Grenada is the main island of the Caribbean nation also called Grenada. With a population of 117,700 in 2019, it has the capital, the tourist strip and the main airport, all in the southwest corner. It measures some 30 miles north-south by 15 miles east-west, which feels like much longer as you traverse the narrow twisting roads, and has a lush tropical climate.
- 1 St. George's is the national capital.
- 2 Grand Anse is the tourist area.
- 3 Gouyave (pronounced "Gwav") is the main town of St John parish.
- 4 Victoria is the main town of St Mark parish.
- 5 Sauteurs is the main town of St Patrick parish.
- 6 Grenville is the main town of St Andrew parish, in the principal fruit, veg and spice-growing area.
- 7 St David is the main settlement, you couldn't call it a town, in St David parish.
This is the one they fought over. There was conflict all along the chain of islands as Europeans came into contact with aboriginal Carib or Arawak people, exterminated them, then fought other European nations for control. Grenada main island had the best land hereabouts for lucrative plantations, and a great natural harbour in a flooded volcanic crater. Britain eventually bested France to build an empire; both nations imported many thousands of African slaves, the ancestors of today's population.
The harbour and town of St George's became the centre of island life through 300 colonial years into independence. Modern tourism was hampered by the tiny airfield on the east coast, but from 1984 the new airport on the southwest tip of Point Salines could receive wide-bodied transatlantic jets. Hotels mushroomed along the Grand Anse beach strip, and while Grenada is by no means a budget destination, air fares and hotel prices are affordable by a mass market. Its port is also busy with cruise liners, whose passengers day-trip here then sail onwards by evening.
1 Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND IATA) (5 miles southwest of St George's), ☏ +1 473 444 4555. Opened in 1984 to replace the tiny Pearls airfield on the east coast, and initially called Port Salines, this has long-haul flights by British Airways, American, Air Canada, JetBlue, Sunwing and Virgin Atlantic. Some are direct but many have an intermediate stop (such as Barbados) or fly a triangular route, for instance via St Lucia or Trinidad, simply to fill the plane. Most inter-island flights are by SVG based on Saint Vincent: these connect Grenada with its smaller island of Carriacou. The airport has car hire and the usual facilities - it's a small single terminal, but modern with air-con, and big enough for its limited flights. There's no currency exchange, so bring enough US dollars until you can reach a bank. Outside in the drop-off area is a greasy spoon cafe-bar. The public minibuses don't come this far out (and lack luggage space) but taxis run to St George's via the Grand Anse tourist strip - you might pay US$ 10 per person.
- Cruise ships dock in St George's: the schedule is posted online. During the European and North American winter there are usually a couple of ships in port, arriving in the morning and sailing on in the evening; the terminal can accommodate five.
- Ferry: Osprey Lines (+1 473 440-8126) foot passenger ferry connects the three inhabited islands. As of Jan 2023, they sail between St George's and Carriacou twice M W F, for a single fare of EC$ 80 adult, EC$ 50 child, cash only; bicycles may be carried. A day-trip either way is easily possible. On a straight run it's 90 min, but some are triangular sailings via Petite Martinique.
- There is one sailing M-F from Carriacou to Petite Martinique, a continuation of the morning ferry from St George's and taking 30 min. There are two return sailings, with the afternoon ferry continuing to St George's. A day-trip only gives you two hours, enough for essential island business but not conducive to relaxed sightseeing.
- A freight and passenger ship also sails three days a week, taking 2 hr 30 min from Carriacou.
- The ferry from St Vincent is discontinued. There is occasional talk of restarting it, but enquiries at the Osprey office are met with up-rolled eyes and eloquent shrugs.
- Private vessels entering Grenada must first obtain immigration and customs clearance, either at Grenada Yacht Club in St George's, Prickly Bay Marina south end of the island, or Tyrell Bay on Carriacou. Anchorages and mooring fields at the south end of the island include True Blue Bay, Prickly Bay, Clark's Court Bay and Mount Hartman Bay.
