There’s a huge banner of a smiling Rihanna welcoming you to Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport. If you’ve never been to the famous singer’s home island, you probably wouldn’t know the poster even existed. Not many images of it live online because photo-taking is generally frowned upon inside the airport.
Thankfully, that’s not the case once you grab your bags and exit the building, which is great news because Barbados has so many sights worthy of immortalizing on your social media timeline. We recently visited the photogenic nation and captured as many sides of the island as we possibly could with our camera — and words.
For an island roughly a sixth of the size as Rhode Island, it surely has an impressive share of elegant overnight options. From the lush, luxurious Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Barbados to beachside beauty Sandy Lane Hotel, choices abound for the high-end traveler.
One particular brand that has found a home in the upper echelon of the local hospitality hierarchy is the aptly named Elegant Hotels. With seven properties scattered about the island (and two others in Antigua and St. Lucia), Elegant’s line speaks to those in a brood (the family friendly Crystal Cove) or those with love on the brain (the charming Colony Club).
Two of the most distinguished addresses under the company’s umbrella are the adults-only Treasure Beach and The House. We’re still deliberating over which is most conducive for a romantic rendezvous, but the Swim Into Summer package (50 percent off suites booked by September 30) may tilt things into the former’s favor.
The 35-suite property, which opened December 2017, warmly welcomes you down an open-air hallway for check-in. Take a picture of a fascinating mesh art piece hanging from the ceiling. Once you finish, enter a delightfully green courtyard where an inviting pool and a bar stocked with Mount Gay rum battle for your attention. You’ll also notice a massive palm tree that looks like a fan you wish oscillated for those 90-degree days on the island.
Inside your suite, a casual breeze comes over you — but it’s as much from the refreshing winds off the water as it is the cool color palette (stark whites, cheery aquas) and quirky island décor (copper sink, flat-screen TV framed like a picture). The place just feels like fun without too much tropical frilliness.
Only a few doors down is the aforementioned House, a quaint address that manages to have an even more exclusive air to it. If Treasure Beach is where couples go for some alone time, The House is where couples tired of other couples come for a week.
Things are executed differently at this 34-room, newly renovated escape — ambassadors greet you on the bridge in front of the property; new guests receive a complimentary 30-minute jetlag massage; because titles aren’t as important as tasks, almost any staffer will happily pour you a drink or grab a fresh towel — but it’s all done with precision and just the right amount of island charm.
RiRi would kill us if we had a Bajan culinary discussion and not mention the flying fish sandwich at Chefette or the jerk chicken at Just Grillin’. Those are uncomplicated fast-food dishes you simply have to try on your visit. But when it’s time to take things up a notch on the epicurean scale, the island can do that with relative ease as well.
One of Barbados’ most promising chefs, Javon Cummins, works at Treasure Beach’s Tapestry Restaurant. A humble fellow who blushes the moment you start complimenting the taste of his grilled jackfruit, Cummins is the young-but-capable leader of a kitchen cooking up deliciousness in the morning (blueberry pancakes), afternoon (curry chicken wrap) and evening (pan-seared snapper).
If you want to get off the property for a meal, take a cab just up the road to Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Sandy Lane’s L’Acajou. This establishment is beloved for its French-Mediterranean cuisine and breathtaking beach vistas. After you’ve had your fill of Chilean seabass and charming sunsets, step over to Bajan Blue for drinks on its Lower Terrace.
The Fish Pot is another local dining institution. Situated in a converted fort along the water, this is the kind of place you go to for an intimate meal, an eight-year-old’s birthday dinner or a group gathering — we saw all three during our last visit. But the universal appeal makes sense because grilled lobster and garlic shrimp are dishes we all enjoy. Kids will just have to take their parents’ word for how good the Gin and Cucumber Cooler (gin, sparkling water, lime juice and muddled mint) is.
Generally speaking, the Bajans are some of the nicest people you will meet. But things weren’t always so pleasant. When you visit Arlington House Museum’s three levels of insightful exhibits, you’ll gain a firsthand understanding of the hardships that natives endured during colonization. The mood takes a playful turn on the attraction’s top level, where interactive displays speak to the role that trading and pirating have had on the island, making it a hit among younger travelers.
When it comes to finding real treasure, though, you don’t have to work hard to find it. Right across the street sits the Gallery of Caribbean Art. Here, regional talents such as Colin Bootman and Don Small — the latter’s solo exhibition, “Is This Our Culture,” runs through August 11 — display works that resonate with the vibrant colors you’d expect from Barbados. Stunning watercolors and charcoals from artist Heidi Berger may have a more contemplative edge to them, but they’re no less beautiful.
Head to the hills of Chalky Mount for an even deeper art appreciation. Though far from a household name like Rihanna, master potter John Springer is a national treasure. When you visit his small workshop, watch a demonstration and be awed at his craftsmanship at the pottery wheel. Unlike at the airport, cameras are more than welcome here. Besides purchasing a bowl or vase for your own home, photos are the best way to capture all that he’s capable of with clay.