Steely blue-grey meets fresh blue-green. Dark and light, cool and warm. The Atlantic waves, while the Caribbean beckons with its calm. A haven for surfers, and for snorkelers, its coastline, strips of sun-bleached sand. From an Atlantic-side perch, sit and gaze across the water. On a clear day, you can see forever. And forever.
Barbados is the last island in the Caribbean, the easterly most, the farthest out to sea, before going straight on to Africa. A British throwback, the island is still rather regal, but with it’s own unique blend. Its oceans crossroads allow it an absence of volcanoes. It is a coral island, with caves within its core, as deep as the island itself.
Start at the Crane hotel, and its world famous pink beach. Boogie boarders, baby boomers and babies share the sand, a swath of ocean-front on the Atlantic side that somehow allows the bathers into the water without the undertow of most of this part of coast. There’s a natural breaker just out there, in the sea far enough to go unnoticed, close enough to protect the Crane beach from the slap and sting of the salt-soaked tides.
But the Atlantic side is not all violent, mind you. Take a drive, meander, wend your way up the coast. Nature needs her meditative moments, even in the eye of the storm. There are pockets of serenity, at Bathsheba, where the bath-warm waters call for swimming and floating. A local Banks beer or two to help beat the heat, and some would say after a day, they’re a Bajan too.
While the sporty and adventurous take on the challenges of the Atlantic side, the royal and refined retreat to the Caribbean coast of the island. Water so turquoise, so drenched in blue green, it makes you want to rub your eyes at first, are you in focus? Yes, this is the real thing. There are shipwrecks below the waves, calling to snorkelers and scuba divers.
Like a reef, the ships are a magnet for colourful marine life. A rainbow of sea creatures, and sea turtles. They swim through the water like birds on the wing, flapping their fins, flying, careening with a speed that we’d never see on land. Their natural habitat, and we share it, swim along side, brush our fingers along their patterned shells.
We can’t get enough of the surf, but dry land is calling. After the Crane, its rum punches at Cutters, a local hangout where the drink’s been made with the same family recipe for decades. An elevated rum shack, it’s a cool spot to get the local vibe. And, speaking of rum shacks, there are many, like roadside attractions, but so much more hip. Bright little spots along the road, they invite you to pull over, order a rum and ginger, and hang with fellow Bajans. Think of it as a pub or a café of the Caribbean, where the neighbourhood heads out after work or after dinner to have a drink, hear a bit of gossip, share a bit of news, have a laugh or two and then head on home to dreamland. All are welcome, and we feel it, as we stand around an old rum barrel now used as ad-hoc table, sipping and grinning.
Spa at The Fairmont, golf at The Royal Westmoreland, and then sip rum punches at Mullins Bay Beach, dip your toes in the golden sand and take in the sunset.
At the tail end of the island is Oistins, and it is here, every Friday night, where you can really take in the vibe. It’s the fish fry, where the grills are out in full force, the Bajan music is blasting (you may even hear a little of Barbados’ homegirl Rihanna coming from the speakers), and aura is pure chill.
Video by Blue Bay Travel
People are hungry, they come to eat fresh-caught fish that go straight from the nets to the grill. Flying fish, king fish, grouper, all so fresh, the flesh clean with just a hint of brine; smoked and charred on the grill, no accoutrements required.
Sort of like Barbados itself. She is what she is. A dual personality, a calm turquoise surf under an orange sun; a roiling, rolling tide slamming the cliffs reminding us of Mother Nature’s power. And powerful she is. To draw us here, and keep us here, on the sand and in the sea.
WHERE TO DROP YOUR BAGS
THE CRANE St Philip, Barbados
Recently named the “Best Caribbean Beach” by USA Today’s Top Ten Readers’ Choice Awards, the Crane resort hotel enjoys a spectacular location on the south-east coast, near the airport, but quite a distance from anything else. A Barbadian legend since 1887, and the oldest operating hotel in the Caribbean, the 50,000 square-foot Crane Village features award-winning restaurants, an open-air market, a 3,000 square foot Duty-Free emporium and a true taste of the best of Caribbean culture. thecrane.com
SANDY LANE St James, Barbados
Sandy Lane represents the ultimate in comfort, elegance and five-diamond service. The 112 opulent rooms and suites have marble floors, hi-tech amenities and large terraces.
The magnificent spa provides a range of treatments using Anne Sémonin and Aromatherapy Associates. The five-room Villa is the epitome of luxury. Set in its own gardens, and with its own dedicated team of staff, it is essentially a private home in the midst of one of the world’s great luxury resorts. Also new are luxury helicopter transfers that cut the time it takes guests to arrive at the resort from Grantley Adams International Airport down to a mere seven minutes. sandylane.com
Cin Cin by the Sea A refreshingly contemporary, elegant new restaurant offering ‘alfresco dining’ with sweeping views of the west coast of Barbados while serving quintessentially Mediterranean-style cuisine with a Caribbean twist. cincinbythesea.com
The new PRIMO Bar & Bistro (formerly Pisces Restaurant) in St Lawrence Gap is now open and brings a refined dining experience to the south coast. Primo features an uber trendy modern environment with panoramic ocean front dining. Enjoy delicious food and creative cocktails in a unique, rustic charm setting overlooking the tranquil bay. primobarandbistro.com
SEE & DO
Unique experience: Animal Flower Cave One of the most beautiful natural settings to be found in Barbados, on the north point of the island (St. Lucy’s parish). The natural sea cave opens directly into the Atlantic Ocean, with breathtaking views and cool rock pools to take a quick dip.
Must see: Mount Gay and St. Nicholas Abbey Rum Tour
Both spots offer an exceptional glimpse into the history of rum in Barbados. The Mount Gay distillery is the oldest distillery in the world, making Barbados the birthplace of rum itself, while St. Nicholas Abbey gives visitors a history of plantations, along with a unique blend of its own rum. mountgayrum.com; stnicholasabbey.com
DEFINITE MUST SEE: Oistin’s Fish Fry
Fish market by day, street festival by night. You don’t want to miss a Friday Fish Fryat Oistins, where locals and visitors alike come out to dance, eat, drink and hang out. Performers take the stage while local chefs fry up local fish (caught fresh that day), and artisans show their hand-crafted jewellery, art and more.
WHEN YOU GO: Book with Air Canada and Westjet
From Toronto: Daily non-stop flights via Air Canada. As of December 19, a second flight will be running Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, providing double daily seasonal flights until April 29, 2017 (excluding January 9 – February 11). Also 4 weekly flights via WestJet (Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday)
From Montreal: No non-stop flights at the moment, though there’s an easy 1-hour connector flight to the daily airlift departing from YYZ. However, from December 24, 2016 – April 30, 2017 Air Canada will be running a seasonal direct service three days per week (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday)
For more info: visitbarbados.org