Island music blasted through the air. Women and men donned bright colors and feathers, dancing, as others gathered, fresh fruit in one hand, camera in the other. If I told you I was in an airport terminal, would you ever believe me?
This is exactly what it was like as I approached JetBlue Terminal 5 in JFK. The airline’s inaugural flight to Grenada was set to takeoff in an hour’s time, and they had pulled out all the stops to celebrate. It was a mini carnival of sorts — complete with excited speeches and a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Soon enough, boarding began, and I settled into my “Even More Space” seat for what would be the most upbeat flight of my life. Fire trucks lined the runway, blessing our flight with jets of water. The entire flight crew was Grenadian, and I could feel the joy as they served us and told about the island we were headed to, called “The Spice of the Caribbean.”
Five hours later, we touched down at Maurice Bishop International Airport and were greeted by more song, dance, and speeches from everyone involved in making the JetBlue and Grenada partnership happen.It’s a place full of life and excitement yet peaceful and relaxing all at once.
From that moment on, I realized what it felt like to be treated like royalty. The other writers on the trip and I loaded into a van where we made the two minute drive to the stunning, all-inclusive Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa.
Upon arriving, we were handed cool hand towels and glasses of sparkling wine and were taken to our rooms. I settled in, cleaned up and headed back out to meet my group for a tour of the property.
Sandals LaSource is unlike any resort I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at. The resort (which includes 225 rooms and suites) was at full capacity, but you’d never know it. Open beach chairs, pool loungers and spots at the swim-up bar abounded. It’s a place full of life and excitement yet peaceful and relaxing all at once. It’s also very much a couple’s retreat. Love and romance filled the air. This must be where Hallmark writers gather their inspiration.
Our tour guide took us around the grounds, told us about the twenty-one different rooms and suite categories and even gave us a peek into one of the resort’s Rondoval butler suites (yes, the suite comes with not one, but two personal butlers).
After working up an appetite for both luxury and food, we headed to Butch’s Chophouse, one of the resort’s twelve dining options, for a delicious meal.
Sufficiently stuffed and exhausted, I went off to bed with the sound of calm ocean waves crashing outside my window.
The next morning, we headed offsite for a tour of the island. I admired the pastel colored houses as our van wove through the hilly streets. Up and up we went toward the northern part of the island. We stopped to take in breathtaking views and to tour Fort Frederick and learn a bit more about the island’s political history.
Before lunch, we stopped at the Balthazar River for a tubing excursion with Adventure Tours. Our guides led us spinning, swirling and occasionally floating slowly along the river’s cool, fresh waters as we took in the tropical island air and exotic scenery lining the rocks and rapids. We were greeted at the end of the river with our towels, a change of clothes and the island’s signature drink: rum punch with a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg.
After drying off, we headed to Belmont Estate, a 300-year-old plantation complete with gardens, farms, a museum, and an organic cocoa processing facility. We enjoyed a lunch of local cuisine: papaya soup, mango juice, flavorful curries. The tropical flavors and bold spices of the island were simply scrumptious. The fruit was so fresh, I’ll never look at the Union Square Farmer’s Market the same way again.
After sufficiently satisfying our taste buds, we were given a tour of the estate’s cocoa processing facility. The entire process is done by hand and foot — they walk through the beans every half an hour to help turn them over to dry out in the sun after fermenting. Preparing the cocoa beans to become the island’s rich dark chocolate takes weeks, but in the end, produces some of the most delicious chocolate I’ve had the pleasure of tasting.
Then, it was off to River Antoine Rum Distillery, the oldest functioning water-propped distillery in the Caribbean. We explored the grounds, the scent of fermenting molasses filling our nostrils and were brave enough to taste the 75% pure, organic rum. By the end of the day, I understood why, upon landing in Grenada just 24 hours prior, we were advised, “Eat all the chocolate, but beware the rum.”
After a long and windy drive back to our resort, I had a bit of time to relax on the Sandals’ beach, walk along the crystal blue waters, and freshen up for another delicious meal at one of the resort’s top notch dining options: Le Jardinier. The French-inspired restaurant took heed of my many food allergies and prepared a delectable meal complete with a special, dairy-free strawberry mousse I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
The next morning, Sandals organized a snorkeling trip to the world’s first underwater sculpture park (snorkeling and diving are included for guests of the resort). A 20-minute boat ride took us to the home of Artist Jason de Caires Taylor’s sculptures. His artwork blends into the sandy ocean floor, creating artificial reefs for the tropical fish to make their home and for snorkelers and divers to discover while touring the turquoise waters.
That evening, we were escorted to one of the island’s other top all-inclusive resorts. The Spice Island Beach Resort, while smaller than Sandals with only 64 rooms, is just as lovely. We toured the elegant grounds and luxury suites before enjoying the sunset over the calm Caribbean waters. We were then joined by Spice Island’s chairman and the general manager for what can only be described as the most delicious meal I’ve had in a long time at the resort’s seaside restaurant, Oliver’s.
After sleeping off my full belly, the time had come to head back to the airport. To say I was sad to leave would be an understatement. Grenada had welcomed me with open arms and I was not ready to leave the embrace of its perfect weather, stunning beaches, and, least of the all, the fresh fruit. I’m already contemplating when I can head back to paradise, and next time, I may never leave.