Beautiful Grenadines and Grenada
Sipping on coffee at the patio café contemplating the beauty of the Caribbean Sea, our reverie is suddenly shattered by a family of crows swooping in for a quick meal. Ravenous little creatures, they’d snatch up your entire meal if you’re not careful. In fact, we saw one daring crow fly away with an entire chicken leg! Despite their mischief, they are entertaining to watch as they dart and weave across the table. This is a common hazard when dining al fresco, but it’s all part of the charm of island living.
There are so many Caribbean islands to visit, but we chose Grenada and Bequia (pronounced: Beck-way) for this particular trip — a relaxing beach vacation with a side of scuba diving. In addition, we discovered challenging hikes, fun coffee spots, fantastic restaurants and fabulous, balmy weather. No biking, however, and driving is a challenge due to very narrow, windy, steep roads, with perilous ditches along the sides. It takes full concentration to be the driver, but it’s worthwhile to get to hidden beaches and beautiful vistas. Take a taxi if you plan on enjoying a few cocktails.
The hues of the seas surrounding these hilly islands are magical, with aqua, turquoise and sapphire blending together, often punctuated with frothy white caps. The color varies as you gaze from the shore to the distant waters, creating a rhythmic motion. Grenada and The Grenadine Islands, located far to the south in the Caribbean Sea and just a whisper from South America, are host to a range of water and outdoor activities, amazing local produce, delicious street food, the friendliest people, and spectacular flora and fauna. Have you ever seen a peacock-colored lizard before?🦎
The islands are hilly and lush, with undulating shorelines, sandy beaches, and yet another beautiful bay around every turn. As one bay ends, another one starts and the serpentine roads twist and turn as they weave their way around the hilly contours of the landscape, offering glimpses of the sea below.
We traveled in February, and the weather was perfect … in the low 80s every day and a bit breezy. There was a little rain almost every day as well, but nothing that really bothered us much. In fact, we got caught in squalls a couple of times while we were out on runs and hikes, but they cleared up quickly and in no time, we were dry from the sun and warmth that followed.
Although Grenada is not one of the Grenadine Islands, both Bequia and Grenada use the local East Caribbean dollar (EC$), which at the moment is worth US $.37. You can easily get currency from local banks at their ATM machines, but you’ll pay some fees for both your bank and the local bank. We tried to get currency in advance and could not, but check with your bank at least a few weeks ahead of time to see if you can get some EC$. Everyone on the islands accepts US dollars, but they will give you EC dollars back at a meager exchange rate.
BEQUIA – The Grenadines
Bequia was our first stop and to get there we flew from Miami to St. Vincent, which only has flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays. So you must travel on one of those days, but be sure to check the travel schedule with the airlines before planning your trip. (We flew American Airlines, but other airlines may have different schedules.) Once we landed and collected our bags, we hailed a cab to the port in St. Vincent and took the one-hour ferry ride across the sea. The approach to the island is festive with the mountainous terrain and colorful houses stacked up the hillsides. The colors and the sea breeze and the island sounds all coming to life the closer you get to Port Elizabeth.
Our friends, who had arrived on Bequia two days earlier, were there to usher us from the port through town, with the first stop at the market to buy provisions for dinner. We like to rent houses for our getaways so we can cook, because half the fun of traveling is adopting the local cuisine and cooking with what’s available. Don’t think you’ll be finding any Walmart’s or supermarkets, but the local stores do carry the basics, including chicken, liquor and chocolate chips. (You never know when you’re gonna need a chocolate chip cookie fix.)
We found the best produce at small stands along the main street in town. In fact, there is a whole building devoted to local produce vendors. The produce is really, really fresh and beautiful and most of it is not even grown on the island, but imported from other nearby islands. We discovered that pumpkin is a very popular flavor on both Bequia and Grenada, because they actually grow pumpkin on the islands. Pumpkin soup seems to be a specialty all year round. We also encountered one street food vendor who made delicious chicken wings. I tried to get his special sauce recipe for our blog, but he wasn’t about to share it!
Fun Places to Visit on Bequia
Although Bequia is a very small island, (seven square miles – long and narrow with a mountainous spine down the center), we found several cool places to visit, some of which are accessible by car and some are not. If you’ve never heard about Moonhole, it’s a unique and interesting eco resort built into the hillside, using materials found right on the land, like sea shells, and tree limbs. It’s located at the southwestern part of the island. You can only catch a glimpse of it if you are out on a boat or a registered guest there. We tried to take the path along the front of the resort to get a closer look, but were greeted by security guards that ushered us away. Still worth a glimpse if you can manage it!
