By Melanie Reffes
Affectionately dubbed Little England, Barbados has long been a favourite of winter weary Canadians. The easternmost of the Caribbean Islands, Barbados is framed to the west and south by the Caribbean Sea and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and, as the only island with a Zagat guide and an expanding accommodation and attraction sector, the island continues to lead in destination marketing.
In addition to daily Air Canada flights from Toronto, WestJet announced an inaugural flight between Toronto and Barbados four times weekly beginning November 3. Depending on market demands, the low cost carrier is considering additional service from Montreal, Halifax and Winnipeg. “We are excited about coming to Barbados,” said Duncan Bureau, vice-president of sales addressing the general meeting of the Hotel and Tourism Association. “We have been looking for new destinations that will compliment our network in Canada.”
Heads On Beds
From roadside to ritzy, the current 6,500 island-wide room inventory is on the rise with renovations and new construction in high gear.
The 4-star all-inclusive Almond collection now includes the 289-room Casuarina Beach Resort in St. James joining the 161-room Almond Beach Club & Spa and the 400-room Almond Beach Village. Following a US $30 million refurbishment, Casuarina Beach Resort opened in the summer with three restaurants, four bars, fitness centre and spa, tennis, golf, water sports and Kids Club.
Although it hasn’t changed much in 50 years, the Crane in St. Philip, continues to add rooms with the latest enhancement increasing the count to 220. Also new is the Village with tennis courts, Italian restaurant, jazz bar and spa.
The gold standard for luxury, Sandy Lane, a Resort to the Best property, re-opened in October with upgrades to the 112 guestrooms, a refurbished Bajan Blue restaurant, new-look water sports area, and panoramic sauna and ice room.
Also fresh from a renovation and part of the Canadian-owned Resort to the Best collection, Sandpiper sits on a sandy beach on the west coast with 47 rooms including Tree Top suites with plunge pools. Sister property to the Sandpiper and down the road, Coral Reef Club has completed an enhancement with a Spa set to open in December. Tours of the landscaped garden with its stately mahogany and flamboyant trees are offered twice weekly.
Opened in June as a B&B, Bayfield House oozes charm in 10 tastefully furnished rooms and suites. Family-owned, the property is a stone’s throw from Mullins Beach and a cozy location for a small wedding or corporate retreat.
Also on the west coast, 43-room Sugar Cane Club re-opened earlier this year with Mediterranean-inspired décor and La Salsa Restaurant serving Spanish specialties inspired by the Venezuelan owners. A botanical gully surrounds the property while the spa tempts with a Barbados Rumba massage.
The Four Seasons Resort will open next year on Paradise Beach with 115 rooms and 45 villas and the Marriott Courtyard has broken ground at the Barbados Pavilion site for a 75-room property and meeting facility.
New to the attraction sector, Arlington House is an impressive three-storey interactive history museum designed by a Montreal architectural firm. Exhibits include Wharf Memories with “talking” pirates.
Also new, Anthony Hunt transformed a naturally forming sinkhole into one of the most beautiful gardens in Barbados. Aptly called Hunt’s Garden, it’s ideal for relaxing on the scattered benches with a freshly-squeezed fruit juice.
The newly re-vamped Harrison’s Caves delights with centuries-old waterfalls, stalagmites and caverns of crystallized limestone. Trams venture to the subterranean chamber where visitors can walk along side a cascading waterfall that plunges deep into pools of clear water.
Barbados Tourism AuthorityBuilt of brick and limestone, St. Nicholas Abbey is a majestic Plantation House. Outside, formal gardens create an English Manor air, while inside the collection of period furniture includes the four poster bed owned by Napoleon's second wife, Empress Marie Louise.
Four main beach areas include the south coast popular with tourists, west coast for swimming and water sports, the surfer’s east coast and the southeast where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean Sea. A Mecca for divers, Maycocks Bay teems with barracuda, parrotfish and coral sponge.
Barbados Tourism AuthorityBridgetown is a bustling city made for duty-free shopping and people-watching. The new Independence Square is packed with locals taking five under the shady trees and while Broad Street is chocked full of restaurants and stores, parallel Swan Street is preferred for a less commercial shopping experience.
Nirvana for Foodies
The 2009 Best of Barbados Zagat guide is hot off the presses awarding top honours to Champers as the’ most popular ‘new restaurant providing ‘great value for money.’ Atop a cliff with breathtaking views of the sea below, a delectable Caribbean menu is served in a waterside gazebo, spacious upstairs dining room or open-air facing the sea.
Awarded the Zagat award for Décor and commanding a utopian view of the sea, the mood is as dramatic as the menu at The Cliff in St James. Lit only by candlelight, the menu is pricey but worth the splurge.
On the picturesque west coast, Holetown is a treasure trove of restaurants and rum shoppes. With a Zagat nod for “consistently excellent seafood’, Tides tempts with plenty of palate pleasers prepared by Chef Guy Beasley. Save room for the Sticky Toffee Pudding so rich it comes with its own pre-nup.
Blink and you’ll miss it and that would be a shame because Connie de Grill Master dishes up fall-off-the-bone ribs at his no-frills stall next to the Pentecostal Church in Payne’s Bay. When he’s not ‘de Grill Master’, Connie is in the kitchen at Sandy Lane where his claim to fame, apart from his rib recipe, is the meal he created for Tiger Wood’s wedding at the swishy resort.
Barbados Tourism AuthorityFor the real deal, the Fish Fry in Oistens stays open late with newly added kiosks to handle the crowds.
For more information, visit the Barbados Tourism Authority’s website at www.visitbarbados.org.