The Sandpiper Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Sandpiper is a 48-room, family-owned resort on the ritzy west coast of Barbados. It's hard to find fault in the rooms or amenities at this small, colonial-style luxury property. The pool and beach are on the smaller side but they are beautifully landscaped and inviting. The airy rooms have sophisticated tropical style, though some of the ground-floor units do feel less private, and some may mind the lack of TVs. The beach is located on a little inlet and has calm, clear water. Guests regularly rave about the food and service at the hotel’s on-site restaurant as well as Harold’s Beach Bar. The spa is not on-site and located on the hotel’s sister property a short drive up the road.
Little Arches Boutique Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Little Arches Boutique Hotel is a small upscale boutique property with only 10 guest rooms. Due to its small size, the hotel has a private, luxurious ambiance, and the rates are reasonable for this caliber of property. The rooms are both cozy and stylish with sophisticated furnishings and attractive Earthenware pottery accents. The views from the pool and sundeck area are breathtaking and the hotel’s on-site restaurant, Café Luna, is highly regarded. However, the hotel is not located directly on the beach (it’s a two-minute walk down the road), which may be a drawback for some.
Treasure Beach Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
This 35-suite boutique hotel has a prime location on the west (platinum) coast of Barbados, close to high-end dining, shopping, and entertainment. The restaurant and pool area are at the heart of the property and are picturesque and popular with guests. The property has a narrow but beautiful beachfront with calm, clear water. All rooms are suites, and the hotel’s three Deluxe suites offer luxurious perks such as spa baths and private plunge pools. However, the furnishings and decor in the basic suites are nondescript and not anything fancy. The small size of this hotel allows the staff to provide personalized, exceptional service.
Mango Bay Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Mango Bay is a friendly 76-room resort within minutes of shops and restaurants in historic Holetown -- a quick escape for guests when they need a break from their all-inclusive stay. Packages include meals in one indoor/outdoor restaurant (which feels limiting), drinks (bar opens in the morning), nightly entertainment, and activities such as waterskiing and catamaran rides. The beach area can get crowded, but calm waves appeal to swimmers of all ages. Rooms range in size and views, but are spacious and lack the tacky Caribbean decor found in many resorts. Overall, the resort has a casual sophistication that is ideal for groups and romantics looking for an easy vacation.
Waves Barbados Rating: 4.0 Pearls
With competitive pricing, lovely rooms, and great on-site amenities, this 70-room boutique hotel will attract people who never thought they'd choose an all-inclusive package. With three restaurants, cabanas on the terrace, and a late-night lounge, Waves has a contemporary appeal especially for couples (though families aren't overlooked). Spacious rooms are modern and bright, and most have glass-balconies (oceanfront rooms are worth the cost for the sunsets alone). Room amenities include flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and minibars nicely stocked with free goodies; while modern bathrooms spawn envy with door-less showers and eco-friendly toiletries. The quiet beach along Prospect Bay feels private, and the calm waves are perfect for swimming and kayaking. A spa and adults-only pool, located across the street, are extra perks.
White Sands Beach Villas Rating: 3.0 Pearls
This 22-unit condo building on the island's lively south coast is walking distance to an ATM, grocery store, and numerous restaurants and bars along "The Gap." A busy neighborhood, yes, but guests will feel like they have this hidden gem all to themselves, especially when taking advantage of the beautiful stretch of beach that has zero crowds and constant turquoise waves. One-, two-, and three-bedroom units are decorated with a contemporary flair, and full kitchens come with high-end stainless steel appliances. Rental cars on-site and at-home accommodations make this a fantastic option for those looking for that rare mix of quiet relaxation and nearby nightlife.
The Atlantis Hotel Rating: 3.5 Pearls
If the name "Atlantis" conjures up images of the megaresort in the Bahamas, then think again. The Atlantis Hotel in Barbados -- a historic property from the 1800s with only eight rooms -- is the polar opposite. The boutique hotel re-opened in 2009 and offers freshly decorated nautical-themed rooms with canopy beds, stylish furnishings, and modern amenities. (For families, there are two two-bedroom apartments in a separate building.) Located on the remote and rocky east coast, the beach is more suitable for surfing than swimming, and a car is recommended to get around the island. The Atlantis restaurant is popular with locals, and the varied cuisine comes with outstanding views from both indoor and outdoor tables.
The SoCo Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The SoCo Hotel is an all-inclusive boutique property located 10 minutes east of Bridgetown. The 24 bright, spacious rooms have balconies with ocean views as well as flat-screen TVs, DVD players, and iPod docks. Common areas are chic, and stylish decor in the lobby, restaurant, and small pool area includes large white candles and clean modern furniture. The beach is spacious and calm, but there aren't any water sport options for guests. Note that there is no fitness center or on-site spa (although spa treatments are available in-room) and some guests complain of traffic noise in the rooms. There's only one restaurant although it gets rave reviews.