The Soco Hotel, Barbados
The Soco Hotel, Barbados
‘In Barbados, we don’t say you get drunk – we say you get sweet.” Michelle, the barmaid who always seems to magically know what I want to drink, says this with a sparkle in her eye as she hands me a swizzle.
The grapefruit juice, rum and angostura bitters creation slips down a treat as I sit at a beach bar overlooking the Caribbean sea, the golden colours of sunset contrasting with the turquoise waters.There could well be something in that. The prevailing mood on this tiny island, measuring just 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, is a relaxed, mellow happiness. But don’t be fooled by that easy-going front; this is a place that knows how to party.
It’s the party people Barbados wants to attract, taking advantage of publicity thanks to its most famous daughter Rihanna. Boutique hotels like the SoCo Hotel, where Michelle has become my new best friend, have been cropping up to cater for those in their 20s and 30s who want a slice of the action. There are great bars and clubs a stone’s throw away, and with the swizzle in my bloodstream, I want to go out and dance.
I decide to head to St Lawrence Gap, a strip of bars and clubs that’s rammed with holidaymakers and locals alike every weekend, just a short cab ride away from the hotel.
If the restaurants and beaches of the platinum coast on the west of Barbados, where the likes of Simon Cowell and Gary Lineker flock for their holidays, attract the older crowd, the south is the place to be for young couples and groups of friends. Ultra Sugar Lounge is where some of the best parties take place, under the stars in its outdoor courtyard. Rihanna herself has been spotted there. There’s a glitzy Miami feel to the club, with a fantastic DJ and light show, along with leather seats in its cordoned-off private areas. It’s stylish but remains unpretentious, making for a great night out.
Looking for a cab after leaving the club, I stumble upon Hal’s Carpark Bar – and decide the night hasn’t quite ended yet. It’s a simple set-up – just a long bar and a few chairs – but it attracts crowds. What really caps it off is the karaoke. I’m sold the moment I see a local belting out Bruno Mars, and almost in tune as well.
That’s not to say that there aren’t great nights out to be had elsewhere on the island. Holetown, in particular, has some fantastic venues with a fun vibe and is another favourite haunt of Rihanna, who has been seen in the exclusive Priva bar.
It may be a Sunday evening when I head up to check out the scene in the area’s First and Second Streets but with One Love Bar pumping out hits and a long list of people queuing for the karaoke (which seems to be something of a recurring theme) it’s by no means quiet.
The bar itself is no more than a few tables, a fridge and a serving hatch offering Banks beer for the price of three for 10 dollars.
And The Tiki Bar just across the road does a mean line in cocktails, for those really wanting to push the boat out.
Talking of boats, the following day I take a trip on the water to snorkel with sea turtles. I go with Tiami on a luxury catamaran, making me feel like something out of a Duran Duran video. And what really strikes me is the sheer exuberance of seeing a boat full of people gleefully shaking their bodies to soca and reggae tunes, despite the fact the sky is looking a decidedly un-Caribbean dark grey.