As read in Shespoke Magazine
It was only a short while ago that I found myself walking along the beckoning beaches of Barbados with the sand between my toes and not a care in the world. The decision to take an impromptu journey to the welcoming island where all worries and stress can be alleviated by one day in the soothing sun and a signature rum punch in hand, proved to be the best possible choice that this travel junkie could have made.
The January months in Toronto are highly unpleasant and it took one mention of the word “Barbados” to inspire me to book that last-minute flight to the unfamiliar destination which I had heard only the best about. Touching down in the Caribbean paradise that welcomed me with a warmth absent of the usual humidity that I’ve become accustomed to when visiting other Caribbean destinations, was a magical moment. The crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches and hospitable natives to the island made me immediately comfortable and assured that this was a trip I may never want to come to an end. In fact, the return date was pushed back on two occasions due to the draw that the Barbadian island life had. I was hooked and the reasons for this are endless.
To begin with, the island is quite small which allowed for exploration of the entire 430 km of square area to be covered in the short two weeks I had the absolute pleasure of being on it. In a vibrant blue SUV I was able to arrive at every far point of the island to take in its true beauty and discover how varied each area is from another. The southern shores boast wide sandy tourist-filled beaches with calm crystal blue water, while the eastern coast is equally as breathtaking, yet untouched with waves that beckon surfers to their shores.
Further up the eastern coast lies the town of Bathsheba, where the waves are wild and the white sandy beaches fade to a deep, dark hue. The views from the hilly landscape out over the ocean are like no other. Heading to the far North Point of Barbados allows for a whole other remote experience and the ability to stand on the massive cliffs while overlooking the rough waters of the Atlantic and perhaps catching a sight of a whale or two. The western coast is the bustling side of the island which is smattered with luxurious homes and lined with more sandy-white beaches that bring tourists and locals alike to their shores in droves.
Perhaps the most important choice before arriving to the inviting island of Barbados, is determining which resort you will choose as your accommodation for the trip. For those who prefer the more remote and picturesque sort of vacation, away from the typical touristy areas, while enjoying luxury amenities and 5 star accommodations, The Crane Hotel on the eastern shores of Barbados is a prime choice. This historical refuge first opened its doors in 1887 and since has been updated and expanded to combine luxurious old-world charm with modern-day aesthetics and amenities. The surroundings of the resort are absolutely stunning as the hotel sits high on a cliff that overlooks the beautiful ocean waters. The Crane’s beach is a secluded gem that was voted “Best Caribbean Beach” by USA Today in 2015.
Although the resort is in a remote portion of the island, there is really no need to step foot outside its boundaries as there is a wonderful range of restaurants offering up a variety of cuisine from Japanese to Caribbean flavours, a 3,000 square foot shopping centre and additionally open-air markets for browsing and buying. The Crane is the perfect place to stay for those truly wishing to rest, relax and take in the beauty of the Barbadian landscape while being pampered to no end.
If the calmer western waters and a more vibrant portion of the island, that still offers the option of escape and remoteness is what you prefer, Sandy Lane Resort just outside Holetown on the western side of the island is a must. The luxurious resort is other-worldly, offering fine dining and remarkable service, including one of the best spas in Barbados that is like a world of its own. A gorgeous marble reception area welcomes guests to the spa where they are then escorted up a stately staircase to their own treatment suite. Techniques and treatments used at the Sandy Lane Spa are adapted from traditional treatments of various regions of the world, including the Caribbean, North America and Europe, as well as Ayurvedic Philosophy that is drawn from the Far East.
Play a round of golf while you visit, or a game of tennis, followed by a swim in the serene waters and a lounge on the powder-white sandy beaches. Dine in one of four restaurants on the resort, each offering exceptional cuisine and flavours from all around the world.
