Onsite Review: Barbados

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Club Med Sandpiper Bay offers an immersive experience for active clients. (Barbados Tourism Authority)
 (Barbados Tourism Authority)

Sea turtles, blooming gardens & a dash of English china…

It’s the scent that lures you in, and then it’s the lively ambiance and tasty fish that keep you hanging out for hours. For clients who want to immerse themselves in the local culture and experience a colorful hangout, with authentic Barbadian music and food, Oistins Fish Fry is a top experience in Barbados. Full to the gills with both locals and tourists, this nighttime event, popular on Fridays, gets groups into the beat of the island. Here, plates heaping with mouthwatering food and live music blaring from the stage are on order, all complemented by street vendors selling all manner of wares, and dancing in the streets.

Get the picture? Barbados is fun and authentically Caribbean, with a dash of English properness thrown in. Although it’s a tiny island, there are plenty of immersive experiences that will have your clients hanging with the locals, which, of course, always involves some rum tasting.

That brings me to the St. Nicholas Abbey, where they’ll be able to get a taste of special-aged rum that’s produced on premises and get a peek at a bygone era while touring the museum house, the courtyard, and the 350-year-old plantation. Here, an intimate terrace cafe is an idyllic place to relax in the shade while feasting on Bajan fish cakes and molasses cookies served on traditional English china, complemented by a round of rum punch. For a bird’s-eye view of the island—and limitless photo-ops—recommend clients stroll over to Cherry Tree Hill before leaving the plantation.

For even more Instagram-worthy images, point clients to the spectacular 2-acre Hunte’s Garden, built in the center of Barbados’ rainforest in a sinkhole-like gully. At the helm of this stunning homage to nature is septuagenarian Anthony Hunte, a well-known, on-island horticulturist. The only way to tour this garden is with Hunte leading the way—his charming personality and mischievous ways make for an animated stroll.

Stunning gardens and plantations are all well and good, but this is Barbados, where are the water-based activities? Visitors to this welcoming island can spend a sun-soaked afternoon sailing around the island with Cool Runnings Catamaran Cruises. During my time on board, our group had ample time to go snorkeling and swim with sea turtles. Lunch was served while anchored at sea, and an open bar flowed during the cruise. Best part? Dancing with the crew as we sailed back to the marina.

As the sun dipped into the ocean, we made our way to The Cliff Beach Club, an exquisitely designed restaurant with fantastic views. This trendy restaurant features a finely tuned menu with unique culinary creations, including foie gras and smoked duck ravioli, truffle risotto with fresh mushrooms, arugula and parmesan, and a ginger and cinnamon biscuit mascarpone tiramisu.

Getting There & Staying There
Enriching the palate and experiencing all that Barbados has to offer just got a whole lot easier with JetBlue’s new daily service out of Fort Lauderdale; the airline also offers service out of JFK and Boston.

Once on-island, two of the many properties are the 138-studio and -suite Bougainvillea Beach Resort, and its sister property, the all-inclusive, 138-room and -suite Sugar Bay Barbados. These two oceanfront properties, with comfortable, spacious accommodations, are centrally located near the airport and the capital, Bridgetown. At Bougainvillea, accommodations, which are equipped with a full or mini kitchen, come in a range of possibilities, including the 2-bedroom Beachfront Luxury Suite. Sugar Bay, too, has an array of accommodation choices, including the Oceanfront Family Suite
(max. five persons).

Both resorts are meccas for watersports aficionados, who can choose from kayaking, paddleboarding, wind surfing, and jet skiing, among other water-based activities. For dining options, recommend guests at Bougainvillea enjoy the Thursday evening Caribbean buffet and floor show at Lanterns by the Sea restaurant with fire eaters, stilt walkers and plenty of participation from the audience.

From July 2 to Aug. 26, rates at Bougainvillea start at $230 for a Superior Studio; at Sugar Bay, it’s $508 dbl for a Signature room.

Contact Information
Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc: visitbarbados.org
Bougainvillea Beach Resort: bougainvillearesort.com
Cool Runnings Catamaran Cruises: coolrunningsbarbados.com
JetBlue: jetblue.com
Sugar Bay Barbados: sugarbaybarbados.com