As Barbados celebrates the 55th anniversary of its independence and becomes the world’s newest republic, what better time to visit this beautiful Caribbean island.
Prince Charles attended the celebrations and hailed the creation of the republic a ‘new beginning’ for the island in November, with the Queen sending her ‘warmest good wishes’.
While my wife and I may not have been greeted with quite the same pomp and ceremony when we landed at Grantley Adams International Airport the week before, we certainly received the warmest of welcomes.
The Crane Resort, pictured, is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean – it first opened its doors to guests in 1887
The resort is built on a clifftop with breathtaking views on the quieter south-eastern part of Barbados
Prince Charles arriving at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados on November 28
It seemed fitting that at a time of historic change for Barbados we should be staying at the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean.
A convenient 15-minute drive from the airport on the quieter south-eastern part of the island, built on a clifftop with breathtaking views, The Crane Resort first opened its doors to guests in 1887. Encouraged by the arrival of the railway to Barbados, civil engineer Donald Simpson bought the area’s most prominent house, Marina Villa, added a few rooms and turned it into a hotel.
He called it Crane Beach Hotel, not after the statuesque feathered type, but because of a mechanical crane once situated adjacent to the hotel, used to load and unload cargo from the beach below.
Descending in the glass-walled cliff-side lift to one of the world’s most photographed beaches it’s hard to believe 200 years ago this was once a commercial port, the protective coral reef creating a natural harbour for smaller trading ships.
Merchants and plantation owners flocked from all over the island to the soft pink-tinted sands of Crane Beach for the magnificent views and the cool breeze that was conducive to doing business.
Ian describes Crane Beach, pictured above, as ‘one of the world’s most photographed beaches’
The resort was founded by civil engineer Donald Simpson, who bought Marina Villa and turned it into a hotel
A room in a contemporary suite at the resort. Ian writes: ‘In 1988 there were just 18 rooms, now there are 252’
Pictured is one of the pools in the resort. According to Ian, many residences and suites at the resort have ocean views and private pools
Today those same views and wonderful breeze are conducive to a relaxing stroll along the sands and rum punch at the beach-side Coconut Grove bar and grill.
On top of the cliff are immaculate 40-acre grounds, most of which are accessible to guests via winding pathways and bridges over Koi ponds and the large pool complex with whirlpool, waterfall, wading pools and separate adults-only pool, leading to lawns, statues and benches and the original part of the hotel with its dark beams, coral stone walls and terracotta patios.
In 1988 there were just 18 rooms, now there are 252. Residences and suites all have patios, many have ocean views and private pools, and rooms are spacious with generous bathrooms, huge Jacuzzi-style baths and walk-in showers. And even the cheapest rooms provide well-equipped kitchenettes, while larger rooms have full kitchens with laundry facilities ideal for families.
‘On top of the cliff are immaculate 40-acre grounds, most of which are accessible to guests via winding pathways and bridges over Koi ponds and the large pool complex,’ Ian writes
The resort’s residences boast marble floors and bathrooms, four-poster beds, teak shutters and sliding patio doors
The Crane is run as both a conventional hotel and timeshare complex, Ian reveals
Ian observes that the ‘well-proportioned accommodation’ is decorated in a ‘cool colonial style’
Ian observes: ‘The sheer size of the resort means it never feels crowded. Occupancy levels were at over 90 per cent but it felt like half that during our visit’
Marble floors and bathrooms, four-poster beds, teak shutters and sliding patio doors give a cool colonial style to the well-proportioned accommodation.
The Crane is run as both a conventional hotel and timeshare complex, with the apartment-style rooms and new residences available for ‘fractional ownership’, though there is absolutely no sales pressure on guests.
The sheer size of the resort means it never feels crowded, occupancy levels were at over 90 per cent but it felt like half that during our visit with plenty of sun loungers available and space at the five restaurants, although it is advisable to book at Zen the Japanese-Thai-fusion eaterie that has been Zagat rated No.1 for food in Barbados for two years running.
Ian recommends booking a table at Zen (pictured above) – a Japanese-Thai-fusion eaterie
Zen, pictured, has been Zagat rated No.1 for food in Barbados for two years running
Entry is via a bridge over a Koi pond framed with water lilies and the dramatic monochrome interiors are dotted with Japanese artefacts, providing an ideal foil for the inspiring cuisine.
The Carriage House, formerly the old hotel stables, is now a lovely pool-side spot for lunch or early dinner and the lively Bar 1887 boasts tasty Bajan tapas along with inspired cocktails, live music and a popular happy hour.
D’Onofrio’s Trattoria serves excellent Italian food and is situated in the centre of Crane Village, a charming collection of painted clapboard buildings with overhangs and verandas housing a cafe, gym, general store, duty-free shop, jewellery store, art gallery, and gift shop.
