January is usually a pretty miserable month with the festive season over and the winter weather feeling like a relentlessly chilly and grim slog. So HELLO! Online decided to ditch the January blues and head off to sunnier climates. Teaming up with Virgin Holidays to celebrate the launch of their new rum Holiday Spirit, we joined them on a rum-soaked Caribbean adventure to Barbados – scroll below to see what we discovered…
For starters, Barbados isn't just for honeymoons and weddings. Admittedly there was a couple celebrating their engagement at our hotel, but the island is teeming with adventure which is perfect for family or friends to visit. The best way to take a tour of this tropical paradise? A bouncy ride in a jeep! We were lucky enough to meet Junior, a fun-loving driver who clearly loved the island as much as he did talking, and imparted gems of wisdom that kept us laughing throughout the trip, including invaluable information about the wildlife of the island.
We had a stunning view of the ocean during our jeep ride
We discovered said wildlife after taking a glorious sunset catamaran trip with adventure gurus Seaduced. While sitting on the tarpaulin of the boat and jetting across the clear blue sea is thrilling enough, the adventure got even better when we donned snorkels and flippers and searched for turtles – and we weren't disappointed! One swam right up to us and was christened Shelby before swimming off on her merry way, unaware she had made our evening.
We also explored the natural beauty of the island by visiting Harrison's Cave, an immense limestone cavern which you visit via tram, taking a trip over a hundred meters underground to see the incredible streams, waterfalls, stalagmites and stalactites. We then stopped by iconic botanical gardens 'Hunte's Gardens' and can safely say that this isn't simply meant for keen horticulturists. The garden, made up of several layers, is filled with hidden nooks and crannies in the centre of Barbados' rainforest, ultimately making you feel like you're stepping into a tropical The Secret Garden.
We enjoyed the hotel's facilities including several swimming pools and watersports
Barbados isn't ALL about its breathtaking landscapes. Of course the island is lush with greenery and teeming with stunning white beaches and calm blue waters, but if you're a thrill seeker you might just be after a little more action – and our hotel, Crystal Cove, offers some great watersports!
When we say watersports, we mean climbing into a huge rubber ring and holding on for dear life as a speedboat jets you and a friend across the water. Although we may have woken up the island with our screams, the injection of adrenaline was just what we needed before a dozing afternoon in the sun.
For everyone who wants to find out more about the history of the island – more specifically the history of rum on the island - Mount Gay, Foursquare Distillery and St Nicholas Abbey are great places to start. Rum is what Barbados is famous for – and why Virgin Holidays has decided to design a new blend of rum – Holiday Spirit – which aims to help capture the magic of that holiday feeling.
Holiday Spirit was blended to recreate that holiday feeling
At Mount Gay we were shown around by a hilarious tour guide named Chonce who made the visit unforgettable, while at Foursquare we took part in a tasting session with the help of bartender Deborah, who turned the tasting into a part guessing game, part nature watch (we'd spotted some monkeys outside). Finally, St Nicholas Abbey is a plantation with a 350-year history - and we even discovered Benedict Cumberbatch's ancestors once lived there!
WHERE TO EAT
We were lucky enough to try some of the most beautiful restaurants Barbados has to offer, and enjoyed huge dinners at Primo Bar and Bistro, whose choice of local dishes along with classics had us savouring every mouthful. We also were treated to a night out at Cin Cin By The Sea, a restaurant which not only is situated right next to the ocean, but which had us filling up on their frankly AMAZING pork buns before we were even given mains. Art fans will want to visit the gorgeous Champers for a spot of lunch, which doubles up as an art gallery showcasing the incredible local talent.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels, and fully intend to stay there again if we should ever return to the island. The setting reminds you of a small seaside town, complete with picturesque villas and sweet gift shops.
There are several swimming pools along with a poolside bar (which is under a waterfall), with two restaurants. As a bonus, the hotel is right next to the beach, so visitors can relax in the sun less than a minute's walk from their hotel room.
Our accommodation at Crystal Cove
With Virgin Holidays, seven nights with all-inclusive accommodation with flights and transfers is £1,432 pp.