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Carnival on Grenada -- The second weekend of August brings colorful Carnival parades, music, and dancing. The festivities begin on Friday, continuing practically nonstop through Tuesday. Steel bands and calypso groups perform at Queen's Park. Jouvert, one of the highlights of the festival, begins at 5am on Monday with a parade of Djab Djab/Djab Molassi, devil-costumed figures daubed with molasses. (Be warned: Don't wear nice clothes to attend this event -- you may get sticky from close body contact.) The Carnival finale, a gigantic "jump-up" (like a hoedown), ends with a parade of bands from Tanteen through the Carenage into town.
St. George's & Vicinity
The capital city of Grenada, St. George's is the prettiest harbor town in the West Indies. Its landlocked inner harbor is actually the deep crater of a long-dead volcano. In the town, you can see some of the most charming Georgian colonial buildings in the Caribbean, still standing despite a devastating hurricane in 1955. The steep, narrow hillside streets are filled with houses of ballast bricks, wrought-iron balconies, and sloping, red-tile roofs. Many of the pastel warehouses date from the 18th century. Frangipani and flamboyant trees add to the palette of color. The port, which some compare to Portofino, Italy, is flanked by old forts and bold headlands. Among the town's attractions are an 18th-century pink Anglican church, on Church Street, and the Market Square, where colorfully attired farm women offer even more colorful produce for sale. Fort George, on Church Street, built by the French, stands at the entrance to the bay, with subterranean passageways and old guardrooms and cells.
Everyone strolls along the waterfront of the Carenage on the inner harbor, or relaxes on its pedestrian plaza, with seats and hanging planters providing shade from the sun. The best place to sit and have a drink is the Nutmeg. From its large open windows you'll have great views of the harbor activity. The hamburgers and rum drinks are great, too. On this side of town, the Grenada National Museum, at the corner of Young and Monckton streets, is set in the foundations of an old French army barracks and prison built in 1704. Small but interesting, it houses finds from archaeological digs, petroglyphs, native fauna, the first telegraph installed on the island, a rum still, and memorabilia depicting Grenada's history. The most comprehensive exhibit traces the native culture of Grenada. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 4:30pm, Saturday from 10am to 1pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $1 ages 6 to 16, and free 5 and under.
You can drive up to Richmond Hill and Fort Frederick, begun by the French in 1779, completed by the English in 1791, and radically restored by the Canadian government in the late 1990s. From its battlements is a superb view of the harbor and yacht marina. Admission is $1 and includes the services of a guide, who will expect a small tip. Access to the fort is Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm.
An afternoon tour of St. George's and its environs might take you into the mountains north of the capital. A 15-minute drive delivers you to Annandale Falls, a tropical wonderland, with a cascade about 15m (49 ft.) high. You can enjoy a picnic surrounded by liana vines, elephant ears, and other tropical flora and spices. The Annandale Falls Centre offers gift items, handicrafts, and samples of the indigenous spices of Grenada. Nearby, an improved trail leads to the falls, where you can enjoy a refreshing swim. Swimmers can use the changing cubicles at the falls for free. The center is open daily 8am to 4pm.
A Spectacular Rainforest & More
If you head north out of St. George's along the western coast, you can take in beaches, spice plantations, and the fishing villages that are so typical of Grenada. You'll pass through Gouyave, a spice town that's the center of the nutmeg and mace industry. At the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Cooperative, Gouvave, St. John, near the entrance to Gouyave, huge quantities of the spice are aged, graded, and processed. This is the best place to see spices being readied for market. Workers sit on stools in the natural light from the open windows of the aging factory, and laboriously sort the raw nutmeg and its byproduct, mace, into different baskets for grinding, peeling, and aging. Jams, jellies, syrups, and more are sold. Hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm; admission is $1.
In the northeast corner of the island (just east of Sauteurs) is palm-lined Levera Beach, an idyll of sand where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. This is a great spot for a picnic lunch, but swimming can sometimes be dangerous. On the distant horizon you'll see some of the Grenadines. The 180-hectare (445-acre) Levera National Park actually has several white-sand beaches for swimming and snorkeling, although the surf is rough here where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. It's a hiker's paradise, although you should go hiking here only after you've hiked Grand Etang National Park and Forest Preserve, which is more lush and of far greater interest. Levera Park contains a mangrove swamp, a lake, and a bird sanctuary, where you might see a rare tropical parrot. Offshore are coral reefs and sea-grass beds.
Heading down the east coast of Grenada, you reach Grenville, the island's second city. If you pass through on a Saturday morning, you can enjoy the hubbub of the native produce market. There's also a fish market along the waterfront. A nutmeg factory here welcomes visitors. From Grenville, you can cut inland into the heart of Grenada. Here you're in a world of luxuriant foliage, and you pass along nutmeg, banana, and cocoa plantations.
In the center of the island, reached along the major interior road between Grenville and St. George's, is Grand Etang National Park, containing the island's spectacular rainforest. The entrance fee of $2 per person is, according to local officials, merely a means of registering the identities of whomever opts to wander around these isolated landscapes, just in case someone should be injured or lost.
