Barbados made history last year when it removed the Queen as head of state and swore in its first president, and while the nation has transitioned to self-government, the monarch said the “beautiful country” would “always have a special place” in her heart.
It goes without saying that the Caribbean island is always worth a visit (postcard-worthy sunsets, rum punch, and sand between your toes kicks off the list!), but during such a pivotal moment in time, what better reason to book a flight to the recent republic? We’ve already sorted your itinerary…
READ: Kate Middleton's travel essentials: 7 tips for travelling like a royal
So the question is - do you prefer the pool or beach?
Where to stay in Barbados
I stayed at O2 Beach Club & Spa in the Christ Church parish of the island, a stone's throw from their capital, Bridgetown, and facing the south coast beach from my bedroom window.
Nobody wants anything less than luxury after an eight-hour flight, and the second I arrived, I knew I was in for a treat; the rooms are sunny and spacious, and unlike many upmarket resorts, were full of character, all holding different pieces of art, purely local to the island (from both established and up-and-coming artists).
READ: What do the royals eat when they travel first class?
While some art-gallery inspired corners felt very unique, it still held everything I was looking for in a five-star Caribbean beach resort: bright sun loungers, attentive staff topping up my chilled rosé, and a chic sky-high spa, where I was lucky enough to enjoy a massage to fully loosen my limbs (before the rum punch did it first!).
The rooms were breezy and beautiful
SHOP: 21 things you need for a day at the beach! From stylish cool bags to portable speakers & pineapple pool floats
The food and drink selection was excellent, from a breezy golden-hour cocktail at Brisa to fine-dining at Oro and the buffet at Elements, we fully ate and drank our way through the all-inclusive selection in between swims and sightseeing. Elements was situated in the centre of the resort, and changed themes each day (I’m pretty sure their Mexican feast prompted me to go up for thirds).
For breakfast, I usually prefer a full English, which they served up alongside fresh fruit and omelettes made to order. However, as the week went on and my tongue was thoroughly sweetened by rum punch, I opted for their French toast with berries and syrup, which always set me up for a day of exploring!
The spa is a must-visit to wind down before a week of relaxing!
I stayed in the Luxury Ocean View Junior Suite, which was adult only, making it perfect for honeymoons, retired couples or girls’ holidays to enjoy the chilled music and swim-up bars, but the concierge collection can sleep up to five guests if you want to go with your children. They could open connecting doors to each other and had kitchens for a family home-from-home experience (just ask in advance, and they’ll fill the fridge with whatever you like!).
MORE: The best holiday destinations to go on with toddlers and babies
What to do in Barbados?
Tearing myself away from the signature pink and orange sun loungers of O2 Beach Club was tricky, but I couldn’t have my only memories (and holiday photo album!) as just a bottle of Minuty by the beach. Here’s what I got up to…
Walk beneath history at Harrisons Cave
It may seem counterproductive going to the Caribbean for sunshine and swapping your sun hat for a hard hat to delve into a 2.3km ancient cave when you get there… but I promise this is worth a visit! A true natural wonder, Harrisons Cave is full of crystal clear streams, underground caverns, and stalactites and stalagmites (don’t make me tell you which is which).
Take a tram tour through the caves, which stops at various openings and waterfalls, allowing you to quite literally step into thousands of years of natural history.
Approximately £42.00 per person for the Signature Tram Tour HarrisonsCave.com
MORE: Meghan Markle's go-to luggage brand has just added a GENIUS twist for beach lovers
From barrels to cocktails - you'll learn everything about the Caribbean spirit in Barbados
As rum punches were pushed into our hands at every opportunity (to which we enthusiastically responded ‘when in Rome!’), it only made sense to learn more about where the spirit comes from, so we took a trip to St Nicholas Abbey.
We boarded the heritage railway, hearing about the Abbey’s 350-year history of ‘murder, love, and intrigue’, stopping off to see the distilling barrels and eventually making our way to the Great House, previously owned by the Cumberbatch family (yes, the Cumberbatch family - and you’ll see the resemblance to Benedict if you look at the portraits!). We saw how the bottles are manufactured now under new ownership, and of course tasted a sip of the award-winning Barbados aged rum itself.
Approximately £30.00 per person (£11 for children) for the Historic Home, Rum Tasting and Railway Experience. Children obviously not entitled to rum tasting portion. stnicholasabbey.com
Stand where a star was made by visiting Rihanna Drive!
Perhaps the most famous Bajan on the planet, Rihanna holds a special place in the hearts of all Barbados citizens. The story of an island-girl turning into a multi-platinum singer and billionaire businesswoman is immortalised on the street where the star grew up, and any fan should take a detour on their sight-seeing trip to see the home she shared with her mother.
Rihanna gave thousands of dollars worth of ventilators to Barbados, and donated another $2,100,000 to provide support for people and children suffering from domestic violence during lockdown.
RELATED: Cruises are the hot holiday ticket of 2022 - here's where to go on one
Don't just take home a sandy suitcase, take home a memory you made yourself!
Paint on the beach
O2 Beach Club appoints guests ‘Experience Ambassadors’ for the duration of your trip for a truly personal holiday plan, and they organised a ‘paint on the beach’ session for us. Here’s my take: if you think you’re a bad artist, it’s just because you’ve never picked up a paintbrush with sand between your toes and surrounded by the vivid blue and yellow tones of the beach. Turns out, we all feel a little more creative in the Caribbean (perhaps it was from all the local art in the hotel… or the local beer at lunch!), and took home a sunset painting to remind us of our stay.
MORE: 7 best holiday destinations to travel like the Beckhams
For more hotel information, visit www.O2beachclubbarbados.com
For more information about what to see and do on the island, visit www.visitbarbados.org
Book O2 Beach Club & Spa now via booking.com