Barbados Bound: Escape to Coral Reef Club

By  March 29, 2010

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There’s an expression the Barbadians like to say about their beautiful island: it’s “21 miles long, and a smile wide.” And after spending five fabulous days and four incredible nights at the amazing Caribbean destination, my smile was about as authentic as they get.

But before I talk about my sun-kissed skin and beachy waves, let’s rewind a few weeks… I was sitting at my desk dutifully working away, when I received an email query entitled: “Press Trip to Barbados.” Need I say more? It was a done deal. I counted down the days, hours and minutes, and finally – finally – it was time to pack the laptop, bikinis and SPF 30. What more might one need in paradise?

I arrived with the rest of the writers early on a Wednesday afternoon. The temp was in the 80s and the sun was blazing. Ah, heaven. We retired to what would be my phenomenal home away from (my much less impressive) home for the next few days: The Coral Reef Club.

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The family-owned-and-run resort is truly a Caribbean gem. It’s spread across 12 lush acres of garden on the calm west coast of Barbados. Elegantly appointed with a West Indian influence, the oceanfront property is at once both luxurious and low-key. Members of the O’Hara family – who have owned and operated the hotel for decades – wander around, hobnob with guests, and treat them to cocktails and chitchat. They’re gracious, generous and charming beyond belief. I felt as though they were welcoming me into their own home – which, in a way, they were.

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We toured the gorgeous property, which includes 88 rooms, cottages and suites; two pools; a spa and salon; fitness facilities; tennis courts; water sports; a cocktail bar (try the rum punch!); and an upscale indoor-outdoor restaurant. Colorful blossoms and grand trees grace the landscaping and make the surroundings both ambrosial and exotic.

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I was fascinated to hear that the spa only opened in late 2008 – during the beginning of a recession. Despite the somewhat ill-timed launch, the spa is a fabulous addition. With an alfresco ambiance, the spa exudes casual sophistication. Treatments inspired by the fragrant flavors of the tropics (think pineapple and coconut crème brulée wraps and mojito magic scrubs) appeal to a more adventurous clientele. The thermal spa garden is the ideal place to relax pre-treatment. Shaded cabanas frame a hydro-therapy pool equipped with state-of-the-art air loungers and water jets. And the stunning crystal steam room is a sight for sore eyes (and bodies).

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I stayed in a superior junior suite, which had a cozy king-sized bed, sitting area and luxurious bathroom, complete with a large shower and roomy bathtub. I ate breakfast on my balcony overlooking the endless blue ocean. And every night I was lulled to sleep by the ambient sound of crashing waves. It should be noted that are no televisions in most rooms at the Coral Reef Club. The owners strongly believe that guests should fully embrace the escape by removing daily distractions and stressors. While this might be a romantic notion for honeymooners, it was less than ideal for a lone writer who thrives on distraction. Guests can request that the hotel provide a television, but only local channels are available. The front desk has plenty of DVDs though; and there’s also a communal television room with more options for those addicted to media – like moi.

Dinner the first night was at the Coral Reef Club. I put on a light summer frock and headed down to the alluringly breezy restaurant. Before sitting down to a lavish meal, we tested out a few of the tropical cocktails. Fruity, sweet and packed with a punch, the creative concoctions did the trick. We were chatty, giggly and feeling the vacation vibe… I knew then and there that this trip would be an extraordinary experience.

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P.S. Here’s a photo of me taking in the nighttime sights and sounds at the Coral Reef Club. Don’t I look tanned and relaxed? A little bit of sun and a whole lot of wine… Works every time.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post. You’ll take a vicarious trip to see a few of the most amazing attractions Barbados has to offer. Plus, you’ll find out how much money I’m worth in sugar. Seriously.