For a small island, Barbados is big on luxury. Not short of five stars, we've picked our luxury standout hotels for 2017.
Burrowed amidst lush greenery and colourful florae, The Fairmont Royal Pavilion is a couple's sanctuary. Roll out of bed and onto the beach with minimal effort for a refreshing early morning swim when staying in one of the Beachfront Junior Suites. They have direct access onto the stretch of glistening sand that's known as one of the most beautiful and exclusive stretches on the island. Indulge in complimentary canapés on your terrace or order a feast to enjoy in front of the unspoilt ocean view, delivered by your own personal butler. Following a renovation, the resort's exclusive stand-alone villa is set within the gardens and just a short distance from the beach. When, or if, you decide to leave your suite, both restaurants are ocean front and will indulge any gastronomes with their culinary offerings, plus there's paddleboard, windsurf, tennis and swimming with turtles to try too. To sample the island's cuisine we recommend the renowned Lone Star, where you can enjoy innovative dishes just a stroll along the beach from the hotel. Finish your night next door in one of our favourite beach bars, Ju Ju's, where you can kick off your shoes and enjoy a refreshing bottle of Banks, the island's local beer, whilst watching the sky turn golden in the sunset.
Family-owned and run, we love The Sandpiper, with its loyal following and small, intimate vibe. This Bajan haven has the perfect beach locale, just a short amble from the restaurants, bars and shops of Holetown. Last year it scooped 'Small Hotel of the Year' at the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association Awards, which won't come as a surprise to those in the know. The service is spot-on with many staff like family, including Harold Shepherd after whom Harold's Bar is named. 2015 also saw a revamp with a second sleek pool added; the beach bar has had a facelift (although still serves the far-too-drinkable Harold's Smile), and a new beach deck just a few feet away from the sea, opened for business. The Beach House can be rented as a three bedroom villa or as three individual suites. This is the ultimate indulgent stay, but is justified by its designer vibe, wrap around terrace and idyllic location. This takes the room count to a total of 50, maintaining the hotel's small scale intimacy. If you can drag yourself away from your sunlounger, activities include paddle boarding, kayaking and snorkelling, tennis coaching and R&R down at Coral Reef's spa. Food lovers are treated to daily fusion feasts served up by Executive Chef Christophe Poupardin, plus a Wednesday West Indian buffet that's laced with sumptuous platters of flying fish, Caribbean shrimp, lobster salad and lamb curries. The restaurant that opens on three sides oozes romance, surrounded by torch-lit tropical gardens and as night falls, smooth jazz and calypso vibes fill the air and stars twinkle into the sea.
Along the beach is The Sandpiper's sister hotel, the equally as dreamy Coral Reef Club. Cocooned in 12 acres of glorious gardens filled with frangipani and bougainvillea, the O'Hara family has yet again worked their hospitality magic. The gentle pace is the same but boasts an elegant country house hotel in the tropics ambience. Filled with old-school, luxury charm, we love the Plantation Suites and Luxury Cottages decorated in tranquil hues and pale wood with sink-into beds and enormous bathrooms. Evenings are always convivial with drinks in the piano lounge and Thursday night barbeques sizzle with jumbo prawns, steak and fresh fish on the grill. During winter there's live entertainment every night and the O'Haras host a weekly cocktail night. But The Spa well and truly steals the limelight, with its foot ritual patios and private gardens, shaded cabanas and menu of relaxing treatments. The Spa's expertise belies its size as there are only four treatment rooms and one couples pavilion; the muscle melt massage comes highly recommended. Coral Reef is hosting two further wellness retreats this year featuring a healthy dose of yoga, Caribbean-style Zumba and holistic treatments that will be running in May and October 2017.
Another hotel that has been kept in the family for two generations is the hugely popular Cobblers Cove. On a quiet narrow sandy beach near the little old-fashioned town of Speightstown, it is in the highly capable hands of Hugh Godsal, whose parents founded the hotel back in 1968. Once known as Camelot, this pink mansion is something of an island icon. It was first built in 1944 as a seaside getaway for a plantation owner and it retains its charm and character. This is the Caribbean with a twist of Britishness: there's a large book-lined drawing room complete with wooden board games; afternoon tea is served daily and even the General Manager hails from Yorkshire. There are just 40 suites, meaning Cobblers is small and discreet with a huge number of devoted returnees. We love the suites with their large sitting rooms, wicker chairs and elegant furniture. If there was a 'suite-off', Camelot at the Great House would win hands down with its two-floor setting and private rooftop plunge pool. Famous for being Barbados' only Relais & Chateaux property, picurean experiences are a focus here - The Camelot Restaurant is formal but the food is worth every bit of quiet politeness. In between gourmet fare, the hotel's tours are also some of the best on the island; there's a brilliant heritage tour of plantation houses (some not open to the general public) and the fishing expedition led by Barker, Cobblers' own fisherman is a must.
Totally tropical in every way, the award-winning Colony Club is a destination you will never want to leave. The palm-fringed beach is postcard-perfect; the sea glints under the Caribbean sun and every guest is treated like a VIP as they're greeted with a bottle of the hotel's own rum punch on arrival and looked after by the dedicated beach and pool ambassadors. Devotees love this property for its timeless sophistication, relaxed atmosphere and delicate sprinkling of modernity. Colony Club can also be action-packed, which is great for those with teenagers in tow. There's an array of complimentary watersports, yoga, tennis, snorkel safaris, cooking demos and excursions galore. The suites tick every box, decked with lots of mahogany, marble, billowing white cotton and Ren bath products. Foodies also flock here for a number of reasons, The Bait to Plate dinner excursion will have you fishing for your supper; your catch-of-the-day will then be filleted and served with a fiery sauce and fresh produce from the hotel's organic vegetable and herb garden. The Laguna Restaurant and Lounge is a real hub, as the menus are inspired by the seasons and as well as complimentary breakfast there's a choice of themed evenings including lobster night and lots of music - think jazz, steel-pans and sometimes a saxophonist.