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Grenada - When and where to visit
The impressive stone windmill tower of the old Belair Estate, once used for crushing sugarcane © Celia Sorhaindo
Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique have a tropical climate with average daytime temperatures ranging from around 25°C in January and February, which are the coolest months, to 31°C in July and August. Grenada is usually at its wettest between the months of July and December, the rainy season, when unsettled weather arrives with the Atlantic trade winds. Average rainfall is around 250cm with most of it falling on the windward east coasts and the mountainous interior of Grenada. There can be frequent showers and some heavy, prolonged bouts of rainfall throughout this period, especially at higher elevations. July to November is also the time when the West Indies becomes vulnerable to tropical storms and Atlantic hurricanes.
The season for hurricanes and tropical storms usually begins in July and lasts until November, with August and September being the months when the risk is often greatest.
The driest and sunniest months tend to be from January to June, the dry season, but visitors to Grenada should always anticipate showers and be prepared for excursions into the interior to be wet occasionally and almost always humid. Throughout the islands, and especially along the sheltered leeward coasts, it is usually very hot and sunny during these months. Higher elevations as well as the windward-facing coastlines usually benefit from a cooling breeze which helps to make the tropical climate a little more comfortable.
Hurricanes that have the potential to affect Grenada tend to develop from tropical depressions in the Atlantic Ocean south of the Cape Verde Islands. The season for hurricanes and tropical storms usually begins in July and lasts until November, with August and September being the months when the risk is often greatest. Though it is situated to the south of most hurricanes’ tracks, Grenada was hit in 1955 (Hurricane Janet), 1999 (Hurricane Lenny), 2004 (Hurricane Ivan) and 2005 (Hurricane Emily). Although Hurricane Janet was devastating, Hurricane Ivan is generally considered to have been the worst hurricane to hit Grenada in recent memory.
In the dry season, the islands are busier, accommodation more expensive, and restaurants are quite crowded, but it is a lively time and there is usually a lot going on.
For both stay-over and cruise ship visitors the most popular time to visit Grenada is between November and June. Although there is always the chance of a passing shower and the peaks of the interior may be damp and hidden by clouds, this is the dry season and sunny days are practically guaranteed. The islands are busier, accommodation more expensive, and restaurants are quite crowded, but it is a lively time and there is usually a lot going on. By May and June the cruise-ship season has petered out, popular attractions are less busy, and the skies are usually clear and blue. If you prefer less hustle and bustle, but still crave back-to-back sunny days, then this is a good time for you.
If festivities are your thing then the carnival seasons (February in Carriacou and August in Grenada) offer around the clock parties, street parades, traditional ‘jump-up’, carnival queen and calypso competitions. The Carriacou Maroon & String Band Festival and numerous sailing regattas attract plenty of culture vultures and boating enthusiasts.
The wet season runs from July to December and the Atlantic hurricane season usually peaks in early September. A common misconception of the hurricane season is that Caribbean islands are constantly bombarded by them. Fortunately this isn’t true, but the threat of occasional tropical depressions, storms and hurricanes is real enough from July all the way through to the end of October. For much of the time the weather is hot and humid. Rainfall usually comes in short but heavy waves and can be expected on a daily basis. At this time of the year accommodation prices are much lower and the island is very quiet. Some hotels may close during September. The low season can actually be a nice time to explore the islands but you have to be prepared, both physically and mentally, for rainstorms to disrupt your plans.
There are three waterfalls (some talk of a fourth) that collectively make up the Concord Falls © Celia Sorhaindo
Naturally everyone has different ideas about travelling and you may well want to simply sit in the sun and do as little as possible for a week or so. I can manage just about 20 minutes of that before I’m ready to do something else – so for those of you who also get the fidgets, here are some of things I recommend you try to see and do during your stay. And, by the way, go to Carriacou.
For many visitors to Grenada and Carriacou the highlights will be the beaches. Grand Anse Beach is one of the best known and is also where you will find some of Grenada’s most popular resorts. On Grenada, my favourite is Magazine Beach, closely followed by Bathway Beach in the northeast. For families with small children, I think the best beach on Grenada is probably Morne Rouge Beach. Carriacou has gorgeous beaches too. Paradise Beach is the best known but you should try to get to Anse La Roche if you can. My favourite beach on Carriacou is Petite Carenage.
Culture and heritage
Don’t miss Belmont Estate. Follow the journey from tree to bar, enjoy lunch, and indulge yourself with some of the best organic chocolate in the world. You could easily combine a trip to Belmont with a visit to the River Antoine Rum Distillery. This amazing place has been making rum with the same methods and machinery since the 1700s. Try to avoid large group tours if you can as the guides tend to go into ‘auto-pilot’ (you can’t blame them – they do several tours a day in the high season). Fewer people means you can discreetly let your guide know he/she can drop the script and just be him/herself; it makes all the difference.
Support and learn about Grenada’s nutmeg industry with a tour of the Gouyave Nutmeg Pool and the Grenville Receiving Station. If you are in the Gouyave area then take a look at the cocoa boucans at Dougaldston Estate and be sure to sample the seafood at Fish Friday. When on Carriacou you should pass by the boatyards at Windward to see if there is a wooden sloop in progress. Don’t miss the Amerindian artefacts collected from the beautiful Grand Bay and Sabazan coastlines on display at the Carriacou Museum in Hillsborough, and try to catch a Big Drum Dance or the Maroon Festival.
Forests, lakes and waterfalls
Visit the Grand Etang National Park. The visitor centre is very informative and the views from the Mt Qua Qua trail (even if you don’t go all the way to the top) are worth the walk. Take the short hike to St Margaret’s Falls and the second waterfall at Concord (Au Coin). The adventurous should try to find a guide to the top of Morne Fédon if the trail has been cleared sufficiently. It is both a historic and very scenic place. I also enjoy the serenity and the walk around the margins of Lake Antoine, which you can do by yourself.
Days 1–3 Accommodation in the north of Grenada. From there visit Belmont Estate, River Antoine Rum Distillery, Levera Archipelago, Bathway Beach, Gouyave Nutmeg Pool, Dougaldston Estate and Fish Friday.
Days 4–7 Accommodation in the south of Grenada. From there take a day trip to Carriacou, visit Concord Falls, the Grand Etang National Park and St Margaret’s Falls. Relax on Grand Anse Beach, Morne Rouge Beach and Magazine Beach.
(Photo: With its tropical climate, a highlight of Grenada is its beaches, such as Bathway, pictured © Celia Sorhaindo)
Days 1–4 Accommodation in the north of Grenada. From there visit Belmont Estate, River Antoine Rum Distillery, Levera Archipelago, Bathway Beach, Gouyave Nutmeg Pool, Dougaldston Estate and Fish Friday.
Days 5–9 Accommodation on Carriacou. Visit Paradise Beach, Anse La Roche Beach and Petite Carenage Beach. Seek out boatbuilding projects at Windward and Petite Martinique (take a day trip or overnight), call in at the Carriacou Museum, charter a water taxi to Sandy Island or perhaps the Tobago Cays, and enjoy a coastal walk from Mt Pleasant to Sabazan.
Days 10–14 Accommodation in the south of Grenada. Visit Concord Falls (including Au Coin – the second waterfall), the Grand Etang National Park and St Margaret’s Falls. Relax on Grand Anse Beach, Morne Rouge Beach, and Magazine Beach. Indulge yourself with watersports, scuba-diving, chartered sailing or some wellness therapy, and enjoy fine dining at a wide selection of restaurants.