Ian says that The Carriage House, pictured, is ‘a lovely pool-side spot for lunch or early dinner’
Crane Village, pictured, is a charming collection of painted clapboard buildings with overhangs and verandas
D’Onofrio’s Trattoria serves excellent Italian food and is situated in the centre of Crane Village
Facilities also include tennis courts, a spa and children’s club.
Staff at The Crane are unfailingly cheerful and although there are some occasional inconsistencies in service there is a genuine will to ensure guest satisfaction.
Since a change of ownership in 1988, The Crane has continually evolved, adding more residences with luxuries such as rooftop pools and underground parking with private lifts into apartments.
It is a resort that strives to find something for everyone and to that end its latest development, the Beach Houses at Culpepper, a 15-minute drive from The Crane, aims to appeal to guests looking for complete seclusion.
We were invited to experience the first phase of this development, launched in May, consisting of ten luxury single storey one to three-bedroom villas, which can be interconnected to sleep a maximum of eight people. These are the front row of a development that will eventually comprise 63 homes spread over 50 acres overlooking the rugged natural beauty of Skeete’s Bay and Culpepper Island.
Beach Houses by The Crane overlook the rugged natural beauty of Skeete’s Bay (pictured) and Culpepper Island
The villas have been designed to blend into the landscape with living roofs. Pictured is a view of the sea from the grounds
The villas have been designed to blend into the landscape with living roofs and with the ‘wow’ factor in mind. As soon as you open the door the eye is drawn to the turquoise of an infinity pool, framed by the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean viewed through a glass wall of sliding patio doors. A private terrace stretches across the width of the villa, set with sun loungers, high–end patio furniture and can be fully enclosed by remote-controlled bug screens.
The inviting interiors boast an open-plan kitchen and spacious living room with large ceiling fans, porcelain tiles, limewood flooring, and luxury natural stone-tiled bathrooms with indoor/outdoor showers and free-standing bathtubs.
The fully equipped kitchen includes an oven, microwave, ceramic hob, dishwasher, laundry appliances and large fridge-freezer. Large comfortable ivory sofa beds can be used to accommodate extra guests and the villas have interconnecting doors to allow flexible accommodation for larger groups. The infinity pool design incorporates a separate whirlpool heated by solar energy and there is also a barbeque area.
Pictured is a bedroom in one of the villas. Ian admits: ‘It was impossible not to be awed by the majesty of the ocean in such a glorious setting’
The inviting interiors boast luxury natural-stone-tiled bathrooms with indoor/outdoor showers and free-standing bathtubs
It was impossible not to be awed by the majesty of the ocean in such a glorious setting – watching the crashing waves glittering in the morning sun just yards away at the cliff edge felt like it could never get old, however for those craving civilisation a daily return trip to the resort is included along with breakfast.
Guests can order any meals from The Crane restaurants for an extra $15 Bajan delivery fee and there is a daily concierge to organise grocery supplies, although for families it is more cost-effective to use online ordering from the local supermarket, which also delivers to the villas.
The Concierge can also organise luxury extras such as private chefs and in-villa spa treatments.
Do bear in mind that the development is still under construction and rates are set to reflect this, however during our visit work was of the ‘small trade’ variety and ceased by late afternoon and at weekends.
‘As soon as you open the door [of the villa, pictured] the eye is drawn to the turquoise of an infinity pool, framed by the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean,’ writes Ian
A dining table at one of the villas. Guests can order any meals from The Crane restaurants for an extra $15 Bajan delivery fee
General Manager of 14 months Chris Forbes presides over this growing resort and could be forgiven for ‘touching wood’ when we met as he explained it was his first four consecutive months ‘without some sort of natural disaster’.
There was a fire at the hotel in February, a huge volcanic ash cloud in April from neighbouring St Vincent that deposited substances that took five weeks to clear out from buildings, pools and pathways; and hurricane damage in July. And on top of it all a pandemic to deal with. He praised his staff for their superhuman clean-up efforts and added, ‘I think everyone will be glad to see the back of 2021.’
Let’s hope the new beginnings Prince Charles spoke of see this iconic and beautiful resort go from strength to strength in 2022.
The Crane Covid protocols
- All guests required to wear wrist bands, colours denote quarantine/vaccination status and may indicate restricted access to certain areas
- Touch-free sanitizing stations are placed in all public areas of the resort.
- All staff wear masks
- Guests required to wear masks when interacting with staff or other guests or when social distancing is not possible
- Staff check temperatures of all arriving guests and when entering all restaurants using handheld temperature sensors
- Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing throughout the resort
- On-site Covid testing lab for convenient fast testing for travellers requiring test results to return home.
Stay at The Crane Resort from £170 per night in a Junior Suite with Garden View, on a B&B basis.
Stay at Beach Houses by The Crane from £214 per night for a One Bedroom Villa, on a B&B basis.
For more information visit thecrane.com.
Note: Beach Houses by The Crane is still in development. Current rates reflect that there will be some ongoing construction work in adjacent villas.