Save, spend or splurge – Jo Cooke discovers a Barbados for all budgets
Give me a ticket to the Caribbean and I feel like a lottery winner. Sadly, my bank balance doesn’t follow my mood. However, this isn’t a problem on Barbados.
Yes, there is off-the-scale luxury such as the famous Sandy Lane for those who did claim the jackpot, but the price tag comes right down to mere mortal levels too. Smart-but-basic properties share beaches with all-the-trimmings luxury stays, and the Bajan welcome couldn’t be warmer.
The excellent range of accommodation is just the start. Zipping around in a hire car, clients will drive on pretty coastal roads and an inland spaghetti network of routes edged by hedgerows of swaying sugar cane.
They’ll pass villages of cute, fretwork-clad chattel houses, monumental churches, coral-stone windmills, handsome plantation houses and attractions galore. One minute I was on a decommissioned Concorde taking a virtual flight in the seat the Queen had sat in, the next I was getting down with the locals at the Oistins Friday night fish fry knees-up.
Follow that with a rum-tasting session at a Jacobean mansion, and a visit to Hunte’s Gardens, a bombardment of deftly-planted tropical flora that would likely leave Alan Titchmarsh speechless, and you have a product that could be sold to a ream of markets.
And did I mention the beaches? They’re sublime, plentiful and able to please surfers, sailors, paddlers and swimmers alike.
SAVE: NO SCRIMPING
Three-star can feel more than enough here, with properties in prime locations offering refurbished rooms and ocean views.
The Rostrevor Hotel, for example, starts from £699 for seven nights’ self-catering, flights and transfers with Hayes & Jarvis. It’s in St Lawrence Gap, a great little beach-side strip on the South Coast just 15 minutes from the airport, with souvenir shops, a supermarket, snack bars and fine dining, karaoke joints and cocktail bars, all on tap.
If clients are happy to be a complimentary shuttle hop away from the coast, the three-and-a-half-star Sugar Cane Club is stonkingly good value and has a boutique feel. Set at the edge of a gully, its 42 Iberian-look accommodations peep out from well-tended gardens and are grouped around a chic pool terrace. You’ll find it in the north of the island in the hills above Speightstown, a rustically charming port with a long white sand beach that’s as popular with Bajans as tourists. Kuoni’s lead-in is £999 room-only in a one-bedroom suite.
Cheerful as well as cheap, the All Seasons Resort Europa is offered on a self-catering basis by Virgin Holidays from £829. On the West Coast, the establishment has spacious rooms that would work well for families. It’s located in a quiet, residential spot a short walk from the coast road and a five-minute drive from friendly and bustling Holetown, which has fabulous shops, a fancy cinema and funky restaurants and bars.
All-inclusives offer some of the best deals in the mid-price range. Beachfront Crystal Cove, a 10-minute bus ride from Holetown, has an Ibizan vibe and a bar set in a man-made cave (pictured below).
The terraced rooms have classy interiors with bursts of colour and mod cons such as iPod docks and HD TVs. Waterskiing is complimentary and the beach is a double bay of sand. A week with Caribtours leads in at £1,599.
It’s location, location, location with Mango Bay. Fall out of the lobby and you’re at the heart of the wonderful world of Holetown. The back of the property has steps down to the beach. Mango Bay’s public areas and individual bathrooms may feel a little dated, but the bedrooms have a contemporary look and the resort is romantically lit at night with flaming torches. The price tag is from £1,549 with Gold Medal.
Couples Barbados is the new kid on the block, and it’s the surprise inclusions that stand out here. Take a swim-with-the-turtles trip or sunset catamaran cruise, play golf and ride the shuttle to and from Oistins fish fry without shelling out an extra bean.
You can also sign clients up for free weddings and renewal of vows. Introductory prices lead in at £1,259 with Travel 2.
SPLURGE: GO WEST
Clear waters lapping onto golden sand might be the inspiration for the West Coast’s nickname, but the Platinum Coast could also refer to the standard of hotels.
This is where you’ll find the lion’s share of Barbados’s deluxe properties, including Sandy Lane, where clients splash out alongside celebrities including Beyonce and Simon Cowell. A week with Caribtours starts from £2,965.
The House, with 34 rooms, is a real contrast. Petite and intimate, Caribtours offers it from £1,695 on a B&B basis. It has a relaxed, beach-house feel, with contemporary, luxurious interiors.
For those who want to just ‘be’ rather than ‘be seen’ there’s the unpretentious and sumptuous Fairmont Royal Pavilion. With 75 sizeable accommodations – all but three of them ocean-facing – there’s a sense of space and tranquillity here. Mature gardens back a huge stretch of beach, which is dotted with stylish loungers and parasols. A junior suite costs from £2,595 with breakfast through Elegant Resorts.
For old-school, colonial charm and a restaurant that boasts a former chef of Mayfair’s Le Gavroche there’s Cobbler’s Cove. Set on a quintessentially Caribbean bay, it’s a short walk along the sand to Speightstown and leads in at £1,729 for bed and breakfast with ITC Classics.
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