By Dana Polites. Photos by Dana Polites and Gene Muchanski.
Recently we had the opportunity to travel to Grenada with a media group and stay at Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort and Spa on Pink Gin Beach. If you have been on an Eastern Caribbean cruise you may have visited this port. Grenada is an island country consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. Grenada is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago and northeast of Venezuela. This was an international group of travel writers and photographers, all new to this property. We met new friends from Germany, the U.K., Italy, New York, Washington D.C and Los Angeles. Our hosts were Devyn Barker from The Decker Royal Agency, Jessica Culbreath, Sandals Public Relations and Katharina Schneider, Sandals Public Relations, Europe. We were excited for Devyn and Jessica as they were taking their resort diving course from the Sandals LaSource Aqua Center instructors.
The property re-opened in December 2013 after a renovation and major expansion of an existing hotel. There are now 225 rooms including 69 professional butlers suites, 10 restaurants, 3 freshwater swimming pools, 2 river pools and a beautiful private beach. Sandals promises a Luxury Included® Vacation and delivered just that from the time you arrive at the airport to your departure. Wonderful food and service, unlimited top shelf drinks, Beringer wines, entertainment, snorkeling, scuba diving, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and free Wi-Fi in all rooms beginning Dec ember 2014 are all included.
From the very moment we were met at Maurice Bishop International Airport (M.B.I.A) we knew we were in for a great experience. Every one of the staff was friendly and smiling. We were greeted at check-in with a glass for sparkling wine, our bags were whisked away to our rooms and we were off to choose a restaurant for dinner. We picked Soy Sushi Bar for made-to-order sushi rolls like the Rainbow, a California roll topped with assorted sashimi, soups, sashimi, nigri and signature cocktails. What a way to unwind from our 2 and ½ hour flight from Miami! There is a restaurant for every taste at Sandals LaSource: Cucina Romana for Italian and Kimonos for Oriental cuisine. For French cuisine it is Le Jardinier and Butch’s is the new steak house. Spices offers buffet style dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner and Neptune’s is a great place for lunch or a stop at the bar in the afternoon. Dino’s is a walk-up pizza bar right next to a pool with a swim-up bar and Café de Paris offers pastries, crêpe, coffee and tea. And did I mention room service?
The next morning we headed down to the Aqua Center for our first day of diving. We were fortunate to have Michael Clarke, Group Watersports Director, join us on the boat. Michael explained that it’s safety first at Sandals. PADI-certified staff; first-rate, twin diesel Newton custom-built boats and a partnership with DAN make for a great day of diving whether you are taking a resort course or have 7000 dives under your weight belt. If you choose not to bring your own gear there is plenty of Scubapro® equipment to go around. The Aqua Center staff; from boat captains to Divemasters to shop staff do everything they can to make sure divers and snorkelers have a great time. There are dive sites for every level of diver and an experienced Divemaster leads each group.
A dive site not to be missed is the Moliniere Bay Underwater Sculpture Garden. Opened in 2006, this collection of underwater contemporary art is located about 15 minutes by boat from the resort and was created by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. There are over sixty-five individual concrete sculptures, from solitary individuals to a ring of children holding hands, covering an area of almost 1000 square yards. We also dove Flamingo Bay’s wall starting at 23 ft. and dropping to 100 ft. It is a colorful reef with corals as well as sponges.
Sandals LaSource is where diving and dining meet. After a day of diving there is nothing like having a marvelous dining experience. Thursday night dinner was at Le Jardinier or “the gardener” in French. Classic country furniture, fresh flowers and an open kitchen add to this romantic garden paradise. We enjoyed cocktails first, then appetizers. Picking an entrée was tough! Chicken Cordon Bleu, Braised Lamb Shank, Crabmeat and horseradish crusted fillet of Atlantic Salmon, Chateaubriand, which would you choose? Dessert was a Chocolate Buffet by the pool! Chocolate martinis, chocolate ice cream, chocolate truffles, chocolate cookies – a true chocoholic’s dream come true and a calorie counters nightmare! All the chocolate for these delicious treats comes from the Grenada Chocolate company who pioneered the cultivation of organic cocoa on the island.
