I have travelled to the Caribbean many times and yet with each visit, I feel that I have learnt something new and intriguing about these alluring sun-kissed islands. On this trip, we were lucky enough to stay on both Barbados and The Grenadines – a pairing that I would go so far as to say is the perfect Caribbean combination.
Barbados - so-renowned for its veil of celebrity - has an infectious vibe and sophisticated Caribbean chic entwined with such a welcoming ambience, that I immediately feel myself beginning to relax from the moment our plane touches down.
Our first stop is The House, a small and intimate hotel on the revered Platinum Coast. There is a true sense of arrival at this hotel - especially at night, when fire torches line the entrance, and this special ambience continues out onto the cosy and welcoming decking area. This is the perfect spot to enjoy the delicious complimentary canapés with an aperitif as dusk turns to night and the glow of the lanterns cast an ethereal and exotic glow. Directly opposite The House you will find Scarlet - a cool and contemporary cocktail bar and restaurant. This is a 'must-visit' but make sure you book - especially on a Saturday night when free tables are scarce, even if you only wish to sit down to sample one of the exquisite cocktails. The Mango Mist comes highly recommended.
We arrived at the Colony Club just in time for the Sunday Brunch - this is quite the event and definitely worth experiencing. Locals and guests both indulge in the expansive spread on offer - it made us smile that there was even roast beef and Yorkshire puddings available alongside a magnificent array of food. The atmosphere is animated and lively, helped along by a fun steel band.
We stayed in one of the newly renovated Ocean View One Bedroom Suites. Beautiful interiors are almost a given following the renovation of these accommodations, but it was the little personal touches that really made a difference. These suites come with a scent diffuser, and the ylang ylang fragrance that fills the air is beautiful. Another gift for guests in these rooms is the complimentary bottles of Champagne and rum punch. And this punch isn't just any old rum punch, this is Colony Club's own blend, which makes it a nice keep-sake - that is if you can stop yourself from enjoying a glass watching the sun set from the day bed on your spacious balcony. An additional treat to be enjoyed if you stay in the Ocean View One Bedroom Suites are the pre-dinner canapés that are delivered to your room - tasty little appetisers that were washed down perfectly with the chilled complimentary champagne. A real treat.
Yoga mats are provided in each room along with a dedicated yoga channel, which is great should you feel the urge to burn off some of the calorific indulgences of food and drink! Colony Club also provide an array of complimentary tours - both land and sea-based. Take a guided snorkelling tour at Folkestone Water Park or a Stand-up Paddle Turtle Tour; you can also enjoy a guided Garden Walk Tour around the beautiful and lush vegetation of Colony Club's grounds. The hotel also provides transport to the renowned Oistin's Fish Fry on Friday nights. This is a not-to-be-missed chance to get a true taste of Barbados where millionaires rub shoulders with locals and the atmosphere is one of true Caribbean exuberance.
Next on our tour of the island, is The Fairmont Royal Pavilion, and my personal favourite. All rooms here are ocean-front, and I can highly recommend the Beachfront Junior Suites, where you can enjoy complimentary canapés on your spacious outdoor terrace, whilst every whim is catered for by your own personal butler. Guests staying in these suites also benefit from a VIP airport greeting which is a lovely start to your holiday in Barbados.
The Fairmont Royal Pavilion is also well located for Lone Star, one of the islands most well-renowned and highly reputable restaurants and, after a full refurbishment, it looks fantastic. The food also definitely matches up to the exquisite level of the décor. Another insider tip is to visit JuJu's - a simple and laid-back bar, perfect to visit for an ice cold beer at sunset and kick-back and relax.
Our last stop was the ultra-luxe and ultra-celebrated Sandy Lane. An institution amongst luxury hotels of the Caribbean, this resort continues to indulge. With seamless service provided from start to finish, I really did feel like royalty from the minute we swept down the drive and into the grand and impressive, yet welcoming, entrance of this hotel. And the staff at Sandy Lane are truly exceptional, always willing to go the extra mile to make a difference to your holiday.
We had lunch at Bajan Blue - a relaxed beachfront restaurant offering all-day dining with a convivial atmosphere. I decided to sample the Curried Chicken Roti. Served with basmati rice and sides of mango chutney and Bajan pepper sauce, it was absolutely delicious. I felt as though I was eating a little slice of Barbados sunshine on a plate!.
