A Cultural Immersion in Barbados | My Family Travels

In summer, the annual May to August Crop Over cultural festival draws lots of visitors to Barbados in what is traditionally the low season. This year, Crop Over celebrates its bicenntial with big news: superstar Rihanna will be returning to her native island to perform at Grand Kadooment Day, the festival’s finale on August 5, 2019. You may not get a ticket to Rihanna up close, but it’s great fun. Typically, Masquerade Bands make their way to Spring Garden Highway followed by dancing revelers dressed in sequined costumes decorated with colorful feathers and jewels. Music trucks and moving bars roll along behind the live bands. Through August 5, expect dusk ‘til dawn parties, arts and crafts markets, calypso and folk music and culinary-driven street fairs. Are you intrigued?

A Barbados resort that breathes authenticity

Water-skiing
The calm Caribbean water off Crystal Cove is ideal for waterskiing.

I recently visited Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels on Barbados. My beach-loving family and I have vacationed at numerous all-inclusive hotels throughout the Caribbean. As beautiful as these tropical paradises are, they often lack a sense of place. There’s a uniform feel to many of these resorts that can make it hard to distinguish exactly which Caribbean country you are in.

Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels bucks this trend, giving families easy opportunities to be exposed to an authentic slice of Barbados. While the resort’s amenities are outstanding, the opportunities for immersive Bajan cultural experiences really stand out. (Residents of Barbados are often referred to as Bajans, so it’s the word to use if you want to sound local.)

A Very British History

Barbados is the easternmost Caribbean island. It was first fully occupied by the British in 1621 and remained a British colony until 1961. It was granted full independence in 1966 as an independent parliamentary democracy within the British Commonwealth. As you might expect, Barbados retains some very British traditions. Many tourists who vacation here are British, thanks to continued cultural ties and excellent airlift from the UK.

Cricket in Barbados is as Familiar as Baseball in America

Learn to play cricket on the beach
Learn to play the national sport, cricket, at the Crystal Cove Resort on Barbados.

Cricket is the national sport throughout the West Indies and Barbados is no exception. Locals are proud that numerous island-bred athletes have contributed to the international success of West Indian teams. While its origins are uncertain, cricket’s popularity throughout the British Empire is indisputable. Whether you catch an International Test Match or a casual game in a village field, watching is a true island experience.

Give Cricket A Try

At Crystal Cove, families have the opportunity to get hands-on and learn to play cricket. The resort’s British guests are likely already familiar with the rules but for North Americans and others who are not, the knowledgeable staff is on hand during regularly scheduled games.

Cricket is a fun way for kids and their parents to meet and mingle with guests and staff as they try a new sport. By the end of the game, you’ll be throwing around cricket terms like “wicket” and “Daddy hundred.”

Kids Club With Local Flair

The kids club at Crystal Cove
The kids club at Crystal Cove is for children ages 3-12.

The Flying Fish Kids Club at the resort welcomes children age 3-12 to spend all or part of each day with the engaging staff of trained professionals. Once a week, the club schedules Bajan Day. On Bajan Day, youngsters are introduced to activities that local kids might engage in, including hopscotch, bingo and old-world Bajan crafts.

Mingle With Locals At The Oistin’s Friday Fish Fry

It’s tempting to spend every waking moment within the cushy confines of Crystal Cove, but don’t skip the Friday Fish Fry. It’s a Bajan cultural and culinary tradition that’s fun for the whole family. It feels like a big street party, with music, dancing and merriment saturating the air. It’s as colorful and as authentic as it gets.

Dozens of stalls fill the streets, manned by locals who cook the fish on big grills. The fish market is right next-door, so everything still tastes of the briny sea. You get several ample side dishes with your order. The ubiquitous macaroni pie is a fortifying and delicious choice. It’s a Bajan take on classic mac and cheese with just the slightest bit of kick and tons of flavor. One bite and most kids (and adults) are hooked.

Each Friday, guests of Crystal Cove may sign up for a shuttle that takes you right to the fish fry for a nominal fee. You’ll travel on a comfortable coach and get dropped off in the middle of the action. After a few hours, the shuttle will pick you up and bring you back to the resort.  

The Beach

pickup game of cricket on the sand.
Sun loungers are turned to watch a pickup game of cricket on the sand.

Located on the island’s Platinum Coast, Crystal Cove’s privileged position on a stunning swath of sea ringed with shady palms and golden-hued sand is unbeatable. If the kids prefer to romp in the pool, there are three to choose from.

The resort has 88 rooms and suites. This manageable size means you’ll find plenty of sunbeds and lounge chairs and no lines at the breakfast buffet.

Watersports

Take some time to relax and enjoy the sound of the waves before the array of watersports tempts you to get wet. Watersports are complimentary, including motorized sports like water skiing. Sail, kayak, ride the gentle waves on a boogie board or try your luck on a standup paddleboard.

If that doesn’t entice you into the warm water, maybe a ride on a banana boat will. This yellow inflatable boat is shaped like its namesake fruit. You’ll get a good splash and lots of laughs as it’s pulled behind a speedboat.

Spend Time With the Staff

Many Crystal Cove employees have been at the hotel for years. Take the time to chat and you will be rewarded. They are proud of their island’s heritage, going out of their way to engage curious guests with snippets of information regarding the history and culture of their beautiful home.

Catch a Water Taxi to Other Elegant Hotels

Ride a banana boat
This yellow inflatable boat looks like a banana and can be towed behind a power boat for a wild ride.

Elegant Hotels has several sister properties scattered around the island, connected via complimentary water taxi. Guests have the option to dine and play at these properties, an excellent way to see more of beautiful Barbados.

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