Caribbean holidays: Embracing the all-inclusive in Barbados

Caribbean island aficionado Amol Rajan finds there can sometimes be a certain pleasure in holing up in your hotel

There’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in the all-inclusive lushness of a paradise like Sugar Bay
There’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in the all-inclusive lushness of a paradise like Sugar Bay

There comes a point in every man’s life – well, in mine at least – when he is able to state his preference among Caribbean islands. There has also come a point in this man’s life when he accepts he is someone who might enjoy an all-inclusive resort...

Barbados is not my favourite island. Curiously for so southern a spot, Barbados is among the most American of the Caribbean islands I have been to, with the shallowest culture. I’m generalising here, but why not: Jamaicans have immense confidence and strong accents and the air there is full of Marley’s natural mystic; Bequia has the best beaches; Trinidad is infused with Spanish vim; and Tobago, its little brother, is a trippy, barefoot paradise type of place. But Barbados? It feels like part of Florida. You can find something of the innate culture in the windswept hills of the north and barren coastline of the east, but the south-west, near Bridgetown, is like Miami on a secondment.

There are curving coastal paths that take you into the heart of the town, and if you carry on for long enough you get to the Kensington Oval, the cricket ground when Sir Garfield Sobers, the greatest ever player in the eyes of many a Bajan, plied his trade. A statue to the great man, and a cricket museum opposite, give the aficionado (me) their fix; but so ugly is the setting and surrounding roads that it’s probably only worth visiting if there’s a game on. Or, for that matter, if you walk 10 minutes further up the road and get to the Mount Gay rum distillery. Rum is one of the many things that make the Caribbean great, and by the time you’ve imbibed all the giveaways at this fascinating industrial plant, you’ll be in no mood to disagree.

Take in a match at the Kensington Oval

My wife, Charlotte, and I bumped into a chancer, sorry, taxi driver called Clarence Alleyne who said that for £100 he’d take us on a tour of the island, and asked me to give you his number (if you want it, it’s 001 246 258 0094). Feeling lucky, we said yes, and it was a good way to spend the day. Up the west coast you have the bars of Holetown and Speightstown, and you can even ogle at the vast house/complex which is said to be the home of Rihanna, occasionally rented out by Simon Cowell. Clarence also showed us Cliff Richard’s house, where Tony Blair has often stayed and been pictured.

We saw several beautiful churches, of which St James’s Parish Church was the most exquisite. But our general snobbishness toward the American flavour of the island, and the fact that my wife was then in the family way, as my dad so quaintly still puts it, meant that we spent most of our time in the all-inclusive lushness of Sugar Bay.

Cosy up with a good book in the beachfront lounge at Sugar Bay

Set on the crowded south-western strip of the island, 40 minutes from the airport, it’s a very easily accessible and large resort which caters to all types. There is a large pool with one of those fancy bars at the edge, so that you can sit on a stool that is under water as you order your latest colada; and across the way from the main dining area is an ample beach with a few rocky patches, but mostly gorgeous fine sand.

There’s no worthwhile snorkelling to speak of around here – so over-stuffed with fat tourists like me is this area – but the view is highly pleasant and the sheer convenience of falling out of your room and onto such a fine spot is hard not to adore.

The beach is cordoned off by a wall of stone to create something with the feeling of a private lagoon, and because this is the island’s south coast, the waters are calmer than on the Atlantic-facing east, meaning if water sports are your thing, you can indulge the habit.

If you don’t feel like hitting the beach, there’s always the more private pool to take a dip in

If, like me, you can’t swim and find the idea of sailing less appealing than a romantic rendezvous with Donald Trump, then you might opt to use one of the four very decent restaurants, and indeed the extensive bar (though, this being an all-inclusive resort, there’s no shortage of crab-crimson Brits slurping on mojitos to keep you company). Of the restaurants, the surprise package is Umi, a really superb Japanese where the sashimi was the best thing we ate on the island.

If you’re inclined to get married in an all-inclusive resort, or spend a honeymoon in one, I have no doubt you’ll be extremely well looked after. The prior question, really, is whether if you’re saving up for a trip to the Caribbean, you want to spend it in Barbados. My advice, based on this initial visit, is there are other, better islands to scour. But then I have reached a certain stage in life, and when it comes to this part of the world, I have no shame in being a right snob.

Travel essentials

Getting and staying there

Tropical Sky (01342 886 827; tropicalsky.co.uk) offers seven nights’s all-inclusive in a Signature Room at Sugar Bay resort in Barbados (sugarbaybarbados.com) from £1,339pp, including direct British Airways or Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick.

More information

visitbarbados.org

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