By Melanie Reffes
Proud of a record number of visitors to the easternmost island in the Caribbean, Barbados is extending a warm island welcome to Canadians hankering to escape the winter chill. With frequent flights, expanding array of accommodations, attractions and restaurants and a strong Canadian dollar, Barbados is, indeed, fun in the sun. “It’s clear that Canadians love Barbados,” said Cheryl Carter, senior business development manager, Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), “We continue to see growth from coast to coast in the number of Canadians who enjoy the island’s diverse offerings especially its great food, breathtaking scenery, famous beaches and rich history, which keeps them coming back year after year.”
With arrivals projected to stay high during the holiday season, 6,946 Canadians visited in July and August, representing a 36.7 per cent jump from the same period last year. Air Canada flies daily direct nonstop from Toronto (nine times weekly in the winter) and twice-weekly from Montreal. WestJet offers non-stop flights from Toronto five times weekly with connections from other cities.
Reopened in November after extensive renovations, Tamarind Resort added a spa and poolside tapas lounge. Kids dive into Aqua School at all the Elegant Hotels properties – Tamarind, Colony Club, Turtle Beach and Crystal Cove – with gratis instruction in kayaking, snorkeling, sailing and wind-surfing. “Families tell us they’re looking for a chance to enjoy new experiences and learn new skills together while on vacation,” said Sylvia Scholey, vice president of sales and marketing,” Parents want to be sure their children have a variety of options and our new Aqua School is the perfect answer.”
Also re-opening after a pricey facelift, Fairmont Royal Pavilion debuts Beachfront Junior Suites and an “airport fast track service” that escorts guests through the diplomatic area at the airport. Working with the Barbados Turtle Project, the resort has set up a ‘Turtle Patrol’ team to protect nesting grounds with guests encouraged to participate.
Modeled after a traditional 18th-century town, the Village is open at the swishy Crane Resort – the island’s oldest hotel. New eateries include al fresco dining at D’Onofrio and rum and tapas at Bar 1887.
At the oh-so-exclusive 112-room Sandy Lane, Chef Jonathan Wright, formerly with The Setai in Miami, brings his culinary magic to the AAA 5-Diamond resort. Other developments include a new website – www.sandylane.com – and spa packages that include a soothing Bajan Sugar Cane Scrub, yoga classes and green fees at the Country Club and Old Nine golf courses.
Tried, true and brand-reliable, Hilton Barbados is dishing up niche packages like ‘Diving Paradise ‘with two dives per-person per-stay and a “Tee-Off Time” package that includes course time and a caddy.
A trifecta of all-inclusive pampering, Almond Beach Club, Almond Beach Village and Almond Casuarina Beach are the perennial favourites of couples, multi-generational families and those who covet the fine art of a fine vacation. A new website with an interface similar to a touch screen cell phone – www.almondresorts.com – is a convenient one-stop shop for booking online.
Barbados Tourism AuthorityGet Down
Adding a modern twist to a perennial favourite, glass-fronted elevators at Harrison’s Cave descend to the valley floor for an underground bonanza of stalagmites, stalactites and waterfalls seen no where else in the Caribbean. Tours at the island’s most popular attraction run daily from 8:45 am to 3:45 pm.
Hawksbill turtles favour the barrier reefs while the reefs closer to shore are home to giant sand eels, sea horses and frog fish. Divers delight in the more than 200 wrecks that lie at the bottom of the sea including the Stavronikita freighter in the Carlisle Bay Marine Park.
Testing the Waters
One of the most popular beaches on the wave-lapped west coast, Mullins is the go-to spot for lounging under the shade of a Casuarina tree, taking a dip in the bathtub-warm waters or venturing out to sea on a jet ski. A newly built car park is an added plus for those with a rental car.
On the wave-lashed east coast, beaches are suited for strolling and sunning although there a few good spots to splash in the waves that break over the reefs and the rocks. Known as surf-central for the towering waves that crash and curl from the rocky beach, the charming hamlet of Bathsheba is also revered for the therapeutic ‘baths’ that teem with minerals believed to leave skin silky soft.
Par For The Course
The oldest course on the island, Barbados Golf Club has 18 holes including two returning nines which finish into a triple green. A pair of lakes create the challenging ‘Amen Corner' on holes 15 and 16.
A members-only club, Royal Westmoreland is a Robert Trent Jones-designed course with golf villas for the truly dedicated. Sandy Lane tempts with a trio of courses – The Old Nine, Country Club Course and the Green Monkey Course – and on the south coast Rockley Golf Club is rewarding for the big hitter but less tolerant on the wayward shot.
The first and only Zagat-rated destination in the Caribbean, Barbados nurtures its culinary reputation with a treasure chest of cuisines ranging from Bajan and British to Chinese and Creole.
New on 2nd Avenue in fashionable Holetown, Nishi is the culinary vision of Paul Edwards, a Formula One catering legend. A fusion of Asian and Caribbean flavours, the star attraction is the upstairs Sushi Bar.
For a mouth-watering Sunday brunch with a side of jazz, Naniki lays out a sumptuous buffet with stewed conch, curried chicken and black belly lamb. Vistas of the Atlantic east coast from the outdoor porch make dining an all-day affair.
Platters heaping with flying fish, grilled lobster and macaroni pie keep the crowds happy weekend nights at the Oistins Fish Fry. The second-most popular attraction after Harrison’s Cave, Oistins charms as old-timers play dominoes to a calypso beat, craft vendors sell shell jewelry and sea turtles clamor for a scrap or two of leftovers.
Melanie ReffesBottoms Up
Locals claim there are as many rum shoppes as there are churches with some strategically located next to a House of Worship. Celebrated as one of the strongest rums in the world, Barbados has been producing the potent spirit for more than three centuries. On Spring Garden Highway in Bridgetown, the Mount Gay Rum Tour takes fans behind the scenes for artifact browsing, taste testing and gift shop perusing.
Mark This Down In 2011
January 10 to 16: Barbados Jazz Festival rocks the island every year.
February: Holetown Festival salutes the eateries and shops of this trendy neighbourhood.
April: The Oistins Fish Festival is a weekend of fishy fun for the whole family.
Summer: Crop Over is the biggest festival of the year with plenty of dancing to the infectious rhythms of calypso.
For more information, contact the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) at www.visitbarbados.org, 1-800-268-9122.