Grenada, also known as the "Spice Isle of the Caribbean," is the smallest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere and is comprised of three islands less than 100 miles from the northern coast of Venezuela. Its main and largest island shares the country's name, and is a 21-mile-long paradise filled with lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls and mountain lakes nestled in dramatic, volcanic terrain. Calm Caribbean water laps gently against white sand and mangrove-lined beaches on Grenada's western coastline, while the more turbid Atlantic ocean swirls against the island's eastern shores. In St. George's, Grenada's capital, rows of pastel waterfront warehouses surround a beautiful harbor, making a patterned rainbow of colors somehow both vibrant and muted at the same time. Named the Spice Isle for good reason, Grenada is almost impossibly fertile. In addition to growing copious amounts of cloves, ginger, cinnamon and cocoa, Grenada produces one-third of the world's supply of nutmeg. Grenada's beauty belies its complicated past; although the country has been independent since 1974, U.S. forces invaded in 1983 after a Marxist military council seized control of the government. Democratic elections were restored a year later.
Grenada offers some of the best and most diverse diving in the Caribbean. It is home to numerous wrecks, the most famous of which is the Bianca C, a 600-foot Italian cruise ship that sank in 1961. Also known as the "Titanic of the Caribbean," the Bianca C sits upright in about 160 feet of water. Its deck is easily accessible at a depth of 90 feet, and there is nothing quite like a slow descent straight down the front of her massive bow. Other interesting shipwrecks in Grenada include the King Mitch, San Juan, Hema I and Shakem. Many of these wrecks provide excellent chances for encounters with nurse sharks and schools of Atlantic spadefish and jacks. The water and reefs around the wrecks are full of grunts, soldierfish, spadefish and barracuda, as well as an abundance of shrimps, crabs and blennies. Farther up the western coast are more protected areas with dive sites like Flamingo Bay, which have critter-filled seagrass beds and reefs teeming with macro life.
In addition to diving, Grenada offers an impressive variety of outdoor activities: from hiking through the Grand Etang Forest Reserve, high in the interior, to swimming in the pools formed by the islands' many waterfalls, to bird-watching in La Sagesse, the peaceful mangrove estuary along the southwestern coast. But many visitors come here simply to enjoy the laid-back island scene and relax in the tropical sun. And although Grenada has a growing tourist industry, it is still a relatively untouched destination, especially when compared to other Caribbean islands. Here, the perfect way to end a day of diving is to dine at sunset on a breezy patio table overlooking the ocean. Simply closing one's eyes unlocks the key to the island: percussive harmonies of steel-drum bands beat rhythmically in the distance and the aromas of complex spices drift by in waves. Suddenly, it's easy to relax--especially with a rum punch in one hand and a dish of homemade nutmeg ice cream in the other.
There are more than 25 dive sites off Grenada. Most sites are between 20 and 120 feet; the Bianca C is at 160 feet. The average water temperature is about 79 degrees in December and 84 degrees in July. Visibility is generally between 30 and 100 feet.
Average temperatures range from 75 to 87 degrees. Temps are cooler between November and February. The rainy season is from June to December, but it rarely rains for more than an hour at a time and generally not every day.
A valid passport and return or ongoing ticket are required.
The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$2.68 = US$1 fixed). The U.S. dollar, travelers' checks and major credit cards are widely accepted. There is an EC$50 (approximately US$20) departure tax.
The official language is English, but a French-African patois is widely spoken.
Show a valid driver's license to obtain a local driving permit from the traffic department at the Central Police Station on the Carenage. The cost is EC$30. Most car rental companies also issue local permits.