“This is a really good place to stop for lunch, if it was open.”
“You’ll have to come back when St. Nicholas Abbey is open— It’s worth seeing.”
“When it’s open, you’ll go down these steps and be able to swim inside the caves.”
The situation has changed dramatically since our first tour of the island, three months ago. We were with new friends from England who came here often. Flights to Barbados had only resumed a couple of months before. Few restaurants and attractions were open, and most of those had limited days and hours, or just did takeout. Only a quarter of hotels had opened their doors.
Today, close to Christmas, the majority of hotels are open again, having used the downtime to renovate for operation in this time of Covid. Although it is still advisable to check if a restaurant is open before you go, Saint Lawrence Gap is once again lively. Some restaurants have not re-opened, and maybe never will, but there are waits at the most popular eating establishments and we have relearned making reservations, especially if there is live music!
On our first trip up to the West Coast in September, there were very few hotels open and the list of open activities and restaurants the concierge gave fit on one page. Last week, when we went again for my birthday, there were so many options the choice was difficult.
Of course, things are not back to pre-pandemic levels. Tourism has picked up but is still down dramatically. Barbados has superb Covid protocols and there is no community spread, but the consequences of restrictions from tourists’ home countries as well as general uncertainty about travel are severe and constantly changing. The popular Welcome Stamp program, a year-long visa for remote workers, shows the foresight of the Barbadian government in trying to mitigate the impact on the vital tourism sector.
Yet even on that first tour of the island, we knew we had made the right choice coming to Barbados. There may not have been any surfers at Bathsheba, but the scenery was still breathtaking. The Abbey may not have been open, but wandering through the grounds at the the church that our Barbadian born English friend was named for was fascinating. Animal Flower Caves may have been closed, but the crashing surf at the northernmost point of the island was still spectacular.
If the restaurants had been open we might not have made our first visit to a local rum shop, nor had our first cutter at Cuzz’s fish stand. I have now been swimming in the caves and will soon take the train at Saint Nicholas Abbey, but my favourite activity is still the one we finished that first tour with: a drink and a swim at the beach, watching the sunset.
So if you are thinking of coming to Barbados, and can— welcome.
I’m glad I did.