- Charters of various sizes and crews can be found by enquiring at hotels or the carenage in St George's.
Minibuses in Grenada are the staple means of transport. They hold 15-19 people, and have route numbers and signs on their windscreens. Weekdays they run 7AM-7PM. In town there are designated bus stops, further out you can hail them or get off anywhere - ask the conductor if you're unsure of your stop. Fares are in proportion to distance, and the loud music and breeze through the windows come free. Routes fan out from St George's bus terminal to:
- Zone 1 southwest to Grand Anse and Calliste, a mile short of the airport.
- Zone 2 south (with Zone 3 part-route) to Woburn and Calivigny then along the south coast to St David.
- Zone 4: east direct to St David, and north (Zone 8 part-route) up to the coast to Gouyave and Victoria. Zone 5 also runs north to Gouyave, Victoria and Sauteurs.
- Zone 6: northeast (with Zone 7 part-route) to Grand Etang and Grenville.
- Zone 9 is the exception, this is between Grenville and Sauteurs and doesn't visit St George's.
A water taxi plies from the wharf near the cruise terminal to Grand Anse beach - buy from the kiosk (US$5 pp) and they issue a wristband to show on your return. The ride is 5 minutes, quicker than a taxi. The problem is that either too many tourists are queuing for it, if several cruisers are in port, or not enough, and you wait in the rain for it to fill and set off. It's not sailing in early 2023.
A "tourist train" potters around the main sights of St George's. The town is walkable but some streets are steep.
Renting a car is unnecessary for most visitors. For a trip around the island (especially involving a rum distillery), you're better hiring a taxi for the day, as the driver knows the poorly-signposted turn-offs and worst potholes. The fellow who drives you in from the airport will emphasise this and press his business card upon you. Or he may call his brother Sam, who will appear at your hotel next morning with a winning smile and proposals for a grand expedition. Reckon to pay US$ 35 per hour.
You don't need an International Driving Permit if your licence is in English, but you do need a temporary Grenada license, valid for three months and costing EC$60 in 2023. The rental company issues this on the spot - you no longer have to traipse down to the local police station to have tedious documents stamped to bits.
Drive on the left but be aware that many vehicles are US imports, right-hand drive. Driving is mellow, and drivers often pull over to let faster traffic pass. Use the horn when taking the numerous blind corners, and listen closely for others - the Grenada style is a demure "bip-bip, sorry to disturb you" not the raucous blare of more extrovert islands.
International rental companies in Grenada are Hertz and Alamo. Avis and Dollar have a nominal presence but in 2023 are dormant.
Local operators are concentrated around St George's / Grand Anse, but you should be able to arrange pick up / drop off anywhere. There are about 20, which include Sanvics (+1 473 444 4753), Reggie's[dead link] (+1 473 440 6374), Azar's (+1 473 439 2911), R&D (+1 473 410 5020), JP Automotive (+1 473 421 2727), Five Star (+1 473 404 8366), Dreemz (+1 473 458 1747), J&B (+1 473 405 4889), McKay (+1 473 458 7433), A1 (+1 473 417 1035), Drive Grenada (+1 473 421 3333), Grencar (+1 473 537 3222), Archie (+1 473 444 2535) and Y&R (+1 473 444 4448).
- Forts occupy the heights: Fort George stands on the knoll above St George's carenage, with Frederick and Matthew further up the ridge. But they're all dilapidated and you mostly come for the view.
- Old towns are atmospheric but still with many wrecked buildings from the 2004 hurricane. St George's historic centre is a block or two inland from the ferry and bus terminals. Grenville is worth an extended stroll.
