All inclusive beach hotels don't necessarily equate with enormous, impersonal resorts and here's a perfect example. Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels (the hotel group has four other properties on the island) is a smallish hotel with a cosy village-like atmosphere and plenty of charm. With the goods to please both families and couples and newly renovated in a fun, modern style, Crystal Cove is an excellent address well-deserving of its four stars.
Just before you hit Paynes Bay on Barbados's west coast, Crystal Cove is a quick 10 minute drive south of Holetown. Allow 20 minutes to get to Bridgetown and at least 35 minutes when going to and from the Grantley Adams International Airport.
WIFI connection is complimentary in the lobby only, while the ADSL connection in the rooms carries an extra charge. Internet is free in the business centre (open from 7:00am until 12 midnight).
Weather permitting, the hotel offers complimentary water taxi transport between it and its sister properties on the island's west coast; Colony Club and Tamarind.
Crystal Cove has an almost boutique hotel-feel about it, and is attractive and well-maintained inside and out. The small but tasteful lobby spills out on to a pleasant terrace that overlooks the pretty "reflection pool;" its spelt-in-stones message changes daily. The reflection pool cascades into the upper tier of the large freeform pool with a quirky rock ledge. Neatly arranged on the pool deck are a few outdoor settings with blue and green parasols. A few steps away, hidden in the depths of a 'cave' is the very funky pool bar, with direct swim-up access. On the inside you'll find a few cosy seating alcoves from which punters can admire the huge waterfall. On the far side of the cave bar is the pool's second tier. The third and final tier is found at beach level.
The hotel infrastructures are found either side of the main restaurant, painted in charming candy colours with contrasting trim. Fun colour combinations such as purple teamed with pink, turquoise or orange are present - the contrasts seen from the door frames to the window frames, the balconies and even the shutters. The discreet, low-rise buildings are nestled in lush landscaped gardens, amongst a variety of plants and flowers which complete the colourful scene.
Other facilities available to guests include a large, well equipped fitness centre (with three big screen TVs too), a gift shop and tennis courts. The supervised kids' club puts on a lot of scheduled activities to give parents a nice break!
There are 88 rooms at Crystal Cove, with stark differences between each room category. The ocean view rooms are spacious, immaculate and bright, with tile floors, a large flat screen TV, plenty of storage space and modern furnishings. Large glass doors open on to a small, furnished balcony with the sea you can practically reach out and touch! We loved the big, comfy beds draped in fresh white linen and topped off with a fuchsia runner. The hot pink and bright orange décor combined with the cool art on the walls tie the look together. The rooms feature an un-stocked mini fridge (only those in the suites are stocked). Guests may request tea and coffee making facilities.
The 1 bedroom suites have garden/pool views and are in most cases duplex apartment style accommodation. These rooms are very comfortable but decorated in a different style from the standard Ocean View or Pool/Garden View rooms. Entrance is via a small terrace and on the ground floor you'll find a comfy couch (sofa bed) and armchair, a simply decorated bathroom, small corner bar (no kitchenette), ample storage space and flat screen TV. The paisley pink and white drapes and pale mauve feature wall complete the scene. Up the white wooden staircase to the mezzanine level is a light and airy bedroom which overlooks the living area on the ground floor. The mauve feature wall reappears below a white wooden apex ceiling. There is a second full bathroom on the upper level.
The meal plan at Crystal Cove is an all inclusive one. The main restaurant, Reflections, serves buffet breakfast, buffet/à la carte lunch and buffet/à la carte dinner. With a dinner menu changing daily, the cuisine can be described as international with hearty doses of Caribbean flavours. Bright and breezy, the restaurant boasts both pool and sea views and features intimate alcove seating on various levels. The cane chairs, wooden ceilings and white columns with palm decoration set the relaxed ambiance. Theme nights are held two or three times a week.
Meanwhile, the Drifters Beach Bar is a more laidback dining option with its thatched roof bar, straw parasols and multi-coloured tables in turquoise, blue and pink. Overlooking the beach it is open for lunch and dinner (mostly buffet services) and like Reflections also hosts various theme nights; from Mexican to Beach BBQ, and is also the place of the weekly management cocktail party.
Be aware that dinner reservations are required (both restaurants) and that a dress code is enforced after a certain hour. Complimentary room service is offered between 9:00am and 9:00pm.
Crystal Cove boasts a beachfront of approximately 150 metres but unfortunately it is not the most picturesque bathing spot on the island. There are quite a few rocky areas so adapted beach sandals might not be such a terrible idea. We found the beach's sandy areas a bit limited, but there are plenty of plastic sun loungers and parasols to go around (there is little shade by the beach). Beach towels are available in the guest rooms and beach service is also offered. The great thing at Crystal Cove is that most water sports are included, these include: sailing, boogie boards, donut rides, windsurfing, snorkelling, banana boat rides, kayaking and water skiing.
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Mark out of 10 for geographical location