My first visit to Barbados was in 2004 on a FAM (industry-speak for “Familiarization Trip”) jointly hosted by the tourism board and a family hotel chain, and I knew from the moment I arrived – this island was unlike anywhere else I’d visited before.
Since that first visit, I’ve returned eleven times, completely breaking my wanderlust promise of never visiting a destination more than once. Returning to the island felt less like a vacation and more like a homecoming, and I’ve made it a point to return “home” once or twice annually since. And I’m not the only one – Barbados reports a whopping 39% repeat traveler factor, which is a testament to both the beauty of the island as well as its friendly people.
Welcome to Barbados
Your first entrée into Barbados comes as you deplane on the runway; the sunshine and heat embrace you on those steps down to the air-conditioned comfort of the modern terminal at Grantley Adams International. We at Travel Associates can arrange an expedited customs process, meaning that whether you arrive commercial or private, there are no lines to wait on.
Barbados is a small island nation, the farthest southeast in the Caribbean. Only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, it’s a coral island, which lends itself to beautiful white-sand beaches and completely safe drinking water right from the tap. It is that water that Barbadians credit for having such a large population of octogenarians and happy locals.
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For those seeking luxury, look no further than the Platinum Coast. Home to the most luxe resorts – including Sandy Lane, The Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Coral Reef Club, and The Sandpiper – the area winds along the island’s western coast, where the waters are calmer and the reefs teem with marine life. I spent the last few vacations at the residential-style resort Saint Peter’s Bay, located just south of a fishing village known as Speightstown. The resort boasts 49 all-suite villa accommodations; each villa is three bedrooms, and each bedroom has its own private bath, making it perfect for families or a group of adults wanting their privacy.
Common rooms are spacious and luxuriously appointed. What I’ve come to love about this place (and its sister hotel, Port Ferdinand) is that you don’t have to sacrifice resort amenities like a spa, restaurant, and daily maid service for the comfort of a multi-bedroom living space. Some of our favorite memories from vacation are winding down on the porch, sitting in the hot tub with a cocktail, and watching the sunset from the most idyllic place imaginable. The service is also unparalleled here – everyone is friendly and quick with a smile, from your housekeeper to the water sports team. (They will get even the most wobbly guest up on a paddleboard – take it from me!) General Manager Geoff Farmer is ever-present on the property and ensures that each guest is well taken care of.
UNNA Resorts, which owns both Saint Peter’s Bay and Port Ferdinand, invested in a significant relationship with Nikki Beach late last year, and on December 1, Nikki Beach opened an outpost of its famous Beach Club on the Port Ferdinand property to rival those in the South of France or on St. Barths. The pool and beach scene here is vibrant, and the food and cocktail menus are inspired. Port Ferdinand also offers guests the opportunity to sail their yachts right up to their villas, and if you didn’t bring your yacht, they’ll even arrange a charter for the week. UNNA also owns polo grounds on the island, so watching or learning the game is also on the menu of optional activities.
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See & Do on Barbados
Speaking of activities, Barbados will tick everyone’s boxes with a wide variety of land and sea adventures. After 12 visits, I keep finding new things to do and see. On our last trip, we ended up at Hunte’s Gardens – a labyrinth of botanical treasures situated in a spectacularly landscaped section of Anthony Hunte’s Castle Grant Plantation. Enjoy the classical music while admiring his gardening handiwork. The beautiful melodies are played by Mr. Hunte himself, and after you’re done touring his gardens, you can retire to his porch overlooking the property and sip a rum punch.
The George Washington House at the Garrison Historic Area in St. Michael was another recent discovery. Our first president stopped at the island when he was 19 years old and stayed while his brother recovered from an illness. You can visit the site, which has been restored to the same grandeur as Washington experienced in 1751. In season, you can also dine with George himself as a re-enactor hosts a multi-course meal culled from menus from that era.
Are you a water baby? Barbados has beautiful reefs and shipwrecks, teeming with undersea life. A trip to “Bim” is not complete without a swim with their famous sea turtles, gentle creatures who love to meet new people.
Savory Island Delights
Those looking for an all-inclusive oasis will find fewer options on this island, and that is because Barbados is the only island that is Zagat-rated for dining. Getting out and about to dine is easy. Cabs are plentiful, and hotels will arrange car or water taxis without issue.
On our last trip we had the privilege of dining at CinCin by the Sea for a milestone birthday. Perched on the rocks with the ocean lapping below us, CinCin’s terrace is a perfect spot for watching the island’s fabulous sunsets. Each course was more delectable than the last; the cuisine and cocktails were focused on fresh local ingredients refined with masterful detail. Of course, there are dining experiences to suit all tastes and budgets, and one must not leave Barbados without hitting the famous Oistins Fish Fry on Friday night. Set up somewhat like a carnival midway, the fish fry boasts tiny shacks, each specializing in its own offerings. Savor everything from shrimp skewers, to conch fritters, to fresh catch fried or grilled with a variety of side dishes.
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Barbados is quick non-stop flight from Miami, Charlotte, New York City, Newark, and Boston with easy connections elsewhere in the US.
Contact a Travel Advisor, who offers end-to-end planning for every kind of vacation – including your first visit “home” to Barbados.