Spice Island Beach Resort, on Grand Anse Beach in Grenada, was somewhere I’d had my eye on for a long time. Copious research had led me to this hotel, which seemed to offer a great set-up for families with toddlers and babies: luxurious, all-inclusive beach-front accommodation on an intimate scale (no massive buffets) with the added benefits of on-site spa and kids club, plus a welcome lack of Caribbean chintz (sorry, just can’t stand floral bedspreads). Hideously expensive in winter peak season, prices become more reasonable outside of school holidays, with deals to be had. So, when our son was 3 and our daughter 8 months old, we rang our friends at Trailfinders and seized the opportunity to steal away for 9 nights of Caribbean bliss. Here’s how we got on.
What was good?
1. The location: absolutely perfect. Grand Anse is the best beach on Grenada and, reputedly, one of the best in the Caribbean. A satisfyingly paradisiacal sweep of gleaming white sand with a gorgeous westerly aspect, Grand Anse has the bonus of stunning sunsets and captivating views across to the capital St George’s and the lush hills beyond. It’s perfect for long walks and morning jogs. The sea, whilst relatively calm and impossibly blue, whipped up small waves in the afternoons that are for great for toddlers to splash round in without fear of being bowled over.
2. The room: with direct access to the beach, the Seagrape suites are Spice Island’s killer asset. I find logistics to be the biggest drawback of beach holidays: packing everything, unpacking everything, getting changed from dry clothes to wet ones to dry ones, packing everything up again whilst extracting sand from every crevice… Here, you dispense with all that faffing about because the beach is just the other side of your patio door. It makes the whole thing so easy. Toilet? Just dash back in the room (they provide a foot bath on the terrace). Thirsty? Help yourself from the complimentary in-room minibar. Hungry? Call room service who will deliver to your terrace. Forgotten their favourite pink bucket? It’s just on the step… You get the idea. This arrangement is especially useful if, like us, you have children who still nap. It means you can have a sleeping baby in the room whilst you or any other children play on the beach outside – infinitely preferable to being condemned to sit in silence in a darkened room for hours on end.
3. The staff: we found the staff at Spice Island to be friendly and attentive. Yes, service could be a little leisurely at times (there were a couple of occasions where we almost gave up on eggs breakfast). But this family-run hotel prides itself on providing a personal experience and they do absolutely deliver on this. Every member of staff somehow knew our names and greeted us fervently with every passing. In a further memorable touch, once back in the UK we received a letter from the hotel addressing each and every comment we made on our feedback form. They really do seem to care about their guests and pride themselves on their high percentage of repeat visitors.
4. Grenada: the island itself is charming and beautiful. We hired a car for a day, stopping off at waterfalls, chocolate shops and – best of all – the disused Pearls Airport. This is a fantastic place for small kids (and grown-up ones too). You can actually drive your car onto the runway – shared by a few goats – and speed down it as if you are taking off. My son and I thought this was brilliant. There are also some decaying aircraft sat on the old apron (now a field with cows) next to the runway, which you can climb into and explore. A real adventure and totally free, I highly recommend it.
What was less good?
Spice Island is very proud of it’s 7-course ‘fine dining’ evening meals but, in reality, these can be a bit tedious (especially when you throw in the aforementioned leisurely service). In the end, we only sat through these marathons a couple times. We preferred instead to order room service – it saved on babysitting costs and was quicker, leaving us time to relax and watch a DVD.
I would describe the food at dinner as a bit try-hard, with the chef producing some odd flavour combinations in his efforts to impress. Most of the time the end result was perfectly edible but some dishes were quite unpalatable (an indigestible tortellini sticks in my mind). That said, the pastry chef redeemed the situation with some stunning desserts. And they were happy to feed kids early in the evening, meaning we could eat as a couple every night. In contrast to the dinners, we had no issues with the lunches – simpler fare like pastas, salads and BBQ meats and fish were all done well.
The Seagrape suites are lovely but, at the end of day, they are just one big room – there is no physical divide between the bedroom and lounge areas. This is slightly annoying as they could easily put a curtain in-between. The end result is that, once you’ve put the kids to bed, you will probably have to creep outside onto the terrace until they drop off, or sit in the dark.
It’s worth nothing that there is no children’s pool, so if you have a toddler, you have to hold them at all times which is a bit wearing. The Kids Club, ‘The Nutmeg Pod’, is cute and well equipped, with friendly staff; but it’s all indoors and definitely aimed more around arts and crafts – there is no playground or ride-ons. When we were there in May, the Club was also dead – not Spice Island’s fault, there were only four or five kids in the resort – but it did mean Leo had hardly anyone else to play with and we used it less than we planned.
Spice Island has started offering a Half Board option. Whilst this saves cost upfront, I’d advise against it. First up, you miss out on the fabulous afternoon tea, which is a real treat and a daily ‘event’ that kids can look forward to. Secondly, you will probably end up ordering lunch at the hotel every day anyway – it’s not much fun trekking out and back when you have hungry kids and one that needs a nap straight after lunch. Thirdly, drinks prices and a la carte meals are expensive and soon add up, so best just pay upfront and not worry about it whilst you there. We found it liberating never having to look prices. The best thing is that, on the inclusive plan, you are not limited to particular things off the menu, so you don’t even have to worry about the dreaded supplements and exclusions.
Although there are cheaper rooms than the Seagrape suites, and more expensive ones with private pools, don’t be tempted to book them. The joy of Spice Island with kids is being able to open your patio doors and run straight onto the sand.
The heat is a consideration. We went in May because it’s when Spice Island becomes more affordable. However, May is also the hottest month of the year, and it’s pretty humid too. It’s fine for lolling around the beach but it did make eating or doing much else a bit uncomfortable. We took to eating dinners in our air-conditioned room rather than on our terrace, because even at 8pm at night it was just too sweaty. The children seemed to deal with the heat fine though and, with all that water to cool off in, who’s complaining? There were a few mosquitos about but it wasn’t horrendous and they did routinely ‘fog’ the property.
The flight to Grenada takes about 10 hours – longer than some other islands like Barbados or Antigua as there is a stop each way. British Airways touch down in Barbados and Virgin Atlantic in Tobago. This might all be a bit much when you’ve had a long flight and just want to get off – but I do think Grenada is worth pushing on for.
Spice Island is not your average bucket and spade holiday: the long flight and cost make it a special treat. But if you’re in the market for some luxury and want malaria-free, tropical lushness, it should definitely be on your list. Grenada certainly made a big impression on our son – he talked about it for months afterwards and asks to go back all the time. Now that he’s at school, that’s looking unlikely; but if you’ve still got pre-schoolers and can go off-peak, don’t hesitate. Pick up the phone to Trailfinders and see what they can do.