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ROMANTIC BARBADOS

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"How many honeymooners are there in the audience?" asks the emcee at the all-inclusive resort. A dozen hands wave in the balmy air. "Let's get one of you happy couples on stage," he continues. "How about you, there, and the lady in the white gown? You look like newlyweds!"

The couple, rather self-consciously, walk up on stage and face the crowd. They've come from England, they explain, to get married and spend their honeymoon on the island. "So why did you pick Barbados?" asks the emcee. The groom looks at his new wife, blushes, and replies, "Because it's romantic! Several of our friends came here on their honeymoons and raved about the island so much that we decided to come here too!"

The audience (which obviously contained more newlyweds than those who bravely raised their hands) applauds. "Congratulations!" says the emcee, as he hands the bride a large bottle of local rum, "and enjoy your stay in Barbados."

Luxury romantic resorts

For a small island, measuring only 34 kilometers long and 22 kilometers wide, Barbados certainly offers plenty of choice when it comes to romantic lodgings, restaurants and sights to explore.

Couple relax under palms at Cobblers Cove.
Couple relax under palms at Cobblers Cove.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

If you're looking for an intimate retreat, consider Cobblers Cove. The elegant Camelot Suite, on the top floor, features a grand four-poster bed and a private roof-top pool, overlooking the palm-fringed beach.

The hacienda-style Sandy Lane and soft pink Fairmont Royal Pavilion are larger hotels, but just as picturesque. Both offer water-sports, sunset cocktails, beachfront dining and moonlit entertainment.

When it comes to dramatic locations, however, few Barbados resorts can match The Crane. The cliff-top pool, with its white Grecian columns has been featured in countless fashion shoots. Our favorite suite, in this well-preserved 18th century mansion, is on the upper level. It features antique furnishings including a canopied bed, as well as a terrace overlooking the pool and pink sand beach.

Barbados dining

All of these Barbados hotels offer excellent restaurants, many of them by the pool or beach. For a romantic dinner out, try one of the restaurants in St. Lawrence Gap, on the south coast. Watch the moonbeams dance on the water and listen to the tropical breezes rustle the palms, as you dine. Follow your meal with dancing under the stars at one of the popular nightclubs.

Open-air dining is also popular at breakfast time. Don't be surprised, however, if tiny bannaquits (the yellow birds made famous by the calypso song) swoop by to steal a few crumbs or a mouthful of sugar.

Barbados beaches

While bus tours are available for touring the island, by far the most romantic way to explore Barbados is by mini-moke. Begin your journey at Cherry Tree Hill, for an unsurpassed view of Barbados, looking over the fields of sugar cane to the crashing surf on the east coast.

The best beaches in Barbados are found here, on the Atlantic side, but the pounding waves make them unsafe for swimming. The powdery-white sand is ideal, however, for beachcombing and long hand-in-hand walks.

In contrast, the water on the south and east coasts, is warmer, more tranquil, and perfect for swimming. All beaches in Barbados are public, so you can spread your blanket out wherever you desire.

Red ginger in the Flower Forest.
Red ginger in the Flower Forest.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Barbados tourist attractions

To immerse yourselves in a lush setting, you must leave the beach and head to the Flower Forest, Andromeda Gardens or Welchman Hall Gully. Whether you're strolling through groves of banana, mango, nutmeg and citrus trees or relaxing on benches surrounded by hibiscus, orchid and bougainvillea blossoms, it's easy to feel like you're in paradise, here.

Nature lovers will also enjoy the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, where monkeys swing from branches above you and scamper across your path through the mahogany forest.

If you're feeling adventurous, take the underground tram tour of Harrison's Cave. Uniquely-shaped stalactites, crystal-clear pools and a four-story-high subterranean waterfall are all beautifully illuminated.

A voyage on the Atlantis Submarine brings you down to depths of 45 metres, to observe coral gardens, iridescent fish and even a sunken ship.

In contrast, a Black Pearl Party Cruise on Jolly Roger 1, a fully-rigged pirate ship, offers action-packed rum punch cruises. While daytime sailings are a lot of fun, with rope-swinging, plank-walking and snorkeling with sea turtles, the Jolly Roger sunset cruises are much more romantic.

After a dinner of barbecued chicken, steak or flying fish, a live band plays music for dancing. There are even a couple cozy nooks on the back of Jolly Roger's deck where you can cuddle up and enjoy the music and the twinkling lights of the coastal villages in Barbados.

Mount Gay rum

While driving around Barbados, it's easy to get caught up in the island's rich heritage. Near Cherry Tree Hill, you'll find the Morgan Lewis sugar mill, which once harnessed the wind to crush the cane. The juice was made into rum which you can see (and sample) on the Mount Gay Rum Tour.

Barbados plantation homes, of course, are the most eloquent reminders of the days when slaves harvested the cane. Farley Hill, an opulent mansion, was the backdrop for the movie Island in the Sun, starring Harry Belafonte. Shortly afterwards, it was tragically gutted by fire. Today, the magnificent ruins, preserved in a national park, make a romantic spot for a picnic.

Sunbury House, a plantation home, is especially romantic. Enjoy a five-course candlelight dinner with wine in the dining room, followed by coffee and liqueurs in the drawing room of the 300-year-old estate.

Limbo-dancing at nightclub
Limbo-dancing at nightclub
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Dinner theater show

For many honeymooners, the most popular way to relive Barbados' romantic past, is at a dinner show or nightclub. At The Plantation Restaurant & Garden Theatre, we saw another pair of starry-eyed newlyweds dancing to the music of a Bajan tuk band. But there was one big difference.

Barbara and Harold were in their 60s and this was a second marriage for both of them. Nonetheless, Barbados had cast the same spell on them that it did for the young newlyweds we had met earlier. "For us," says Barbara, "Barbados has been a fairytale honeymoon."

When it comes to romance, apparently, Barbados knows no barriers.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Barbados Tourism Authority: www.visitbarbados.org

More things to do in Barbados:

Barbados Atlantis Submarine Tour

Barbados Crop Over Festival

Barbados Wildlife Reserve