Grenada FlagOur Trip to Grenada
February, 2000

By Jack Welsch

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In February of 2000, my wife and I visited the island of Grenada in the West Indies. As I've done for a number of our trips, I kept a diary. Due to the nature of the trip, it doesn't make a lot of sense to post the diary because it contains a LOT of "sat on the beach" entries! However, I'd like to pass along some (hopefully) useful information to those considering a Caribbean vacation so here are some facts along with my observations and opinions.

Background and Overall Impression:

Grenada on the mapI've been wanting to visit Grenada for a very long time. About 20 years ago, I was looking through a tour book, trying to choose a vacation spot. At that time most of the world had still not heard about Grenada and the first part of the listing talked about the beauty of the island. It claimed it was among the most beautiful in the Caribbean. I was thinking I might have found the perfect spot until I got to the section on politics. That's where I learned that it had a Marxist government with very strong ties to Cuba. My dreams shattered, we went somewhere else.

On hearing of the overthrow of the government and the American invasion (which, by the way, the Grenadian people refer to as the "rescue mission"), my first reaction was, "Great, now we can go!" (Incidentally, the military action was 17 years ago and lasted only 5 days but virtually everyone reacted to the news that we were going to Grenada with, "Isn't there a war there?") Well, years went by and we just never got around to trying Grenada until now. We had a very positive experience at Rendezvous in St. Lucia in 1996 so we chose a sister resort, La Source in Grenada, for this trip.

I'm sorry to report that, while the place was nice and we had a good time, it did not live up to my expectations nor was in, in my opinion, worth what it cost. Part of this may be that in 20 years, our hopes had built too high. Part may be that we had such a great time at Rendezvous that not much could favorably compare to it.

PoolFor me, a major issue was telephone communications. Grenada has an area code rather than a country code. In theory, making a phone call from Grenada should have been no more difficult than making one from another part of the States. According to the literature, their cell phones are based on US standards and US cell phones were "supposed" to work there. My problem is that, even on vacation, I need to call my voicemail once or twice a day. That's an 800 number. In the room, there was a paper saying that there was an access fee for 800 numbers. One would think that implied you could actually call an 800 number. After a lot of aggravation, I was told the 800 numbers from Grenada work "sometimes". I found that the cell phone didn't work at all and to get the 800 number, I had to call the assistant manager and have him place the call for me. He was certainly nice about it but if he didn't happen to be in his office, tough luck. The one time I called the office directly and billed it to the room, it cost me 16USD for a 5 minute call. Shades of Europe! If you need to keep it touch, Grenada is not the place to go. If you want a great excuse for not checking in, this is the place for you!


School kidsThe people are quite nice. As I've reported elsewhere, I feel the people of some islands (notably Jamaica) hate everything about the tourists but our money. I've also reported that we found the people of St. Lucia to be incredibly friendly. In Grenada, if I can generalize further, I found the people to be very pleasant and always cordial. The only thing missing vis-a-vis St. Lucia was that the natives were, as a whole, a tad less outgoing. We had no real negative experiences with people, however, and even the beach vendors responded pleasantly to a "no, thanks." As to the other guests at the hotel, there didn't seem to be a great deal of mingling. We did, however, meet some great folks from the UK and had spent very enjoyable time together.


St. George'sGrenada is south of St. Vincent and the Grenadines which, in turn, are south of St. Lucia. With an area of 340 square miles, it is of volcanic origin and some of it is quite rugged. The airport, at Pointe Salines, is on the relatively flat southwest corner of the island. The capital, St. George's, lies to the north on the west coast and to the north and east of that, the island rises to the peak of Mt. Catherine. In the center of the island lies the rain forest. The island is known for its many beautiful waterfalls and for its spices, especially nutmeg.

MountainsThe main industries of Grenada are agriculture and tourism. Spices are to be found everywhere and the prices for bulk purchases of spices are ridiculously low. As on many islands, there's a fair bit of poverty but, at least in our travels, we didn't find as much of it as we've seen elsewhere. Conversely, we saw very few mansions as are often seen on other islands. At least in my limited view, there doesn't seem to be as much distinction between "haves" and "have-nots". Though small, most of the houses we saw were brightly painted and relatively well maintained. My wife pointed out that almost every home, no matter how humble, had an absolutely magnificent wooden front door.

