How do you evoke a Caribbean paradise, without sounding like a thousand other descriptions of a hundred different islands?
✔️ Warm tropical breezes?
✔️ Sandy beaches lapped by turquoise water?
✔️ Hot tropical sun, then a sudden shower of rain, soon over?
✔️ Palm trees and lush flowering shrubs?
✔️ Quaint fishing villages?
✔️ Beach bars with cheap beer and strong rum drinks?
✔️ Town with narrow streets and colonial era buildings?
✔️ Farm stands with mysterious vegetables and delectable fruits?
✔️ Open air restaurants?
✔️ Incredible sunsets?
Grenada has all that, but so do Barbados and St. Lucia, my two other Caribbean countries. My very first tropical island, Oahu, was more modern and American, and my second, Tahiti, had French wine and cheese instead of rum. Santorini in the Aegean was anything but lush.
Yet all of them check the same basic boxes: sea and sun with a touch of the exotic, and usually a break from routine. For me, then, living in Barbados, it’s the differences that stand out.
A big difference is terrain. Although Grenada has a much lower population density than Barbados, with half the population in about the same area, it seemed more crowded. So much of the Island is steep volcanic slopes, instead of the gentler coral and sedimentary rock hills and fields of my current home island. Waterfalls abound in the lush interior. Houses cling to the hillsides, pushed together along the coasts. And the roads— well, driving there deserves a post of its own!
Although the people are mostly black on both Islands, in Barbados whites are 2.7% of the population, whereas in Grenada they don’t even appear on the list. When we ventured out of the tourist areas, going north of the capital of St. George’s, we didn’t see anyone else white. I didn’t sense any resentment or hostility, as I rarely have in St. Lucia and Martinique, but it also wasn’t the same welcoming warmth and helpfulness of the Bajans.
Both countries rely heavily on tourism (14% of GDP) but Barbados has a more diversified economy and much higher GDP per capita. Many young Grenadians leave for better opportunities in other countries, including Barbados. I could see the difference in the grocery store: in Barbados we complain about the price of broccoli or the mysterious disappearance of tonic water; in Grenada there were mostly local products on the shelves.
Both countries are part of the British commonwealth, but Grenada was originally colonized by the French, which shows in the cuisine and the Creole sprinkled in the language. Both countries have fascinating histories, if you leave the beaches and visit the old forts and other historic sites.
Tourist areas were concentrated in the southwest corner of Grenada and it seemed quieter, and less integrated into the local community, than Barbados.
But if you don’t already have a favourite island, as I do, definitely consider Grenada for your holiday! We opted for hillside over beach and stayed at Maca Bana to celebrate our anniversary, and were delighted with it. Island food is fantastic, from lobster thermidor at Aquarium, to lattes and pastries on Grand Anse beach, to “plate” fare in a local’s cafeteria.
Visit St. George’s and the forts above the town for some history; dive the wrecks and sculpture park or get out to some waterfalls in the rainforest. Try the local rum and pastries, and bring home nutmeg and chocolate.
Because even if you live in a tropical paradise, it’s nice to see another one.