy with tuna, mackerel and grouper and volcanic soil so rich that crops seem to spring from the soil as if by magic. Grenada’s interior is lush and mountainous. Waterfalls cascade into sparkling swim-holes and monkeys gorge on papaya and bananas. Spices? Oh yes.  The island is chock-a-block with nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, saffron, cinnamon, clove and allspice growing wild on verdant hillsides. All this has resulted in Grenada remaining unchanged for centuries.

Because Grenada lies just below the southern edge of the hurricane belt, it had not experienced a major storm in more than half a century.  Then, several years ago, all that changed. Hurricane Ivan touched down here with such strength and intensity that, within a day, 37 people were dead and almost all of the country lay in shambles. We’re thankful that today when you visit, there’s nothing to suggest that Grenada is still struggling. Indeed, it looks totally unaffected. Homes are once more intact, hotels are repaired and those towering twin palms that covered the island are still there — having bowed to the hurricane’s force and survived.

And the Spice Island Beach Resort? Seventy-five percent of it was destroyed.  However, Royston O. Hopkin, the resort’s owner, was undaunted. He embarked on a most ambitious project — to oversee the rebirth of his property and make this once outstanding hideaway even more splendid than before. The $12 million dollar rebuilding project opened with accommodations consisting of 64 luxury suites and 34 beachfront units. Janissa’s Spa and Fitness Center has a new 5,600-square-foot home and there’s the Nutmeg Pod, an activity center for kids. Condé Nast named the resort the best in the Caribbean, and it is considered one of the supreme honeymoon resorts in the world. Not to put too fine a point on it, Hopkin himself has received numerous awards, including from Queen Elizabeth II, the Order of St. Michael and St. George and a knighthood. Hopkin explains his mission: “…to meld poetry and modernity into a resort that perfectly blends into its environment whilst offering all the luxuries of one of the world’s finest resorts.”  He has succeeded royally.

Underwater surprises

Grenada is a superior Caribbean island for snorkeling and one particular reason sets it apart from all others, The Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park. This collection of contemporary art created by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor is the first of its kind in the world.  The artist’s aim was to engage local people with the underwater environment that surrounds them, using works that are derived from life casts of the local community. Ranging from solitary individuals to a ring of children holding hands, facing into the oceanic currents, the cement figures sit on the ocean floor.  Needless to say, viewing this sculpture while snorkeling is one of the highlights of my visit. Aquanauts is the dive company that makes this adventure possible with knowledgeable, caring instructors who love explaining the ocean’s fragile ecosystem.

Rain, rain, don’t go away

A visit to the Grand Etang Lake and Forest Reserve is spectacular. This is a popular area in Grenada for hiking and trekking in the rainforest high up in the mountains of the island’s interior. Amid elfin woodlands on the slopes of the reserve’s central mountains is Grand Etang Lake, which fills the crater of one of the island’s extinct volcanoes. Although we had monsoon conditions for most of our excursion, we were still able to wander around Concord Waterfall as it cascaded into the azure pools below. The landscape is lush and fertile, so considering that the almost daily deluge, which lasts just a short time, is largely responsible for this luxuriant beauty, we now looked out of our rain-streaked van windows with grateful and welcoming hearts.

For the birds

A hop, skip and a jump across the road from the Spice Island Beach Resort is the Blue Horizons Garden Resort, owned by Arnold Hopkin, Sir Royston’s brother, who manages his property with equally skilled stewardship. This is a family-friendly resort providing free babysitting and a compelling attraction: Kids eat free. This is a Green Globe benchmarked property that has an aviary for tropical birds, including the Violet-Eared Dove, Grenada’s national bird. This tiny creature was almost brought to extinction during the ravages of the hurricane, but thanks to a protection program that the resort has in place, it made a comeback. We dined one evening with Arnold Hopkin at his gourmet restaurant, La Belle Creole, as he pointed out the various dove nests he cares for on the restaurant’s terrace.

Sunrise, sunset

There was no better way to end this Grenadian idyll than with a sunset Champagne cruise.  We sipped bubbly and savored the sunset as we sailed along the coast of St. George (Grenada’s capital).  Happily the sun cooperated, coloring the sky in hues of gold, pink and finally in silver as it bid us adieu.

Grenada is a land of plenty and its very self-sufficiency has kept it largely untouched, hurricanes or no. Its endless views of the sea, the lone fisherman walking along, swinging his catch, the smell of chicken sizzling on barbecues — it’s all here.  Residents say that Grenada is the Caribbean’s best-kept secret.  Perhaps that explains why this island’s harmonious melody goes on and on….

For more, visit grenadagrenadines.com and spiceislandbeachresort.com.

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