La Source:

La SourceWe stayed at an all-inclusive resort called "La Source". As I mentioned above, it's owned by the same people who own Rendezvous in St. Lucia where we stayed in '96.La Source Unlike Rendezvous, it offers a wide variety of what it calls "body treats" such as massage, facials, aroma therapy, etc., etc. One treatment per day per guest is included in the price. Also unlike Rendezvous, this is not a "couples only" resort so there were singles to be found but, at least when we were there, no kids at all. La Source is virtually adjacent to the airport. I was pleasantly surprised that our "free airport transfer" was via an immaculate stretch Lincoln limo but no sooner has we relaxed than we were pulling in to the hotel. I don't want to say it's close but, from the beach, you can hear planes taxiing! The good news is that the runway runs parallel to the resort so you don't get planes taking off directly overhead.

Beach at La SourceLa Source is a very nice property. The layout is efficient, the architecture and grounds are magnificent and the place is well maintained. We opted for a deluxe oceanfront room and it was great. Certainly not the most magnificent room we've ever stayed in but it had wood cathedral ceilings and was richly enhanced by the generous use of mahogany. As a mater of fact, the use of mahogany throughout the hotel reflected the fact that it grows on the island and certainly contributed to the upscale ambiance. From our roomThe rooms without the cathedral ceilings had the same layout, of course, but they were not nearly as appealing. Each room has a small balcony. Voltage, by the way, is 220 volts but chances are the neat little adapter kit you have won't adapt to the sockets they have there. There are two flat in-line blades plus ground. The same plug is sometimes used here in the States for low-amperage 220 volt service but I've never seen a similar layout in an adapter kit and I've had many over the years. Housekeeping lent me two adapters but I was never successful in getting them to work. Whether the problem was the adapters or the wall outlet I don't know. Our room looked directly over the beach and, since a storm took much of the beach away last December, was very close to the surf as well. The room was large and bright with marble floors and a four-poster king sized bed. The marble bathroom was quite large.

BeachThe beach is quite long but, because of the storm in December, was narrower than is shown in the brochures. Unfortunately, the same storm took away many of the palm trees. Given the culture of the place, at least during our visit, there are barely enough beach chairs and nowhere near enough umbrellas. The big problem is that people claim them in the morning and hold them all day, even when they're away from the beach for extended periods. We quickly found that, if you don't stake a claim early in the morning, you're out of luck for the day. Consequently, we became part of the problem in that I was up every morning claiming a spot. An unfortunate and unnecessary bit of stress.

PoolThey have small sailboats (including Hobie catamarans), wind-surfers, and ocean kayaks readily available. If you know how to use one, you simply put on a life vest and take it for as long as you like. If you need instruction, they provide it at no charge during certain hours in the afternoon. Water skiing works essentially the same way. Scuba is also available. If you're not certified, you can participate, as I did, in a "try-dive". It's included in the rate and includes classroom instruction, pool training, and an open water dive. It also gave me the opportunity to meet some nice folks from Canada. It was a real kick but it does eat up the better part of a day. Immediately adjacent to the beach are two pools, a larger one with a constant depth where they did water aerobics and a smaller one with a deep end. There was a whirlpool nearby. There's all the normal beach volleyball, etc. that one would expect. Every day, there was a long listing of planned activities -- regattas, archery lessons, etc. but no pressure to do anything.

Great House RestaurantThere are two restaurants at La Source. The Terrace is an open-air affair located adjacent to the pools. The Great House Restaurant is in a building somewhat behind that and on the second floor. It may have been there somewhere but I saw no evidence of an elevator so, if you're disabled, you might want to ask some questions before staying at La Source. The Great House has two inside dining rooms and a balcony where there are many additional tables. Breakfast was in the Great House every day and was largely buffet but there was a cook there for eggs, omelets, etc. Breakfast was unremarkable. Lunch every day was in the Terrace and was always a buffet but it was quite extensive and the menu changed daily. It was good and we always ate more than we normally do at home. Wine flowed abundantly at lunch and they had a different red and white each day. (The house-selected wine is included; if you want something else, you pay. As at Rendezvous, I saw no reason not to drink the offered wines; they were quite good.) Dinner on Tuesdays is a buffet and on Fridays is a barbecue, both on the Terrace. On the other 5 evenings, dinner is a sit-down affair in the Great House. We talked to one couple who didn't like the dinners but we found then to be great. There was a wide selection and the food was both delicious and well presented. Naturally, there's a lot of fish and I ate more marlin that week than in the rest of my life combined. We found dinner to be among the top attractions at La Source.

