Barbados: Spicy, Cultured, Caribbean

St. Lawrence Gap festivities
St. Lawrence Gap festivities

One word kept coming to mind while exploring the group experiences in Barbados—spicy. There are the vivacious people infusing island spirit into every experience, and the colorful Carnival-style costumes that musicians wear in the clubs/restaurants. Most of all, the Barbadian cuisine is intoxicating, featuring piquant dishes like blackened flying fish and seared scallops atop basmati rice.

This is the only Zagat-rated island in the Caribbean, serving food that’s a “key ingredient in the Barbados experience,” says Peter Mayers, Business Development Manager with the Barbados Tourism Authority.

Our DMC on this trip, West Indian International Tours, offers a variety of island experiences, like the “Palette Teaser” dinner excursion to three upscale restaurants. The headliner is George Washington House, the only residence of an American President outside the States. The colonial-style plantation house features several excerpts from Washington’s personal diary and some of the original furniture dating back as early as 1751. Groups up to 500 guests can reserve a private dinner and pre-dinner cocktail party illuminated solely by candlelight.

Other participating restaurants include Pisces and Tapas. These two upscale eateries are located in the St. Lawrence Gap area on the southeastern coast, a hot spot for visitors packed with vibrant nightlife minutes from the island’s trendiest hotels.

Located in the capital of Bridgetown, Mount Gay Visitors Centre is just a few minutes away from many of the island’s legacy hotels on the west coast. Our group quickly bonded while enjoying the island’s finest rum concoctions, after touring the factory to see the fermentation processing of “the rum that invented rum.” After the tasting session, we enjoyed a traditional Barbadian lunch buffet on the verandah restaurant while a local “wukking” band danced through the aisles, encouraging us to join in. Groups up to 180 people can participate by alternating between rum sampling, lunch and the tour.

We highly recommend the Island Safari Tour for groups up to 120 guests, with 10 people in 12 jeeps. Our tour guide Ian reinforced the island’s peppery ambience by telling our group, “If you like spice, you’ll digest me well.” All of the guides’ good natured spirits added to the overall group experience.

We went racing into forests, charged down verdant hills and slowed almost to a stop while weaving in and out of bucolic rural towns. We also stopped for lunch at the gorgeous Sandy Lane Golf Club, one of the Caribbean’s most exclusive golf resorts. Most exquisite were the ocean views overlooking the rugged cliffs and thunderous waves of Little Bay on the north coast and the quiet shoals and placid seas on the west coast.

Located on the island’s southwestern tip, the 350-room Hilton Barbados overlooks two of Barbados’ most beautiful beach coves near the capital. Right outside the beachfront rooms, there’s an endless array of watersports. One man was actually parasailing just outside my balcony! The guestrooms feature a clean, contemporary tropical design while the public spaces exude newness and efficiency in every detail.

Barbadian pop singer Rihanna held the launch party for her inaugural CD on the grounds of Ft. Charles, an English Naval fortress located on-property. Other corporations like Disney have used the landmark for parties and cocktail receptions too. For larger meetings, the Hilton features the most extensive facilities in Barbados, with 10,000 sf of indoor space and a prefunction area opening out into the Caribbean splendor.