Grenada’s mountainous interior, black-sand beaches and hot springs offer evidence of the island’s volcanic origins, and clients can even hike to the mysteriously deep Grand Etang Lake, which fills what was the caldera of an ancient volcano. The first inhabitants of the island, which lies about 100 miles off the coast of South America, were members of the Kalinago tribe who paddled over from South America; evidence of their long history on Grenada can be seen on petroglyphs carved into rocks at Duquesne Bay.
Christopher Columbus made the first recorded sighting of the island in 1498, naming it La Concepción in honor of the Virgin Mary, and the French and British fought over the island throughout much of the 18th century before the British finally took control of Grenada for good. To this day, island culture is suffused with influences from both colonial powers as well as that of the enslaved African people they brought to work on Grenada’s plantations.
Nutmeg was introduced to Grenada under British rule in 1843 and soon became a major part of the island’s export economy, with Grenada producing a large proportion of the world’s supply of the spice. Nutmeg is widely used in Grenadian cooking, and clients can still observe the labor-intensive process of bringing nutmeg from pod to market at the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station.
Self-rule of the island gradually increased until 1974, when Great Britain granted the country its independence; the Feb. 7 Independence Day festival is a great opportunity for clients to experience authentic Grenadian culture. The U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983, ostensibly to protect American students at the island’s medical school after a Marxist coup, is celebrated as Thanksgiving Day in Grenada, and U.S. students continue to study medicine at St. George’s University in addition to adding vibrancy to Grenada’s nightlife scene.
Grenada’s diverse culture stems from its long history of European occupation and the forced population of the island resulting from slavery. British, African, West Indian and French influences combine to create a nation that celebrates both West African drumming and 18th-century French quadrille dancing.
Folklore stories continue to be passed down from generation to generation, particularly on the more tradition-oriented islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Cultural festivals celebrating Grenadian music and dance are popular draws for international visitors looking to take a deeper dive into authentic Caribbean culture.