A Sandy, Dandy Delight
The legendary world explorer George Leigh Mallory once spoke of a characteristic quality seemingly imbued by the highest of world mountains, suggesting that through a single gesture of magnificence, such are deemed worthy “to be the lord of all, vast in unchallenged and isolated supremacy.” For those exploring Barbados, a very similar, yet exceedingly rare nuance of commanding magnificence is imparted from a hospitality industry icon whose accommodations, amenities, activities and services have reached such a pinnacle of perfection as to prompt its vast reputation in unchallenged and isolated supremacy – distinguishing this as more than a leading resort in the Caribbean, but among the greatest known to the world.
When it comes to traveling, the majority of tourists will first reflect on a desired destination as opposed to accommodations that wait there – they think about where they are going, and only then do they consider where they will stay after arriving. Yet, Sandy Lane Resort is a definitive exception, it represents something far greater than a mere place to lodge and lounge, in fact, it is one of the reasons why visitors yearn to repeatedly return to Barbados year after year. Nestled amidst a gorgeous expanse of botanical and beachfront beauty in the scenic seascape of St. James, for more than fifty years, Sandy Lane has also gloriously occupied rankings among the most renowned of luxury resorts and to be sure, such distinction isn’t a byproduct of the alluring vistas and wanderlust to which Barbados certainly contributes, as wonderful as that is, in this respect, Sandy Lane’s recognition stems from the sheer quality and lavish attention to detail in every operational aspect to be discerned. Some resorts can boast of their rooms while others may boast of their spa; some may brag about the beauty of their geographic setting while another can tout their treatment of guest services, but Sandy Lane can boast of all because it simply has it all. What it doesn’t have, however, is a need to boast because it has remarkably inspired so many others to fulfill that role. In addition to being conferred with AAA 5-Diamond distinction, Sandy Lane has been recognized as a leader on the “Gold List” of Luxury Resorts determined by Conde Nast. Travel & Leisure has proclaimed it as “World’s Best” among hotels and spas in the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Bahamas and Trip Advisor, in bestowing its Certificate of Excellence Award, deemed Sandy Lane as the #1 Luxury Hotel in the Caribbean. To add to this acclaim, for the last ten years in a row, Sandy Lane has earned consecutive honors in the World Travel Awards, an annual program that celebrates excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry. Winners are determined after calculating hundreds of thousands of votes cast by travel professionals and consumers from as many as 170 countries. In this capacity, Sandy Lane has not only been recognized as an industry leader in terms of overall resort quality, but has also been heralded as a leader in categories pertaining to the quality of its spa as well as its offerings in golf.
To put it succinctly, Sandy Lane is as good as it can get, yet the atmosphere here is not fastidiously formal nor regally repressive, but more friendly and hospitable in true island tradition; the environment is inviting, thriving on the enticement that emerges from the display of operational excellence in every aspect as opposed to pretentious opulence which, it seems, is always more about show than service. Indeed, Sandy Lane has been designed to serve and satisfy the wants of all visitors, whether that’s a vacationing family, a couple celebrating an anniversary or a wedding, executives on a business retreat, or your run-of-the-mill island enthusiast. And while Barbados has plenty to offer would-be explorers, this resort provides plenty of reasons why guests may never wish to venture too far beyond its grounds.
As for accommodations, Sandy Lane is complemented with 112 expertly accessorized rooms and suites that respectively encompass from 707 sq. ft to 3,970 sq. ft. – they’re spectacularly spacious. Distinctive décor, luxury furnishings, marble floors and private terraces all add to the splendor. While guests of the Orchid Wing are greeted with views of the ocean as well as the flowering fauna and mahogany trees, and those in the Seahorse and Dolphin Wings will be enthralled by the views of the beckoning, crescent-shaped, coral sand beach and Caribbean Sea gloriously displayed just beyond the 250 sq. ft. balcony. Equally enticing are Sandy Lane’s penthouse possibilities which come with a large foyer, living room, kitchen, patio with dining area, bathroom with a whirlpool tub and two separate bedrooms. More stately pleasures wait within Sandy Lane’s private villa. Situated within the heart of the resort amidst its own secluded garden, the Villa seems more private residence than resort property and comes with five bedrooms as well as its own dedicated service staff.
