Today’s guest post is from James Bell of Turquoise Holidays, covering an area still high on our bucket list – Barbados!
If challenged to select your ultimate destination for a once in a lifetime luxury holiday, most people would opt for one of the Caribbean islands as a starting point. For those that have visited before, Barbados will almost certainly be high up on that list. Barbados may not have the rhythm of Jamaica or the lush tropical beauty of St Lucia but there is something about the island that keeps you coming back. For a start, Barbados is well established on the gourmet food map. I would challenge anyone to suggest any other islands that are home to so many top restaurants. From the Cliff to Daphne’s (with its sister restaurant in Chelsea), you can enjoy such delights as mouth-watering snapper, spinach and sweet potato mash whilst the waves break along the shore. Along with the fine dining, Barbados would win a Caribbean competition for having the greatest number of covetable hotels. Ranging from private villas ideal for honeymooners to garden cottages or the super luxurious plantation suites, there is something for everyone in Barbados many resorts. My personal top three would certainly feature the following:
Whilst not the swankiest place on the island, it has plenty of character and overall delivers fantastic service that the Caribbean is generally known for. With 40 rooms ranging up to the Colleton suite with its white four poster bed and sun terrace with a fantastic plunge pool, this is a truly a remarkable resort. There is a large freshwater swimming pool and a fantastic bar in the main house where you will be welcomed by the friendly bar staff at any point during the day or night. Cobblers cove overlooks a golden stretch of sand offering free water sports although forget noisy banana boats and jet skis, you will only find kayaking or surfing here. If fine dining is your thing, you may be pleased to know the hotels Terrace Restaurant is one of only five restaurants in the Caribbean invited to join Relais & Chateaux. Pride of the menu is the catch of the day which is supplied by local fisherman and always goes down fantastically.
Coral Reef Club
Along the shoreline and overlooking the same blissful sands and turquoise waters as the Cobblers Cove you will find the renowned Coral Reef Club. The club has a larger, grander feel that welcomes you with its sweeping palm-lined driveway though its 12 acres of tropical grounds. Its 88 rooms are artfully positioned throughout the gardens and along the beach with options from the more basic garden cottages, leading up to a luxury plantation suite that features its own sundeck and private pool. Whilst not generally renowned for its Spas, the Caribbean has delivered a gem at the Coral Reef Club. Housed in its own separate colonial-style building, there’s a lovely swimming pool and four separate treatment rooms where you can experience delights such as lemongrass and ginger massage rub.
Certainly one of the most exclusive hotels in Barbados! This small family run hotel is situated on a glamorous white sandy beach surrounded by crystal clear waters. Much of the appeal of the hotel has to be attributed to Wayne and Karen Capaldi who run it with careful attention to detail but keep the charm and relaxed feel of the island at the forefront of all their activity. Spanning over 48 rooms, ranging from more basic one bedroom suites right up to treetop suites that are housed in 7 acres of beautiful landscaped gardens, the hotel caters for a range of tastes. As with the other great hotels on the island, the food at the Sandpiper is exceptional. With Chef Christophe Poupardin offering delightful food with a Caribbean flair from dinner menus which change many times in the week, the food at the Sandpiper is renowned across the island. The resort also caters for a range of laid back sporting activity, perfect to enjoy during the day before the steel drums and cocktails pull you in. With two championship golf courses nearby, tennis, gym and water sports activities all available, there is something for all the family. The best time to visit Barbados is between December and February where temperatures are warm with a minimal risk of showers. If extreme heat and humidity is not your thing, certainly avoid the summer months from June to August and be aware the hurricane season lasts until October. In short get your timing right and Barbados certainly will be one of the most memorable holidays you will ever experience.
As parents who travel with a toddler, we find that we have to bridge the gap between straight up budget travelers and big spenders. The (literally) cold hard fact is, Cole loves sleeping in a bed that has to be colder than most places that we travel. He doesn’t love clothes, and he doesn’t handle the heat well.
We tried, honestly. There were AC-less bungalows in India and one unfortunate evening in Koh Tao, Thailand. The result is the same – nobody sleeps. We’ve tried fans, we’ve tried no sheets, but without a little bite in the air, Cole just won’t put himself down for very long. It’s not worth the money savings for us to get no sleep, so we pay extra.
