My boyfriend and I had been planning a 'big trip' but we didn't know exactly where we wanted to go. I've wanted to explore the Caribbean for some time now, so that was definitely on my mind. We looked into Barbados, St. Thomas, Virgin Gorda, and other popular Caribbean islands, but eventually stumbled upon a little jewel at the very bottom of the chain, just above South America, called Grenada. At heart, I am an island girl (born and raised in Hawai'i). The idea of the Caribbean felt like going home. Originally, we decided we would try to go in mid-September... That gave us a few months to plan, save up the money and do it right! Things changed however, when I spontaneously decided I needed a getaway, not in a few months, but NOW. Thankfully, my boyfriend happens to be the most easy going and adventurous person I think I've ever met. He said yes without hesitation.
We wanted to visit somewhere with minimal crowds, and a good balance of beautiful beaches and wild jungles. I have to say, I think we picked the perfect island. It turns out, that in Grenada, June is the Beginning of the rainy season, yes perhaps a bit of research might have cleared that up rather quickly, but what's done is done! I don't know if we simply got lucky, but it only rained once at night, (which was lovely) and the partially cloudy skies weren't the slightest bit bothersome. In fact, I think the term 'rainy season' scared away other potential travelers (who may have spent the time researching) thus making a lovely vacation for us.
We rented a car from a company called 'Concept Auto Rentals.' They seemed to have the best deals as far as we saw, and I would absolutely recommend them. A young man met us at the airport with the car ready to go, and he made everything quick and easy for us to be on our way. They did not have luxury vehicles by any means, but I dare say that's for the best, as we spent the next 40 minutes driving on partially paved roads with potholes, no real lanes, street signs, or any of the conveniences we've gotten oh so used to. Eventually, we made our way to The Cabier Ocean Lodge, in St. Andrews. This little beach shack stands on an epic cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with it's own private beach. After driving down the bumpy dirt road and questioning our ability to read a map, we saw the lodge... And we were hooked. Because of the season, we had almost the entire place to ourselves. The staff was so welcoming and helpful, and I don't think anything could beat going to sleep at night with the sound of the waves crashing up against the rocks right below your window. If you are like me, and tend to 'take the road less traveled' keep this lodge on your radar.
SAILING ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON:
The sun rose on our first full day in Grenada, and after having a peaceful cup (or three) of coffee on our deck overlooking the ocean, we made our way down to Grand Anse Beach to go sailing. Now, up until this point, I had not yet seen the Caribbean Sea. The water was warm and beautiful on our little private beach at the lodge, but when I first stepped out onto Grand Anse Beach and looked out over the Caribbean Sea, I'm not exaggerating in saying I almost started to cry. The water was perfectly calm, and crystal clear, gradually growing a darker shade of blue as it got deeper. My boyfriend tried, and failed, to calm me down with gentle pats on the back as I squealed with excitement.
We rented a Hobbie Catamaran for a surprisingly good deal. You take a half hour lesson to understand the basics (which was actually quite fun!) Then, you are left to your own devices. If we could have stayed out there on the water for the entire trip I think we probably would have. The water was warm and a vibrant color that shouldn't be possible. I jumped off the boat and into the ocean with every chance I got. As the salt water consumed me, I felt so at home, so alive. You may laugh but I find that the ocean has its own healing powers.
When our time was up on the Hobbie Cat we lounged on the white sand, swam some more in the shallow waters and watched the sun begin to set.
That night, we decided to take a drive directly north of the beach we were on to an area called Gouyave. They had a small event we had heard about called 'Fish Fridays.' This is not something that is put on for tourists by resorts... It's very much a local event. I had heard it was open to anyone, but I was still skeptical. Especially as we drove up to the area, passing small towns, and heading to a remote location... I wasn't sure we would be welcomed. The last thing I wanted was to be the presumptuous tourist crashing a local event. As we arrived, small tents were set up as people cooked fish, sold drinks, and simply hung out chatting and playing music, just enjoying good food and good company. We were immediately welcomed with open arms, and met some truly kind and lovely people that night. It was wonderful to simply be there in that environment and experience an every day way of life in Grenada. All I can say is, thank you Gouyave!! After a long day in the sun, and still a hint of jet lag, we had no trouble sleeping that night.