The Greatest in Golf
Sandy Lane is home to three of the most esteemed golf venues in the Caribbean. The most exclusive is known as “The Green Monkey,” a 72 par course encompassing more than 7,300 yards fashioned from what once served as an old limestone quarry overlooking the sea. The exposed rock, elevations and pristine greens make for what golfers have described as a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed. The Green Monkey was designed by Tom Fazio who also designed a second known as the Country Club Course. A 72 par, 7,060 yard masterpiece, the course is complemented with five lakes, gorgeous views of the sea, and challenges sufficient to warrant this site’s hosting of the World Golf Championship in 2006. The Country Club Course includes an expansive 450-yard Driving Range where the two-sided North and South tees enable golfers to practicing hitting against the trade winds, a thrill at any skill. Sandy Lane’s famous Old Nine Course has been alluring golfers since 1961. Comprising 3,345 yards, this Par 36 offering of tree-lined, tight fairways and small greens, permeates throughout the entire Sandy Lane property.
Golf carts are included with the green fees at The Country Club and The Green Monkey courses. All come equipped with a GPS system that shows golfers their location and the distances relative to the greens, bunkers and water hazards. The same system not only provides tips on the best way to play the hole, but can also be used to order refreshments. The carts are mandatory, but for that matter, so too are caddie services and there is a minimum of one caddie per cart, and with each, their experience and knowledge of the course may only be exceeded by their willingness to help, whether that’s sharing information about the course or their larger community. As it is well known, for those with a will to listen, islanders have no end of good stories or good advice to share.
Comprising more than 47,000 square feet, the award-winning Spa at Sandy Lane is a universe of luxury unto itself and offers a range of soothing therapies exacted in accordance with traditions from the Caribbean, Europe, North America and the Far East, consistent with Ayurvedic concepts on wellness. In addition to the range of massages, facials and body treatments, The Spa at Sandy Lane also offers hydrotherapy; an experience that allows guests to immerse in a pool where therapeutic bubbles are deployed to sooth the senses and stimulate skin. The Spa’s Rhassoul, an oriental steam room, has also proven particularly popular with guests. In addition to being used as steam room, the Rhassoul provides other rejuvenating treatments, such as a detoxifying delight in applications of Pink Kaolin Cay which extracts impurities from the skin as it dries. Special herbal steam then serves to soften the clay, moisturizing the skin until warm cascading water washes it all away, leaving only an indulging sense of hydration and refreshing bliss. Further benefits can be found from the amazing array of anti-aging skincare products sourced through SUNDÃRI, a company who specializes in organic solutions that combine modern science with ancient wisdom producing therapies from a mixture of botanical extracts and rare essences distilled from nature.
Flavor to Savor
While delicious dining options abound at both the spa and the County Club Golf Course, other culinary mastery is manifest in Sany Lane’s fine dining venues known as L’Acajou and Bajan Blue. L’Acajou offers modern, classical and contemporary takes on French and Mediterranean cuisine which can be paired with a wide range of Old and New world wines, all served in an open-air setting beneath a majestic canopy of mahogany trees. The twinkling of candles, tinkling of the piano and ocean breezes enhance the epicurean experience, this is dining in paradise.
On the lower terrace, for beachside dining, there is Bajan Blue, an informal restaurant that specializes in a menu of European, Caribbean and Asian inspired cuisine. Bajan Blue is open from morning to night, but comes especially alive on Sundays when an elaborate buffet brunch is prepared. A modern wine bar, sushi station and state-of-the-art grill adds to the appetizing allure.
The culinary team has added to Sandy Lane’s acclaim, most recently by earning several awards in an annual competition known as “Taste of the Caribbean.” Sandy Lane’s Nathan Crichlow was recognized as Best Seafood Chef while Rohan Hackshaw took the honors for preparing the Most Creative Cocktail. Additional culinary and beverage awards were respectively earned by Julian Broomes and Jamaal Bowen. The culinary distinction further demonstrates the degree of excellence Sandy Lane embraces in offering its guests the best service possible. Dining operations do not compromise on quality in sourcing products from across the world. Though fruit and produce is widely sourced from local vendors, Sandy Lane’s chefs will go as far as Scotland to source Salmon, or Colorado to land lamb, France for cheese, and oysters are obtained from Canada’s Prince Edward Island. Sandy Lane facilitates the finest World flavors to be found.