The budgets you read about backpackers traveling through the world? We pay a bit more. It’s cool, we don’t mind, but we’re about to undertake a road trip through the US, which is more expensive overall than more well traveled backpack locations. Granted, whatever lodging we find will have standard amenities that are a cut above what you may find in many developing nations, but what if we want to experience a little more? Can we find comfortable hotels for cheap?
Cheap is relative to where you are, of course, but it is possible if you look hard enough. A smart traveler can stretch their US dollars farther if they want, or they can choose to spend those dollars on upgrades others can’t find. Given all of those wise words, I will state that we are not always the smartest travelers.
We might be, however, the most comfortable.
photo by johanohrling
If you’re like me, you have a curiosity for the different. After attending a family wedding and vacation combo on Maui, most of our group departed for home and two of us decided to take a trip to Molokai, the least visited island in the state. Considering Hawaii has over seven million visitors each year, and only about 1% of them make it over to Molokai, this sounded like an interesting adventure. But why do so few people go there, I wondered. I began to ask around and the general consensus was that it wasn’t glam enough. No big hotels with swim-up bars and water slides. No expensive luaus tailor made for tourist palates. It’s a little bit dusty and rough at the edges. And it is the last place where old Hawaii flavor still exists. Oh, and the Molokai residents are against big business invading their island way of life. We immediately decided it was for us so off we went.
The ferry from Maui landed at Molokai’s Kaunakakai Harbor, a little slice of paradise far from the hustle and bustle of the Lahaina waterfront we’d just departed. The ferry itself has seen better days, and is rusty, smells of diesel and is not exactly a smooth ride. It was just what the doctor ordered and we were thrilled at what might lie ahead.
Lodging was at Hotel Molokai, the island’s only official hotel. It was comfortable and clean and welcoming, and it gave us all we needed. But it definitely didn’t feel like the rest of Hawaii. The locals’ openness toward us made it clear why Molokai is called the Friendly Island, and at night over some beers and local Hawaiian music, we began to understand why Molokai doesn’t get very many visitors. Their fierce independent spirit became apparent, possibly bolstered by a beer or two. The island represents the last of old Hawaii and they want to protect it. And they are very happy with their life, thank you very much. They just don’t want fancy tourist boats and high rise hotels. They don’t want the crowded roads. And they don’t own gift shops or tour vans or luncheonettes. Tourists are welcome as long as they respect the island and its people. And so it is for Molokai’s 7000 hardy residents, and we got along just fine.
We had pristine beaches all to ourselves with beachcombing treasures aplenty. We did see a few obligatory sights while there including Purdy’s, a working macadamia nut farm where we discovered our snack of choice for the duration of the trip. And we stopped by the local post office where they supplied us with markers and paints to decorate a coconut we mailed back home to the rest of the family.
But the highlight of the trip was a visit to Kalaupapa, the isolated colony where sufferers of leprosy (now called Hansen’s Disease) were tossed off boats and quarantined for over 100 years until 1969. Amazingly, a few of the senior residents are still living there today. The little village is situated at the bottom of a rugged 1700 foot cliff, making it inescapable by its ill inhabitants. Today there’s a tiny airstrip that brings in supplies and a few tourists. And though it’s now possible to hike down the cliff, we chose to cough up the cash for the mule ride down the 26 steep switchbacks to the bottom. Great fun, amazing views, and the visit to Kalaupapa was capped with a short informational tour led by a few of the residents. It is a beautiful place with a story I’ll never forget.
The visit to Molokai provided a poignant view of a lifestyle far away from booming tourism on the rest of the Hawaiian islands. The people were among the most gentle, welcoming you’d ever want to find. And although the big tour operators are anxious to get a foothold there, so far the locals have managed to keep them at bay. Who knows how long it will be before it is infiltrated with private jet charter Las Vegas style visitors. Let’s hope it’s not soon.
There are an infinite number of articles online that will instruct the soon-to-be world traveler how to strip their lives down to the essential bits, eliminate debt and start saving money in preparation for the big leap. Selling all of your belongings and taking that leap are a big stinking deal – one that most people never muster the nerve to do.
