We have just come back from a week (well, five and a half days as BWIA cancelled our flights out from Heathrow two days running) at the Mango Bay Hotel & Beach Club (to give it its full name) in Holetown, Barbados. Having selected this hotel on the basis of reviews on Trip Advisor, I wanted to write my own detailed review.
The Mango Bay consists of an entrance foyer and reception, a block of rooms to the left of this, some of which back onto the entrance and some of which face the pool, a block of rooms to the right which face the pool or the bar & restaurant, and a block of rooms that face the ocean. The outward appearance of these room blocks has been architected in a pleasant style. The swimming pool is two ovals with a swim-thru bridge joining them, with space around for sun-loungers. There is a bar and restaurant. There is a sun-deck set back from the beach, with a few steps down to the beach and another area for sun-loungers. There is a water sports office. The grounds are attractive with palms and other plantings. The hotel was refurbished a year ago I believe, which included adding a fourth storey to the existing three-storey blocks, as well as building the ocean-facing blocks.
Our room was in the first block (#409). The balcony overlooked the entrance, and the open access corridor outside the door faced some bars beside the hotel. It was probably one of the less well appointed rooms for this reason. The room itself was spacious, with a king-size bed and a separate single bed both with good mattresses, and an en-suite bathroom and small balcony with two sun-loungers. It had an iron and ironing board, hair-dryer, room safe, cushions, floor mats and TV (which we didn’t turn on), bedside tables and lamps, and a writing desk. The bathroom fittings were good (Grohe, I believe) and everything worked the way it should. The air conditioning was excellent. The room walls were painted white, the bathroom was tiled in red mottled marble, and everything was in a good state of repair. The room was kept spotlessly clean through-out our stay, with the tiled floor being mopped every day. The bath towels and sheets were changed daily. The room was cleaned each morning, and the beds turned-down in the evening. It felt clean, comfortable and homely, and was how one would expect a decent hotel room to be.
The bar was set up each day by 10 am, and open till late. It provided a good range of drinks, from soft drinks and milk-shakes for children through a range of hotel cocktails (mostly rum based) to a number of branded spirits (rum, brandy, whisky). There were no ‘white-label’ bottles other than the cocktail bases/syrups which we saw being made up freshly each day. Service at the bar was superb, with a number of very friendly bar-staff who treated everyone with courtesy. The two I remember most clearly were Kevin (an Eddie Murphy look-alike who was very entertaining) and Alvin (who just looked like the archetypal bartender). We worked our way through the cocktail list, including a very large number of ‘big bananas’ (non-alcoholic banana milk shakes) in the daytime. The bar was in use throughout the day, but we never had to wait that long to get served. The bar also provided drinks to the restaurant, so that you could have cocktails with your dinner if you wanted to. We looked forwards to heading down for our pre-dinner cocktails every evening.
The restaurant consisted of a separate enclosed kitchen area, a glass-enclosed inner area and a covered outer area, with a range of different table configurations, mainly twos and fours. It overlooked the ocean. There was a good live piano player one night, and subdued music on the other evenings. When you turned up for breakfast you were asked to choose a seating time (in 15 min intervals) for lunch and dinner, so that there were staggered sittings. This system worked very well, with hardly any delay in being served your food. While breakfast was a buffet, lunch and dinner was a waited table service (apart from a few occasions such as the BBQ evening). The standard of service was particularly high, and I noted for example that dishes were always served from the left and collected from the right, with appropriate tableware set out for the courses chosen. I am sure that some people may not have even noticed, but for me this was an indicator of the quality and professionalism of the serving staff. Water was always being topped up and plates cleared away promptly. It was the sort of service you would expect to find from a top-class restaurant in London. The quality of the food overall was high, with good cuts of meat and fish, and well-prepared sauces and accompaniments. There was a lot of daily variety/choice, and even a kids menu that could be pre-ordered each morning. The house wine was a good label that we have drunk in the UK. There was also afternoon tea and sandwiches/cakes served at 4 pm. I can remember having a really good king-prawn salad as a starter for lunch one day (from a buffet selection) and the BBQ evening steaks were excellent. The only very minor criticism I could make was that the coffee sometimes was slightly overdone (left on the hotplate), and at times I suspect it was instant rather than filtered or a mix of the two. Guests were required to wear shoes of some kind in the restaurant, and dress for dinner (which meant long trousers and a short-sleeved shirt for me).
There was a programme of entertainment throughout the week, but we tended to head off to bed after dinner as we were exhausted from too much relaxing during the day, although we could hear music sometimes. It was very much in keeping with the overall quality of the hotel however, and not excessive. We did stay up on our last night (Sunday) however, and saw a live band play a range of music covering songs from Tina Turner, Bob Marley and others. There was one chap on keyboards, another on guitar and a female singer. The keyboard player was incredibly talented, both instrumentally and vocally, and while the singer started off just with a tambourine she then launched into a number of songs where she was superb.
