Stylist’s Jazmin Kopotsha falls hard for all-inclusive luxury and Caribbean sun at Sandals Royal in Barbados. Ahead, she explains why you’ll love it too.
All-inclusive holidays are often met with scepticism. To the unfamiliar, the idea of spending a week sat around the same swimming pool, with the same people, eating a rotation of the same food doesn’t sound like much fun. But when said all-inclusive holiday is at an adults-only resort in the Caribbean, with reliable 30 degrees of sunshine and butler-serviced suites, it’s hard to imagine a holiday any other way.
Situated on the south coast of Barbados, Sandals Royal is set right on the pristine white sands of Maxwell Beach. There are three pools - including a rooftop infinity pool - each with an accompanying bar, of course. nine restaurants (from Asian fusion at Chi to authentic Caribbean cuisine at The Jerk Shack), and countless activities on offer. And if you manage to exhaust all options, its sister resort, Sandals Barbados, is just next door and open for residents to explore.
We were staying in a Royal Seaside Crystal Lagoon Swim-up Butler Suite - complete with an outdoor ‘tranquillity soaking tub’ (read: envy-inducing alfresco bath).
After gawking at the pool accessed directly from our private patio, we were handed a phone: the ‘butler phone’. AKA a direct line to our dedicated team of three butlers to assist with anything from booking a table at a restaurant to arranging a coolbox of refreshments at the pool each morning.
I’ll be honest, unfamiliar with such service, it felt awkward and overwhelming at first. And though we didn’t use the butler service as much as others might, getting to know three incredible, fun and attentive women who are on the other end of the phone should anything come up, was a huge privilege.
For lunch, the Mediterranean seafood restaurant Neptune’s is the most popular spot - not surprisingly, as it’s mere metres from the glistening white-sand beach and the irresistibly clear Caribbean sea. Beach bums like me will be satisfied lounging the afternoon away with a book and a rum punch, intermittently reminded by the kind, patrolling security guard t0 reapply sun cream.
“Don’t be fooled by the sea breeze!” he’d say. The sun does shine intensely on this island.
Need more stimulus (ie if you fidget after 10 minutes on a sun lounger)? The resort has almost too much on offer. There’s a croquet lawn, shuffleboard, snooker tables and Lovers Lanes, the resort’s swish four-lane bowling alley. If you lack patience, as I do, play as a respite from the early afternoon heat as the evenings are predictably busy.
If tennis, beach volleyball and numerous water sports aren’t your thing, the signature Red Lane Spa experiences might be. Our first ever couples massage finished with a complimentary glass of bubbles to sip as we soaked up the calming atmosphere of the spa’s secluded courtyard before returning to the vibrant soundtrack of Soca music that plays across the resort.
Sandals has a long-standing reputation as the shining star of couples getaways, and Sandals Royal certainly lives up to the brief. My partner and I were slightly apprehensive at the thought of performative romance and endless PDAs, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the energy of the hotel to be much more subtle than we’d imagined.
Though you’ll be spoilt for choice within the Sandals Royal complex, I’d urge you not to forget the fun outside the resort. The buzzy St Lawrence Gap is just a short walk away, where you’ll find local bars, restaurants and market stalls. No Friday night in Barbados is complete without a visit Oistin’s fish fry for plates piled high with tuna, mahi-mahi and lobster.
And snorkelling cruises t the other side of the island are all the more enjoyable knowing everything that’s waiting for you back at the resort. Who said all-inclusive had to be boring.
Seven nights in Sandals Royal Barbados start from £2,285per person for selected dates in September 2022. Price includes return flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Healthrow and resort transfers; sandals.co.uk.