Very little in this world is certain but in Barbados, an island 13° north of the equator, sunshine is reassuringly predictable: the climate is constant, varying only from high daily averages of 28°C in January to 30°C in July; even the rain when it falls is warm and forgiving. Barbados is a holiday island for unwinding taut nerves, escaping the discontents of the daily grind, withdrawing to a beach resort to enjoy a piece of the party we call life.
The House, on the west coast and half an hour from the airport, should fit the bill for peace and quiet. It’s not a bustling resort (children are not allowed) with just 34 rooms and each of them has a balcony for private sunbathing. The reasoning behind the resort’s name finds expression in its interior design: there is no lobby or reception desk, just an open-sided lounge – looking out to a pool and a sandy beach – which serves as the hub for whatever might be going on. Check-in takes place in your room.
For the first morning at least – or, hey ho, every day– detachment from the demands of normal life can be indulgently celebrated by enjoying the champagne that is part of the buffet breakfast. You can also enjoy, as a complimentary part of any stay, a jet-lag massage, afternoon tea, canapes in the early evening and a bottle of rum punch in your room.
And when the calorie count screams and alarm bells ring there are free water sports to get you up and about: water-skiing, boogie-boarding, banana-boating, snorkeling, kayaking and windsurfing. Home comforts include a teapot and espresso machine in the bedrooms.
Next door to The House is Daphne’s restaurant and a laid-back bar and sofa area for relishing the early evening happy hour. The best tables front the beach, with sound effects from gently crashing waves and a strange whistling emanating from frogs the size of a fingernail. The Italian-style menu excels in seafood and a decent wine list, including Chablis by the glass, add to the sense that it would be nice to win a lottery and stay here for months at a time.
Spa services are available at the adjoining Tamarind hotel and walking there from The House brings a reminder that even in paradise a serpent lurked in the undergrowth. A warning sign signals the danger coming from a large manchineel growing out of the sand. It’s a tree infamous for such strong toxins in its sap that standing under it in the rain risks unpleasant reactions if drops of rain just touch the milky sap before landing on you.
Colony Club is also on the west coast of Barbados and this is the place to stay if you want a larger resort, a place with a gregarious character but retaining a sense of elegance. The open-air lobby, with a lily pond and (small) freshwater sharks, has a seating area under fans and this is where you check in.
Bedrooms are generously sized, looking out on the poolside or the ocean. The sandy beach has no shortage of sun lounges amid cassarina, frangipani and mango trees but there is also a plethora of water activities included in your stay.
Throw in fishing and snorkelling trips, in-house yoga, pilates and Zumba and – just as you’re settling in to this Caribbean lifestyle – your holiday time draws to a close. Such is life.
by Sean Sheehan
The House Paynes Bay, St James, Barbados, West Indies
UK: 0800 917 3534