Our favorite attraction north of St. Georges is the River Antoine Rum Distillery, St. Andrew Parish, which offers a set of almost bizarre visuals, each ripped directly from the pages of the colonial Caribbean's mid-19th-century's Industrial Revolution. It's the oldest rum distillery in the world, replete with much of its original cane-crushing machinery and complicated network of siphons and distillation vats. Components of the facility include a late-18th-century water-powered mill whose groaning, creaking gears continue to mesh, connect, and crush the sugar cane. About 90 people are employed here, operating in low-tech, not particularly sanitary conditions. Tours depart whenever an interested observer happens to show up. Although tours are free, your guide will expect a tip of around $3. The finished product (River Antoine Rum) comes in strengths of 138 proof and 150 proof, and in the locally famous Rivers brand, an alcohol content so high that it's too flammable to pass through the security screening devices at airports. Clearly signposted from the coastal road, the distillery is open Monday to Saturday 9am to 4pm.
On your descent from the mountains, you'll pass hanging carpets of mountain ferns. Going through the tiny hamlets of Snug Corner and Beaulieu, you eventually come back to the capital.
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The best of Grenada's 45 beaches are in the southwestern part of the island. The granddaddy of them all is Grand Anse Beach, 3km (1 3/4 miles) of sugar-white sand fronting a sheltered bay. This beach is really the stuff of dreams -- it's no surprise that many of the major resort hotels are here. A lot of visitors never leave this part of the island. Protected from strong winds and currents, the waters here are relatively safe, making Grand Anse a family favorite. The clear, gentle waters are populated with schools of rainbow-hued fish. Palms and sea-grape trees offer shade. Watersports concessions include water-skiing, parasailing, windsurfing, and scuba diving; vendors peddle coral jewelry, local crafts, and the inevitable T-shirts.
The beach at Morne Rouge Bay is less popular but just as nice, with white sands bordering clear waters. Morne Rouge, noted for its calm waters and some of the best snorkeling in Grenada, is about 2km (1 1/4 miles) south of Grand Anse Bay.
Pink Gin Beach lies near the airport at Point Salinas. This is also a white-sand beach with clear waters, ideal for swimming and snorkeling. (No one seems to know why it's called Pink Gin Beach.) You can find a restaurant and kayak rentals here.
Also on Grenada's southern coast, La Sagesse Beach is part of La Sagesse nature center. This strip of gray-and-black volcanic sand is a lovely, tranquil area; between sojourns on the beach, you can go for walks through the nearby countryside. A small restaurant, set beneath a veranda-style roof, opens onto the beach.
If you like your waters more turbulent, visit the dramatic Pearl's Beach, north of Grenville on the Atlantic coast. The light-gray sand stretches for miles and is lined with palm trees. You'll practically have the beach to yourself.
Part of Levera National Park, Levera Beach, at the northeastern tip of the island, is one of the most beautiful on Grenada. Its sands front the Atlantic, which usually means rough waters. Many locals come here for Sunday picnics.
Fishers visit from November to March in pursuit of both blue and white marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, sailfish, and more. Most of the bigger hotels have a sports desk that arranges fishing trips. The Annual Game Fishing Tournament, held in January, attracts a number of regional and international participants.
At the Grenada Golf Country Club, Woodlands, you can tee off on a 9-hole course with views of both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic. Greens fees are only $25 for 9 holes, or $40 if you want to play it twice (to get 18 holes). Hours are Monday to Saturday 8am to 6pm.
Grenada's lushness and beauty make it one of the best Caribbean islands for hiking. If you have time for only one hike here, schedule it for points within the Grand Etang National Park and Forest Preserve [S]. Its sheer scenic beauty makes the Lake Circle Trail our top choice on the island. The trail follows a 60-minute circuit along Grand Etang Lake, the crater of an extinct volcano, amid a forest preserve and bird sanctuary. You're likely to see the yellow-billed cuckoo and the emerald-throated hummingbird. The park is also a playground for Mona monkeys. Another easy hike, the Morne LeBaye Trail, originates at the park's center. The 15-minute trek affords a view of the 710m (2,329-ft.) Mount Sinai and the east coast. Of course, you can take longer hikes, perhaps to the peak of Mount Qua Qua at 712m (2,335 ft.), a trek which, round-trip, takes 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Carry insect repellent and plenty of water, and remember that trails can be slippery after a rainfall (especially June-Nov), so wear good hiking shoes and bring a sense of humor.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Grenada provides divers with submarine gardens, exotic fish, and coral formations, sometimes with visibility stretching to 36m (118 ft.). Off the coast is the wreck of the ocean liner Bianca C, which is nearly 180m (590 ft.) long. Novice divers can stick to the west coast of Grenada, while more experienced divers might search out sights along the rougher Atlantic side.
If you'd rather strike out on your own, drive to Woburn and negotiate with a fisher for a ride to Glovers Island, an old whaling station, and snorkel away. Glovers Island is an uninhabited rock spit a few hundred yards offshore from the hamlet of Woburn.
Most big resorts have tennis courts. There are public courts, as well, both at Grand Anse and in Tanteen in St. George's.
Grenada is increasingly known for the number and size of its yacht regatta. As such, the island is home to yacht-racing events throughout the year, including the Port Louis Grenada Sailing Festival in late January, the Easter Round the Island Regatta, and the Carriacou Regatta Festival in late July.
Content provided by Frommer's Unlimited© 2012, Whatsonwhen Limited and Wiley Publishing, Inc.