What Patricia Affonso-Dass, Group General Manager of Ocean Hotels, doesn’t know about having a magical time on Barbados, isn’t worth knowing. Here's what she had to say when we spoke to her for our 2019 Caribbean brochure:
Of all the places to spend an amazing Caribbean holiday, why choose Barbados?
They are so many reasons to choose Barbados. The first thing people think about are the amazing beaches. To my mind, the sea; the colours of blue are just unbelievable. There's an unending variety of fabulous food – everything from roadside barbecues to cliff-side caviar. You have a ton of amazing activities — golf, scuba diving and all the rest of it. Easy transport around the island, whether you're renting a car, scooter or taxi, or taking the Caribbean version of the hop-on, hop-off bus. It's an easy place to get to. It's an easy place to visit and there's so much to do.
What are your top tips for an amazing stay in Barbados?
The first thing that I always tell people when they come here is to just go with it. You need to be open to new experiences, new sights, new sounds, new flavours. The second tip for a stress-free holiday is to wear your sunscreen. I know it sounds mundane, but I've seen some terrible sunburns ruin an entire holiday.
What would you advise visitors who want to experience the real Barbados do and see?
To give you a real flavour of the south coast, there's a beautiful boardwalk that runs along the edge of the ocean from the beach at Accra. It's beautiful at sunset, and a lot of local families go there. It has a really lovely feel.
Another thing that you have to do is go to a local rum shop. Many of them serve great food and cutters. Cutters are big Bajan sandwiches (made with what we call salt bread). I recommend, if you can, to rent a car and take a self-drive island tour. Our local Resort Experts can map it out for you. Plus, it's hard to get lost. You just follow the bus lines that say 'Out of city' when you're going, and you follow the ones that say 'To city' when you're coming back!
Then another great thing happens at Pebbles Beach, where they take horses to the sea to exercise them on a Sunday morning.
What would you recommend as under-the-radar attractions that tourists might ordinarily miss?
I’d recommend driving up to Bathsheba and Cattlewash on the east coast and walking along the beach. If you’re making a tour of the island, it’s a lovely place to stop and have a picnic. Some of the best surfing is out at Bathsheba by the Soup Bowl and you also have the iconic rocks that you see that are in many of the Barbados adverts. The Animal Flower Caves at North Point are a really lovely spot. You can actually go down into the caves where you’ll find all these views through the holes in the rocks. There's a great restaurant up there as well.
What local dish must visitors absolutely, positively try?
I am a huge foodie. I love to eat, I love to cook and I love to experience places through food. On Saturday mornings, Bajans are religious about something called Pudding and Souse. Souse is pork pickled in lime, cucumbers, lots of local herbs and is served with breadfruit and pudding. Pudding is a sweet potato-based pie, dark in colour, and cut into squares. It's sweet and the pickled pork is quite tangy. Bajans are very particular about their Souse spots, once they like one they won’t go anywhere else.
Naturally, I think our rum punches at Sea Breeze are the absolute best. They are homemade, and hard to beat over crushed ice. We also have a lot of coconut vendors at the side of the road. They just cut one for you and you can drink the water straight from the nut. We replicate that at Ocean Two, with our live coconut station, which we offer several times a week. Except we spike ours with gin and rum and vodka!
What’s your current favourite dish prepared by Ocean Hotels chefs?
Chef Mike has created this dish — a white chocolate and breadfruit soup. It sounds unusual but it's one of those things where you think, "What on Earth is this going to taste like?" Then you eat it and it’s, "Okay, just bring me the entire pot." It's amazing.
What’s your all time favourite view in Barbados?
That's a tricky question, because there are so many different sides to Barbados. I'm going to give you my favourites by coast.
If you're on the south coast, a sunrise or a sunset view across Freights Bay to Enterprise Beach.
On the east coast, the view from the top of Cherry Tree Hill, looking out over the Atlantic coast is just amazing.
On the north coast, you've got the waves crashing up against the rocks at North Point, which I mentioned already.
Finally, on the west coast, there's this beautiful beach called Reeds Bay. The sea in the bay is a very pale kind of turquoise and, at sunset, it’s just special.
What do you think makes a stay at an Ocean Hotels unique?
I think the most unique thing about a stay with us is the warmth and genuine hospitality of our staff. Whatever guest reviews say, they always come back to the staff. They love being a part of the guest experience, and they have a tremendous amount of local knowledge about the island. It's something that we're extremely proud of. The other thing is, we're a boutique brand and we really do try to ensure that every guest has a unique experience with us. It’s your holiday and, even if you're staying at our all-inclusive, it's bespoke – created just for you.
Check out our new Caribbean 2019 brochure, or browse through our holidays in Barbados if Patricia's words had an affect. If you fancy a beach holiday, but not in Barbados, maybe have a look through our Caribbean holidays for an escape to paradise!