A long weekend in Grenada | Island tour to the Diamond chocolate factory and Annandale waterfall
We'd heard so many good things about Grenada - and were desperate to explore away from the beach. So we decided to take an island tour and drove up into the hills for the day. It was the best thing that we could've done.
Our driver (a local guide who we were put in touch with via our hotel) met us at Mount Cinnamon - the stunning complex where we stayed - and we started by off driving along the coast road from Grand Anse beach close by, through St Georges - the island's capital. We passed the fish market and drove along a busy narrow road where street vendors were selling mounds of breadfruit, bananas and mangoes.
We were excited about getting up into the cluster of green hills that had been our backdrop for the past couple of days and it was interesting to look down on the leafy slope below punctuated with houses in a rainbow of colours. There was lots of see on the way up into the centre of the island. The roads were quiet - amazing given there's only one route in and out of the city. And although the villages we passed though weren't exactly bustling, there was a keen sense of pride evident in the way everything from the local kiosk to the roadside walls had been brightly painted red, green and yellow in the national flag's colours to represent the 2016 celebrations for the country's 50 year's of independence.
The diamond Chocolate Factory is housed in a beautiful old colonial building just outside the town of Victoria in St Marks surrounded by cocoa farms. Majority owned by Grenada's independent cocoa growers, the factory is one of a handful bean to bar chocolate makers in the Caribbean and despite opening just two years ago it's already establishing a reputation as one of the best producers in the region. We received a warm welcome from our wonderful, friendly guide, Rita, who was wearing a head tie and dress in a brightly coloured Caribbean pattern.
It was brilliant for the children to learn about the process of transforming cocoa beans into chocolate and Rita willingly answered any and every question thrown at her during the tour. Rita started off by cutting open one of the yellow cocoa pods that grow right next to the factory, and look a bit like large firm papayas with distinct ridges - not what I'd expected at all. Inside, the cocoa beans are white, about the size of broad beans, and covered in a sticky, milky-white film. She then showed us the beans at every stage of their journey. From a hard reddish brown colour while drying in the sun and fermenting through the winnowing and conching stages to tiny dark nuggets of pure edible cocoa known as cocoa nibs and splinters of delicious chocolate in wooden bowls that we got to taste in the factory chocolate shop.
And, my, it tasted so, so good. Apparently, because Grenadian cocoa grows naturally among nutmeg and banana trees, it has a distinctly aromatic and fruity flavour - unique to the island. I bought a generous selection of bars, from 60 per cent cocoa nutmeg chocolate, to ultra dark and intense 70 per cent cocoa bars, intended as gifts - although I'm not sure if I'll be able to resist them for long.
After a brief stop for lunch at a small cafe above a rum shop where the kids wolf down pizza and Alex and I feast on fish rotis and ice cold beer, we headed up into the lush hills above.
Our next stop was Annandale Falls, close to the town of Constantine in Central Grenada. With a 30 foot drop waterfall into a clear natural emerald swimming pool below, the falls have a rock wall on one side covered in vines and lush vegetation and a diving ledge on the other.
Despite the fact that it had just started raining, Lila and Oscar were quick to change into their swimsuits and they spent a magical half an hour jumping into the water and floating on their backs with raindrops on their faces with the whooshing, cascading falls as their backdrop.
Before we head back to hotel, our driver takes us further up into the centre of the island through Grenada's Montane rainforest where the leafy branches of mango trees hang heavy with the golden fruits like gems into the road and fields of nutmeg trees and banana plantations are threaded with vines that drape the vegetation like curtains. We stop at a viewing platform to a get a sense of perspective and watch the clouds drive over the mountains before buying fresh coconut water that we sipped from straws straight from the green shell. Eventually we climb back into the car, weary but happy from an experience that Lila describes as 'One of the best days of my life.'
Back at the hotel we finish off the day beautifully with a beach barbecue. Grilled chicken and cajun fish is cooked to perfection and as Alex and I sip on coconut rum cocktails with the sand between our toes and the children grill smores on the bonfire, I make a vow to come back to this tropical island one day. In the not too distant future.