O2 Beach Club and Spa, Barbados – Review
By Richard Jones
Powder-white beaches fringing glistening turquoise waters, brochure-cover sunrises and sunsets, mouthwatering Bajan food and endless rum sours.
You don’t have to be a genius to work out why Barbados is the UK’s favourite Caribbean destination.
That said, life on the island has changed a fair bit since my previous visit 18 months ago.
Back then, the country was at the tail end of the Covid lockdown, with a 10pm curfew in place and lucrative cruise ships unable to dock in Bridgetown.
Thankfully, holidaymakers are now back in their droves, enjoying everything that the relatively new republic offers.
“Nothing short of spectacular”
However, the biggest difference I noticed this time around was at my hotel.
On my last visit, I had a short tour of O2 Beach Club and Spa during its renovation.
The results are nothing short of spectacular, and as a residential guest at Barbados’ coolest five-star resort, I soon drifted into life as a VIP.
Combining modern luxury (Champagne on arrival and cold towels on the beach) with a tropical heart (nautical aesthetics and Bajan cuisine), the O2 has 130 rooms, including the new adult-only Luxury Collection Suites.
As well as a complimentary mini-bar stacked with booze and soda, and a personalised concierge service, I enjoyed credit at Acqua Spa (the highest on the island) and access to the O2’s sister hotel Sea Breeze Beach House.
However, it’s the O2’s food-and-beverage programme that elevates it above any other five-star property I’ve visited in the Caribbean.
The casual Elements buffet has fabulous feasts, morning, noon and night, while Blue Fin is the place to be for relaxed beachside dining.
The Oasis lounge serves speciality coffees and tipsy teas all day long, and you can toast the spectacular sunsets with Spanish-style tapas at the breathtaking Brisa rooftop bar.
But best of all is Oro, the fine-dining destination up on the ninth floor.
With jaw-dropping 270-degree views of the south coast, I was spoilt for choice browsing the menu, eventually opting for the delicious classic-style lamb rack with Dijon mustard and rosemary.
During the long hot days at O2, there is a trio of stunning pools with two swim-up bars to laze around.
I’m not usually a beach person, but I couldn’t resist flopping on a lounger on the sands of Dover Beach, in between cooling dips in the bath-like Caribbean Sea.
For those feeling more active, there are non-motorised water sports, while back on dry land you can take yoga and cardio classes, bang the steel drums, or go salsa dancing.
My friend Joe and I took part in a Paint and Sip Experience with Paint & Groove’s Venezuelan teacher Yasmin Vizcarrondo.
Although we’ve never considered having an art lesson, particularly on holiday, painting the colourful beach scene on canvas with acrylics was relaxing and fun.
The patient Yasmin even labelled me an ‘impressionist’, which was probably her way of telling me not to give up my day job.
Another advantage of staying at the O2 is the hotel’s close proximity to the bustling St Lawrence Gap, famous for its rum shops, street food and lively nightlife.
Joe and I, along with our other pal Steve, made a beeline for Cocktail Kitchen to sample its roast breadfruit and lobster, before stepping next door to The Dive Bar for some live music.
Barbados is just 21 miles long and 14 miles wide and, aside from hanging out at the O2 and the Gap, I had plenty of time to explore the island.
I was booked in for a round of golf with former Walker Cup winner Roddy Carr at the all-new Apes Hill Golf Club.
Sitting on an old sugar plantation 1,000ft above sea level, the lush par-72 course has panoramic views that span the Atlantic to the east and Caribbean Sea to the west.
Among the highlights of legendary course architect Ron Kirby’s ‘Caribbean Masterpiece’ is the signature hole at 16 which has a coral rock cave hugging the hole behind the green.
Roddy also showed me around the rest of Apes Hill, including the fun 19th hole by the clubhouse, a standalone par-three course and its state-of-the-art performance centre.
The next day, our driver Shawn took the three of us on a tour of the escapist east and north coasts, before criss-crossing to the slightly more built-up west.
We started out on the hillside of surfing hub of Bathsheba, before munching on a tasty brunch at the Atlantis Historic Inn in St Joseph.
Shawn also showed us around St Nicholas Abbey and its heritage railway, as well as Harrison’s Point, Port St Charles and Speightstown, where we stopped off for a couple of Banks’ beers at The Fisherman’s Pub.
From there, we headed across to the island centre for some Sunday afternoon entertainment at the Naniki Music Festival.
There was even time to spend a few hours on Mullins Beach, at the ultra-chic Sea Shed, which comes alive with DJs and fireworks at the weekends, before ending the night in the affluent west coast area of Holetown.
The highlight of our week was a lunch cruise aboard one of Cool Runnings’ catamarans.
The potent rum sours were already being poured when we stepped on board at 9.15am, and the alcohol and calypso beats were still flowing when the boat docked five hours later.
In between, we made three stops – to swim with sea turtles and rays, snorkel above a shipwreck, and enjoy lunch close to a beach on Sandy Lane.
While many things have clearly changed for the better since my last Covid-affected trip to Barbados, some elements have, thankfully, stayed the same.
The blue-striped buses vibrating with reggae beats still trundle around the island and there are no end of rum shops and street food stalls open, with old-timers sat outside, willing to share a joke and a dram.
Another example of this local warmth is at Oistins Fish Fry, the legendary Friday-night market where hundreds of islanders and tourists wash down meaty marlin and other grilled fish with cold beers and rum punches. All with a side of hot sauce, of course.
This safe and homely hospitality, along with picture-postcard perfection at places like O2 Beach Club and Apes Hill, continues to raise the bar in this Caribbean paradise.
Seven nights all-inclusive in Barbados with Virgin Atlantic Holidays from £3,143 per person, including Virgin Atlantic Economy flights direct from Manchester to Barbados, transfers and accommodation at O2 Beach Club & Spa by Ocean Hotels (o2beachclubbarbados.com). Price is based on two adults travelling on March 2, 2023, and sharing a Luxury Ocean View Junior Suite. To book: virginholidays.co.uk or call 0344 557 3859.
Virgin Atlantic flies direct from Manchester or London Heathrow to Barbados with return fares from £453 per person. For further information visit virginatlantic.com
To find out more about holidays in Barbados go to visitbarbados.org
Holiday Extras offer a range of car parking, lounge access and fast-track passes at all major UK airports. See holidayextras.com