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If Martinique is a slice of France, and Curacao showcases a southerly version of the Netherlands, then Barbados represents the Caribbean’s most irrefutable link to the spirit of Britain. A cordial English disposition thrives, reflected in the afternoon tea served at upscale resorts, in the local passion for brisk walks along rolling green hills and in games of polo and cricket that are played regularly.
But the island melds the traditions of both English colonists and the African culture of former slaves, and Bajans — as they call themselves — are fiercely proud of this Anglo-African heritage. That afternoon tea may be served against a backdrop of rhythms imported from Africa two centuries ago, and the typical Barbados menu includes such items as cou cou, a cornmeal and okra porridge, and jug jug, a dish of guinea corn and green peas.
The best of the small hotels and resorts lining the island’s sandy coasts manage to embody a sophisticated demeanor as well as incorporate the local culture into offerings. And many of these establishments are still locally- and family-owned.
“There are still not very many chain hotels in Barbados,” said Melissa DeFreitas, sales and marketing coordinator for Sea Breeze Beach House, a hotel owned by Peter DeFreitas, her father who was raised in Barbados. “Especially on the south coast, families established these small hotels to become involved in the tourism industry.”
And DeFreitas says that has been the secret of success for Sea Breeze Beach Club, a 122-room, all-inclusive hotel located on the island’s bustling, beach-lined south coast.
“I think many of our guests are looking for a unique, personalized vacation — not a cookie-cutter experience where you’re a number in a queue,” DeFreitas said. “Our guests leave feeling like family. We have some who have been coming here for more than 15 years. They keep coming back because they love the staff — they’re almost ingrained in the hotels.”
The DeFreitas family owns three hotels in Barbados, including Ocean Two Resort & Residences and South Beach by Ocean Hotels, two EP operations also found on the south coast. But the spotlight currently shines on Sea Breeze Beach Club, which, in September, completed an extensive, $9 million renovation and remodel of the property and guestrooms, and added a 44-room Mahogany Wing that features beautifully appointed oceanfront junior suites.
Decor is light, fresh and unpretentious, incorporating local artists and the colors of the cerulean sea just beyond. Also unique is the Mahogany Wing, which has two-, three- and four-bedroom suites, thus making the hotel ideal for families and relative to most of the island’s all-inclusive options. Notably, Sea Breeze Beach Club does not charge for the first child under age 11 staying in a room; it also has other family-friendly offers, especially in summer months.
For a modestly sized operation, Sea Breeze Beach Club has many dining options: five restaurants, all but one of which offers an a la carte menu. At De Rum Shop — styled after the tiny chattel houses (movable wooden houses) that were once wheeled from one sugar cane field to another — guests enjoy Bajan fare and learn how to slam dominoes alongside a bottle of Banks beer.
The beach here is decent, though not the island’s finest. But it’s easy to catch one of the “reggae buses” that ply Maxwell Coast Road every 5 minutes. They provide easy access to Barbados’ luminous west coast beaches, the festive Oistins Fish Fry and Bridgetown for souvenirs.
DeFreitas did note that Hyatt, Wyndham and Beaches resorts are not far off in Barbados’ future.
That’s OK. For those of us who want an undiluted sense of Caribbean island style and a warm, family welcome, we’ll have Sea Breeze Beach House.
The DetailsSea Breeze Beach House on Barbadoswww.sea-breeze.com