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An all-inclusive Grenadian holiday is as great as it sounds

Mike Gibson shrugs off his preconceptions and gives into the undeniable appeal of the all-inclusive holiday at Sandals Grenada Resort and Spa, a jewel in the tiny Caribbean island's crown

There’s always a moment when the penny drops. For me, it was looking up from a sun lounger on a Grenadian beach, barely afternoon, the shock of white sand drenched in sunlight dappled through the leaves of palm trees, and a man greeting me with a warm smile, asking if I’d like a cocktail. I gladly accepted, and he brought me my order – a lip-smacking piña colada, sweet and sour pineapple and coconut run through a slushy machine and served with a hearty glug of Appleton rum. There was no tip-toeing over sand as hot as lava, no waiting in a queue, no frantically making sense of US dollar and cent combinations taken out of a worn travel wallet. That was when I realised: all-inclusive – proper all-inclusive – is a really nice way to holiday.

Had I been around the aquamarine pool, watching Americans play volleyball, I could have done the same. In fact, even if I were in the pool, I could have swum up and ordered the cocktail. That’s because I was at a Sandals resort, and Sandals simply does all-inclusive (or Luxury Included, as it brands it) as well as it’s possible to do it.

The Sandals Grenada Resort & Spa is small in comparison to many of the group’s other sites, built around the gorgeous Pink Gin Beach. But regardless of the size, it packs a hell of a lot into the space (without anything feeling hemmed-in). There are 12 diverse restaurants, three bars, two pools (one with the aforementioned swim-up bar, the other next to the strip of the Pink Gin beach), a spa, and more besides across its villagey areas.

And there’s plenty of staff, although that, too, is meticulously judged: enough that you’re never left waiting for a drink or an arrangement, not so many as to be intrusive. The resort is, in fact, the island’s second-largest employer, behind its national university in the capital of St George’s. That means service is characteristically Caribbean: incredibly warm, often chatty, and always fun.

There are three classes of room and stay here: Luxury (the entry level, still totally all-inclusive), Club, and Butler. We eschewed a private butler (a great setup for some, I’m sure, but not necessary for us) and stayed in a sumptuous Club suite. That meant the room reached out beyond the bed to a floorspace consisting of long sofa with extra TV, including a sideboard bar stocked with sparkling and still wines, cold beers and spirits and mixers, too, before opening out to a roomy balcony with a huge bath that looked out to the rest of the resort. We were on the second of a multi-story apartment-style building in the area known as Italian Village, but there are plenty of different villages. I took a tour, in fact, to get a feel for the diversity of options available.

Another boat trip offered a holistic glimpse of this tiny jewelled island, going right from the Pink Gin Beach to the iconic Grand Anse Beach

The Lover’s Lagoon is a bit more of a hideaway, built around a serene pond, iguanas dozing on the buildings’ low roofs; Pink Gin Village is, as you’d expect, right on Pink Gin Beach; while the South Seas Village snakes its way behind the main pool. I got a glimpse at the super high life there, in a Rondoval suite: a circular exterior with a totally private pool gives way to an interior that’s all marble bathtubs and rain showers, with a big lounge, garden, expansive kitchen and more.

When it comes to activities, there are plenty, too – although you’d be forgiven for limiting them to swimming, sunbathing, eating and drinking. But there are more than enough things to do if a bit of wanderlust starts creeping in on the third or fourth day, almost all of which (minus the spa) are, of course, included. We took a snorkelling trip on a couple of neighbouring rocky outcrops, spotting barracuda and manta rays in glass-clear water. Another boat trip offered a more holistic glimpse of this tiny jewelled island, going right from the Pink Gin Beach to the iconic Grand Anse Beach, a longer white shoreline that’s become iconic to Grenadians and holidayers alike.

Past Grand Anse there are holiday villas that stretch their way up little mountain passes (Oprah Winfrey’s reportedly among them), before the capital of St George’s yawns into view. We were treated not just to the sight of an enormous cruise liner imposing itself on the harbour’s pretty houses and shops, but also to an enormous rainbow that looked painted-on, perfectly framing the town underneath it in glorious, blazing colour.

There are other ways to see the island – as with all Sandals properties, sister company Island Routes offers tours aimed to inject some exploration and local culture into proceedings, from inner tubing and rainforest walks to dune buggies and tours up to local plantations.

As with many Sandals resorts, there are eateries influenced by everything from pan-Mediterranean right on the beach to teppanyaki at Kimono’s

Grenada is known as the Spice Isle, and for good reason: as well as a thriving chocolate scene, it’s famous for the growing, refining and trading of aromatic spices, none more so than nutmeg, which is so much the beating heart of the Grenadian economy that it’s on the country’s flag. A tour across a few of the different provinces offers not just a look at the vibrance of the local spice, fishing and trading scenes, but also a sobering and necessary reminder at some of the country’s uncomfortable political history, having suffered through gubernatorial assassinations and even occupation by the USA in the last few decades. It’s necessary because this backdrop makes the Grenadians’ universal good cheer and accommodation – inside and outside the resort – even more impressive.

You’ll find that good cheer at the restaurants and bars that surround the pools and beaches, too. As with many Sandals resorts, there are eateries influenced by everything from pan-Mediterranean right on the beach at Neptune’s to teppanyaki – theatrical, interactive Japanese-style grilling – at Kimono’s. There’s also a taste of home for the US crowd with great steaks and salads at Butch’s steakhouse, and Italian fare at Cucina Romana (my personal favourite), to name but a few of the 15 or so eating and drinking options available. House wine by US winemaker Rober Mondavi is available and included by the glass or bottle, as are beers and cocktails, with a list of finer wines available at an extra cost.

For even more relaxation, book in a treatment at the serene Red Lane Spa – we enjoyed an hour-long couple’s massage with a choice of scents and a choice of rigour, too, and left walking on air, skin flushed and even my sunburn (I’m British, after all) a little soothed.

Massage or not, relaxation is the name of the game here. And whether you find it face down during a massage, facing the sun in a lounger by a turquoise pool, in a plate of pasta or a rib-eye at one of the restaurants, in a dune buggy racing over Grenadian turf, in a waterfall in a rainforest, in a bath on your balcony, or anywhere in between, you’ll find it somewhere here. As for me, the defining memory is that beach and that cocktail – if you’re going to do all-inclusive, do it like this.

For more information, see sandals.com