Why You Should Plan an Epic Beach Escape in Grenada This Winter
Update 12/20/16: This post originally referenced upcoming JetBlue Mint service from Boston, however the airline will only be launching flights from New York at this time.
Jetsetters tend to flock to St. Barts while honeymooners hole up in luxe lodgings on Saint Lucia, but just 100 miles north of Venezuela lies another island that’s one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets come wintertime. The 120-square-mile island of Grenada, nestled between St. Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago, has all the makings of a secluded winter retreat. Here's why Grenada deserves a spot on your travel bucket list this season.
1. JetBlue Is Launching Mint Service From New York
You can already redeem miles to book flights to Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND) on Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta and JetBlue from cities like Miami, New York, Atlanta and Toronto. Starting January 2017, JetBlue is expanding its Mint service to the island, with seasonal Saturday service from New York (JFK) and introductory round-trip fares starting around $854 — or around 57,400 TrueBlue points — plus tax.
2. Grenada's Less Crowded Than the Most of the Caribbean
During the winter months, the Caribbean is a hot spot for cruise lines and snowbirds escaping the cold. While islands like Jamaica are built up with all-inclusive resorts and luxury hotels, Grenada is still relatively untouched — you won’t find a ton of big-name brands here. Instead, the island maintains its rustic charm with homestays and independently-owned hotels starting as low as $50 per night.
The majority of the hotels are clustered in the southern part of the island near Grand Anse Beach. If you’re looking for something on the more luxurious side, book a stay at five-star, family-run hotel Calabash, made up of 30 island-chic suites and five estate homes complete with private plunge pools overlooking the bay. Rates here start at about $500 per night for a junior suite.
For a super-secluded stay and beachfront access, the 21-suite-and-villa Mount Cinnamon hotel runs down the hillside leading to Grand Anse Beach and features a fully outfitted beach club with massage cabanas and a five-star PADI dive center, Dive Grenada. Rates start around $425 per night for a one-bedroom villa.
One option for a points-hotel stay along Grand Anse is the 229-room Radisson Grenada Beach Resort, which sits on a 1,200-foot stretch of white-sand beach and features everything from a scuba-diving center to pool-side grills and tennis courts. Rates start at about $277 or 50,000 points per night.
3. It's the Diving Capital of the Eastern Caribbean
The Grenadines have earned the nickname "Dive Capital of the Eastern Caribbean” thanks to more than 50 sites that include shipwrecks and underwater sculpture parks, with visibility ranging from 30 to 100 feet. (The Grenadines is the name of the island chain that's shared by the governments of St. Vincent and Grenada, with the southern islands, including Carriacou and Petit Martinique, belonging to Grenada.) One of the most famous scuba sites in the islands, the Bianca C, is an underwater ship that lies on the bottom of the harbor of the island’s capital, St. George's. The Italian luxury liner sank here in 1961 and is considered to be the Caribbean’s largest shipwreck.
Snorkelers can get in on the action in Grenada at the Underwater Sculpture Park — the world’s first — just a 10-minute boat ride from Grand Anse Beach. On a recent trip, I had a chance to explore the site with Dive Grenada owner Phil Saye, who helped install more than 60 of the underwater sculptures crafted by British artist Jason Taylor.
4. The Whole Island's Easy to Explore
Measuring about 21 miles long and 12 miles wide, Grenada is an easy island to explore in just a day or two. Rent a car for as low as $50 per day and skirt the coast, stopping to explore sites like the River Antoine Rum Distillery, the oldest water-propelled distillery in the Caribbean dating back to the 19th century, or St. George’s daily Craft and Spice Market, with its 80-plus booths set up in an area that’s been nicknamed the “Portofino of the Caribbean.”
Grenada is also full of natural wonders ranging from waterfalls — Annandale Falls is a prime spot for swimming and picnicking — to hikes hugging lake shorelines and rainforests. If you want to experience all five of the island’s sub-climates at once, set off on the Shoreline Trail at Grand Etang Lake, a 90-minute hike around the extinct volcano that's lined with rare orchids and home to a variety of tropical birds and wildlife like the mongoose and the Mona monkey, originally carried to the island during the 18th century on slave ships from West Africa.
5. Festival Season Is Full of Fun
The end of January marks the start of festival season on the island with the annual four-day sailing festival, featuring yacht racing off Grenada’s southern coast. The second weekend of the event is part of the Southern Caribbean Regatta Circuit with traditions dating back to the island's sea-trading days, the highlight being a work-boat regatta that starts at Grand Anse Beach.
January is also the start of the colorful Carriacou Carnival season — influenced by Grenada's history with African slaves and French colonizers — featuring calypso music, carnivals and street parades leading up to the main event on Feb. 27, 2017, on Carriacou, the larger of the two other islands of the Grenadines.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Grenada? Tell us about them, below.