This is our review of the Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel and resort in Barbados.
As usual when I review hotels from my family holidays, it is not comprehensive. I didn’t get a personal tour and I wasn’t voluntarily giving up my time to check out facilities which we weren’t using. On the upside, I was there for five nights compared to the usual 1-2 night stay when we do a hosted review.
Fairmont is now part of Accor and you can earn and redeem Accor Live Limitless points here. That said, as Accor has revenue based redemptions (1 point = 2 Eurocents) you don’t get a better deal by using them here vs your local ibis.
The Fairmont Royal Pavilion website is here.
Like the bulk of Barbados resorts, it sits on the West Coast and is about 30 minutes from the airport. There is very little which is walkable from the hotel – some of the other resorts are strollable to places of interest.
The Barbados luxury hotel market is an odd one. You have Sandy Lane and then ‘everyone else’. Sandy Lane is so far ahead – having spent a couple of days there I can confirm that it is ludicrously opulent – that the best anyone else can hope for is 2nd place.
Sandy Lane isn’t cheap. That said, you can make savings. For a start, it does a 50% discount on a second room for your children, with Fairmont doesn’t. Sandy Lane also has 2-bed suites which are decent value compared to paying for two rooms elsewhere.
Barbados is also very seasonal. The temperature rarely varies (the rain does vary, but it comes in sharp bursts and then the sun is back) but in Summer people prefer a 2-hour flight to Spain for 30 degree heat rather than a 9-hour flight to Barbados for 27-30 degrees. Hotel prices adjust accordingly.
The Royal Pavilion believes it has the No 2 spot behind Sandy Lane. Due to lack of investment, I have my doubts. After chatting to a couple of taxi drivers, Coral Reef Club seems to be the preferred choice these days. It’s not clear cut though.
The picture above is why you should think about staying at Royal Pavilion.
Everything in the picture above is part of the hotel. It has, I think, by far the largest beach frontage of any Barbados hotel except Sandy Lane, shared by just 75 rooms. Technically it even beats Sandy Lane, but as Sandy Lane is in a secluded bay with no other hotels, guests effectively have free reign of it all.
If you look at the pink accommodation blocks, you’ll see the other reason to stay here. Every room at Royal Pavilion has a direct sea view. More importantly, it is unobstructed. The sea view rooms at Sandy Lane are blocked by trees and the rooms are set back. You could throw a stone off your balcony at Royal Pavilion and it would hit the sand.
Here’s the view looking up the beach from our room:
Here is a PR shot, which is accurate, showing a balcony:
Here’s the third reason.
The rooms at Royal Pavilion had a full makeover a few years ago and look good:
It’s not perfect – I’d like a double sink in the bathroom for a start – but the standard is high.
What rooms are best?
When picking a room …. the top floor has the best sea views and is priced higher than the middle level.
The ground floor rooms have a large patio and outdoor area but the amount of sea you can, erm, see from the room will be more restricted.
That’s the good stuff, but ….
So far, so good. If you want a hotel with a huge amount of beach and want to stay in a room which is practically in the sea, this is the place for you.
Elsewhere, unfortunately, lack of investment shows.
The rooms are built in the style of a US motel
In truth, Royal Pavilion should be demolished and rebuilt. The two buildings containing the rooms were built out of large concrete blocks. More annoyingly, the rooms have external corridors like an old US motel. As soon as you step out of your room, you are exposed to the elements. For somewhere with as much rain as Barbados, this isn’t ideal. (My wife, to be fair, found this feature charming.)
The air conditioning is noisy
You need aircon in Barbados. Modern airconditioning should be silent. At Royal Pavilion, it is anything but. We ended up having to turn it off when we were trying to sleep, and had to rely on a rotating fan above the bed. It was still uncomfortably warm during the night.
Little money has been spent maintaining the public areas
Whilst a few million was clearly spent updating the rooms, little seems to have been spent externally. The tiled staircases leading up the rooms are cracked and chipped, for example.
I initially wrote it off as something you can’t avoid when you get such extremes of rain and heat, but when we moved to Sandy Lane everything was spotless. When you are charging high room rates in a relatively low wage economy, there is no excuse for skimping on maintenance.
Breakfast was slow and expensive
The open air room where breakfast is served – the domed area in the top photo, and see below – lets you enjoy beautiful views of the Caribbean whilst eating. It’s a good job, because you will be there a long time.
Service was shockingly slow. Royal Pavilion only offers a la carte breakfast which puts a lot of pressure on the kitchen, although with just 75 rooms to deal with over a four hour period it is clearly manageable. Food, when it arrives, is likely to be lukewarm at best.
For a family of four, you will be paying £100+ per day. We didn’t pay as Emyr at Bon Vivant gets it included for free on his bookings, but most guests will have paid. Even cheekier was that, as soon as you sit down, two small plates of pastries and two small plates of cut fruit are brought to your table. Only if you check the bill will you see that you’ve been charged £25 for them.
