In the southeastern Caribbean north of Trinidad, Grenada — and the smaller sister isles of Carriacou and Petite Martinique — is an increasingly popular getaway for Canadians looking for a respite from the winter winds. Gorgeous and green, the nation is affectionately dubbed the ‘Spice Island’ for the wonderfully fragrant nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves that grow in the fertile volcanic soil.

A spicy melange of seaside villages and spectacular dive sights, including the Caribbean’s first Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada also invites with rainforests, cascading cliffs, hot springs, crater lakes, sundrenched sandy beaches, flamboyant trees, historic forts, potent homegrown rum, island food and delectable dark chocolate.

Beds for heads

The newest kid on the block, the adults-only Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa, fronts Pink Gin Beach between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Ten minutes from the Maurice Bishop International Airport, the all-inclusive tempts with 225 rooms and suites (some with private pools and butlers), five pools, boatload of watersports, Red Lane Spa, 12 restaurants and bars and the wildly popular chocolate buffet. “Canadians are our treasured guests who come for the friendly vibe of our resort and for the warm charm of our island,” said resort manager Supraatik Guha with a smile (www.sandals.com).

It’s a family affair at the AAA Five Star Diamond Spice Island Beach Resort on picture-perfect Grand Anse Beach. Charming and elegant, the upscale all-inclusive impresses with Janissa’s Spa, Oliver’s restaurant, Sea & Surf Terrace and Nutmeg Pod children’s centre. “Life is imperfect, which is precisely why we crave a seamless vacation experience when we have the rare opportunity to break away and indulge ourselves,” said Sir Royston O. Hopkin, owner and managing director (www.SpiceIslandBeachResort.com).

Around the corner from Spice Island, the cottages at the Blue Horizons Garden Resort snuggle spectacular gardens. On a sloping hillside facing the Caribbean Sea, the cozy hotel comes with a fresh water swimming pool, library, bar and Creole restaurant and is the affordable island address for friends and family (www.grenadabluehorizons.com).

Overlooking the Bay, Mount Cinnamon is hillside perfection with rainbow-coloured décor in the suites and villas that are big enough for families (www.mountcinnamongrenadahotel.com). Surrounded by panoramas of the Caribbean Sea and mountainous shoreline, the resort is delightful with a poolside cocktail bar, Savvy’s Restaurant, spa and Dive Grenada where you can book underwater adventures on Grand Anse Beach (www.divegrenada.com).

Out and about

One of the prettiest port towns in the Caribbean, the capital city of St. George’s is popular with yachters who dock in the horseshoe-shaped harbour called Carenage. Made for a stroll along the water’s edge, Carenage is also a hit with those who like to sip and snack in the many bars and restaurants that line the water’s edge. Built by the French in the 1700s, Fort George and Fort Frederick are popular pit stops for history buffs while St. George’s Market Square is a must-do for fans of spices, souvenirs and local charm.

Four kilometers from the city, Dragon Bay is an away-from-the fray beach near the Underwater Sculpture Park. Sloping along the west coast, the bay is a protected area with gentle aquamarine waves and a funky beach bar. At Grand Etang National Park, hiking trails thread through the rainforest. Fringed by sea grapes and coconut palms, Grand Anse is the island’s most coveted beach with calm cobalt waters perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

South of Grand Anse, Morne Rouge Bay is a quieter alternative with plenty of shady areas and footprint-ready sand. In the mountains north of St. George’s, Annandale Falls is a 10-meter waterfall where divers leap into the water from the top. For foodies, Dougaldston Spice Estate is a nutmeg plantation open to visitors and for fans of the sweet stuff; The Grenada Chocolate Company is nestled in the cocoa groves (www.grenadachocolate.com).

Word of mouth

On the northwest coast in a fishing village called Gouyave (pronounced Gwav), chefs get busy every Friday night with their fryers, barbecues, steamers and grills. Named for the groves of guava trees, Gouyave heats up with steel bands and drummers who spike the air with their booty-grinding calypso rhythms until the wee hours.

Not for the faint of appetite, the national dish called Oil Down is tropical comfort food overflowing with breadfruit, coconut milk, saffron ( or curry), dumplings, callaloo, salted fish like cod or smoked herring, chicken and a pig’s tail to jazz it up. Recipes are handed down through the generations with family chefs adding their own ingredients.

A fan of the flavourful stew, Gemma Raeburn-Baynes moved to Montreal from Grenada in 1964 and from her home in Dollard-des-Ormeaux runs Playmas Cultural Association, a non-profit organization that promotes Caribbean culture.

“I return to Grenada as often as I can whether for Carnival in the summer or for a getaway to soak up the sun and spend time with my friends and family,” she says enjoying oil down at the Dragon Bay Beach Bar during a recent trip, “I always carry a piece of the island in my heart.”

Save the dates

Jan. 21-25, Spice Island Billfish Tournament; Jan. 30 to Feb. 4: Grenada Sailing Week; May 5-7, Pure Grenada Music Festival; May 12-21, Grenada Chocolate Festival; Aug. 14-15, Carnival celebrations.

For more information, www.puregrenada.com

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