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Chilling out on a grand scale in Grenada

The island that's so relaxed they tell you off for walking too fast - but Samantha Lewis still found time to enjoy pristine beaches, waterfalls, a rum distillery and underwater sculpture park

If you're walking too fast you're breaking the law,' says Mandoo Seales, my Grenadian tour guide. 'That's island time.'

It's my first morning on the Caribbean island and we're on our way to visit one of Grenada's famous waterfalls in the heart of the rainforest.

As we drive up into the hills, Mandoo, a retired merchant navy sailor, begins to give us an insight into the country's relaxed way of life as he points out locals 'liming' outside rum shops. It's clear he knows Grenada's every nook and cranny.

For the next thirty minutes as we stride through the lush rainforest, Mandoo continues to bring the island's history to life. He shows me a freshly picked nutmeg, the symbol that sits at the heart of Grenada's flag, and explains how in 2004 Hurricane Ivan wiped out 80 per cent of the crop. This was devastating for the island, which had become the world's second largest exporter of nutmeg and established a name for itself as the 'island of spice'.


The family-owned Spice Island Resort


Spice Island Beach Resort is a 10-minute drive from Maurice International Airport, a bonus to be at your hotel so quickly after the flight from London.

The resort's major selling point is that it backs onto Grand Anse beach, which fulfils every Caribbean cliché with its 2.5-mile stretch of white sandy beach and crystal clear sea.

The luxury hotel has 64 rooms and I'm staying in one of the four Royal Collection pool-suites. These palatial and elegant gated mini-villas, complete with plunge pool and sauna, are ideal for honeymooners or holidaymakers looking for some uninterrupted R&R.


Total relaxation at the Spice Island Beach Resort


However, if you enjoy waking up to a sea view opt for one of the Seagrape suites situated directly on the beach.

The resort offers all-inclusive packages, with breakfast, lunch and dinner served in its beachside restaurants. The food cannot be faulted and all of the dishes I sample off the fine dining evening menu arrive with Michelin star-worthy presentation.

There is also a barbecue lunch buffet every Sunday and a mid-week cocktail party hosted by the owner at his home, which shows how guests here really are treated like family.


Step back in time at the River Antoine Rum Distillery with it's ancient machinery


Up early on day two and after lining our stomachs with pancakes, we're off to the River Antoine Rum Distillery, the oldest rum factory on the island.

Rum continues to be produced here using the same techniques employed when the distillery first opened in 1785. The process involves crushing sugar cane to extract its juices, which is then ladled and heated in huge metal bowls.

This creates a treacle-like liquid that is then cooled and fermented before being distilled. From the fumes circulating around the factory I know this is going to be strong stuff and a taste at the end of the tour confirms that it packs a powerful punch. In fact, due to its potency this liquor cannot be taken off the island.

We all know you shouldn't drink and drive but hopefully it is safe to drink and snorkel because this is the afternoon's activity.

We catch a speedboat to Molinere Bay just outside the capital city of St George's in search of the famous Underwater Sculpture Park.


Beautifully eerie underwater sculptures


This is a snorkelling experience like no other, as in place of a colourful coral reef you find an underwater gallery of contemporary statues created by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor in response to Hurricane Ivan.

Expect to see everything from a ring of children holding hands to a man at his desk poised over a typewriter. Taylor, who as well as a sculptor is a fully-qualified diving instructor and underwater naturalist, founded and created this amazing attraction, the world’s first underwater sculpture park. It is now listed as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic.

On our last morning we just have time for one more pinà colada before we pack our bags. Yes, it is only 11am but we're on island time. Mandoo's orders.

As we head to meet our driver, the ever-attentive staff are preening the gardens and sweeping the paths.

The manager tells me The Princess Royal is arriving later that afternoon for her second visit to the resort. It seems Spice Island has achieved the royal seal of approval - and it has certainly won mine.  


First published in the Mail Online -  September 2016

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