By Melanie Reffes

Perfumed by fragrant spice trees, graced by sandy beaches and speckled with charming towns and sleepy fishing hamlets, Grenada is one of the friendliest islands in the southern Caribbean. Fondly dubbed the Spice Island, this lush volcanic land is a fertile growing area for nutmeg, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. With cascading waterfalls and one of the most awesome mountain lakes in the region, Grenada and its smaller sister islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique is fast becoming a favourite destination for Canadians seeking a respite from the winter winds.

Canadian visitor arrivals are impressive with 2006 showing a 45-per cent increase over the year previous with 6,335 Canadian arrivals. Provinces showing the greatest gain were Alberta at 19 per cent, followed by British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario. With an eye to the future, tourism officials are predicting a higher number of Canadian arrivals this year with the re-opening of the popular La Source resort and Air Canada's direct flights from Toronto continuing through April.

The newest attraction in the tourism portfolio is the Underwater Sculpture Gallery offshore in Moliniere Bay. It is, indeed, a sight to behold – underwater or from the comfort of a glass bottom boat. Created by British artist Jason de Caires Taylor, the underwater spectacle is made of 65 cement sculptures inspired by Grenadian folklore anchored to the seafloor to form an artificial reef that is rejuvenating the coral decimated by Hurricane Ivan more than three years ago. Tours can be booked at the major hotels.

On land, unspoiled black and sugar-fine white sand beaches ring the Island with Grand Anse Beach, stretching around the curve of a serene bay, the most frequented. Fronting its shores is the Spice Island Beach Resort with a coveted AAA Four Diamond rating and impressive Green Globe Benchmark Certificate for environmental initiatives. Unrivalled elegance, this all-inclusive features 64 suites with contemporary Caribbean décor, large whirlpools, fine dining at Oliver's and a medley of massages at Janissa's Spa including a soothing nutmeg body polish and an exfoliating coconut body scrub. On-property activities include snorkelling, scuba, sailing, cycling and a tennis court lit for night play. Rates start at $US 805 per room, per night, based on double occupancy to April 30, 2008.

Also on Grand Anse Beach, Mount Cinnamon Resort will open in March with 21 sea-front self-contained villas. And with much anticipation, the 100-room all-inclusive LaSource on Gin Beach opens next month. For a down-home experience that won't break the bank, Jenny's Place is a cozy hideaway owned by former Ms. World and Ontario resident, Jennifer Hosten. Rates are reasonable with a garden suite starting at $US 140 in high season.

The Grenadian gastronomic experience entices all tastes and all budgets. In St. George's, the lively spice market is busiest on Saturday mornings with postcard-worthy vistas of the wharf (or Carenage) and rainbow-coloured warehouses and homes with red-tiled roofs dotting the horseshoe-shaped harbour. De Big Fish in St. George's dishes up delectable mahi mahi and Patrick's on Lagoon Road serves local fare with flair like a creamy callaloo soup and fried jacks.

For history and rum buffs, The River Antoine Rum Distillery is the oldest water-propelled distillery in Grenada with tours offered for $US 2 per person. Rum can also be purchased at the Dunfermline Rum Distillery, the Grenada Sugar Factory and the Westerhall Rum Distillery. Other souvenirs worth taking home include perfumes scented with natural aromas at the Arawak Island store in St. George's and an organic dark chocolate bar made at the Grenada Chocolate Company.

For more information, contact the Grenada Board of Tourism – Canada visit www.grenadagrenadines.com/.

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