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Planning on grabbing some well-deserved sun in Barbados? We've just returned from a thorough snoop around the whole island, so carry on reading for our take on six very different Barbados beach hotels, from the 'platinum' west, to the wild, wild east...
Coral Reef Club
Just outside Holetown in the swish parish of St. James, Coral Reef Club is one of the hotels that has given the west coast its 'platinum' moniker. The property has been run by the same family since the 1950s and retains an air of friendly informality, despite the luxuriousness of the surroundings.
The hotel feels like the laid-back West Indian equivalent of an English country manor, with twelve acres of tropical flower-filled gardens shrouding the coral stone mansions which house the 88 rooms. Accommodations range from enormous high-end plantation suites with wrap-around verandah, private outdoor bar and a generous-sized plunge pool, to family-sized cottages, villas and garden rooms, all with their own terrace or patio. All are individually designed, with an emphasis on old-school, understated elegance. Crisp white linens, classic fabrics (think muted florals and gingham) and plump, oversized furniture create a relaxing ambience, with views over dazzling pink bourgainvillea or across the casuarina trees to the sea.
Meals are plentiful, fresh and delicious, with the alfresco restaurant housing the most extensive breakfast buffet we've ever seen outside of Vegas. Evening dining centres around an excellent fish-focused menu, with an all-encompassing barbecue on Thursdays and live entertainment most nights of the week.
Coral Reef Club gets more than its fair share of celebrity visitors (including a certain pair of British princes) though they come here for the privacy, not to be seen. The zen-like calm of the beautifully designed on-site spa is the perfect seclusion zone, with mosaic-tiled treatment rooms, and snooze-inducing sunloungers for post-massage naps by the hydrotherapy pool.
For more information visit www.coralreefbarbados.com
The House is an intimate, adults-only 34-room hotel overlooking Paynes Bay on the west coast of Barbados. Opening right out onto the outdoor pool deck and beach beyond, the blue and white lounge and dining area is a welcoming sight after a long-haul flight, with cossetting white sofas and armchairs arranged around a huge, low coffee table. The overall vibe is chilled and easygoing, the decor chic and relaxing, and we especially loved the black and white photography throughout the hotel displaying scenes of Bajan life in times gone by.
Foodies will love being literally on the doorstep of Daphne's restaurant, famed Barbadian outpost of the legendary London establishment and, according to some, even better. Kick back with a watermelon martini or classic mojito and make your selection from the regularly updated menu of modern Italian classics. Remember to check which night The House will be dishing up its own steel-drum accompanied Bajan banquet though; the variety and quality of the food here took us completely by surprise.
All guests receive a complimentary jet-lag massage at neighbouring Tamarind hotel's spa, and champagne breakfast, afternoon tea and evening canapés are included as standard. The property has also been recently refurbished, with custom-made furniture, new French doors, and new bathrooms with large rainshowers and body jets.
Find out more and book a holiday at The House with Virgin Holidays.
Still on the west coast in Prospect Bay, St. James, Waves hotel is an all-inclusive property exclusive to Virgin Holidays in the UK. The 70 guest rooms are split across two buildings; the beachfront Ocean House and the adults-only Spa House across the road, adjacent to the excellent Feast restaurant and freeform swimming pool. The spa area is exclusively for guests aged 16 and over, and if you're staying for at least 7 nights you'll have two complimentary treatments included in your stay.
Oceanfront rooms are light and bright with fabulous views over swaying palms and the beach below. You're perfectly placed for watching the sunset here, either from the comfort of your balcony, or from the open-air Seascape restaurant or aptly-named Sunset Bar. It's a nightly ritual, but all over in a flash, and when it's done it's time to eat and drink. No shortage of options here, with Italian Rosso Vivo opening nightly for dinner, plus the aforementioned Seascape (international) and Feast (Asian Pacific). Up for more? Night owls will appreciate the After Hours bar before sinking into the dangerously comfortable 6ft-wide beds.
Find out more and book a holiday at Waves, an exclusive Virgin Holidays property.