The beach between Moonhole and The Liming is beautiful white sand. This panoramic photo is an optical illusion, because Mouna was actually standing directly in a line with Gary and I was in between them.
In the center north part of the island, the expansive view from Spring Top Viewpoint is definitely worth a visit. We stayed in the Spring Hill area, so we hiked up, but you can certainly drive. The view is amazing and a great place to take panoramic photographs. You’ll see a curious tombstone there for “Ursula” Meier, a German woman who apparently lived in the area with her husband. In December of 2017, her car was discovered over the embankment with her in it. Sad story, but she has an amazing view from her final resting place.
Princess Margaret Beach offers a beautiful stretch of white sand, which you can reach by hiking a cliff side nature trail from Jack’s Beach Bar, by car or by taxi. The hike is not long, but it is a tiny bit strenuous. You can rent lounge chairs from a vendor at the beach, and the snorkeling just offshore is remarkable. We saw so many kinds of fish, eels, lobster and beautiful corals, too. After an afternoon at the beach, retreat back to Jack’s for a meal or happy hour.
Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary – Orton “Brother” King retired at 57 years old and has dedicated his life ever since to saving the endangered hawksbill turtle. He raises turtle eggs that are deposited on nearby beaches and feeds and protects them until they are strong enough to be released back into the ocean.
Scuba Diving – We did not dive on Bequia, but if your are interested, there are two dive shops right near Jack’s Beach Bar and Restaurant.
Bequia Dive Adventures – https://www.bequiadiveadventures.com/
Dive Bequia – https://www.divebequia.com/
Restaurants – because we dined in most nights, we didn’t experience too many restaurants, but these were our favorites:
- Laura’s Restaurant – right on the water, a really delicious spot for dinner. https://instagram.com/laurasresto?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=
- Jack’s Beach Bar – a fun place for a drink or a meal, right on the water. https://jacksbeachbar.com/
- Maria’s Coffee Shop – has a really nice espresso bar and delicious breakfast and lunch menus. https://www.facebook.com/Marias.Cafe.Bequia
We rented a beautiful house, perched on the hillside in the Spring Hill area with amazing views of the Caribbean, but there are several nice hotels on the island, as well. Here is a listing of those that we know about:
- Bequia Beach Hotel – A luxury hotel offering a range of accommodations from rooms to suites and villas. It’s located on Friendship Beach (southern part of the island) and features a beachfront restaurant, pool, spa and a variety of activities. https://www.bequiabeachhotel.com/accommodation
- Sugar Reef Bequia – a small and charming boutique hotel located at Industry Bay (upper east side of the island). It offers seven rooms all with private balconies or patios, a restaurant, pool and easy access to snorkeling. https://sugarreefbequia.com/
- The Liming — This hotel offers a range of villas, each with its own private infinity pool and gorgeous ocean views. Located at Belmont Bay, (the southwestern part of the island), it features a restaurant, bar, pool and a spa. https://thelimingbequia.com/
- Firefly Plantation – Just one mile from the main dock in Port Elizabeth, this historic plantation located near Spring Hill (right in the center of the island), offers six guest rooms and suites, each with unique decor and furnishings. It features a restaurant, a pool, and stunning views of the ocean and surrounding landscape. With over twenty acres, a cross-country golf course, croquet lawn, sparkling swimming pool and nature trails to explore, Firefly offers lots to do for romantic couples or families alike. https://www.fireflybequia.com/
- Spring Hotel – This hotel, also located in the Spring Hill area, close to town, is perched way up on a hillside with panoramic views of the sea and nearby islands. It’s a big hike from town, but don’t worry, they have a shuttle service to help you get around. https://springhotelbequia.com/
If you plan on renting a car and driving around the island, we rented through Gideon Taxi and picked up the car right in front of the port.
GRENADA – The Spice Island
Welcome to Grenada – “The Journey to 50 – Reflecting on the past – Planning the future.” Our introduction to Grenada was smooth and easy going. There were flags and bunting all over the airport marking its 49th year of independence from the United Kingdom.
