Fodor's Expert Review Crystal Cove Hotel

Hwy. 1, Appleby, St. James BB240007, Barbados See on Map

Jane Zarem

One of the seven Elegant Hotels properties on Barbados, this seaside colony of attached duplex cottages—whitewashed and trimmed in perky pastels—appeals to both couples and families. Winding garden paths connect the units, which spill down a hillside to the beach, where you can swim, sail, snorkel, water-ski, windsurf, or kayak to your heart's content—or play tennis, dip in the pool, or luxuriate at the spa. Because this is an all-inclusive hotel, all meals and activities are included—including the supervised kids' club (ages 2-11); babysitting is available for an extra charge.


Rooms, junior suites, and one-bedroom suites have either a pool/garden or an ocean view, and each has a balcony or patio. The suites have either a sitting area or separate living room. Rooms that have a water view may have a hammock from which to view it. Some rooms are literally inches from the beach. That said, there are lots of stairs from the rooms up to the lobby and, from many rooms, down to the pool and beach—even from first-floor accommodations.

YOU SHOULD KNOW The units appear to be a little tired around the edges and could benefit from some refreshing.


Bathrooms are small and old-fashioned. Each has the requisite toilet, of course, a tub/shower combination and a vanity counter with (rather crowded) double sinks. With chipped tiles and excess grout in places, the time for bathroom “reno” appears to be overdue.


The lobby is small—simply a place to check in/out or request information.


Three small, tiered, free-form pools—edged by large boulders and landscaped with gardens of flowering bushes—provide a good place to cool off, but you won’t be able to swim laps. One pool, the deepest one, is linked to the Cave Bar. On the pool deck, a row of cushioned sun loungers—with umbrellas to provide a little shade—overlook the sea and the beach a few steps below.


There is no onsite spa. Instead, you’re directed to a spa at a sister property; e.g., Waves or Tamarind.


The air-conditioned gym is well-equipped, with free weights and several machines: cardio, rowing, treadmills, and so forth.


Reflections, the main restaurant overlooking the pool, serves a daily buffet breakfast and à la carte dishes at lunch and dinner; each night, there's entertainment in the form of a steel band or other live music. Drifters, the beach bar, offers a buffet-style lunch and either buffet or à la carte dinner service. For a change of scene, a free water taxi travels all day long (weather permitting) between sister properties on the west coast: Waves, Tamarind/The House/Treasure Beach, and Colony Club. At Waves and at Turtle Beach (if you find yourself on the south coast), both all-inclusives, the meals and beverages are reciprocal. At the other sister hotels, there’s a surcharge for the meal, and beverages are not included. In any case, you must make reservations through the Crystal Cove front desk.

YOU SHOULD KNOW While all meals are included, there is no “all-day” dining. Once the meal service is over, it’s over.


Vista Coffee & Wine Bar serves a variety of lattes and coffee drinks to accompany its sweet pastries—and pairs red or white wines with its savory tapas and small bites. The Cave Bar is rather unique: Swim up to it—under a waterfall in the pool—or approach it from the dry side. Coffee service in The Cave starts a 6 a.m.; the drinks get more serious around mid-morning. The Beach Bar offers all-day bar service from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


The beach in front of the property has fine white sand and a few palm trees—with enough sun loungers to go around—and all water sports, including waterskiing and banana boat or tube rides, are complimentary. Reef-walker shoes are a good idea, as the seabed close to shore can be rocky.

"Beach ambassadors" pass by frequently with cool drinks and frozen "treats.


Getting Around

Buses stop right in front of the hotel, heading north to Holetown and Speightstown or south to Bridgetown. The fare is $1. Taxis are always available. A rental car is a good idea if you want to explore the island on your own. A complimentary water taxi shuttles guests to and from the Elegant Hotels properties on the west coast: Crystal Cove, Waves, Tamarind/The House/Treasure Beach), and Colony Club. The water taxi makes the several round trips per day between 9:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., weather permitting.


As Crystal Cove is an all-inclusive resort, you’ve paid for all of your meals. For a splurge—or just a change of pace—consider lunch or dinner at Daphne's (5-minute drive), The House’s beachfront restaurant, where the chef and his brigade whip up “modern Italian” cuisine and the extensive wine list features both regional Italian and fine French selections.

Also just south of Holetown, The Tides (5-minute drive) has long been considered one of the island’s best restaurants. Once a private mansion, the dining room—just feet from the sea—has huge tree trunks growing right through it. The cuisine is as dazzling as the atmosphere.

In Bridgetown, on The Careenage, Waterfront Café (15-minute drive) is a great place for alfresco dining at lunch or for dinner accompanied (some nights) by live jazz.

Then, for a nominal fee, Waves provides shuttle service to Oistins Fish Fry (25-minute drive), a must-do event on Friday evenings. All along the waterfront, local folks grill fresh fish (and chicken for landlubbers), served with traditional Bajan sides. Seating is at communal picnic tables, servings are huge, prices are low, and music adds to the fun—a good time for the whole family.


In Holetown, enjoy a sophisticated evening at Drift Ocean Terrace Lounge (5-minute drive), just south of town, or a more lively night on 1st or 2nd Street at Red Door Lounge or Duke’s Night Lounge (10-minute drive). And on Sunday nights, Ragamuffins, also on 1st Street, has a Drag Show that attracts a crowd and often spills into the street.


While somewhat high-priced for what you get, we love the beach and the spectacular nightly sunsets.


Family, Green
88 rooms
Breakfast yes
Lunch yes
Dinner yes
Bar yes
Cafe yes
Room Service yes
Gym, Pool
Free Parking


Phones: 246-432–2683; 855-258-0902 in U.S.

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