Discover the amazing natural beauty of Grenada

From underwater sculptures to a boom in artisanal produce, Grenada is the Caribbean’s latest hotspot

Travel and Wellbeing 29 May 2024

Pieces at the Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park

Grenada’s Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park

I’m witnessing an intensely personal moment. Kneeling before me, hands clasped in prayer, eyes closed, thoughts impenetrable, a woman is lost in silent worship. Yards away, a Christ-like figure in long robes raises his arms towards the heavens, welcoming shafts of biblical sunlight.

This is no ordinary church. The faces of the two contemplative figures are pockmarked with coral polyps, distorted by algae, occasionally hidden by attentive crowds of black-striped sergeant major fish. After a minute’s observation through the aqueous gloom, I kick and slowly rise to the surface of the Caribbean, five metres above.

With the recent addition of 27 new artworks, Grenada’s Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park – one of the few art galleries on Earth requiring its visitors to wear a snorkel, mask and cossie – now covers 800 square metres of seafloor. Declared a wonder of the contemporary world by National Geographic, it’s one of several reasons why the southernmost Windward Isle, which marks its 50th anniversary of independence this year, is currently enjoying a moment in the sun.

Pieces at the Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park
Pieces at the Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park

Its installations add an artistic garnish to Grenada’s white- and black-powder beaches, lush volcanic peaks and artisanal chocolate and rum. Another coat of gloss will be applied this month, with the opening of Six Senses La Sagesses, the group’s first Caribbean resort, spread across 15 peachy hectares on the island’s southern coast.

Luxury wellness is far from my thoughts as I mask up and freedive down to the waiting cement sculptures. Installed by Jason deCaires Taylor in 2006 to re-energise a reef shredded by Hurricane Ivan, the sculpture park has developed into an eclectic, 75-strong crowd.

I swim past a ring of 26 eerily noiseless children, hands joined, gazing outwards, and then a motionless cyclist, flanked by zig-zagging shoals of tropical fish. Close by, 25 elaborately dressed carnival characters celebrate the island’s annual Spicemas festival, including Jab-Jab [a Devil Mas character], painted in black squid ink in place of the engine oil used in August’s masquerade.

‘It’s the most incredible exhibition space,’ says deCaires Taylor. ‘As soon as the sculptures sink, they evolve. Sponges resemble veins, staghorn coral morphs the form and sea urchins crawl across their bodies. Nothing matches nature’s imagination.’

Lush Sunnyside Garden
Lush Sunnyside Garden

Grenada’s fecund mountains would agree. Pink hibiscus, purple bougainvillea and red heliconia garland the road as I drive above the capital of St George’s, before being engulfed by giant ferns, dripping from a short, shockingly intense downpour.

My hiking route bisects old banana and cacao estates, where I suck on freshly picked guavas while passing hillside farms of sugar cane, nutmeg, avocados and soursop.

I stop for a second and ants swarm my boots. The earth rarely feels so alive. At deserted Adelphi Falls, one of the island’s many cascades, I climb a ladder of tree roots to the lip where a 10-metre-high curtain of water plunges over a tumble of dark granite. A dip removes ants, earth and sweat before a meal of kingfish, pumpkin and breadfruit at the Tropicana Inn on St George’s lagoon.

The colourful port of St George’s
The colourful port of St George’s

I’m not the only person to appreciate the landscape’s Edenic qualities. Two years ago, Mark Reynier, the British entrepreneur who revived Islay’s Bruichladdich whisky, founded Renegade Rum. Harnessing the diverse micro-climates of Grenada’s fertile mountains, ravines and gullies, he established 14 sugar cane farms, distilling “terroir-driven rum” aged in wine casks from Bordeaux and bourbon barrels from Kentucky.

To understand the classic Caribbean tipple, I drive up the west coast to Rumboat Retreat, a boutique guesthouse swaddled by mango trees, where owner Lisette, a rum connoisseur, offers tasting and pairing classes. Over an engaging, gently boozy afternoon, I learn to detect honey notes in River Antoine rum, courtesy of a local distillery still powered by a Georgian water wheel; savour ceviche with Clarke’s Court, a Grenadian rum with a citrus twang; and pair Lisette’s divine homemade passion fruit chocolates with a shot of 10-year-old Westerhall. ‘The flavours elevate each other,’ says the former Notting Hill optician. I scoff two more. Just to be sure. She’s right.

One of Grenada’s many dramatic waterfalls
One of Grenada’s many dramatic waterfalls

More soul-lifting island bounty is found further north near Nonpareil. Crayfish Bay, founded by former circus performer and self-confessed smuggler Kim Russell, is the fifth organic, tree-to-bar chocolate producer on an island half the size of Anglesey. A natural raconteur, Russell steers me through the process, from pulp fermentation to ageing.

It’s a lengthy, loving, slightly Heath Robinson approach involving the world’s only homemade charcoal roaster and a winnowing machine (to separate cacao husk from nib) built from an old blender and vacuum cleaner. The end product is sublime and nuanced with lingering liquorice notes. ‘Most chocolate’s crap,’ pronounces Russell, who wisely avoided a diplomatic career. ‘It has horrendous amounts of sugar and additives. I won’t manufacture that junk.’

If Crayfish Bay is an authentic antidote to the voraciously commercial modern world so is Danny Donelan’s yacht. Crafted in time-honoured Grenadian fashion – from a small model rather than marine plans – by descendants of the country’s 18th-century Scottish boat builders, its frame is local cedar, planks are Guyanese, mast Canadian spruce. ‘It’s a joy to sail,’ sighs Donelan. ‘Never creaks. Multi-million-dollar boat owners are always fascinated at regattas. They love the simplicity and back story.’

As soft trade-winds escalate, we unfurl our sail, crack a frosted Carib beer and admire the pink clouds nuzzling Grenada’s viridian peaks. Somewhere beneath us, the kneeling woman still prays, the children continue to stare and Jab-Jab enjoys his endless coral-coated carnival.

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