With 2019 zooming by — hello, Q4! — it was time for a break from my day-to-day. Thankfully, I was able to get away for one lovely week in Barbados with my bestie Yvette and good friends Crystal, J.C. and Ernie. There’s so much to say about our adventure, so I’ve broken it down by category.
The Crane Resort, located in St. Philip — just a 15-minute drive from the Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown, was spectacular! Apparently, it has the distinction of being the oldest resort in the Caribbean, so it has that going for it, too. Our luxurious suite was very spacious (Shout out to Ernie for booking our stay!) and even included a swim-out pool, which was the perfect amenity for cooling down in the warm September sun.
The beds were cozy, and the convenience of a refrigerator, stove and washer-dryer made our trip all the more pleasant. The resort boasts awesome ocean views from just about every angle and is quite peaceful. In fact, we didn’t experience as much noise and chaos as one would expect of a vacation destination. Plus, the well-equipped fitness center and easy beach access were icing on the resort’s (rum) cake. Noticeably missing, however, were jacuzzis but with temperatures in the high 80s, I can’t complain.
An added bonus was how personable and courteous the staff was. The real MVPs there are Shannon, Brandon, Theo, Jamal, Corey and Jeff (and a few whose names escape me). They gave us such excellent recommendations on places to see and restaurants to try. We even saw Shannon and Brandon out on the town one night at Mojo, a spot they mentioned to us! The concierge was quick to send help when the power went out three times within an hour during a rainstorm and when we needed transport to the lobby.
Having The Crane as our home base for those glorious seven days only added to the enjoyment of our time in Barbados. I’d return for a stay there without hesitation! Oh and be sure to order the cajun smoked chicken wings at the resort’s Bar 1887. You’ll thank me later!
One of the best parts about being surrounded by water is all the fresh seafood that’s available. It was amazing getting to try the catch of the day at the various eateries. During my week on the island, I tasted some delicious mahi mahi and marlin, and for the first time tried flying fish — the national dish of Barbados. I also had a scrumptious swordfish at the über swanky Cin Cin by the Sea (pronounced “chin-chin,” as in the toast to good health said when cheersing), which offered a breathtaking view of the sunset. But by far, the most flavorful fish I had that trip was the grilled snapper, served head and all, at Chillin & Grillin within the famous Oistin’s Fish Fry, which came highly recommended by several of the locals.
However, I didn’t really get a sense of the traditional food of Barbados in the same way that we know poutine is synonymous with Canada, for instance. There was the flying fish and macaroni pie, which — although tasty and filling — was basically baked macaroni with longer noodles and a bit of ketchup. But I never quite got a sense of the food culture. I did try what might be that national beverage: Banks Beer. It was pleasant and crisp. Unfortunately, the burgers had a strong seasoning that was a bit jarring to the palette of this American In-N-Out aficionado.
That Bajan hot pepper sauce was everything though! Fish, chicken tenders, fries, you name it — that sauce, which was readily available everywhere we dined, only makes things better. I found it on Amazon, so I definitely will be keeping that stocked at home! I just wish we has a chance to sample, for giggles, the cuisine at Chefette, Barbados’ fast food chain and these gas station steak sandwiches J.C. spoke of.
As expected, the beaches are phenomenal! The water is so blue and we could see tiny fishes swimming among us. Plus, it was super warm with very little seaweed — basically the opposite of the SoCal beach-going experience. The powdery sand made a lush playground for the quick-footed crabs and sandpipers. We visited a few different beaches around the island, but Rockley Beach was my favorite by far. It felt secluded and offered a quaint little bar and grill, The Tiki Bar, with lounge chairs and umbrellas included in the price of our meal. And later that week I, for the first time in my life, swam in the ocean while it was raining, which isn’t as horrible as anticipated. It’s a fun memory, now that I think of it.
The island offers many feasts for the eye. Driving around, you’ll see random spurts of livestock grazing, including cows, goats and chickens. There were patches of sugar cane crops (Sugar cane, which slaves farmed there centuries ago, is one of the island’s biggest exports — that and rum!) and beautiful pops of the blue Atlantic Ocean.
The people of Barbados are as friendly as they come. Though I did feel like some locals were silently judging us, picking up on the fact that we were tourists, generally the Bajan people seemed interested in where we were from and wanted to ensure that we enjoyed Barbados.
On Sunday, we attended mass at St. Francis’ Catholic Church, which features stunning views of the Caribbean Sea from the chapel. The parishioners were extremely welcoming to us visitors. You could really feel the love of Christ among the congregation. Seeing the father wearing “Jesus slippers” underneath his robe was super endearing and I loved the special care that was given to acknowledging the young churchgoers at the beginning and end of the service. Though I’m not Catholic (I go to a nondenominational Christian church), it was a blessing to hear from God while on vacation. After mass, we were able to get a closer view of the pristine waters on the church’s veranda, and had a nice lunch nearby at beachside eatery Zaccios.
Cricket is the major sport of the island, and I’m glad that J.C. made sure we got a chance to check out a match — my first ever — at Kensington Oval. That evening, the Barbados Tridents took on the Jamaica Tallawahs. I’m not even going to pretend like I was following what was happening on the field, but this guide was helpful in giving us some guidance on the fly. The crowd was lively and the cheerleaders had some unexpectedly saucy moves!
Rihanna Drive — you know Barbados had to pay homage to their crowned jewel, Robyn Rihanna Fenty — was blocks away from the cricket stadium, by the way. A few hours prior to the match, we got a chance to stop by the house Rihanna grew up in, located on that street, on our way to a lunch rum tour at the Mount Gay Rum Distillery. It’s a must-see if you’re in town. The tour guide shared with us the history of the distillery, recognized as the oldest rum-maker in the world, as we sipped on a rum punch and walked us through the flavor profiles of three of Mount Gay’s selections: Eclipse, Black Barrel and XO. I ended up taking the trio back to the States with me!
On another evening, the resort suggested we go to the Harbour Lights Beach Extravaganza Dinner Show, and I’m glad we did. Not only did we get an overview of the traditional music and dance styles of the country, but we had an excellent meal. My steak was juicy and cooked to perfection, and you can’t go wrong with bottomless beverages and fish cakes!
1. Visit Barbados in the off season. There were very few people staying at the resort. At times, it felt like we had the property all to ourselves. Yeah, it rained a couple days, but it wasn’t for long and actually provided some much-needed cooling.
2. Get you a driver like ours. Wayne (or “Wayne Wonder,” as we called him amongst ourselves) was the man! He gave us tips on the best places to try, and was very personable, trustworthy, affordable and available whenever we needed a lift.
3. Get Barbados Dollars before you arrive or be prepared to take out a crap ton of money from the ATM. Barbados Dollars are twice the amount of US Dollars. For example, if something is $50 BD, that’s $25 US. So I had to hit the ATM a few times because I forgot to double the amount I wanted, and ended up incurring multiple bank fees for using the ATM and swiping my card while abroad.
4. Buy alcohol duty free at the resort. They can have it sent for pick-up at the airport, which saves you time and having to shop in crowded airport shops.
5. Have an idea of a few things you’d like to see and do, but make sure you take time to be still. Relax and enjoy the views. Barbados truly is a slice of heaven on Earth.
To see previous places I’ve jetted off to via my Travel Log, click here.