Take a look at the cinnamon stick on your spice rack or teetering on the rim of that specialty cocktail. Now really think about it — do you know where cinnamon actually comes from? If you’ve heard the term “cinnamon bark,” you’re on the right track, as the spice is actually the bark of the cinnamon tree. Wild, right? Well in Grenada, they’re as common as maple trees in the United States. If you live there, it’s likely you have one growing in your backyard.
And cinnamon is just the beginning. During a recent trip to the Caribbean island, I saw clove, nutmeg and allspice trees, picked ackee and cashews, and tasted breadfruit and soursop that were harvested not even an hour earlier. Two different chefs gifted me a branch of bay leaves from their gardens — the small, dried jars from the grocery store are pale in comparison. I tried fish I hadn’t heard of until I asked about the catch of the day and tasted some of the best chocolate in the world. It’s no wonder that Grenada is nicknamed the “spice isle.”
Not only is the country’s food culture amazing, but the people are friendly and know how to have fun. The scenery is stunning, especially if you love being surrounded by white sand beaches and flowers in every color of the rainbow (and then some). Every food lover needs to visit Grenada, and here’s exactly what to savor while you’re there.
If there’s one culinary experience you need to book in Grenada, it’s a cooking class and garden tour with Chef Kennedy Roberts at his home in Mt. Parnassus. Chef Kennedy is a former politician, diplomat and lecturer at Grenada’s St. George’s University, but his passion shifted to food and cooking. Along with his daughter, Ariel, he started Home Hospitality Grenada as a way to teach the culture and cuisine of the island through hands-on cooking.
When we arrived for our class, Chef Kennedy was already starting the cocoa tea, a traditional breakfast drink made by dissolving cocoa balls into milk or water and steeping it with herbs and spices like bay leaf, cinnamon and nutmeg. He put me to work grating tania, a root vegetable that’s used to make a spiced porridge. As we continued prep work, he introduced me to some other local ingredients and showed me the seasoning that he uses in everything, a mix of chives, thyme, parsley, onions and garlic.
Before we could really dig in, we had to venture into the garden for ingredients. It was teeming with everything you could imagine: seasoning peppers, summer squash, big thyme, shado beni (a local cilantro), makrut limes, bay leaves, cinnamon trees, soursop, pigeon peas, the list goes on (I could honestly write an article just about his garden, but I digress). It was a valuable lesson to see everything growing up close and learn interesting facts about the plants (like that ackee is actually poisonous until it naturally opens to reveal its orange-peach flesh, which turns a vibrant yellow when cooked).
What came next was a feast for the senses. We made ackee and saltfish fritters, along with a vegetarian version featuring callaloo, a nutritious leafy green that I couldn’t get enough of during the trip. We made Grenadian fry bake, a light and airy fried dough, and fried summer squash straight from the garden. A local blood sausage was also on the menu. But the crown jewel of the table was “oil down,” Grenada’s national dish, made with salted meat, breadfruit, dumplings, callaloo, coconut milk and spices. The entire spread was laid out on a long table on Chef Kennedy’s terrace where we got to savor the morning’s work. It was a truly magical experience that’s made me a Grenada cuisine fan for life.
Grenadian chocolate is some of the finest on earth, and few do it better than Aaron Sylvester at Tri-Island Chocolate. Sylvester was raised in London and worked as a music executive for the first part of his career, but he decided to make the move to his family’s native Grenada after inheriting land from his grandparents. The property is rich with spice and cocoa trees, so his chocolate is truly bean-to-bar and unbelievably delicious. Book a chocolate bar-making workshop at Tri-Island, where you’ll learn about the history of cocoa and spices on Grenada and how chocolate is made, from fermentation to how it’s processed in his factory. You’ll go home with your very own chocolate bar, which you can customize with everything from salt to coconut. Sylvester also keeps bees on the property, so take home a bag of the chocolate-covered honeycomb, a bittersweet dream I’ve been rationing since last spring.
Touring this 17th-century estate is a great way to see the riches of the island all in one place. Located in the northeast part of Grenada, about an hour’s drive from the capital of St. George’s, Belmont Estate is committed to organic regenerative farming, beyond fair trade and low-impact tourism, where supporting the community and preserving nature are always top of mind. You can see it firsthand while touring the farm and tasting produce, learning how their tree-to-bar chocolate is made and visiting the goat dairy. Make a day out of it and check out the restaurant for a three-course lunch that features ingredients from both the estate and other local purveyors.
If you want to see rum made the old-school way, a visit to River Antoine Distillery, established in 1785, is a must. A 180-year-old water wheel is still used to crush sugar cane and extract its juice (donkeys were crushing it before the 1840s), and wood fires still heat the stills. During our tour, our guide mentioned that technically they could modernize the distillery, but that would mean a ton of jobs lost, so they continue to run it with classic, manual production methods. The resulting rum has a whopping 69% ABV, making it an excellent choice for tropical cocktails.
This gorgeous estate and historic house is a botanist’s dream. The grounds are filled with five acres of fruit and spice trees, as well as a garden teeming with vegetables and tropical flowers. The Tower Estate is also known for its tea, which you can sample alongside sandwiches and cakes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. Stop by for tea service or Sunday brunch and book a combination house and garden tour, which includes rum punch and local juices.
