So many of my readers point out that 95% of my vacations or trips revolve around beaches, and they’re absolutely correct. While we rarely escape Ontario during the summer months, when November rolls around, we love trading frigid walks to Lake Ontario for sunset beach strolls in the Caribbean. We have an on-going bucket list of islands we’ve been meaning to get to and we were so lucky to have crossed Barbados off our list thanks to a recent hosted visit with Air Canada Vacations and Barbados Tourism Board.
Our travel experience was seamless with Air Canada Vacations
. Some of the perks we personally enjoyed were the complimentary checked bag per passenger (which is included when you book a vacation package with them) and the generous carry-on weight limit (cough, cough where you hide your shoes, hair tools, accessories and more hehe). Now that Air Canada offers daily non-stop flights from Toronto to Barbados and 3 direct flights a week from Montreal during the winter season, jet setting has never been easier. The island is about a 5 hour flight from Toronto but being that it’s much southern than other islands, the weather is favourable for the winter season.
One thing both Adam and I appreciated was how speedy the customs process was at the airport. There’s nothing more draining than flying to a destination and spending 45-60 minutes in line clearing customs but within 15 minutes and multiple planes arriving, we had cleared customs and collected our bags after we landed. Greeted with a cold towel and a chilled bottle of water from the Air Canada Vacations kiosk, we then boarded our shuttle to the hotel (a complimentary service for those who book a vacation package with them).
A Seaside Stay
As we made our way through South Coast we then pulled into an unassuming driveway tucked on the beach. We jumped out of the van, loaded up our luggage and walked around the fence to find our jaws on the floor. Situated on the beach, the Sea Breeze Beach House by Oceans Hotels was a stunning property that immediately made you feel welcome. As we approached, we noticed old pals enjoying rum punch at the Rum Shop, couples playing games in the common areas and families running to the beach to catch the sunset.
Having recently undergone a 10 million dollar renovation, the property boasts the Caribbean coastal inspiration you come to expect but also has a chic, modern edge that stands out amongst other properties in the area. The resort is an all-inclusive property – something that isn’t as common on the island but is a refreshing take on vacationing in Barbados. With multiple restaurants on site ranging from a-la carte to buffet to seaside, there are various options for travellers and families.
While we chose to spend most of our free time sitting on the loungers by the beach (there’s over 1000 feet of beach access), the property does feature three pools, an adults only jacuzzi, daily entertainment, water-sports, a gym and much more. The staff consistently went above and beyond to ensure you had everything you needed, often asking if there was anything else they could do and of course, if we needed another cocktail :)
Greeted with a chilled rum punch (you’ll notice there’s a theme here), we were then taken to our bedroom which was a sight for sore eyes. A newly renovated space equipped with a double door closet, desk, oversized bathroom and a walkout patio that sat right on the water was just the feeling you want after a day of travelling. Seeing so much of the island and getting to experience the culture was fantastic, but a morning coffee (from your own Keurig machine) on the patio was the R&R we were looking for.
The Sea Breeze Beach House by Ocean Hotels is just one of the many hotels you can book with Air Canada Vacations
Things to Note
The currency of Barbados is the Barbadian Dollar and was valued at about .50% to the American dollar when we visited. We exchanged our USD for Barbadian currency but did notice many tourists and locals using American currency without any problems. Camouflage clothing is not permitted on the island nor are drones. While it was not something we were concerned with ahead of our travels, it’s worth noting the island is incredibly safe and the locals are incredibly friendly when we were with the group and travelling solo.
Getting Around the Island
We were lucky enough to have a driver escort us around the island as we visited the various coast’s and experiences. We learned that while renting a car is an option (be prepared they drive on the opposite side of the road), the public transportation system is efficient and clearly marked for tourists. Hiring a driver for even 1-2 days of your stay is another option to see more of the island in a shorter period of time.
Sights to See
We explored various sights, cultural experiences and more during our visit. I’ve recapped some of our favourites below that are worth visiting for your next visit to the island.
