Arrival at the airport was excellent. Ava Harrison arranged to have a taxi driver waiting. Driver was outside with our name on a sign. Taxi was modern, very clean, driver was very safe, personable and gave us lots of information about Barbados on the way to our accommodation.
The "Studio" suite we rented was very clean. I would recommend a few more kitchen items be included (large, sharp butcher knife, some containers for storing leftovers, etc.) but things we needed were supplied upon asking the home owner (from her how private kitchen). Fridge there also has freezer so we were able to freeze water nightly for our next-day outings. Very nice to have. King size bed was supplied, fresh linens, etc. What was exceptional was that suite had windows on all 4 sides and a fan so air moved really well. Air conditioner in the bedroom was used only once (by choice) but it is the quietest air conditioner I have ever heard. A small stereo would have been nice to have and then we could have listened to some of our own music. Only caution I extend about this location is that is was a bit noisy if you sleep with windows open(very, nice east facing window directly over bed that delivers cool, night time breezes excellent for sleeping). Some other local noises included roosters, goats, barking dogs and traffic, but in balance, there were no noisy, drunken tourists coming home at late hours slamming doors and talking loudly.
Restaurants and Bars:
We did alot of research regarding access to food before we left and Barbados is not as expensive as most research suggests. Granted, there are some very, very high-end resorts and conversely, there are alot of mainstream, mid-priced options as well. There is food available to fit any budget, but you have to look to find your range. Most establishments publish menus outside so you can save time seeing items and price ranges (depending on how you’re dressed and time of day). Banks beer is made locally, is very good (comparable to Canadian beers) rum is local, plentiful and very good (can be found in grocery stores) and water is drinkable from the tap. Bottled water is sold alot although I struggled to understand why. Water taste was excellent and we never, ever got sick.
Paynes Bay Beach is arguably the nicest beach we saw in our island tour. While it might on compare to some more scenic beaches on the east side, the water is calm for swimming, the shores clean, lots of sand area ensures that you have reasonable distance from other sun-worshippers and waterfront is not exclusive to resorts that border beaches. Local vendors are polite when told that I had no need for their services and were friendly and familiar but not pushy at all. There was no access to a pool at our suite. The grounds for our suite was a typical yard for a home so we really couldn’t sit in the yard, but limes from the tree in the backyard were picked fresh and went well in drinks and fish recipes. The landlady also brought us breadfruit and buffets from her private supply, checked on us daily, answered all my curious questions about land ownership, emergency services, best grocery stores, local customs and culture, yet clearly understands privacy (never approached when the main door was closed to suite). The suite was just across the road from the beach — convenient for returning for lunch or whelter from those breif, unpredictable afternoon showers. Bus stops/access to public transit is steps away for both directions and groceries and casual shopping are walking distance (for all but extremely lazy tourists). There is a street shelter that serves exceptional food at great prices right in front of the church — probably the best (purchased) meal we had there! Oistens Fish on Fridays was fun but not as good a value and really a designed and intended as a tourist trap. Fun, but not the "real" Barbados.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Public transit can be used to access most, if not all of the attraction spots on the island. It is almost impossible to get lost and if you do, the locals are so friendly and helpful in directing you. Most activities were a reasonable value for money, none that I would recommend you stay away from. The flower cave attraction on the very north end of the island could do a better job of publishing the risks for people not good with balance (walking on slippery rocks) and very steep stair case climb out of cave. Other than that, most attractions were exactly as published. WE found that taking public transit was an ideal way to see the island (same roads as tour vehicles) but WAY cheaper. A bus ride is about 80 cents Canadian and a taxi ride to same destination would have been about $20-40, depending on time of day, etc.
I’ve been to alot of different islands but none compare to the friendliness of Barbados. I found absolutly NO racial barriers, was never treated like a "dumb tourist", found the people (strangers and our hosts alike) to be welcoming and helpful. Barbados is cleaner that most island nations and seem to take more pride in their environment, both for their local residents and for tourists. Tourism there is well understood yet not so "westernized" as to seem fake or forced. Access to banks was excellent (although the service is very slow). We felt very, very safe there even after dark. We stuck to main roads and poplulated areas and experienced no problems at all. Local police and coast guards are present, friendly and helpful. Overall, an excellent holiday. Good food, great weather, exceptional people. Worth the long plane ride!