Undeniably petite, Barbados measures only 14 miles wide and 21 miles long. But everything else about it is big: the culture, the views, the amenities, the charm, and the welcome. It’s the birthplace of two important R words—rum and Rihanna—and a bucket list destination for any veteran traveler.
This is my first time on Barbados, and I feel relaxed the moment I step off the plane and start taking in the sights. I know from a little Googling that it’s the most easterly Caribbean island, located at the tail end of the Caribbean archipelago on the cusp of the Atlantic, near Grenada and St. Lucia. Barbados has a remote, boutique feel, like a retreat within a retreat.
My first impression? The coastline is mesmerizing; no matter where you go, the ocean is your constant companion. Inland, hilly terrain mingles with rolling farmland, and tropical breezes ripple through fields of sugar cane. Rum bars and fruit stands dot the dense network of streets; modest chattel houses hold their own alongside gated mansions.
My destination, Treasure Beach resort, was recently renovated, and I’m anxious to see the results. Reopened in December 2017, it contains just 35 suites, three of which have their own private plunge pools. I discover immediately that, just like its home island, this adults-only resort is truly boutique: it’s small in size but big on immersive luxury.
And these are not just rooms—Treasure’s “all-suite” designation means that a separate living room accompanies each bedroom throughout. I love this perk because there’s plenty of room to sprawl out. It’s a huge improvement on the “living out of a disheveled suitcase in the bedroom corner” style of vacationing.
The entire resort is arranged in a neat U that encircles a trifecta of core amenities: the signature restaurant Tapestry, the outdoor bar Batik, and a pool. Beyond the pool is a lineup of loungers along an ocean wall, then beach. It sounds small, and it is; the atmosphere here is undeniably intimate. Every indulgence—from an ocean swim to a chilled glass of rosé by the pool—is within easy reach.
Treasure Beach’s parent company, Elegant Hotels Group, operates a total of seven on-island resorts. Each one is designed to exemplify a unique “theme,” from mind-and-body wellness to family fun. The theme of Treasure Beach is art and the senses, and I see it woven expertly throughout the remodel: in the lobby and rooms, the cuisine, and the activities.
“Treasure is all about inspiration,” says Khadijah Deshong, operations support officer for Elegant Hotels. “It has inspiration at every turn. From the eclectic nature of the décor to our celebration of the arts, every element at Treasure Beach plays off each other in really interesting, really unique ways.
“There are so many different experiences available here,” she continues. “Guests can grab an easel and paint, take a food styling class with the chef, or visit local art galleries and exhibitions. We can even arrange for private tastings and celebratory dinners in our wine cellar, surrounded by fine wines from all over the world, with a dedicated waiter or sommelier.”
Jumping head first towards inspiration, I start day one with an art tour. Our intrepid driver and guide, Andy, points out everything of interest (including where Rihanna stays when on-island). Stops include the Arlington House Museum in Speightstown; the island’s second-tallest peak (perfect for Instagram shots); and artist John Springer’s potting studio, where the soft-spoken Barbadian turns island-harvested clay into a scallop-rimmed vessel on his potting wheel with ease.
I highly recommend the art crawl—for the culture and the sightseeing—but it’s just one of many activities worth trying. Every day there’s something to do: rum tastings, wine tastings, yoga, art meditation classes, and a complimentary sundown cocktail. Another key perk is that all water sports, including water skiing, kayaking, SUP, Hobie Cats, and banana boat rides, are included in the stay.
Those who want to explore and try a different restaurant, pool, or bar are welcome at any Elegant sister property. I opt for a beachfront lunch at Waves Hotel & Spa followed by a cocktail at family-friendly Crystal Cove’s cave bar (I couldn’t resist a swim-up bar underneath a waterfall and inside a manmade cave). The best part of resort hopping is the ride: a complimentary water taxi. It’s the best way to travel.
But there is one feature at Treasure Beach that you won’t find at any other Elegant resort, or probably anywhere else on the island, and that’s Tapestry restaurant. Tapestry is a destination unto itself (it’s open to all, not just guests). Every detail, from the green woven chairs to the wine glasses, was hand-selected during the renovation for the ultimate sensory experience. The finished space feels chic yet laid-back, modern yet beachy—in short, it’s Barbados perfection.
But the main reason for Tapestry’s island-wide reputation for excellence is head chef and Barbados native Javon Cummins. Just 26—the hotel group’s youngest head chef—this culinary wunderkind started cooking with Elegant Hotels only five years ago, and his multiple awards to date include leading the Barbados team to a Gold win at the Taste of Caribbean competition in 2017.
Cummins’ approach to cuisine is decidedly modern, and his dish presentation is inspired. His creations are almost too beautiful to eat, but I manage. For my first dinner, I choose a deconstructed Cobb salad that I could easily eat daily forevermore, followed by a decadent seafood stew that hit just the right notes of heartiness and comfort. My deconstructed tiramisu finale proved to me that dessert is not just an afterthought at Tapestry.
The menus include local favorites like flying fish and pork, but always prepared with a unique twist. I’m impressed that an equal amount of care is given to breakfast (included with stay) and lunch—even the buffets. Nothing escapes Cummins’ perfectionist eye.
“The goal for me is about the experience,” the chef says of his methods. “I’m inspired by international cuisine, but I always try and make it more Caribbean friendly. I like to serve things that you can only get here and not at the restaurant down the street; I want this restaurant to have a life and an identity of its own.”
“Tapestry is a restaurant that doesn’t feel like a restaurant. Guests tend to stay a long time, a couple of hours—eating here is definitely an experience,” agrees Deshong. “We have a mixologist whose cocktails are like works of art,” she continues, noting favorites like Mosaic, finished with a truffle oil drizzle, and Smoke & Mirrors, garnished with a lit rosemary sprig. “The drinks and wines are definitely on par with Javon’s cuisine,” she adds.
Deshong is absolutely correct—the hours at Treasure Beach pass easily with a meal, a craft cocktail, and a lounger by the pool. I quickly fall into step with the relaxed atmosphere. I enjoy simply gazing at the ocean and thinking about little else but this incredible island’s unique spot in the world.
And that is the beauty of Treasure Beach. It’s artistic and eclectic and engaging, but the best parts are its intimacy and quiet pace. To me, it’s Barbados done right.