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Barbados' Best Side, Town & Country

NEWPORT, RI, December 2002 - Thirty years ago, Barbados was where everyone from Frank Sinatra to David Niven to Jackie O came to have their fun in the sun in winter. In the years since, however, sophisticated Americans have tended to flock elsewhere – to St. Bart’s, Jamaica and the Bahamas – though the island has remained popular with the British. A recent massive renovation of the Sandy Lane resort has brought new polish to the island’s west coast, its so-called Platinum Coast. When I visited last spring, I found accommodation, dining, spa and golf options that are now worthy of such a shining moniker – and they’re sure to lure more Americans to Barbados.

HOTELS In the 1960s and ‘70s, Sandy Lane was one of the Caribbean’s most glamorous resorts. Guests such as Queen Elizabeth and Harry Belafonte returned annually for the bedrooms that opened directly onto a white-sand beach and for the outdoor dance floor, where Sir Elton John sometimes commandeered the piano. When the hotel reopened in 2001 after a three-year, $200 million renovations, the press decried the $1,000-a-night room rates, the acres of marble and mahogany and the gadgetry fit for NASA. But now with lower rates and better staff, the hotel buzzes with happy guests. The grand rooms (the smallest is more than 700 square feet), with their remote-controller everything and butler service, won’t appeal to Spartan souls, but they should satisfy most prima donnas. In fact, Donatella Versace and Luciano Pavarotti have made return visits. 

HOUSES FOR RENT On my most recent visit, I rented a villa on Sandy Lane Estate, the neighborhood with one-hundred-plus villas surrounding the hotel’s golf courses. My party included four young children, and we felt that a house with its own pool, kitchen and staff (laundress, cook, housekeeper and night watchman) would suit our needs better than a hotel. Aurora, a five-bedroom, Georgian-style villa on two acres with a tennis court, came with a private cabana on Sandy Lane Beach (not all the villas do). We had plenty of privacy, but we also enjoyed access to the hotel’s spa and golf courses. Call Wimco, 800-932-3222; wimco.com.

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