ACCESSIBILITY RATING: 5/5
Few things can make or break a travel experience for a wheelchair user like a hotel in a foreign country. Barbados isn’t a large country by any means, so my options for a wheelchair accessible hotel with the bathroom and amenities I needed were a bit limited compared to other places I’ve visited. However, I hit the jackpot when my friend Azure and I arrived at the Hilton Barbados Resort in Bridgetown.
Located a short five-minute drive from downtown Bridgetown, the resort sits on a stunning outcropping of aquamarine beach called Needham’s Point in the southwest corner of Barbados. It has a beautiful open-air lobby, two pools on two different levels (including an ininity pool facing the ocean), a large private beach, two formal restaurants, and a more casual indoor bar/restaurant and pool bar. Although we didn’t use them, we saw that there is a spa on property, as well as a salon, boutique, coffee shop, and Internet space. Since I’m a Hilton rewards member, we were able to have a free full breakfast each morning on the 8th floor with an incredible view of Carlisle Bay. The hotel also has social events and beach parties certain nights of the week.
However, the coolest part of the property is Charles Fort. Located on the hotel property just past the infinity pool area is a limestone and coral fortification complete with cannons facing the ocean. Charles Fort was erected at Needham’s Point in 1650 by the British military to protect neighboring Carlisle Bay from any enemy attacks. And the best part? It is fully wheelchair accessible via paver paths along the sea wall.
As for the hotel rooms, the wheelchair accessible ones are spacious and easy to get around in. We were actually mistakenly placed in a room with an accessible tub the first night (a no-go for me). The bed was also too high for me to transfer into by myself, and fortunately my friend Azure was able to give me a boost. However, for the rest of our stay, we were moved to a room with a roll-in shower that was fantastic (room 253). The bed in this room was much lower and I was able to get into it by myself. The shower was great, although I did have to request a shower chair since it did not have a fold-down bench. As is the case with most roll-in showers, the water ran everywhere, but the housekeeping staff later placed a long rolled towel on the bathroom floor along the shower’s edge (without us even asking), and that worked like a charm. The first room with the tub (room 653) had electrical outlets next to the bed, which was very convenient for connecting my scooter charger. However, our second room did not, so we had to connect everything across from the bed.
The absolute highlight of our stay at the Hilton Barbados was our adventure with the free beach wheelchair. In contrast to the beach wheelchair I used at Siesta Key in Florida, this one was a recumbent three-wheeler with two flotation devices as armrests. In other words, this chair was designed to go into the ocean and float. After I transferred into the chair from my scooter, a member of the staff pulled me to the water’s edge to “get my feet wet.” Yeah, right! The days were windy during our stay, and the waves were pretty large. I only had to go a few feet into the water before I was soaked with the cool Caribbean Sea! It was so much fun, and an amazing experience considering I hadn’t been in the ocean since my first-born was a baby–roughly eight years ago.
I can’t say enough amazing things about the staff at the hotel. While Azure and I were lounging by the pool one afternoon, the operations manager (Shireene) was walking through the area and greeting every single person to make sure they were enjoying themselves. Every staff member we came into contact with took the time to smile and make sure we had everything we needed. Every day before we embarked on an island adventure, we had wonderful conversations with MacAndrew at the valet stand. The pool staff always made sure we had cool beverages in hand and enough towels to be comfortable.
So if you’re considering a wheelchair friendly Caribbean getaway, consider making Barbados your destination! And if you do decide to visit, definitely stay at the Hilton Barbados Resort. You will feel like royalty, but more importantly your accessibility needs will all be met with enthusiasm.