Cool for Kids
Sandy Lane caters to all ages, but has special services that are particularly popular with young people. The Treehouse Club is a venue designed for children of 3 years and older. Open from 10am to 8pm, The Treehouse Club serves as an activity and entertainment center featuring a variety of special morning, afternoon and evening programs. A playground, swimming area and movie time add to the mix, while professional counselors also help facilitate special activities that nurture children’s creative expression through arts & crafts, drama or sports & games. Children can learn everything from how to play tennis or golf to how to sail a boat, and to be sure, they will not be bored. For teenagers, there is “The Den.” Located on the lower enclave of The Treehouse Club, The Den comes specially equipped with a game room of pool tables and foosball, appropriately stocked jukebox, computer stations, two large screen TVs with DVD options, and of course, the essential variety of popular electronic games. Then again, Sandy Lane offers plenty of incentive to put the games away and indulge in other thrills that wait at facilities on the beach. Located at the south end of the beach property, these operations provide water sports monitored by the guidance of qualified attendants. Water skiing, banana boat rides, kayaking and catamaran sailing are all in the offering. Special tours can also be arranged that include opportunity to go scuba diving, deep sea fishing or an unforgettable experience in going swimming with rare sea turtles. The less adventurous may simply choose to swim within the massive 7,500 square foot swimming pool which is graced with a cascading waterfall, all encompassed within a lavish tropical garden.
The Greatest Asset
For all of its award-winning resources, Sandy Lane General Manager Randall Wilkie doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge what represents the property’s greatest attribute – “our people.” To his point, the exceptionality evidenced in the golf, spa, dining and guest service operations could not flourish without the presence of a staff driven to deliver excellence. Wilkie says Sandy Lane has gained a reputation for being the world’s best resort because it has amassed the world’s best team of hospitality professionals. Wilkie has not only been integral to the hiring process, but vital to the development of an environment where employees are instilled with an awareness of the significance in their respective service roles; they understand why their work matters and are cognizant of the fact that they are entrusted and encouraged to make their own, unique, beneficial difference in their respective interactions with guests. For staff, there is great pride in not only serving at a world class venue, but also in working with a home grown professional such as Wilkie (who was actually born in Scotland, but raised in Barbados since the tender age of three-month-old). As a 30 year veteran of the hospitality industry, Wilkie has led operations at several very fine resorts from Jamaica to Antigua, but when he was recruited to become General Manager of Sandy Lane several years ago, it was only the second occasion in more than fifty years that a true blue Bajan had been appointed to this role. On that occasion, Wilkie shared insight as to his leadership philosophy, saying, “Do your best always, have respect for people, remember your roots and never give up.”
Wilkie says his job has been made rather easy from have such a talented composite of team players helping to fulfill duties, but again, this was something he helped bring to the property. Under his watch, the staff to guest ratio expanded, now standing at 5:1. Among those hires was a new Italian Resident Manager named Mario Bevilacqua von Gunderrode. Formerly affiliated with the famed Jefferson Hotel of Washington D.C., Mario is a graduate of the equally exceptional Lausanne Hotel School. He has fulfilled a crucial role in driving what he describes as a “new era of engagement with guests.” He says staff have not only been encouraged to contribute their own ideas in terms of improving operations anyway possible, but have also been encouraged to interact with guests. He says as great as the beach, golf, restaurant and spa may be, what drives guests of Sandy Lane to return again and again is their recall of courteous, quality service received from their encounters with staff.
Wilkie also references the fact that Sandy Lane would not exist in its current state without the support of another vital team of professionals, in this case, Dermot Desmond and Partners. This group purchased the property and golf course in 1996 and went on to completely rebuild and expand operations for a grand reopening in March 2001. Wilkie says no other group of investors in the Caribbean have ever made a contribution of such magnitude to Barbados, and to put that in perspective requires acknowledging that Sandy Lane serves much more than the guests that travel from far and wide to stay here. The property is a driver of the local economy, providing thousands of jobs and benefits to local farmers, retailers, craftsmen, tour operators and more. Sandy Lane also regularly contributes to the variety of local philanthropic initiatives and sponsors venues that compel people from around the world to come to Barbados. For example, for more than 17 years, Sandy Lane has been a primary sponsor of an equestrian event known as The Barbados Gold Cup. This event, cosponsored by the Barbados Turf Club and Barbados Tourism Authority, has had jockeys and horse racing enthusiasts from across the world annually galloping to Barbados for 32 years. In recent years, Sandy Lane has donated more than $3 million in prize money to support this venue which has increasingly proven vital to the national strategy involving sports tourism.
Sandy Lane is not just a place to stay; it is one of the reasons why people travel to Barbados. Throughout the year, visitors can capitalize on specially-priced packages that allow for a Family Escape, Romantic Escape, Golf Escape or Spa Escape. But for all the excellence it imparts, for all the services rendered from the friendly and helpful staff, no doubt, guests may find they do not wish to escape too soon from this most legendary of world leading resorts.
For more information, please visit their website at Sandy Lane Resort
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