Down at party-central St. Lawrence Gap on the south coast of Barbados, Ocean Two is a contemporary four-star resort offering both hotel rooms and one or two-bedroom oceanfront suites, complete with fully-equipped kitchen, lounge, dining area and large balcony.
Ocean Two sits on Dover beach, just far enough away from the action of St. Lawrence Gap to retain a peaceful vibe; a good thing as the sea here is so astoundingly blue and enticing you'll no doubt want to linger at length. Tech-addicts will love the fact that the whole property is wired, rooms have iPod docking stations and movies on demand, and iPads can be rented from the front desk - even more reasons to stay put.
Just beyond the lobby is the inviting 'O'asis bar and lounge, a calming, palm-filled space dotted with comfortable armchairs, curved sofas and softly-lit table lamps, as well as a long, sleek bar to perch at while the bartender mixes up a rum punch or three. The lounge opens directly out to sea, where a raised wooden footbridge leads over the 150 ft pool to the beach, and we loved how the open wall perfectly frames this gorgeous view.
What we loved even more was the stylish adults-only roof terrace, open until 10pm, which offers a full evening bar service and is decked out with sunloungers, daybeds and a decent-sized split level plunge pool. Practically empty on both our visits, it appears to be the hotel's best kept secret; a perfect spot to trade the action and heat of the beach for total solitude and a cooling tropical breeze.
Find out more and book a holiday at Ocean Two with Virgin Holidays.
The Crane sits high on a cliff in the southeast of Barbados overlooking stunning Crane Beach, arguably the best on the island and the point where the gentler waves of the Caribbean meet the rougher Atlantic surf of the east and north. It's the oldest resort in Barbados and one of the best known. The original (and still operational) main house was converted from a mansion known as Marine Villa in 1887, where four further apartments were added before opening as a hotel.
While the historic building has been restored and preserved in its entirety, the present-day Crane has been completely transformed into a large-scale luxury resort, with the addition of new suites and residences.
Our favourites were the one or two-bedroom ground floor Garden Pool suites, for the blissful jungle-like gardens which felt like a really discreet little sanctuary. But if it's an ocean view you're after, opt for one of the 'Residences by the Sea', most of which have their own private balcony plunge pools, with one even having a whopping 28ft pool.
Rooms in the beautiful main house don't have air conditioning (ceiling fans only) but are all decked out with antiques and have lovely balconies, huge windows, high ceilings and hardwood floors.
Aside from the beach, the hotel's centre piece is an incredibly decadent Roman-style pool complete with Doric columns and sun deck, plus a further 5-pool complex cascading over various levels. There's also an alfresco clifftop whirlpool with a peerless view of the ocean. Multiple dining options include the #1 Zagat-rated Zen restaurant (Japanese/Thai) and L'Azure (International/Caribbean fare) but the most unmissable culinary event is the famed weekly Sunday Gospel Breakfast, accompanied by a live Caribbean gospel choir.
Find out more and book a holiday at The Crane with Virgin Holidays.
The Atlantis Hotel
We wrote about Bathsheba and the wild east coast of Barbados in our previous article on the Island Adventure Safari, and if you want to spend any amount of time in this area, you need to make a beeline for the Atlantis Hotel.
Located in Tent Bay, just south of Bathsheba in the rugged parish of St. Joseph, the eight room, two apartment property can lay claim to being one of just a handful of genuine boutique hotels on the island. Under new ownership and fully refurbished in 2009, the spacious historic property has been decorated in an unfettered manner with white linens, walls and shutters offset by striped rugs and bold flashes of colour.
Set right above the turbulent Atlantic, the restaurant at Atlantis is one of our favourites and has a substantial local following. Try to make time to eat here, even if you're not staying. With a well-deserved reputation for serving up fresh Bajan food of the highest quality, it's unsurprisingly popular so book in advance, especially for the slap-up Barbadian buffets served on Wednesdays and Sundays.
For more information visit www.atlantishotelbarbados.com
Header shot of the beach at The House © The House by Elegant Resorts
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.