- Beaches: Grand Anse is the one in all the tourist brochures, a classic sweep of palm-fringed sand. But it's narrow, having suffered erosion, and waves may break right over it. All the water sports facilities are based here. The strip by the spice and craft market can feel crowded and touristy. Beyond the headland west are the much quieter BBC or Morne Rouge Beach, then Paradise Bay towards Sandals resort. Small sandy coves are found right round the island though the coast is mostly rugged, and the east is exposed to the Atlantic. Black beaches are a curiosity, made of volcanic sand, for instance Black Bay on the west coast.
- Natural world: the highland spine of Grenada draws clouds from the Atlantic and is a rain forest, with Mona monkeys and birdlife. Grand Etang is a crater lake and nature reserve mid-island (described as part of St George's, though it's just over the parish boundary into St Andrew), with Mount Qua Qua above it. Waterfalls tumble down the slopes: best known are Annandale west side, Seven Sisters and Honeymoon Falls east side, and Concord north of town. They're cascades rather than clear drops and of no great height, but in pleasant bosky gullies. Other crater lakes and parks are at Antoine to the northeast and Levera to the north.
- Plantations: see below for rum distilleries. Spice plantations include Dougladston Estate and Gouyave Nutmeg Factory both near Gouyave, and Belmont to the north processes cocoa beans for chocolate.
- Diving: the dive shacks are all along Grand Anse beach. A short boat ride brings you to sandy areas suitable for novice training, and soft coral reefs for inexperienced and rusty qualified divers. Deeper wrecks lie further out, with the best known being the liner Bianca C. There's usually a current, so dives are drifts with the boat following the leader's surface marker buoy.
- Hiking: Mount Qua Qua is above Grand Etang Nature Reserve, and Mount Saint Catherine (840 m / 2756 ft) is ten miles further north.
- Golf: there's a nine-hole course above Grand Anse.
- Cricket: internationals and other big matches are played at the National Stadium in St George's.
- Hash Runs are held most Saturdays in various locations around the island. They take a couple of hours and end with a fry-up at a rum bar.
- US dollar bills are universally accepted, but shops may jib at coins. Banks in Grand Anse and St George's have exchange counters open M-F 8AM-2PM.
- Spiceland Mall and IGA supermarket are side-by-side in Grand Anse.
- Esplanade Mall by the cruise terminal in St George's is tourist-trappy.
- Don't buy coral artefacts, and chew off anyone you see selling or buying them. Your home country customs may confiscate them.
- Grand Anse has the best dining, and most hotels cater to non-residents. The independent cafes and restaurants tend to close early.
- St George's has a limited selection, offering simple snacks and lunches for those with business in town.
- Outlying hotels such as La Sagesse to the south and Petite Anse to the north need reservations for non-residents, as they only lay in ingredients if they know they have customers.
- Fish Friday is held in Gouyave, with streets closed to traffic for a fry-up and street fair. It used to be every Friday from 6PM but has been spasmodic since Covid, check before setting out.
- Rum is obviously the thing here. Distilleries include Clark's Court and Westerhall near Grand Anse, and River Antoine north towards Sauteurs. Blue Light near Grand Anse make gin. See the relevant town pages for tours and other details.
- Breweries are Carib near the airport, and West Indies Beer Company in Lance Aux Epines, see Grand Anse for both.
- Grand Anse is the main accommodation area. It's expensive!
- St. George's has surprisingly little, considering it's the capital. You might do better to base in Grand Anse, only a ten minute taxi ride.
- La Sagesse, St David's, ☏ +1 473 444 6458. On the rugged south coast below St David's town, this is a charming out-of-the way hotel with sandy beach and good restaurant. B&B double EC$ 350.
- Grenada has very low crime rates.
- There's a hospital in St George's, and a smaller hospital at Mirabeau to the east. But anything serious could mean an airlift to the US mainland, so you need adequate health insurance.
- Water is chlorinated and safe.
- Ferries ply to the other islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
- Anywhere else will involve flying. Ferries no longer sail to the other island nations, though with your own boat you can easily continue along the island chain.