After breakfast the next day we headed off to the Aqua Center to board the boat for our second day of diving with a compliment of brand new divers ready to try their fins under the watchful eye of their instructor. We passed on the Bianca C, a 600 ft. cruise ship, sunk in 1961. A fire in the boiler room occurred just as she was anchoring in St. George’s Harbour. This is for advanced divers as the deck is at about 130 ft. where you can swim into the ship’s swimming pool and then continue to the bow. Our group chose Purple Rain for it’s abundant marine life and opportunities for photography. It has an enormous amount of bottom life: yellow, purple and orange sponges, coral whips and deep water. The M/V Veronica was our second dive site. It lies in 50 feet of water and is a beautiful artificial reef and home to frogfish in the summer. The third dive was back to the Underwater Sculpture Garden. The visibility had improved so we were able to find and photograph statues such as a man on a bicycle, a man at a desk with a typewriter and a standing Christ figure.
The Boonoo-noonoos Beach Party is our destination for dinner tonight. First stop is the bar set up on the sand for a pre-dinner cocktail. A Caribbean feast of local dishes is waiting including the best jerk chicken I have ever tasted. While we were eating, there were dancers, stilt walkers and singers vying for our attention. One enterprising young woman is putting herself through medical school entertaining guests by dancing with fire.
Saturday started off with breakfast with the General Manager of Sandals LaSource Grenada, Peter Fraser and some of his senior staff. This was a great opportunity to ask questions about the property and all the amenities available to the guests. After breakfast our group split up into two vans for a tour of the island. Grenada is 21 miles long and 12 miles wide, with an estimated population of 110,000. The island is of volcanic origin with extremely rich soil. Mount Saint Catherine is the highest point on the island at 2760 ft. Our first stop was Fort Frederick, built by the French to secure their position after they had so easily captured the island from the British in 1779. From the top we could see Sandals LaSource Grenada on the southwestern peninsula, the airport, the roofs of St. George’s University and Grand Anse Beach. Next stop was Grand Etang Lake and Forest Reserve, which is situated in the crater of the extinct volcano. This is a popular area for hiking and trekking. While we didn’t do much hiking we did pause for local rum punch and Carib beer at the Monkey Bar.
Our next destination was Annandale Waterfall, but on the way there we stopped at a spice store located in the front yard of the owner’s home. Our driver gave us a hands-on course in the various spices grown on Grenada from nutmeg and mace (mace is the outer lacy covering of the nutmeg) to cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cocoa. Once at the waterfall we walked down a well-tended path lined with local fruit trees and flowering plants. Being divers, some of the group decided to test out the warm water under the falls. Back down the mountain to St. George’s we stopped at the local Spice Market. Vendors sell everything from hats and flags to spice leis guaranteed to make your kitchen smell like a Caribbean breeze.
Last stop was Grand Anse Beach, just outside of St. George’s. The beach is two miles of white sand and turquoise water, and has become a favorite for both visitors and locals alike. It is often included in the Top 10 list of Caribbean beaches.
Our tour of Grenada complete we headed back to Sandals LaSource. After a quick trip to the room for a shower and a change to clothes we were off to the Red Lane® Spa for a couples massage. Island scents of ginger and nutmeg provided aromatherapy during the massage. What a way to relax after a day of diving or sightseeing! Spa services are an extra charge, but with the extensive menu of services you should be able to find something to splurge on.
Back to the room to get ready for dinner at Butch’s Chophouse, Sandals first steak house and named after Gordon “Butch” Stewart, Chairman of Sandals Resorts. Dressed in Resort Evening Attire (no flip-flops men!), we made our way past the pools and lounging areas to our last dinner. The menu is extensive and I was able to try Wagyu beef. In the United States, Japanese Wagyu cattle are bred with Angus cattle. This crossbreed has been named American Style Kobe Beef. It lived up to every cooking show I have ever watched. For those who chose not to order beef there was Catch of the Day or a vegetarian entrée. Again it was hard to pick a dessert but Chocolate Sin Pie seemed to be the favorite.
After hugs and promises to friend people on Facebook or connect through LinkedIn we headed back to our room to finish packing. One last glass of wine on the balcony and we were ready to sleep fast for a 5:45 AM bag pickup. After coffee and pastries in the lobby we all loaded into vans for the 5-minute ride to the airport. Once there we had a chance for one last good bye to new friends before getting on the plane. Back in Miami, we zipped through immigration and customs, and re-checked our bags for the trip to Orlando and home.
This was a wonderful trip and I can’t wait for the next adventure.
About Dana Polites: I retired from The Boeing Company after 29 years. I am a California native, but got to Florida by way of nine years in Texas. We love living in Florida – great neighborhood, great neighbors and watersports opportunities galore. I have been diving for over 40 years and was a NAUI instructor before I had to grow up and get a real job. I am a Director of the Dive Industry Association and a Director of the Dive Industry Foundation.