The car rental company, Archie’s, https://archiesrentals.gd/ picked us up at the airport and took us directly to the police station! This had the markings of a bad omen, but as it turns out, you need to purchase a driver’s license before you can legally drive in Grenada. Not to worry … there’s no physical driving test (although there should be with the windy roads and left-side driving patterns). After that, we were on our own and headed straight for the IGA Supermarket. Grenada does have some large supermarkets and we found the IGA to be very well stocked in everything except produce. No worries about that, since there is literally a produce vendor around every corner no matter where you are going!
Grenada is a much larger island that Bequia, at over 130 square miles, so there are a lot of different areas where you could stay and lots of different hotels, villas and homes for rent. We originally rented a house through VRBO, but when we arrived, the condition of the house was a nightmare and we had to act quickly. Because we planned to stay on the island for two weeks, we had to piece together two different hotels in order to accommodate us on such late notice. This is a good time to let you know that you need to carefully read all reviews of any homes you plan to rent on the island. The photos did not reflect the condition of the house we had rented … not even close.
We ended up staying at The Point at Petite Calivigny for half of our stay and at True Blue Bay Boutique Resort for the second part of the stay. Both were very nice and quite different from each other. Both had full kitchens. The Point is modern and beautiful, with pools and amazing views, but with no real beach access. However, it’s a very close to a super fun spot called Le Phare Bleu, a resort with cottages, restaurants, shops and a boat harbor just a short walk from our villa. Le Phare Bleu offers La Belle Vie Café for morning espresso drinks and pastries, and Island Fever Tropical Tavern, a fun little dockside restaurant all decked out in turquoise. Meat & Meet is a fantastic little market right on the premises, which carries a beautiful selection of meats, sausages, pastries, garden fresh veggies and wine. This is a great place to go for really top notch provisions. We did the rest of our shopping for regular groceries and staples at the IGA right in the center of town.
For the second part of our stay on Grenada, we rented a villa at True Blue Resort, a fun and funky resort, very close to the airport and just adjacent to St. George’s University. True Blue has one and two bedroom villas with full kitchens, several swimming pools, and the proximity to downtown St. George is close. They have a bakery with delicious savory and sweet treats, a full service restaurant, and a spa. Just a short walk from True Blue is an intriguing food court, right across from the University, with a variety of restaurants all housed in old shipping containers. Being from Austin, I am used to food trucks, but food containers was a new one for me! The other great advantage of staying at True Blue is that Aquanauts Dive Center is located right on the premises and it was about a 100 feet from our villa to the dive boats! Due to the windy weather, the diving was not great while we were there, but the crew and guides were fantastic!
Fun Things to do on Grenada
Beaches on Grenada
Grand Anse Beach is a beautiful beach right in the center of St. George, which expands for about two miles along the southwest coastline. It’s great for walking along in the surf and for swimming and sunning. There are a few hotels and restaurants along this stretch and one fun place we went for lunch was Umbrellas, which had a long wait, but delicious food. They offer salads, wraps, bowls, sandwiches, burgers, fries and more!
Morne Rouge Beach (BBC Beach) is a much smaller beach, sheltered by Quarantine Point, which has nothing to do with Covid. There are restaurants nearby and also lodging. This white sand beach is also beautiful and much quieter than Grand Anse Beach. There’s a fantastic sandy bay for swimming, but not much snorkeling to be done right here off the shore. It’s a great place to bring a book and settle down for a few hours.
We love to hike and our hike up into a rain forest from Grand Étang National Park was epic. We asked at the check in office if the hike would be muddy, and the woman looked at the ground and tilted her head before saying, “I don’t think it will be too muddy.” After that hike I have a brand new definition of “not too muddy” which is “incredibly muddy and slippery”. We didn’t fall at all climbing up the trail, which was quite steep, but manageable. But, while we were having a picnic at the top of the trail, a rainstorm passed through and I fell six times on the way down the mountain. We took to grabbing whatever manner of branch, plant or rock we could in order not to slide all the way down the trail. I have a terrible phobia of mud, and this was the most intense Exposure Response Therapy (ERT) I could ever imagine. I simply wanted to get to the bottom as fast as possible without falling a seventh time. When we reached the bottom of the trail, I immediately took off my shoes and socks to rinse them in the lake. There must have been a pound or two of mud encasing our running shoes! Nevertheless, it was a fun adventure, and one I’d probably be crazy enough to do again some day! It would be a great idea to carry hiking sticks with you for this trail
Have you ever met a Hasher? If you are into hiking or running, you might enjoy joining the Hash House Harriers, a self-acclaimed “group of drinkers with a running problem” that meets every Saturday afternoon for a fun and festive walk or run in various locations around Grenada. The hash can be up in the rainforest or in the bush, or even on the streets through town. There are generally between 150 and 300 regular runners and walkers of all ages and fitness levels that participate each week. Many are locals, but every week lots of visitors join in the fun. If you’ve never participated in a hash before, you are considered a “virgin” and you get a certificate of graduation once you complete your first hash. All hashers are welcome and encouraged to stay for street food and drinks afterwards to “re-hash” the fun adventure.
