GOING THE EXTRA ISLE
EMILIA BONA MAKES THE MOST OF HER FIRST TRIP TO BARBADOS BY HOPPING OVER TO GRENADA FOR AN EXTRA SLICE OF CARIBBEAN PARADISE
OISTIN’S fish fry is buzzing. Laughter fills the warm evening air as a calypso band strikes up a tune on the nearest street corner. Laid out in front of me are rows of long trestle tables packed with groups of people drinking rum punch and tucking into teaming plates of freshly caught fish.
It’s a Friday night, and the streets around Oistins are alive.
Nestled on the south coast of Barbados, Oistins is a busy fishing town which encapsulates everything there is to love about the Caribbean.
On weekend nights the town is a hub of activity, as tourists and locals alike descend on the fish fry at Oistins Bay Gardens, where fresh tuna, swordfish and mahi-mahi are cooked on the spot in front of you and served up in an informal setting.
This was my last night in Barbados and it was the perfect ending to a week spent unwinding in absolute paradise. I’d never been anywhere in the Caribbean before, so I hadn’t really known what to expect other than those stock image screensavers of clear blue seas and white sand beaches.
Arriving at the Sandals Barbados resort, I got an immediate introduction to the kind of Caribbean hospitality that would make my trip so special.
Greeted in the hotel lobby by my own personal ‘butler’, I was handed a phone and told to call him for anything I needed during my trip.
From ordering room service to reserving a spot by the pool – or even running a bath ready for my return to the room – the staff at Sandals couldn’t do enough to make you feel at home.
Located in the popular St Lawrence Gap area of the island, Sandals is an adults-only, allinclusive resort that could convert even the most unsentimental singleton into a hopeless romantic.
Pitching itself as the ultimate destination for “two people in love”, the resort is full of loved-up couples, honeymooners and people taking a once-in-a-lifetime anniversary trip together.
Sandals’ luxury resorts are all-inclusive, meaning pretty much everything you could ever want comes included, from unlimited premium drinks to scuba-diving.
The company’s new sister property Sandals Royal Barbados was right next door, meaning you could stay at one resort and take advantage of the fantastic choice of facilities at both.
I barely had time to scratch the surface of the seemingly endless food offerings, with 17 restaurants and 12 bars, including a swim-up bar and a beach bar.
While some couples were rising early to reserve their favourite spot by the pool, I was getting up to make the most of the Spices breakfast buffet, which features an omelette station, fresh local produce and hot plate offerings from around the world.
But one of my favourite parts of the resort was the rooftop bar at the top of Sandals Royal, which has its own infinity pool and some of the most breathtaking sea views you’ll find anywhere on the island.
While everything most of us could ever want comes included, Sandals offers guests the opportunity to pay extra for some added luxury services.
On my last day, I booked myself into the Red Lane Spa to indulge in a 90-minute Raindrop Dreams Massage (£153), a full body aromatherapy massage delivered in a secluded tree-top spa hut.
If, like me, you’ve never been to Barbados, you can’t ask for a better introduction to paradise than an all-day Catamaran cruise around the island, stopping off for lunch plus guided snorkelling sessions in the crystal blue waters. Spotting turtles swimming alongside us in the ocean is a memory that will stay with me for a long time after my tan fades.
The beauty of holidaying in the Caribbean is how easy it can be to hop from one island to another, taking in a totally different destination as part of your trip.
On my virgin voyage to paradise, I took a short plane journey to Grenada, renowned for its spice markets, dark chocolate and marine-protected oceans.
Spanning less than 350 square kilometres and with a population of just over 105,000, Grenada feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Barbados’ beach towns.
The island might seem like a less obvious destination than its more popular Caribbean cousins, but that lends it an air of seclusion and calm that lets you totally unwind.
One thing the two islands do have in common, however, is the spectacular food on offer. After arriving in Grenada, I headed straight to BB’s Crabback – a harbour-front restaurant that’s rumoured to be one of Oprah’s favourites when she’s in town.
Tucking into a perfectly cooked, succulent tuna steak, accompanied by a generous helping of macaroni and cheese (£25) was the ultimate introduction to Grenadian dining. If the fresh fish and home-cooked accompaniments weren’t enough, the restaurant is located in the heart of St George’s harbour, a stunning area of the island lined with colourful businesses and boats.
Sitting looking out on the ocean is bound to entice you out on a boat trip – and there’s no better way to do it than by taking a snorkeling trip to the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park.
I had never been snorkeling before, but once you get into the water it’s easy enough for even a total beginner to get involved.
Resting on the seabed are a set of arresting sculptures. The striking concrete figures are installed along the ocean floor, with depictions of a ring of children holding hands, a solitary musician playing piano and even a sculpture sitting on a bench taking a selfie.
Diving down into the water, surrounded by tropical fish and spectacular sculptures is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s not to be missed.
Tired of all the adventure, the thought of heading back to Sandals Grenada to sink into a ready-run bath laid out for me on the balcony was a very welcome prospect. The luxurious accommodation and incredible food options at the resort are bound to have you rushing home for the night to make the most of what’s on offer.
Butch’s Chophouse is an absolute must and comfortably confirmed itself as my favourite restaurant in the resort. Your choice of steak cooked to absolute perfection, with sides of steamed asparagus, peppercorn sauce and chunky chips to accompany.
The luxurious accommodation, postcard-worthy vistas and incredible hospitality will leave you dreaming of the Caribbean after your flight touches down back in Britain.
Whether you’re after the ultimate in relaxing beach breaks or a week packed with water sports and scuba-diving, there is so much to see and explore on an island hopping trip to paradise.
Fresh tuna, swordfish and mahi-mahi are cooked on the spot in front of you and served in an informal setting... Experiencing Oistons Fish Fry
Emilia takes the plunge on the Tiama Catamaran cruise
View from my balcony at Sandals Grenada
Sandals Grenada occupies a stunning stretch of white sand beach with crystal clear waters
Above: Butch’s Chophouse at Sandals, Grenada. Below: Relax among the treetops at Red Lane Spa in Sandals Royal Barbados