Caribbean & Bermuda

Grenada

written by | Posted on February 1st, 2011

As represented on maps, Grenada isn’t much. It’s barely a speck on the vastness of the Caribbean, perplexing most of today’s travelers who would be as hard pressed to pinpoint it on a map as seasoned war reporters were 28 years ago when the island was heaved into international headlines after becoming snared in a mess of realpolitik.

It was 1983 and U.S. reconnaissance satellites aiming their unblinking eyes from the sky divulged a freshly laid road and a number of armament depots bearing the unmistakable imprint of Cubans in Grenada assisting some plotters who had executed the prime minister. The Reagan administration considered this an affront to American influence in the Caribbean and 7,000 Marines were subsequently ordered to the island to put an end to the crisis.

Violence ended a few days later, leaving 19 Marines, about 40 Cubans and 75 Grenadians dead. Islanders, with typical Caribbean approach, euphemistically brush away the affair as “the intervention.”

Twenty-eight years is a lifetime in anybody’s book, and today Grenada has regained all the sublime touches it was known for before making news.

The diminutive island, about 125 miles northeast of Venezuela, is a peaceful tropical paradise that can’t be dismissed as just another typical Caribbean resort destination. It’s a compact volcanic landmass of a mere 133 sq. miles dotted with all-inclusive resorts and touted by developers as the most beautiful island within the Grenadines, the southern part of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles.

Those developers just might have a point.

Grenada consists of a series of rugged spectacular volcanic ridges blanketed with dense, lush tropical foliage. It has such a lack of flatness that engineers had to bulldoze several ridges and fill precipitous ravines to build a 10,000-ft. runway for an airport first planned by Cubans and completed by Americans.

The Maurice Bishop Airport (named after the slain prime minister) is serviced by many airlines including American Airlines—which has direct flights from Miami—Air Jamaica and Delta Air Lines. Caribbean Airlines flies nonstop from New York while American Eagle connects the island to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Visitors will find Grenada an island where trade winds refresh the unbearable heat of the equatorial latitudes and where life, at least on the surface, seems to dance to a tempo that locals call “now for now,” which is a captivating way of saying, “Live for the moment.”

It often seems that the lackadaisical spirit that typifies the Creole way of thinking is the island’s most treasured resource.

Grenada is so compact visitors can drive around the island in less than six hours, counting stops in the interior’s pleasing towns and villages and unplanned visits to the spectacular stretches of beaches, hidden coves and sheltered harbors prevalent along the coast.

The Grenada Board of Tourism likes to say that this is the best place in which to find an unparalleled spirit of relaxation, a fact unclouded by the usual boosterism of tourism promoters everywhere. A large majority of visitors are on repeat visits, having discovered in Grenada an ideal nook for lazing in the sun while simultaneously endearing with its simplicity and informality.

Its unaffected charm and tranquil mood is probably what much of the Caribbean must have been like some 50 years ago, before tourism became big business in the area. Those who don’t find it difficult to leave a hammock swaying under coconut palms won’t have problems finding singular activities.

One of the more popular sites is Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Park, a wonderful attraction bordering on the bizarre. It draws snorkelers and scuba divers who delight in romping in shallow, warm water among 14 sculptures that look like a cubist artist’s concept of ceremonial carvings made centuries ago by the Caribs, Grenada’s original settlers.

The largest sculpture is “The Zemi,” a huge figure that locals believe is endowed with supernatural powers. The waters are so clear and warm that the works are easily discerned from a boat, making the underwater park ideal for family outings.

St. George’s, the capital, is an eyeful: colorful buildings in an inimitable style that pays homage to the European cultures that influenced modern Grenada, circle a sparkling bay where small craft scurry to and fro. In the distance, sleek cruise ships anchor offshore.