White sand, topaz waters, palm trees dancing on the balmy breeze, a rum punch in your hand... Barbados fulfils all the fly-and-flop fantasies of escaping the bleak midwinter. But drag yourself away from those dreamy shores and you’ll find lively festivals, exotic gardens, historic plantations, nature and heritage trails – even one of the Western Hemisphere’s oldest synagogues.
There are also more golf courses than you could shake a club at, as well as options to get even more active on the east coast, where you’ll find superlative surf breaks.
Don’t assume that your swimming trunks require deep pockets to visit Barbados – there are affordable options for families and budget travellers, at three-star all-inclusives, guesthouses, self-catering apartments and homestays.
As a couple
The serenity of Barbados’s tropical shores provides the poster backdrop for a romantic escape, whether it’s a holiday, wedding or honeymoon and there are several resorts that cater only for couples. However, the newly opened SoCo Hotel (thesocohotel.com) shifts attention away from the buttoned-up traditions of the Platinum Coast, south to Hastings. This diminutive four-star with just 24 rooms, has brought a hint of Miami Beach to the resort, which is close to the nightlife and restaurants of St Lawrence Gap, with its sleek white decor and contemporary restaurant. While it doesn’t label itself as adults-only, SoCo offers no family-friendly activities and children attract a supplement of between $50-$100 per night. Tropical Sky (0843 249 5361; tropicalsky.co.uk) offers a week at the hotel from £1,089 per person all-inclusive, with flights from Gatwick and transfers. Wedding packages also available.
As a family
Notwithstanding a fairly substantial flight from the UK, this Caribbean island is an indulgent family playground – with warm, gentle waters, a benign winter climate and hotels with diversions that would put Mary Poppins to shame. The time difference is a manageable four hours behind GMT. You can fly non-stop from a range of UK airports and transfers never take more than an hour or so.
Avoid the peak season of January to April. Instead, travel in May or October half-term. Turtle Beach (turtlebeachresortbarbados.com) is a family-friendly all-inclusive resort on the south coast, a short drive from the airport. There’s a kids’ club (9am-9pm), watersports, beach sports, tennis, two pools, cookery lessons and dozens of day trips. Virgin Holidays (0844 557 4321; virginholidays.co.uk) has a week’s all-inclusive here for £5,050 for a family of four departing Gatwick on 24 May.
On a budget
Forget Sandy Lane, you can lap up beachside bliss in Barbados without the gold-plated price tag. Overlooking Worthing Beach on the south coast, Oleander Apartments offer simple, cottage-style accommodation with kitchenettes. They’re close to the capital Bridgetown, where you can stock up on provisions at food markets and a short drive from the restaurants in St Lawrence Gap. Fleewinter (020 7112 0019; fleewin ter.com) offers nightly rates here from £78 for two sharing, including airport transfers but excluding flights. The tourist board (visitbar bados.org) also lists guesthouses and apartments across the island, starting at around £70 per night.
Away from the beach
Beaches are only the start of Ramblers’ (01707 33 11 33; ramblers holidays.co.uk) 12-day “Beautiful Barbados” holiday. The group walking tour visits plantation houses, museums, rum distilleries, an orchid farm, botanical gardens and the capital Bridgetown, as well as taking in a glass-bottomed boat ride and snorkelling on coral reefs with the chance of passing turtles along the way. There are no more than three hours of walking each day, with some transfers by local buses to give you a flavour of island life. There are departures from November-February; prices start at £1,899pp including flights from Gatwick, transfers, B&B, most dinners, all entrance fees and a guide.
With your golf clubs
The island is home to seven golf courses and resorts, including an 18-hole championship course at the Barbados Golf Club (barbadosgolf club.com) and three courses at Sandy Lane (sandylane.com), whose Country Club course hosted the World Golf Championships World Cup in 2006. The resort is also home to the Tom Fazio-designed 18-hole Green Monkey course carved from a stone quarry and reserved only for guests. Bailey Robinson (01488 689700; baileyrobinson.com) offers a week’s “Golf Escape” at Sandy Lane from £2,980pp including flights from Gatwick, transfers, B&B, two rounds of golf, one pro golf lesson and lunch at the Country Club.
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