Less common though, are the realities behind stretching that dollar out while you are actually on the road. If you follow independent travel blogs, you have probably read endless accounts of South East Asia and Central and South America. There is a good reason for this – they are the best places to go where your dollar will stretch out much, much further than in other developed nations. But what about the rest of the world? Europe and North America are prohibitively expensive, while Africa to many seems too potentially volatile – a generalization that is not particularly fare given the size of the continent and it’s 54(ish) countries. Still, there are some ways to save no matter where you are traveling, which might give you the opportunity to be more adventurous than most of the people you are reading about online.
Savings on a Plane
Many people endorse getting a credit card that rewards purchases with miles. I am not a credit card holder myself because I lack the discipline needed to be a responsible adult with one, but for those who can, it can be a huge source for building up additional rewards, and therefore more free travel. In addition, join AAdvantage, Delta Sky Miles, any and all programs involving accruing travel miles. This is not possible with many hyper-budget airlines like Ryan Air and Air Asia, but for the extra few dollars you might spend by going with a higher end airline, the net benefit to you can be substantial.
These are not widely talked about – tons of huge brands making savings available on a regular basis for those mart enough to dig around to find them. You could save on lodging with a Hotels.com discount code, take a discounted holiday with a Thomson discount code, or a Low cost holiday discount code. The possibilities with these don’t end in travel, you could refresh your wardrobe on the cheap without much effort and even get pizzas for a discount from Pizza Hut in some instances.
If you happen to have a travel blog that doesn’t look like it was put together by a five year old, you can ask the person checking you in for a media rate – a discounted rate given to press who are theoretically researching the place to cover it in some sort of publication, like say, a website. This sort of move takes some balls, and it would probably be a benefit to have at least a business card to share with the employee you talk to. These are long shots, but like a high school dance, eventually someone will say yes.
To travel outside the current backpacker trail, you have to be mindful of each penny spent, not merely in the lead up to leaving your job, but throughout the process, leaving enough to return if you need to. The best way to do that is to travel smart and keep informed. SO GET TO IT!
As a family, we have unwittingly become experts at moving slowly through the world. After a mammoth travel year that spanned 2010 into 2011, our travel instincts took a dramatic turn. Burned out, we spent a much longer amount of time in my beloved Thailand, as I write this, we are deep into month four of our time in Beirut.
Clearly, a shift has been made. Three months was our previous record, done twice in Madrid, our first travel location, and then again in India. Having a toddler is the main culprit, though if I am being honest, Christine is the one who gets restless first in the family. I am perfectly content in this routine. I like the play acting of “becoming a local”, being part of the neighborhood tapestry that people know. It’s nice to walk alone around Gietawi here in Beirut and have strangers ask me “Where is the baby?” This is my speed of travel.
The next couple of years of our lives are currently much more planned out and structured than they ever have been, but still, my mind wanders to where I might go under this new low-and-slow technique.
Christine and I have both made separate trips to the UK, she went to Ireland, I took a train around the mainland. We haven’t experienced any of the country together, let alone as a growing family. I can easily envision a few months of country living, renting a cottage, living like a local, this time for once in an area where the locals actually speak our native tongue. Maybe renting a small place from Sykes Cottages, or something equally convenient that would give us the flexibility to live with nature all around us without the limitations of a year long lease. Christine is a city person, but with a little nudge I might be able to convince her to spend time in the Lake District, getting a Cottage in the Lake District from Sykes.
I continue to hear about places like Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, reading posts from friends and acquaintances with some jealousy. Other than spending a small amount of time in Croatia, Christine is the only one of us who have been to this part of the world. Before our plans took us to Thailand for our last journey and now Beirut, we had plans to spend a summer on a ski slope in Sophia, Bulgaria, and there’s a part of me that wonders how fantastic that might have been. I have heard that prices in some of these parts of the world are not far off from the fantastically cheap areas of South East Asia. For this reason alone, the cheapskate in me is willing to see how much we might enjoy the beautiful architecture and history of Eastern Europe with SEA prices. The mind reels.
Okay, it’s a long shot. But give me a yurt, a couple of yaks, a motorcycle and a satellite internet connection that doesn’t even have to be all that strong, and by god, I would absolutely give that a try.
I’m sure there will be days ahead where we resume the act of bombing through countries in a matter of days, and that’s fine with me. I know that lifestyle needs extended breaks now and then, and for now, am content to breathe, and enjoy this current break, and look forward to the ones that will eventually follow.