The main restaurant is good
Oddly, the main restaurant is a lot better. We enjoyed some good meals there with beach-side tables. Service was a little slow but acceptable. It was also reasonably priced, by Barbados standards. At Sandy Lane, for example, the evening buffet costs (inc service) a ludicrous US$185 per person inc children over 10, with drinks extra.
The main hotel bar has music acts 3-4 times per week who were of good quality, although their stage is tucked into an odd corner.
The beach bar is a wasted opportunity
To the left of the hotel is a beach bar. This is a scruffy, run down place, not dissimiliar to hundreds of other independently run beach bars across the Caribbean. What I didn’t realise for a while is that the hotel actually owns it (and when I looked carefully, it is inside the hotel boundary).
It was just weird. The resort could build a classy beach-side bar but instead chose to build the sort of place where your beer comes from a can pulled out of the fridge, you sit at cheap plastic tables on cheap plastic chairs and there is a TV blaring away at full volume disturbing everyone.
Watersports are free
Credit to the hotel here – a lot of watersports are included in your room rate, even if an instructor is required. My wife and daughter took a Hobi catamaran out, for free, with a very personable staff member called Ryan doing the bulk of the sailing. You can’t argue with that.
There are also private operators in the bay offering other options, including boat tours down the coast which I recommend.
The swimming pool is good for children
Royal Pavilion has a large swimming pool which is just seconds from the main restaurant and the beach. (One issue at Sandy Lane is that the pool is behind the hotel and you need to walk through reception and cross the driveway to reach it). It is almost eight feet deep at the deep end but starts shallow, allowing all kids to find the depth they are happy with.
Wi-fi is terrible
Given the room refurb, connectivity shouldn’t be a problem. It is. Whilst you can get a wi-fi signal anywhere, it drops as soon as you stop using your device. Look at something on your phone, put it down for 5 minutes and the connection is gone. It can’t reconnect automatically. We had this issue across both phones and laptops.
Staff are excellent
The Royal Pavilion general manager was always around. He spoke to us every day, and this didn’t seem to be because he knew who I was. His team are also pretty switched on – service around the pool was excellent, and occasional free trays of smoothies or lollipops would turn up. Housekeeping was also excellent. I never knowingly spoke to the Sandy Lane manager when we were there.
Late check-out was not a problem
We spent our last couple of days at Sandy Lane. Royal Pavilion was happy to give us a 3pm late check-out on one of our two rooms (this was an ‘if available’ benefit of our Bon Vivant package) which meant changing hotels was very easy. We threw our things into our cases, checked out, hopped in the Sandy Lane van, did the 10 minute drive down the road and were immediately checked in to our new rooms.
This is a tricky one. If you are going to Barbados for 7-10 days, I would switch hotels halfway, purely to stop yourself getting bored with the same breakfast and dinner menus. The key properties are all on the same stretch of West Coast so a transfer will usually be quick.
If you are going to try Sandy Lane for a day or so, do it at the end of your trip, not the beginning. The jolt after you leave there will be too much otherwise.
There is a lot to like about Fairmont Royal Pavilion – the astonishing sea views from the rooms, especially on the top floor, the recent room refurbishment, the huge stretch of beach frontage, the free watersports, the good staff and the reasonably priced (by five star standards) food. With just 75 rooms, it doesn’t feel crowded either.
What I didn’t like was the external corridors to the rooms, the noisy aircon and the lack of investment in maintenance in some places. The tediously slow and frequently lukewarm breakfast service was the biggest issue, followed by the constantly dropping wi-fi. You need to weigh up what matters to you.
The Fairmont Royal Pavilion website is here.
We used Emyr Thomas at Bon Vivant to book.
At the time, he had access to a ‘four nights for the price of three’ package. All bookings via Emyr will also come with free breakfast, $100 of food and drink credit and late check-in / early check-in ‘if available’.
Emyr’s bookings also have an ‘upgrade on arrival if available’ benefit. If you are coming out of peak season, you might want to gamble on a middle floor booking and hope to get the upgrade to the top floor. We didn’t get upgraded because, with an existing top floor booking, there was nowhere to go – there are no suites. The only other accommodation outside the main blocks is a villa in the grounds.
In terms of cost, it varies considerably due to the time of year. We did five nights, but a four night stay on the ‘four for three’ package we used would have cost around £700 per night inc taxes. This was October half-term pricing though.
Bookings via Emyr also qualify for Accor Live Limitless points as usual. You can contact Emyr via the form here.
PS. What points options are available in Barbados?
Short answer – not many. There is a Hilton in Barbados which a reader reviewed for us here. The snag is that it is a big hotel (350 rooms, so 4x what Royal Pavilion has) and is in a more built-up area close to Bridgetown.
Long answer – it’s getting better. Marriott bought Elegant Resorts in 2019 which brought it seven Barbados hotels. These are currently being refurbished and will be relaunched under Marriott brands at some point. Marriott will then sell the hotels to an investor after locking them in to long-term management contracts. I would be wary of booking before they are rebranded however – take a look at this recent review of Treasure Beach.
Whilst few HfP readers will have Wyndham Rewards points, it is also worth flagging that Wyndham is opening a 450 room hotel in Barbados in May 2022.
Hotel offers update – January 2022:
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