As Prince Harry visits the Caribbean, Karen Bowerman samples the riotous, rum-laced delights of Grenada.
On my first evening in Grenada, I sit on a dock overlooking a bay and order a “dodgy rum punch”, named after the bar that serves it, rather than its ingredients. It proves a potent concoction, staving off jet lag, resetting my body clock and warming my soul.
On Prince Harry’s recent visit he no doubt sampled the island’s finest tipple. By royal appointment, of course.
In his honour, I order another, then flop into bed, listening to waves break gently over Grand Anse Beach: a three-mile stretch of pristine, coralline sand, said to be the most beautiful in the West Indies.
Grenada, together with its sister isles of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, form a tri-island state, about 100 miles north of Venezuela. They’re in the southernmost part of the Caribbean – a good ten-hour flight from London.
But, as my guide Roger puts it, during my ridiculously short transfer to the Coyaba Beach Resort on the west coast (the drive is all of ten minutes): “If you’re looking for the very best mango, you need to climb to the top of the tree.”
Not that Grenada is known for its mangoes; this is the Spice Isle, its volcanic soil giving rise to nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon, plus cocoa, various root vegetables, affectionately known as “ground provisions”, and, of course, sugar cane, hence all the rum.
At the River Antoine Rum Distillery on the east coast (Grenada is just 21 miles long and 12 miles wide, so nowhere’s far) rum is still produced as it was in the 1700s. The distillery, a handful of stone buildings, is powered by the river, which drives an old waterwheel made in Derby.
My friends and I head north to the Belmont agro-tourism estate for lunch, where everything served has been grown on site. I try soursop juice, which tastes a bit like frothy grapefruit; and green banana soup, which reminds me of Thai green curry.
But nothing can top the cacao-infused cheesecake we discover at the House of Chocolate in St George’s, Grenada’s small capital.
Down the hill is St George’s Market, where women sell ground spices in neatly-labelled packets. We stroll from here to the harbour, the Carenage, before taking in the view from the canons lining Fort George, a 17th century hilltop battery.
Barely 10 minutes later, I’m back at the Coyaba resort, my towel hanging from the branch of a knobbly sea grape tree, as I take a dip in the sea.
One afternoon, I go kayaking; on another, a group of us take a catamaran to the island’s quirkiest attraction, its Underwater Sculpture Park in Molinere Bay. While divers sink to the ocean bed, there’s still plenty to see if you snorkel, since none of the sculptures are more than 25 feet deep. A mermaid flicks her sinuous tail; a ring of children, cast from local youngsters, attract a shoal of parrot fish; and from a sun-dappled gully, female figures gaze upwards, draped in coral and sand.
While Grenada has around 70 miles of coastline, inland, there are mountains, rainforests and waterfalls. A renowned hiker, 77-year-old Telfor Bedeau, shows me round. We meet in the mountainous Grand Etang Forest. Telfor arrives – on foot – from his village seven miles away. He’s wearing jelly shoes and is carrying a machete.
He has no need for his machete today; our walk is on a marked path through giant ferns, bamboo and bois canoe trees, their hollow trunks once used for rafts. Below, in Beausejour Valley, there’s the bark of mona monkeys; Grenada is the only place they are found outside west Africa.
I spend my final days at True Blue Bay, a boutique resort with a small marina on the south coast. The feel is “driftwood chic” – buildings are yellow, lilac and pink, and the bathroom in my waterfront duplex has wrought iron turtles and a pebble-edged mirror.
The spectacular view of the bay is surpassed only by sunset, which I enjoy from a traditional, wooden sloop, the kind once used by smugglers who used to run rum between St Barts and Barbados.
As our skipper unfurls the sails, the owner, Danny, serves us punch, warning: “You won’t taste the rum straightaway, but it’ll certainly hit you later.”
The sun disappears; the sky turns gold, then purple, then pink. But they’re not the gentle hues you find elsewhere in the world; these are bold, riotous and exuberant, as if reflecting the spirit of this lesser-known Caribbean isle.
Of course, it could just be the rum punch talking, but why worry?
Karen Bowerman was a guest of the Grenada tourist board (PureGrenada.com).
Best At Travel (bestattravel.co.uk) offers seven nights B&B at True Blue Bay Resort from £999pp (two sharing). Prices include return flights from Gatwick and transfers.
Rooms at Coyaba Beach Resort (coyaba.com) start from £212 per night (two sharing).