Canouan Is the Luxe Caribbean Destination You’ve Never Heard OfIf you’re looking for elegant, laidback beach vibes with no scene in sight, this underrated locale is an essential visit
Where to Eat and Drink
One of the best meals in Grenada can be found at Izakaya, a poolside restaurant at the Calabash hotel that’s helmed by Chef Ramces Castillo. Castillo is originally from Cabo, so he mixes flavors from his native Mexico with Japanese preparations and ingredients, all tied together with Grenada’s rich bounty of fresh fish and produce. The menu is perfect for sharing, and I wholeheartedly suggest springing for the tasting menu and leaving your meal in Castillo’s hands. Crispy rice cakes are topped with spicy tuna, avocado and seaweed salad for the perfect mix of texture and flavors. The Peruvian ceviche is punchy and bright with a tender fresh catch and crunchy chickpeas. The tableside Caesar and fritto misto are delightful ways to get your veggies. Save room for Castillo’s tres leches cake, a perfect confection finished with toasted coconut.
Wild Orchid is the ultimate restaurant with a view. Situated alongside Annandale Waterfall, the treehouse-esque space is perched within vibrant flora where you can experience the sights and sounds of one of Grenada’s most beautiful natural attractions. The drinks menu is huge (and the bartenders are experts at making all of them) with everything from Mojitos to tropical-flavored Margaritas to bottles of Carib. Seafood is the specialty, so definitely try the coconut shrimp or whatever fish is fresh that day.
Mark’s Sports Bar
On our way up to Grand Etang National Park one morning, we stopped for breakfast at Mark’s Sports Bar. And by breakfast, I mean for homemade rum punch made by Mark himself, a beautiful bright pink liquid that is deceivingly strong. This roadside open-air bar is a delight, where you can sample the rum punch and also Mark’s homemade spiced rum. Hot tip: buy a bottle to take home, and strain the liquid into a clean bottle. Then refill that bottle with a different rum. The herbs and spices will be strong enough to steep a new batch or two.
It doesn’t get much more tranquil than this secluded hideaway, located at the northern tip of the island. While staying here puts you a little far from the action of St. George’s, coming to Armadillo for a meal should definitely be on your agenda. Owners, hosts and chefs Andrea Nyack and Bernhard Huss lived and worked in Switzerland before making the move to Grenada (Nyack’s father is Grenadian) where they opened this lush and welcoming property. Surrounded by a tropical garden, we dined on blue marlin tartare with ginger, lemongrass and melegueta pepper, lobster red Thai curry with fried rice, and a dark chocolate cake, drizzled with Scotch bonnet-infused syrup and served with passion fruit sorbet.
Even if you’re not staying at one of Secret Harbour’s charming cottages, stop by the restaurant and bar for a meal. Lambie (the local name for conch) is the specialty here, and you can try it in a variety of dishes — think ceviche with mahi mahi, lambie and coconut, crispy fried lambie bites, and curried lambie with rice and veggies.
Where to Stay
There’s something magical about the all-inclusive experience because you simply get to relax and enjoy a property without worrying how many cocktails you’re racking up during your stay. But many (read: most) lack the culinary excellence that I crave on a trip, especially in a place like Grenada where the local cuisine is so incredibly vibrant. But Spice Island does the all-inclusive experience better than most, with gorgeous rooms and a chef that outdoes himself every night.
Spice Island was founded by Sir Royston Hopkin, KCMG, who was the only Caribbean hotelier to be knighted by the queen. After his passing in 2020, his daughter, Janelle, took over as president and managing director and continues to take the guest experience to the next level. The resort is situated on Grand Anse Beach, which is by far one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Beach suites are right on the powdery white sand, but you’re never farther than a few minutes’ walk to the water. I’m partial to the Luxury Almond Pool Suites, which are designed with a large private garden and pool that I jumped into every time I passed by. Unwind at Janissa Spa — I loved the signature body wrap, which included an exfoliating scrub, pressure point massage and hydrating mud mask.
There are only two restaurants at Spice Island, but you definitely won’t get bored. Oliver’s is open for breakfast and dinner, and the menu for the latter changes daily so even guests who spend a week at the resort won’t see repeat dishes. The cream of callaloo soup was a revelation, and I jumped at the chance to have roasted rabbit leg (a protein that’s often hard to come by on restaurant menus in the States) with pumpkin and ginger. Sea and Surf Terrace & Bar features a Sunday barbecue lunch and lighter fare like kingfish ceviche. I enjoyed a delicious vegetable roti from my beach chair one sunny afternoon.
Understated elegance is always what comes to mind when I think of Relais & Châteaux properties, and Calabash Grenada fits the bill perfectly. If you can swing it, a pool suite here is also a winner, with plenty of space to spread out and relax after a day of eating your way across the island. Not only does the private courtyard feature a plunge pool, but it’s also decked out with an outdoor shower and soaking tub. A chef’s selection of canapés is delivered to the room at 6 p.m. every evening, perfect for pairing with the bar’s signature rum punch to whet your appetite for dinner. And no need to leave the suite for breakfast, either: it will be delivered every morning to your private patio overlooking the gardens and Caribbean Sea.
But you will have to leave your room eventually, if only to dine at on-property eateries Izakaya (highlighted above) and Rhodes Restaurant. Rhodes is a stunning open-air concept where fresh fish and produce are highlights of the menu. Baked beetroot tartare is dressed with a spiced sea moss-coconut broth, pickled radish and a mango “yolk,” a perfect starter before moving on to Grenadian spiny lobster or the catch of the day (which just might be a fish you’ve never heard of before). The Beach Club also serves great drinks and bites, right on the water.
The beach here isn’t as great for swimming as Grand Anse (though it’s still beautiful), but it’s excellent for water sports — we found ourselves on the Hobie Cat every day zooming past the boats and relishing in the sea spray. I preferred the infinity pool for a swim, which is surrounded by flora and features in-water loungers. I also thoroughly enjoyed the tennis courts, though would recommend going early, as the sun gets brutal as it gets high.
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.