Mount Gay Rum Distillery: This distillery is an institution in Barbados and known around the world. Whether you know it or not, you’ve likely had a cocktail or two with one of their rum variants in it. The tasting experience was energetic, educational and of course – there was rum. We personally loved the XO collection and found ourselves requesting it at bars throughout our stay.
St. Nicholas Abbey: A plantation house, this modern museum also features its own on-site rum distillery. You can book a tour through the house and marvel at the original fixtures and then sip on some of their unique flavoured rum.
Rihanna Drive: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re surely aware Rihanna is from Barbados. What you may not know is her childhood street has been renamed to Rihanna Drive where tourists can pass along and get a glimpse at the house she grew up in.
Experience South Coast: At the hub of it all, South Coast has something for everyone. The main street is lined with bars, restaurants, beach access and more. There’s also duty free shopping and drop off spots for public transportation and more. There are also a variety of boutique hotels and resorts such as Sandals based in this area if you’re interested in an all-inclusive stay but looking to explore local culture without needing to rent a car.
Explore the West Coast: One of my personal favourite spots of the island, the West Coast is a luxurious hub home to 5-star properties, seaside restaurants, boutique shops and more. The infamous Sandy Lane property is also in this hub with a rich history of hosting rockstars, celebrities and other influential folk.
Catamaran Tour: A personal fav, we experienced a catamaran tour from the West Coast to the South Coast. We were picked up from a restaurant on the West Coast (Sea Shed) and had a guided tour – with cocktails – as the captain pointed out hotels, notable homes, regions and more on the ocean. Sadly, the weather didn’t permit, but we were scheduled to snorkel with sea turtles which is supposed to be an amazing experience off the coast.
Cheapside Market Tour with Chef Craig Greenidge: A few meals into our Bajan experience, we were thrilled to tour the local farmers market with chef, Craig Greenidge. From carefully selecting vegetables to heading to the fish market for our preferred choice of catch that day, we were then whisked off to the Oceans Two Resort where he prepared our finds for an intimate lunch. This was such a special experience and a great way to learn about local foods, cooking techniques and more.
While we only had the chance to explore the beach by the Sea Breeze Beach House, we were able to get a glimpse from the catamaran tour of other coastal beaches. Having been to other islands in the Caribbean as well as Mexico, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the beaches of Barbados are the calmest, clearest and most picturesque we’ve seen to date.
Where to Dine
Sweetfield Manor Boutique Hotel:
The multi-course dinner here was like no other. Situated under a pergola with twinkle lights and swings on the exterior, it was the most peaceful setting for a scrumptious dinner.
Oceans Two Resort: A sister property to Sea Breeze Beach House, we had the pleasure of dining here one night to try a local dish: breadfruit bowls. It was a treat getting to watch your meal being prepared seaside.
Sea Shed: Hands down – my favourite restaurant of all! Located on the West Coast, this St. Tropez inspired restaurant is known for their wood-burning oven pizzas, rose options and incredible views of the beach. WIth beach umbrellas and loungers on site, you can mosey on down to the water after your lunch.
Oistin’s Fish Fry: This is an institution on the island and any local, expat or tourist who’s been will tell you to visit. With Friday being the busiest night, pull up a chair with local chefs who are serving up swordfish, Mahi-mahi and other options alongside macaroni pie and the tastiest coleslaw. Don’t forget to try the Banks beer!
Dining Experience with Chef Damien Leach at Strong Hope Plantation: On our final evening, we had the pleasure to explore the Strong Hope Plantation while dining on a multi course meal from acclaimed chef, Damien Leach. From breadfruit bowls to piggy tails and more, it was an incredible feast and of course – the rum paired cocktails for each course were to die for!
We’ve had so many friends ask what we thought about the island since our return and we’re beaming every time we can relate our experiences. I personally love the approachable vibe of the island and the fact that there is something for everyone. If you’re seeking a luxurious vacation, the West Coast has plenty to offer, for those seeking adventure, the South Coast is lively and features resorts ranging from 3 to 5 stars and so many dining options. The sights are stunning, the beaches are the most beautiful in the world, the cuisine is untouchable and the plane ride home will be your biggest regret. We’ll definitely be back!
To book your next vacation to Barbados, visit Air Canada Vacations for more info.