Travel specialist Helen recently spend a fun-filled few days in Barbados, travelling with representatives of other tour operators as part of a four day trip hosted by the island’s tourist board.
“The trip began by flying with British Airways from London Gatwick to Barbados, where I was lucky to be upgraded to Premium Economy. The flight arrived mid-afternoon and I sailed through security thanks to the fast track service, well worth the extra cost due to the long queues that often form.
We drove to Bougainvillea where I stayed for the duration of my time in Barbados. The hotel lobby looks out onto pretty tropical gardens and lagoon style swimming pools, crossed by pathways which lead towards one of the resort’s two beaches. Maxwell Beach is overlooked by Lanterns Restaurant and separated from a second beach by a rocky headland with a giant chess set.
This area of the resort was much quieter during my stay and has its own swimming pool as well as a Thai restaurant, Siam, which is atmospherically lit by night. Other facilities within the resort include a large games room which guests can buy tokens to use, a new spa which looks fresh and modern, and a well-equipped gym.
I was staying in a one bedroom suite in the main area of the resort, where the living room led out onto a terrace with direct access to the swimming pool and swim up pool bar. The whole resort will soon be undergoing refurbishment, with some rooms already having been updated – a muted colour scheme makes them feel fresh and modern, while furnishings are elegant and bathrooms are attractive.
That evening we headed to the Pirate’s Cove Entertainment Centre, where we enjoyed a buffet dinner consisting of typically Caribbean cuisine, accompanied by plenty of rum punch. We watched a loud and colourful show which explained the history of the island, with enthusiastic entertainment also including local dancers, fire eaters and limbo competitions.
The next morning we ate breakfast at Lantern’s Restaurant before heading off to a network event where I met lots of interesting people related to the tourism industry of Barbados.
After this, we visited Waves Hotel & Spa by Elegant Hotels on the west coast, where the first thing I noticed as I walked into the lobby was the stunning view of calm, turquoise sea. We enjoyed a drink on the deck overlooking the beach, where tables allow guests to dine al fresco and sofas provide comfortable seating. On this level, there is also a small coffee shop serving delicious looking cakes where surf-themed pictures on the walls reflect the hotel’s name.
Interiors throughout the hotel make use of natural materials and have plenty of charming features such as driftwood decorations. I particularly liked the oceanfront rooms as they really make the most of the views, with soft furnishings that bring out the colours of the sea, sand, sky and palm trees. There are some lovely touches such as eye masks left on the pillow and spirits decanted into decorative bottles, perfect for a sundowner overlooking the sea.
On the other side of the road away from the sea is the hotel’s peaceful adults-only area, where the spa is found along with Shiso restaurant and a number of guestrooms. I enjoyed a back and shoulder massage on an outdoor deck overlooking the swimming pool and Jacuzzi, one of the treatments that are complimentary for guests depending on the room category and length of stay.
After this we ate a buffet lunch at the hotel’s Seascape Restaurant, consisting of a tasty selection of typical Caribbean dishes accompanied by panoramic sea views.
That evening we set of on a guided rum shop bar crawl – the highlight of my trip! We visited four small bars known as rum shops, where most customers were locals but tourists were warmly welcomed. Each bar was colourful and typically Caribbean yet completely unique, some tiny and attached to the owners house and others with disco lights and locals enthusiastically singing karaoke. This was a fantastic experience which felt very authentic, a great opportunity to get off the beaten track and discover the real Barbados!
The next morning we headed to Southern Palms Beach Club on the ‘Bajan Bus’, an open air party bus where rum punch is served and a friendly tour guide is on hand to ensure that passengers have fun! The hotel itself consists of pink buildings set beside a lovely, wide stretch of beach where we took part in beach games followed by a light lunch.
After this we drove to the Barbados Screw Dock in Bridgetown and boarded ‘Cool Runnings’ for a Catamaran cruise. Our first destination was a spot where we could swim through shipwrecks and snorkel with colourful tropical fish as well as green and hawksbill turtles.
Once we got back on board, the sails went up and we continued further up the west coast with reggae music playing and rum flowing. We enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch on board the catamaran including classic Caribbean dishes such as rice and peas. We anchored again near Sandy Lane so that people could go off jetskiing, then returned to Bridgetown as the sun set.
We spent the evening in St Lawrence Gap, a vibrant area filled with bars and nightclubs playing loud music, where we enjoyed drinks and a tapas-style dinner.
In the morning we went to Sugar Bay for breakfast, where we ate in the open air restaurant which is sandwiched between the pool and the beach. After a very pleasant meal we set off on a tour of the stylish resort, where the design is heavily influenced by the colours of the sand and sea. Accommodation is bright and spacious, with good quality furnishings throughout and some guestrooms offering balconies overlooking the sea.
Guests staying at the resort can dine at the buffet restaurant with two meals per week at each of the speciality restaurants – Umi is an adults-only dining venue serving excellent Asian cuisine, while Sizzle Steakhouse is a Western themed restaurant.
While at Sugar Bay we took part in ‘Paint and Groove’, a fun activity which certainly brought out my creative side with an enthusiastic instructor encouraging us to paint a beach scene while listening to music and sipping rum punch.
We left the resort and drove up the coast to Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels, a bright and colourful resort set within landscaped lawns and flower beds. The new Vista Lounge is a contemporary, air-conditioned coffee shop and wine bar found near reception, a welcome addition to the resort’s facilities. Here we enjoyed the delicious afternoon tea which is also served at the beachside Drifters Restaurant, featuring traditional treats with a Caribbean twist, meaning plenty of rum!
In front of the reception building is a rock pool where messages are written in the water to celebrate special occasions with a lagoon style swimming pool below stretching towards the beach. The iconic cave bar is hidden behind a waterfall, perfect for those wishing to sample the rums and other beverages on offer, perhaps while seated at one of the swim up bar stools!
Plenty of sun loungers are placed around the swimming pool, on a beachside terrace and on the golden sand itself. The calm sea is perfect for swimming and watersports, many of which are complimentary for up to one hour at a time.
Our final evening in Barbados was spent at The Crane, a large village-like resort with attractive walkways leading towards the sea past shops and restaurants. We were dining at Zen, a Japanese/Thai restaurant with authentic Japanese-style screened booths, sunken tables and staff wearing kimono. The food was delicious and the setting superb, located high on the cliff overlooking the wide beach below with its crashing waves. It was a shame that I was only able to see the resort in the dark!
We then returned to Bougainvillea resort for a good night’s sleep before flying back to the UK the following day.”
Call Helen on 01752 880 880 to hear more about her trip to Barbados and the hotels she visited. Many of our travel specialists have also visited Barbados so will be happy to help with any enquiries!