The beach itself is quite narrow all along the bay, and is built-up or depleted with sand naturally by the sea. It is a lovely white coral sand, and good for walking along. The water sports office provided pedal boats, kayaks and a Hobie Cat for sailing, as well as free water-skiing. I took the Hobie Cat out several times, and thoroughly enjoyed it (although the tiller extension still needs to be repaired).
There were a number of locals who paraded around just outside the swimming area marker buoys on their jet-skis which they were trying to hire. Personally I found this very annoying, and the noise and fumes they created seemed at odds with the otherwise perfect beach scene. I suspect they also discourage large marine life from coming inshore. One thing the hotel could do is to make their protected swimming/non-motorised area larger so that the jet-skis have to operate further out, and ideally regulate/broker rides on these so that the jet-ski touts didn’t have to ride up and down looking for business.
We all like snorkelling, and while the area close to the beach is not that good (as there are too many sand particles in the water) we found some good snorkelling on the reef at the right end of the bay where the waves crash in, which also had protection buoys around it. There were a few live corals (first time we had seen coral fans) and a number of tropical fish, but the calibre of underwater life was not as good as the Red Sea or the Maldives.
We took advantage of the inclusive excursions. We went to Bridgetown for a few hours, and visited the Mount Gay rum distillery. This was an educational and spiritual :-) experience. Bridgetown itself is not that attractive, although there are some good shops along Broad Street. The glass bottomed boat trip was as expected, although we were able to dive in an look around underwater. The catamaran trip was the best, with a leisurely sail north along the west coast up to a known turtle area, where the boat stopped for a while for people to get in and swim/snorkel with the turtles. We also went and spent a morning exploring Holetown itself (a 5 min walk from the hotel), which has a good shopping mall and several ‘chattel’ houses that provide a number of tourist-focused boutique goods.
While we were there, the weather was superb. It was hot enough to walk around all day in swim-wear, and sun-tan lotion was essential. Many people were going red on their first day through under-estimating the strength of the sun. It did rain one day for a few hours, and this led to the waterway that runs along one side of the hotel breaching the natural sand levee on the beach. This waterway/lagoon has been commented on in previous reviews, and it is true that when it filled up with all the local rainfall draining into it and then spilled over into the sea it wasn’t that pleasant, but not as bad as has been made out. The hotel closed the beach for a day and arranged transport to an alternative beach. The next day the sea had naturally repaired the sand breach and everything was back to normal, with people on sun-loungers a few metres from the dreaded lagoon…
I have stayed in a lot of different hotels around the world, both on business and for pleasure. The star grading of hotels changes according to local conditions, and is also influenced by check-box items, such as does the room have a telephone, etc. It is possible to stay in a 4 star hotel in the UK and not enjoy the experience. There are many factors that influence how a hotel appears to its guests.
We have enjoyed staying in what I think is one of the best hotels I have ever encountered, and I’ve been happy to write this lengthy testament to it. The relatively small size of the hotel means that it can offer a very high level of personal service. We met several families who had booked at other hotels, and who had come to the Mango Bay after complaining to their tour operators and asking to be transferred there. I want to thank all of the hotel staff: Nicole on the front desk who greeted us warmly on arrival after a very arduous trip out, and who helped us sort out our ‘cancelled’ return flights on BWIA (I advise anyone to avoid flying with them, our return flight was just awful), the housemaid who cleaned our room so diligently each day, the bar staff, the restaurant staff and the water-sports staff. They were all so happy and helpful, and I know that this consistent level of service only comes from exceptional leadership and management by example. There has clearly been an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes attention to detail. There is a very strong ethos of real hospitality at the Mango Bay Hotel. This is a hotel that strives towards excellence, and in my opinion it has achieved it. It is very rare in life that something exceeds expectations, but the Mango Bay did. I cannot recommend it strongly enough, and hope that you enjoy your time there as much as we did.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Mango Bay Barbados is ideal for those seeking the convenience of an ALL-INCLUSIVE beach vacation combined with the personal and friendly service of a small resort. It enjoys a sought-after beachfront setting in St. James, on the famous west coast of Barbados.There are restaurants, bars, boutiques and cinema just steps away from Mango Bay in lively Holetown, including the brand new, upscale, LIMEGROVE LIFESTYLE CENTRE across the road from the resort. Mango Bay is approximately a 45 minute drive from the airport, and a 25-minute drive south of the hotel takes you to the capital Bridgetown. Mango Bay definitely gives you added value for an all inclusive hotel- included is a complimentary two-hour catamaran cruise to see the turtles, waterskiing & a glass bottom boat ride. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Mango Bay Hotel Holetown
- Mango Bay Barbados
- Mango Bay Saint James
- Barbados Bay Mango
- Mango Bay Hotel Barbados
- Mango Bay All Inclusive Barbados/Holetown