Our first hash happened to be the Red Dress Hash, where you get in free if you wear a red dress, men and women alike! We didn’t have a red dress with us, so we paid the entry fee, which is all good since it benefits a local charity. The Red Dress Hash happened to start right on Grand Anse beach, so it was very convenient. The route is marked by shredded paper and flour, but it’s easy to get a little bit lost, which is all by design! They try to trick you at certain locations with a circle of shredded paper and two or three vectors shooting off from it, but don’t worry, if you get lost, you simply call out “Are You?” and if the response is “On, On” you’re on the right path, but if the answer if “On-Back” you need to go back and find the right trail. I really have no idea if anyone would be there at all to answer your call, but luckily we didn’t need to test it!
The whole affair is such a great vibe from beginning to end and you get some great exercise in along the way. We hiked, but it was pretty strenuous with one really big hill in the middle of our three-mile course.
We booked our dives through Aquanauts, located right at True Blue Resort. They take care of everything for you, from helping you set up your gear and tanks, to guiding you along the entire dive excursion, and then rinsing and hanging all of your gear after the dive. There are two other dive shops as well, but we don’t know much about them since we didn’t use them. There are probably 20 some dive sites off Grenada and one of them is a shallow collection of man-made statues about 25 feet below the surface.
Aquanauts – https://www.aquanautsgrenada.com/
Dive Grenada – https://divegrenada.com/
Eco Dive – https://www.ecodiveandtrek.com/
Lodging on Grenada
- Secret Harbor Beach Resort https://www.secretharborgrenada.com
- The Point at Petite Calivigny – https://pointcalivignyparadise.com/
- True Blue Bay Boutique Resort – https://www.truebluebay.com/
- Calivigny Island Beach Resort https://thevillacollection.com/villa/calivigny-island/
- Le Phare Bleu http://www.lepharebleu.com/
- Secret Harbor Restaurant at the Secret Harbor – This restaurant and hotel is tucked away in a protected cove of Mt. Hartman Bay. We had a beautiful dinner here looking out over the bay. The food was amazing, too. We had the spice-rubbed fish and the pumpkin risotto, which were both fantastic! https://www.secretharborgrenada.com/restaurant
- Le Phare Bleu Restaurant – this is a fun little restaurant right on the water at Le Phare Bleu. The view from the restaurant looks out towards the Calivigny Beach Resort, which is private and frequented by celebrities like Melinda Gates and Madonna, for the meager price of US$130,000 per night. Ouch! http://www.lepharebleu.com/deck-restaurant-bar-grenada/
- Umbrellas Beach Bar – this is a fun restaurant right on Grand Anse Beach. We started the Red Hash run right from the parking lot next door. The food was delicious at Umbrellas, but the service is very, very slow, so be sure to plan ahead and allow plenty of time. https://www.umbrellasbeachbargrenada.com/
- Sails Restaurant & Bar – downtown St. George — a lovely covered outdoor dining room looking right onto the St. George harbor.
- La Belle Vie Café – this was our favorite spot for morning coffee and we met there most days after our morning runs. The owners are French Canadian and super friendly and welcoming. https://www.facebook.com/labelleviecafegrenada
Real Value IGA Supermarket – https://www.realvalueiga.com/
Fish Market – St. George’s You can find fresh caught fish here, and it’s a fun and chaotic place to visit. Ask for directions from any local and they can direct you to the market.
Meat & Meet … is a fabulous little meat market and oh so much more in Le Phare Bleu. They not only age their own meat, but they have relationships with local farmers to sell farm to market produce and meats, they bake amazing sweet treats, especially the chocolate chip cookies, and ready to go meals, plus a really nice wine selection.
Archie’s Car Rentals https://archiesrentals.gd/
The pool situation at True Blue was excellent, with four large pools all within a stone’s throw of our villa.