Come on board and head to Barbados
- Credit: Winter Park Photography
It was another stunning morning in the Caribbean, and former Olympic windsurfer O’Neal Marshall had a spring in his step.
“Barbados, my home!” he proclaimed, while holding his arms in the air like he had just won another competition.
The two of us were out for an early jog along Maxwell Beach, and although I was drenched in sweat and feeling the burn in my legs, the sight of the sun rising above Freights Bay gave me renewed energy.
After spending a week on the island of Barbados, it's easy to see why Bajans like O’Neal are so full of life.
Travelling to Barbados is now easier than it has been for a while.
Aer Lingus have introduced a new direct service from Manchester to join the existing Virgin Atlantic schedule from the city and London Heathrow, while the arrival PCR-pending quarantine has also been scrapped for arriving double-jabbed tourists, meaning you now only need to take a ‘fit-to-fly’ PCR 72 hours before departure.
There is also talk that the 9pm curfew on the island will soon come to an end.
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Getting around Barbados is also very easy. The notoriously fun Reggae Buses are plentiful, while taxis are reasonably priced – Esline from Prestige Tours will happily arrange transportation for your entire stay.
After one of their drivers, Julian, picked me up from the Grantley Adams Airport, I was whisked away to Sea Breeze Beach House.
The all-inclusive resort in the Christ Church area is considered one of the best on the island, and I was lucky enough to wake up every morning with views of the blindingly white sandy beaches and the “you have to see it to believe it” turquoise water.
Sea Breeze has three swimming pools, watersports facilities and a kids’ club, as well as four restaurants and six bars, ranging from the Rum Shop and Tipsy on the Beach where you can sit in your swimwear and flip flops and enjoy a cooling cocktail or Banks beer, or the Aqua Terra clifftop restaurant with its succulent seafood and steaks, and Mahogany Lounge, which serves up Barbados cuisine with a twist.
The day after flying in, I was booked in for an in-room Body Harmony massage with Ahfeeyah from Reflections Spa – just the job to cure my aches and pains following my workout with O’Neal.
Although the hotel is ideal for long lazy days on the beach, you are missing out if you don't experience some of the other island gems.
I had round of golf at Barbados Golf Club in Durants, went for walk at Coco Hills, an unspoilt area of tranquillity in St Joseph in the centre of Barbados, and got in the saddle for mountain bike ride organised by Bike Caribbean.
There are reportedly 12,000 rum shops scattered across the island, and as I’d already drank an endless supply of punches and sours, I wanted to find out more about the spirit.
The perfect place to do that is the Mount Gay Visitors’ Centre in Bridgetown which runs tasting sessions as well as tours explaining how Barbados became the birthplace of rum.
Meanwhile, if you fancy even more of the drink, over at the Colony Club’s Rum Vault, a resident rum ambassador and chef pair each food course with a cocktail before a tasting flight.
Arguably the island’s most famous tourist hotspot is the Friday night fish fry at Oistins.
Although the food is the main draw – I had a delicious piece of fried marlin, with rice, salad and sweet potato – there is also a great atmosphere as the locals enjoy the live entertainment.
One thing I did notice at Oistins is that everyone seems to know each other in Barbados.
O’Neal is a good example. He is a bit of a local celebrity, and these days makes a living teaching watersports.
He showed me around some of the island's main surfing spots, before we drove up to Surfer’s Point for a lesson.
After being wiped out and bailing a couple of dozen times, I started to get the hang of it and with O’Neal shouting encouragement, I managed to ride a few of the waves.
"You're a surfer dude now, Richard!" he said with a smile.
I think that might be a stretch, but as O’Neal implied during our run, everything seems more enjoyable, whether it be running, golfing, biking, or riding the waves, in this Caribbean paradise.
Virgin Holidays offer seven nights at Sea Breeze Beach House in Barbados from £1,685 per person based on two sharing a Classic Poolside Garden Room on an all-inclusive basis, including direct flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow to Bridgetown and transfers.
Price is based on departures on December 6 and subject to change. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book, go to virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 557 3859.
For more information on Sea Breeze Beach House and O2 Beach Club & Spa, visit oceanhotelsbarbados.com
To find out more about holidays in Barbados, visit visitbarbados.org