Grenada: Nature at its best

Editorial coordinator Laura Dennis took in the sights and scents of Grenada during a short visit. Her report follows:

he aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, cocoa, mace and other spices permeate the air of Grenada -- from the markets where vendors sell their wares and swap gossip to the rain forests with tangled vines and hiking trails.

Grenada (pronounced gre-NAY-da) is as fragrant as it is sublime, with national parks, mountains, waterfalls and sparkling stretches of beach.

It remains an unspoiled Caribbean gem, where natural attractions take precedence over duty-free stores, fast-food outlets and high-rise hotels. (Grenada says that no building is higher than a coconut tree.)

Although unspoiled, Grenada is not undiscovered.

The horseshoe-shaped harbor in the capital of St. George's is a port of call for many cruise lines, including Windstar and Star Clippers.

The narrow streets of the capital teem with shops, restaurants and markets.

Visitors can rent a car, sign up for a guided tour or hire a taxi (many drivers double as tour guides) to explore the island.

A view of the island's greenery from the Morne Fendue Plantation House. Driving in Grenada is on the left along narrow winding roads and is not for the fainthearted.

Avis, Budget and Dollar have rental outlets; the daily rate averages between $50 and $60.

A local driving permit is required and can be obtained at the time of rental for about $12.

Taxis charge about $20 per hour for two or more passengers.

Grenada's natural attractions merit exploration, no matter the method of transportation.

Visitors can mountain-bike on off-road trails and penetrate the heart of the rain forest on Jeep tours.

Concord Falls, one of Grenada's many waterfalls, is a top attraction. A winding staircase leads to a pool at the base of the falls where adults and kids splash and swim. The $2 entrance fee is a real deal.

Rest rooms, soft drinks and vendors' stalls are nearby.

Other choices for waterfall dips include Annandale Falls, Seven Sisters and Victoria Waterfalls.

Beachgoers also have lots of choices, including the two-mile-long Grand Anse Beach near St. George's.

The beach at Levera National Park on Grenada's northern tip attracts both locals and visitors. The park also offers several hiking trails.

A good choice for a midday meal is Morne Fendue Plantation House in nearby Sauteurs, a short drive from the park.

A three-course lunch costs about $15.

Tasty Creole dishes include pepperpot, stewed chicken, plantains, yam casserole, callaloo soup, rice with pigeon peas and breadfruit with dumplings.

Another park well worth a visit is Grand Etang National Park in the island's center.

My visit was brief, but many travelers devote a full day to exploring its many trails.

Grand Etang is home to a large crater lake surrounded by mountain peaks, which are often obscured by clouds.

Flora and fauna -- most notably monkeys -- and colorful birds, flourish here.

Visitors can picnic by the lake and hike the park's network of trails, which are bordered by palm and banana trees, bougainvillea, hibiscus and ferns.

Brochures are available at the visitors' center where guides can answer questions and lead group tours.

Admission to the park is $1.

Also competing for visitors' attention are the island's historical attractions and spice markets.

Travelers should have their cameras in hand at Fort George, which boasts spectacular views of the city's tile-roofed architecture and its skyline.

The colorful markets in St. George's and at the northern end of Grand Anse Beach swirl with activity and deals galore.

I ran out of time before I ran out of places to see and explore on Grenada.

The island is like that.

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