Following an afternoon enjoying the beautiful white sand beach and basking in the Caribbean sun, we headed to the Spa, for a Sandy Lane Signature Body Massage. And what an exceptional indulgence it was. Stepping into the spa is like stepping into a cocoon - low lighting, gentle music and the sound of water gently cascading over stone surround you. You can feel yourself immediately begin to unwind. For my massage I was able to choose between 'Sunrise' and 'Sunset' treatment oils - with their focus being rejuvenation or relaxation respectively. Knowing that we were going out for a meal later that evening, I chose Sunrise. This was a truly pampering treat and I left my treatment room feeling as though I was walking on air. The facilities available in the spa are wonderful. There is a wet area, sauna, rassoul, 'experience showers' and a relaxation room; all of which really do mean that you can relax and rejuvenate before, during and after your treatment.
We all floated back to our rooms after our massages, but rushed to get ready for our evening - we were going up to the Country Club to enjoy cocktails whilst watching the sunset. And what an utterly captivating and breathtaking vantage point to watch the sky dissolve from the brightest tropical azure blue and cascade down through the full spectrum of oranges and pinks before melting into the dusky purple of twilight. The views over the hills of the course really are something special and I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to watch nature's display from this vantage point with a delicious Bajan rum punch in hand. These are precious memories.
It was with regret that we had to leave this enclave of luxurious extravagance, but even at the end of our stay, the exceptional service continued. As our luggage was loaded into our waiting car for the trip to the airport, we noticed that each item had a leather luggage label attached to it in the fuchsia pink shade that is so synonymous with Sandy Lane. On closer inspection, we realised that each label had been embossed with our initials. Just a small memento, a mere token of a keepsake, but a big indication of the importance placed on ensuring that each guest feels cossetted and special.
From the 'see and be seen' glitz and glamour of Barbados, we boarded our twin prop plane and took the short hop across the cerulean blue seas and atolls below to the tranquil beauty of the Grenadines. These islands really are the ultimate hideaway retreat.
The Cotton House on impossibly glamorous Mustique was our first stop. The setting of this hotel is mesmerising and the views from the rooms really do take your breath away. Every Tuesday the General Manager of The Cotton House hosts a cocktail party in the Great Hall and this has become quite the social occasion on the island. Guests can rub shoulders with residents and villa owners of Mustique as delicious canapés are passed round and a pianist plays. Such a lovely atmosphere infuses the air - a true island spirit as everyone relaxes into the friendly and inclusive ambience.
Venturing out to explore the island is a definite must-do - you may even bump into Star, Mick Jagger's dog - an island celebrity in her own right! Britannia Bay is a lovely little town - look out for the Sweetie Pie Bakery, the 'Tardis' that is the General Store and Basil's Bar where you can swing to the beat of the Blues or enjoy superb Jazz music. .
From Mustique, we caught a private charter flight and then a scenic boat trip to Petit St Vincent. From the minute we arrived I truly fell in love with the place - there is a real sense of exclusivity and castaway-chic. You could lose your shoes when you arrive on the island and not need them again until the second you leave. The cottages here are so spacious, each has its own sitting room and large terrace with a hammock and loungers out at the front. Our room had direct beach access, and I felt it was like having my very own piece of Caribbean beach at my disposal. You will find a jar of homemade cookies nestling in amongst the tea and coffee facilities - and they are delicious and incredibly moreish!
This away-from-it-all level of privacy makes this resort an idyllic honeymoon destination, but I would highly recommend this beautiful island escape to anyone - it was far and away my favourite hotel on the entire trip.
The beauty of this resort is that you can be in splendid isolation and yet still have your every whim catered to. They operate a 'flag' system whereby you fill in one of the numerous forms to outline your requirements, whether it be early morning coffee, an ice cold beer or a lunch request - post your form in your bamboo post box, and then raise your yellow flag. Your order will be picked up and dealt with and delivered to you as quickly as possible.
Too soon our tour of these magnificent islands came to an end and we were on our way home. The vibrancy and sophisticated chic of Barbados, I feel, provides the perfect foil to the tranquil beauty and laid-back calm of the Grenadines. In my opinion, they are the perfect Caribbean combination and I am already looking forward to being able to visit these island gems again.