There’s something comfortingly festive about the sweet, warming aroma of nutmeg.
The Caribbean, famed for its beaches, bananas and palm trees, may seem an unlikely setting for Christmassy flashbacks, but throughout my stay in Grenada, the spicy scent is never far away – nutmeg is sprinkled atop cocktails, used to add a kick to ice cream, and the seeds are threaded with cord to create spice garlands sold at street stalls.
‘Welcome to the Isle of Spice!’ says tour guide, Mandoo.
It’s easy to assume that the picture postcard scenes of white, palm-lined sands, azure seas and rum cocktails sum up the region, but venture beyond the sun lounger and a diverse, colourful culture awaits.
For Grenada, spice is at its heart, with mace, cinnamon and cloves all in starring roles, while nutmeg sits centre stage.
Up until nine years ago, the country was the world’s second biggest producer of the spice.
Then in 2004, Hurricane Ivan hit, causing catastrophic damage and wiping out 80 per cent of the crops.
Almost a decade on, Grenada’s still recovering. Yet a sparky resilience ensures it has lots to celebrate. And despite economic challenges, crime rates remain low.
We split our stay between two hotels, starting with Mount Cinnamon, ideally situated just off the two-mile-long Grand Anse Beach, arguably the island’s best sandy stretch.
A cluster of charming white-washed villas climbs the hillside, with a pathway leading down to the beach bar where we toast the start of our holiday with our first rum punch, and first sprinkling of nutmeg.
With its relaxed, bohemian vibe, Mount Cinnamon feels special yet laid back, and the food is outstanding.
Talented young chef Andrew whips up a mouth-watering blackened king fish and ginger-infused chocolate and mango mousse.
While tourists flock to the big resorts and nightlife on islands like Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua, things are very peaceful here.
For the locals, party night is the Friday Fish Fry at Gouyave, a fishing town on the northern coast, where workers still sort and pack spice by hand at the Nutmeg Processing Station.
Outside, on market stalls across the road, mini bags of powder sit in colourful rows.
Mandoo knows the island like the back of his hand, showing us some of its most stunning sights as we drive up into the hills, dense with lush rainforest.
After checking in at our second hotel, True Blue Bay Resort, we head off on a snorkelling trip with Native Spirit Scuba.
A boat whisks us northwards to the Underwater Sculpture Park.
Artist Jason deCaires Taylor has created a stunning seabed exhibition .
His sculptures, including a ring of children holding hands, are haunting and unforgettable.
Last up is a day trip to Grenada’s sister island, Carriacou, where we catch a speedboat to a sandbank a few minutes from shore and snorkel above the coral.
As we dry off afterwards, a fish burger lunch at the La Playa Beach Bar and Bistro is the perfect end to a wonderful day – washed down with a rum cocktail, complete with a dusting of nutmeg, of course.
Abi Jackson was a guest of the Grenada tourist board (grenadagrenadines.com). Kenwood Travel (kenwoodtravel.co.uk; 020 7749 9245) offer seven nights at True Blue Bay Resort from £1,088 per person (based on two sharing), including breakfast and flights with Virgin Atlantic. Rooms at Mount Cinnamon (mountcinnamongrenadahotel.com) start from 375 dollars (approx £233) per night (two sharing). Tours with Mandoo can be booked through grenadatours.com