There are two bars; one at the Terrace (and therefore near the pool) and the Piano Bar adjacent to the Great House. Again, the Piano Bar is on the second floor and I saw no evidence of an elevator. What's worse, while both the Piano Bar and the Great House restaurant are adjacent on the second floor, to get from one to the other, you have to go down 1/2 flight to a landing, then up 1/2 flight to the other place. I don't guess they have ADA in Grenada! After Rendezvous, the piano bar at La Source was a disappointment. There was usually piano music before dinner but often a rather loud combo afterwards so, at least for us, it was not a nice place to relax. Since the mosquitos on the Terrace after dark would take large chunks out of your body, we didn't find that to be a viable option for after-dinner relaxation either. Another bit of aggravation is that the Piano Bar opens at 7 and they take the time seriously. The doors are open before that so you can go in but they absolutely refuse to serve you a minute before 7:00. With a bar tender standing idly behind the bar, it seems logical that he might condescend to pour a beer a few minutes early but no dice. Certainly doesn't give the impression they give a damn.

Dive PartyThe other hotel staff ranged from "adequate" to "pretty helpful" with one happy exception. The dive shop folks were absolutely great. On the first day there I talked to C.J. and Adrian who work at the dive shop and on the second day we had a very enjoyable lunch with them. It was C.J. who took me on the try-dive. These guys were absolutely great and never failed to wave and say "Hi!" when they saw us, even at a distance.

There are two concessions at La Source, a tour office and the gift shop. The lady in the tour office was fantastic. She was very helpful and after only a few visits, she knew us by name. They have a pretty decent selection of tours by land, sea, or air. The gift shop was another matter. The people were nice but the selection of goods was extremely limited. They don't carry men's deodorant at all and we were told, "check back tomorrow" for bug repellant and stamps. Given that there is no alternative except a walk to the airport (where you'd be unlikely to find much) or a cab ride, this is a bad deal. Seems to be they're missing a pretty good money-making opportunity, too.

Elsewhere on the Island

Concord FallsWe left the hotel twice, once on an island tour and once on a shopping trip to the capital, St. George's. NutmegTo see the island, we booked a private tour for 20USD per hour. We were surprised that the vehicle was an 18-passenger van! The only unfortunate aspect of the tour was that we were taken to the Seven Sisters Waterfall where access to the falls itself is via a very long, very narrow, very steep, very muddy (therefore slippery) trail which often had a steep drop-off to the right and no handrail. This would have been fine had we been informed so we could have worn the proper footwear. Lin was wearing sandals so we had to retreat long before reaching the falls. We did later visit Concord Falls which were a lot more accessible. The driver had a pretty "canned" tour but Lin asked him to take us to the nutmeg factory in Gouyave. For a small fee, we got a tour of this fascinating operation. Did you know that mace is a lacy red material that surrounds the nut in a nutmeg fruit? We didn't. It turns yellow as it dries.

Banana ManI reported above that I thought the island was, over-all a bit more prosperous-looking than most other islands we've visited. The roads were, for the most part, in pretty good shape; certainly better than those on St. Lucia. The major exceptions were on the west coast where the same storm system that ruined the beach at La Source, took out some roads. We did go through a few areas, especially in the west, that were pretty dismal. Reminded me a bit of Taiwan!

The CarenageWe were in St. George's twice, once on the tour, where we stopped only for lunch, and once when we took a cab (for 15USD) to get some gifts for the kids. St. George's is a mixed bag. In the plus side, it's rather picturesque. I didn't realize how picturesque until I got the film developed. The area around the boat harbor, called the Carenage, is especially pretty. There are a lot of brightly colored buildings and boats that really brighten the view. The down side is there is no shopping area per se and what's there is pretty crummy. What we found was one store here and two there scattered all over town.

The marketLike most towns in the Caribbean St. George's has an open-air market where vendors sell all sorts of things from vegetables to tourist junk. The market here was especially dingy and, just as we were buying some spices, a big rat ran past Linda's feet. Not a great experience. We visited St. George's Anglican Church and found it delightful. We were disappointed that we'd just missed mass but we had a most pleasant chat with an elderly lady who was just leaving. We'd intentionally chosen a day when there were no ships in so at least there was no crowding. The taxi drivers were obviously feeling the pinch because we were stopped constantly and asked if we wanted a ride. The law of supply and demand led to a discounted fare back to the hotel. We ate lunch on both visits to St. Georges, first at the Tropicana Inn and then at the Nutmeg Restaurant. We enjoyed the Nutmeg more.

The Bottom Line

We had a good time. I'm glad we went but don't feel a strong urge to return.