Welcome to Gluten-Free Finder’s first travel blog!
Author: Lisa Triggs, Media Director, Gluten-Free Food Program
My husband and I recently visited the beautiful island of Barbados. My husband was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2011, so travelling gluten-free is something that we have been doing for a while. We have learned how to chose the right location, what questions to ask and what to look out for when it comes to gluten-free travel.
For this trip, we stayed at The Crane Resort, Barbados. If you appreciate architecture and just want to relax, or are travelling with other people, the Crane is for you. I should also mention that it is not an all inclusive resort, but they do offer breakfast packages when you book directly with the resort. We didn’t want an all inclusive for this trip because Barbados offers great local restaurants, beaches and activities outside of the resort that we wanted to experience. Since we booked one bedrooms, we also had a full kitchen available to us to prepare our own meals. The Crane is about a 10 minute drive from a big grocery store, so we went shopping for some breakfast items and snacks to have on hand.
As the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean, the property began as a private residence and was transformed into The Crane Hotel, in 1887. The site of a small commercial port in the mid 18th century, it was known the the raising and lowering of cargo by crane so the surrounding district assumed the name, The Crane.
The Crane Resort sits on 40 acres of seaside property with stunning views of the Southeast coast of Barbados. The sand has a pinkish hue and is some of the finest we’ve seen so far! To our surprise, the sand did not get hot in the afternoon sun!
Like most resorts, the rooms are divided into categories like ocean view, garden view and pool view. This time of year is busy, so for our 10 day stay, we had to book two different rooms. For the first week, we were in a one bedrooom garden deluxe with rooftop pool and for the remaining three days, we moved to a one bedroom garden with pool. Both were very spacious rooms that are decorated in the old world charm and style of the original hotel with four poster beds and dark wood finishes. The rooftop pool area was large with an outdoor fridge, sink and BBQ. It was a unique space for private sun bathing, quiet time to ourselves and an intimate BBQ for two.
The second room with the garden pool was surrounded by lush tropical plants and trees. The pool was larger than the rooftop pool, but, both were a nice option to have for a day of private relaxation.
In all of our travels, this was the first resort that we have ever been to that has an on site Duty Free Shop and Emerald Jewellers, which was quite cool! We were able to purchase rum, clothing, designer handbags, souveniers and receive additional savings on duty free items.
As former members of the Commonwealth, Bajans (local Barbadians) speak English. We were impressed that when we mentioned gluten-free and celiac disease, the staff understood what we meant, double checked if they weren’t sure about ingredients and offered alternative options that could be made gluten-free if needed. There was also a dedicated fryer, which made us feel that they knew what they were doing.
We dined at all of the restaurants on the resort but we had two stand out for us. Our favorite restaurant was easily Zen, Japanese and Thai cuisine. There were quite a few gluten-free options and they had gluten-free soya sauce, which we were happily surprised at. Restaurants and resorts hardly ever have gluten-free soya sauce, so we purchased some travel packets and bring them with us when we travel.
Zen offers a variety of gluten-free sushi, sushimi and Asian dishes to choose from, so it’s easy to find something that suits your palate.
If you prefer Italian, D’Onofrio’s Trattoria menu provides delicious gluten-free pasta dishes and steaks. We ate at D’Onofrio’s and Zen twice during our stay. They impressed us again by having gluten-free bread to dip in oil and vinegar.
Don’t Forget The Dessert
If there’s one thing that my husband cares about when we travel, it’s dessert! He enjoys having a full gluten-free dining experience where he can order an appetizer, main and of course, dessert. He often checks the dessert section of a menu first to gauge how his dining experience will be.
Though we did not list L’Azure as a favorite restaurant for the main dishes, it did offer a warm, soft, flourless chocolate cake! We went there twice for it, need I say more?
Things To Do
Each night entertainment was provided at Bar 1887 showcasing the talented musicians and singers that Barbados has. It is a place to gather with friends to have some food, a few drinks, or meet some new friends and listen to local musicians.
The resort has various dining activities that you can take part in, in addition to just dining out. The Crane offers a BBQ night at The Grove Beach Bar & Grill, a seafood night at L’Azure and a managers reception on Monday evenings for your enjoyment.
One of the things that we enjoy to do when we travel to a new place, is go on a Catamaran snorkeling excursion. There are a variety to choose from at The Crane conceirge desk. We chose to go on an El Tigre 5 hour excursion that included two sunken ships, snorkeling with turtles and lunch. We asked the conceirge to advise them that we needed a gluten-free meal and it was no issue. My husbands meal was wrapped separately, in its own container and contained local grilled fish with potatoes. There was also leafy salad that he was able to have. And rum punch! Lots of rum punch! It was a great day and we had a great time!
We took the resort shuttle to a local beach club called Harbour Lights Barbados on the other side of the island, about 1/2 hour drive away and it was just amazing! An umbrella and two chairs were included, we paid for our own drinks and lunch. It was actually the same beach where we had gone snorkeling on the Catamaran, so we bought some new masks and snorkels from the on site duty free shop and went on the search for sea turtles, with success! There was a Crane representative that stayed with us at the beach and took care of all of The Crane guests, so he helped us navigate a gluten-free lunch as well as our drinks for the day. That was a nice touch!
You could take the shuttle back at a specific time or stay and find your own way back, so on our second trip to the beach, we decided to stay and go for a local beachside dinner. We enjoyed a great meal and view at Lobster Alive Restaurant. Gluten-Free dining was no issue. My husband enjoyed a steak dinner. And of course, there was lobster. He even had a dessert!
We did find it a bit pricey though. I ordered a small lobster dish that was 175 BDS, and rule of thumb is that U.S. prices is half of Bajan pricing. So my meal was about $87.50 U.S. and about $119 CDN.
Anxious to try locally produced rum, we went on a tour of Foursquare Rum Distillary Rich in history, Foursquare is one of only a few distillaries in Barbados that are still owned by Bajans. Following the tour, we enjoyed a rum tasting and did our part to support the local economy, leaving with a bottle in hand and a skip in our step.
After 10 days we were rested, sunned, rummed and headed home with a love for Barbados. We added Barbados to our list of places that we will visit again for its kind people and beautiful shores.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and are for informational purposes only.
The Crane has become a large residence property, so you might be able to find listings to stay there through current owners, Hilton Grand Vacations and others, which may be more cost effective than booking direct and paying by the night.