Venturing outside any resort at which you choose to stay, in order to dine and experience all that Barbados has to offer, is certainly a must. For a taste of the best fresh fish and side dishes that the island, and even most of the Caribbean, has up for grabs, head to Oistins Fish Market on the southern shores of the island. An array of finned friends can be ordered to be cooked to perfection and served alongside Barbados’ signature bread fruit and macaroni pie. Lively entertainment and an array of vendors selling handcrafted pieces, adds to the atmosphere of this vibrant location.
For fine dining, just a short distance from Oistins, is St. Lawrence Gap, which is a strip that sits looking over the calm blue southern seas of the Christ Church region and boasts a number of hotels, alongside hip bars and restaurants. Primo is an exceptional Italian restaurant that is luxuriously decorated and offers some of the best views by day, as well as a serene atmosphere in the evening. Just around the corner is Beach One, an authentically Barbadian seaside restaurant with a modern and inviting atmosphere for day or night visits. Flickering torches guide guests to their seats in the evening and a massive bar in the center of the entrance courtyard is set alight with flames as well as artificial lighting. Staff members are warm and accommodating and the food is simply divine.
Other restaurants that get my stamp of approval are Buzo, another exquisite Italian restaurant in the heart of Hastings, as well as The Cliff, that has an ambiance and menu that does not disappoint with cuisine from a variety of cultures that is always prepared just perfectly. For a more relaxed afternoon or evening bite with a little entertainment thrown in, Mullins Beach Bar became a prime choice on this enjoyable trip. Grill-style food, while overlooking the western shores, matched with a perfect beverage of choice, and live music once-weekly, made for the perfect place to unwind after a day of sight-seeing and exploring.
Prior to settling down for a meal, this fabulous island filled with so much beauty and hidden splendour, is worth exploring. It’s certainly suggested to rent a car for a few days while visiting this remarkable slice of paradise. Some of the most memorable moments from my two week stay involved making discoveries of remote regions of the island that without a car, I would never have found. One such locale is Foul Bay Beach, an untouched expanse of soft white sand and wild palms, set back in a cove created by towering cliffs. Find this picturesque and wild haven on the eastern shores quite near to the Crane Hotel. An additional secluded beach in the vicinity is Bottom Bay, where you’ll be greeted by a gentleman offering a coconut with your choice of virgin juice or rum infused with the juice. The beach is quiet and peaceful aside from the sound of the billowing waves.
If you’re a fan of history like I am, head on up the coast a little further to the ruins of Sam Lord’s Castle which caught fire a decade or so ago, leaving the house frame standing and the seaside open for exploration. There is also an abandoned resort about 100 yards from the ruins. Watch out for the roaming black belly sheep that may block the roadways. They do get curious when visitors stop in.
Activities to choose from on the island are endless. Popular outings include heading out on one of the many catamaran tours that usually last a full day and offer snorkelling, beverages and a delicious lunch. Historical sights are also a part of the tour seeing as the party vessels stop to allow passengers to explore shipwrecks along the southern shore of the island. Safari tours are an exciting adventure to partake in, as well. A day in an off-road-ready vehicle, that takes its passengers through the inner portions of the island in the lush green forested regions in addition to journeying along the remote eastern shores, is an activity that is both exhilarating and informative, educating passengers about the wildlife and vegetation that abound.
Take part in the Mount Gay Rum tour at the distillery just outside of Bridgetown, or head to the middle of the island for a different rum-tasting experience at St. Nicholas Abbey, a plantation rich in history and known for its distinctive 18-year-old rum.
Whether you’re an avid surfer or a beginner, you can always find the perfect wave to match your ability. As for other water sports, anything goes. Jet-ski, parasail, scuba dive, have some fun on a water trampoline, or simply lounge on your beach chair admiring the beauty of your surroundings, while others partake.
Although I am an avid traveller and am always keen to set my sights on new destinations to visit, my recent travels to Barbados left a mark on my heart that beckons me back to this remarkable slice of heaven due to its rich cultural history, welcoming inhabitants, and unparalleled beauty. I foresee a return visit in my near future.
Happy and safe travels to all!
By Jessica Ashley Dafoe
Photography by Robert Williams