A top address in Barbados for those who seek class and elegance; the Coral Reef Club is a beautiful, moderately sized hotel tucked away on the island's west coast. This member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World began life in the fifties, and was last renovated in 2007 yet has kept its good looks largely intact. It is the sleeker, older sister to The Sandpiper, only minutes away. There are other fancy addresses on the island, but Coral Reef Club is plush without appearing bling-bling.
Only a few minutes north of Holetown, Coral Reef Club is situated on Barbados's famed "platinum coast" (west coast). The hotel is 18 miles or a 45 minute drive from the Grantley Adams International Airport.
The hotel closes annually from the end of May through to mid-July for about five weeks.
With 88 rooms the Coral Reef Club remains a smallish hotel. Accommodation and its range of well-maintained facilities are set throughout 12 acres of tropical gardens. A long driveway takes new arrivals past the lush greenery and to the hotel's Reception. The gorgeous lobby features stone tile floors, chandeliers, flower arrangements and a lovely wrought iron staircase. The open windows allow for plenty of natural light and overlook a charming lily pond. Reception leads directly to the hotel restaurant which features a large bar and cosy lounge area with grand piano. An adjacent dance floor and gazebo overlook the water and play host to nightly entertainment such as live bands.
The hotel buildings are made of coral render (local method of replicating coral stone) and are evenly spread out throughout the hotel grounds, giving an impression of privacy and plenty of secluded corners. The colonial Barbadian architecture is a success, creating a traditional but elegant ambiance.
On the south side of the resort is a large swimming pool (a second is located near the resort spa and kids' facilities), boasting mosaic tile design and a beautiful fountain feature. Wrought iron loungers are nearby, as is a charming gazebo, nestled in the gardens which are home to a vocal birdlife. The hotel offers free, tours of its gardens (Wednesdays and Fridays) for those guests with green thumb interests. Take in the mahogany, casuarina or flamboyant trees, the Pride of India, and the flowering frangipani or bougainvillea plants...
Guests who prefer more active holiday pursuits can head down to one of two tennis courts on site; there are tennis pro clinics most days and the racquets and balls are provided. Gym bunnies can get their fix in the large, well-equipped fitness centre (with TVs and music system), while younger guests can take over the kids' playhouse and playground. Also on-site are a hairdressing salon and boutique, but the highlight of Coral Reef Club's facilities is its excellent spa.
The Spa at Coral Reef Club is amongst the top wellbeing addresses on the island. The attention to detail, from the tasteful décor, to the spa's signature scent of lemongrass and ginger, The Spa is a luxurious haven. Open to both hotel guests and the public, The Spa boasts a Manicure and Pedicure Room, four private treatment rooms, each with private patio, and a couple's gazebo known as the Outdoor Pavilion. The relaxing atmosphere is created using tranquil water features (waterfalls, ponds etc.), furnishings in natural materials, relaxation cabanas and a generous helping of tropical plants around an interior courtyard. We loved the gorgeous Crystal Steam Room, the alfresco hydrotherapy pool and the Experience Shower with shower sensations ranging from 'tropical' to 'mist.' Upstairs, guests will appreciate the relaxation area on a covered roof terrace.
At Coral Reef Club, the 88 rooms aren't numbered but named after various flowers and plants, and divided into different 'houses' not taller than three storeys. Guests can find themselves in rooms named Frangipani, Cactus, Ylang Ylang, Jacaranda or Sugar Plum, etc. Accommodation ranges from garden rooms and cottages, to superior junior suites, villas and the luxury plantation suites. The luxury cottages/suites boast private plunge pools, either semi-hidden amongst the gardens (rooms on the ground floor) or on the balcony (rooms on the first floor). Each room features elegant furnishings and objets d'art that create a classy Caribbean look, as well as a large patio or balcony and spacious bathrooms. The rooms do not contain kitchenettes but each contains a mini fridge and toaster, while tea and coffee making facilities are available on request. Spacious and spotless, the rooms are bright and brimming with personality - a quiet Barbadian charm. Thankfully, the classic colonial look Coral Reef Club has gone for has been successful, appearing light and modern rather than heavy and dated.
Meanwhile, the five luxury plantation suites are something special, with enormous, thoughtfully decorated spaces. From the grand four poster bed, to the fresh orchids that litter the magnificent bathroom, the marble floors, or even the silk clothes hangers found in the built-in closet, no detail has been forgotten. Claiming sea views, these suites also contain their own terraces with wet bar and plunge pool.
Dining at Coral Reef Club is a delightful affair; the large, open-air restaurant with sea views is home to delicious international cuisine. A large buffet station is found in front of a hand painted mural, while a grand piano nudges the cocktail bar with charming shell and sand decoration. The wait staff move expertly from table to table in smart uniforms, complete with bow tie and waistcoat. Each glass top table is decorated with flowers, while the cane dining chairs and hanging pot plants retain the casual chic atmosphere.
Next door a cosy cocktail lounge is the perfect place for pre-dinner liquid refreshments. Afternoon tea is served daily on the outdoor terrace but guests can also expect themed dinners such as the Bajan buffet/manager's cocktail party (Mondays) and the BBQ (Thursdays).
The à la carte menu changes regularly, using seasonal produce and promotes daily lunch specials. Lunch options range from sandwiches to wraps, and salads to stir fries, with prices starting at around BBD$25 (£7.70). Dinner tends to be slightly more formal, with more creative dishes on the menu. Guests can sample the seared scallops with cauliflower purée, tomato salsa verde, crispy bacon and truffle butter sauce (BBD$80, £24.60); homemade linguine tossed in extra virgin olive oil with smoked salmon, red onions, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and fresh basil leaves (BBD$76, £23.40), or pan fried fillet of sea bass on green pea and mint risotto with glazed baby carrots, caramelised onions and lemongrass butter sauce (BBD$80, £24.60). While The Reef restaurant offers its guests a variety of dishes at both lunch and dinner, it is a shame that there are very few local specialties on the menu.
The smallish, sandy beachfront at Coral Reef Club is scattered with sun loungers draped in green mattresses, squeezed in on the adjacent lawn and under the trees. There are some rocky patches so beware when barefoot! Complimentary water sports include windsurfing, snorkelling, sailing and waterskiing. There is also a swim pontoon a little out to sea. Beach service is available, with staff making the rounds bearing free sorbet etc.
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