A SATURDAY ATV ADVENTURE
If you had asked me a few years ago, if I had ever ridden an ATV or thought that I might ever ride one, I probably would have laughed and brought up the fact that it is extremely difficult for me to ride a bicycle, so an ATV seems completely out of reach. However, my dangerously persuasive partner had his mind set. We contacted a company called Grenada ATV Adventures and booked a tour. They are a small company run out of a house up in the hills, with a few ATVs in the yard. I love supporting small local businesses especially when they are as wonderful as this one! We had a private tour of the island, riding through the mud, dust and trees, stopping at viewpoints, overlooking the incredible ocean... With only a bit of coaxing, I drove the ATV for half the trip, and, forgive my not so humble brag, I was pretty darn good at it! Who needs bicycles?
The tour ended with our guide bringing us down to a tiny little secluded beach that yet again was breathtakingly beautiful. It was utter paradise letting the salt water clean off the dirt that had now caked itself onto my body. We were perfectly refreshed and cooled off for the rest of our day.
That night we decided to check out a little restaurant/bar called "Umbrellas" located right on the beach in the Grand Anse area. Although slightly more touristy than we had seen up to this point, it was a fun and festive restaurant with good vibes, and good food. A live band played with musicians and vocalists that honestly shocked me with their talent. We would end up coming back to this spot on our last night. It was DEFINITELY a fun one. Of course, no dinner on the beach is complete without a nighttime dip in the ocean, so, once we paid the bill, it did not take long for me to tear off my dress and dive in once more. The warm water under the light of the moon and stars is magical. All I wanted to do was swim out into the middle of the ocean, perhaps grow a tail, and become a mermaid. Alas, that did not happen...yet.
SUNDAY IN THE (NATIONAL) PARK
One of the first things I heard about, when looking into Grenada as a destination, was Grand Etang National Park. It seemed if you wanted to do any real hiking, this was where you go. From the pictures I had seen, it looked beautiful, so I was not too worried about being disappointed. As we drove along the slowly narrowing road, the trees around us began to thicken, the sounds of birds in the distance almost echoed in the otherwise captivating silence. There was water in the air, dewdrops resting on the leaves of the vividly green trees... It was stunning. We chose to hike a trail called 'Seven Sisters Falls.' We paid a small fee to enter and were handed two walking sticks, then left alone to explore. The trail was not particularly long, though very steep and slippery. The jungle swallowed us with every step. We followed the stream up to the end of the trail where you are greeted with two massive flowing waterfalls, cascading down into a small swimming hole.
The spray of the falls kissed my face as we swam in the stream. It was better than perfect... An experience I will always remember. Because neither of us wanted to be done just yet, we drove even farther into the park from there and did yet another bit of a trail around Grand Etang Lake. It took us up mount Qua Qua and showed us magnificent views of the seemingly never ending jungle that surrounded us.
We had a private and lovely dinner at our hotel that night, in the tiny secluded restaurant that looked out over the ocean. Again, oh how lucky we were to have such a place to ourselves! Between good food, waterfalls and steep cliffs, we slept well again, listening to the waves.
Grenada is known as the Isle of spice, and at this point having eaten at a handful of the local shops and smaller restaurants, I found that it certainly lived up to its name. More specifically, Grenada is known for its CHOCOLATE! They have a couple of chocolate factories on the island that do tours and tastings, etc. To put it plainly, I am a chocolate FEIND, so a tour and some Grenadian chocolate sounded divine. We drove up to the Northeastern tip of the island and visited Belmont Estates, which was beautifully nestled in the trees. This place has been around since the 17th century. I found it thoroughly interesting to see how they make the chocolate, from growing the cocoa beans all the way to packaging a candy bar. Especially how much work went into it all back when they first were established. The free samples of hot chocolate, cocoa nibs, dark and milk chocolate chips, did not a hurt either! They were extraordinarily delicious. This was definitely a spot to make time for!
After the tour, for our last afternoon, we decided to drive down to Mourne Rouge beach, and relax. Mourne Rouge is just a quick skip away from Grand Anse, with the same white sand and blue water, but a bit more of a secluded feeling. It's slightly more hidden, in a small bay that you wouldn't see from the main road. It was the perfect spot for our final beach day.
We sat there on the white sand as the sun set over the caribbean sea simply trying to take in as much beauty as we could. Suddenly my eyes felt inadequate. I could hardly process my surroundings. All the pictures I had taken wouldn't be quite the same. I settled for simply sitting there, staring off in the distance, so abundantly grateful for this experience. So thankful to every kind person we had met, thankful to the island for sharing it's beauty and wonders with two people who will forever remember it.
"There is something fresh and crisp about the first hours of a Caribbean day, a happy anticipation that something is about to happen, maybe just up the street or around the next corner."
-Hunter S. Thompson
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