Pictures and anecdotes don’t do justice to the understated charm of Barbados, it must be experienced in person. Like a flower in bloom, you have to give Barbados more than just a day before its real beauty is revealed.
However, when you Google Barbados and gay, the first thing that pops up, other than Mount Gay Rum (the world’s oldest commercial rum distillery), is “illegal,” “life imprisonment,” and that LGBT people in Barbados do not enjoy the same rights as non-LGBT people. Barbados has traditionally been known for being anti-gay and not very gay welcoming, especially since they still have anti-sodomy laws that punish “buggery” with a life sentence. Even though these laws are rarely enforced, they are still bad for tourism, especially LGBTQ tourism. That said, LGBTQ visitors generally do not face any physical danger in Barbados, but they may face prejudicial treatment from people that aren’t quite ready to embrace the gay community.
Barbados, in spite of all this, is slowly progressing on the LGBTQ front. They recently elected their first female prime minister, Mia Mottley, who is pro-LGBT. Barbados also hosted its first Pride march in the capital of Bridgetown in 2018. You can find out more about Pride and other gay events in Barbados on the LGBT Barbados Facebook group.
What can you really expect when traveling to Barbados as a gay person? Alex St John, a Barbadian currently living in Toronto, commented that Barbados is fine with the gays, just like lots of places in the world, but it’s important to respect their religious culture, and to be respectful of the people around you when you are expressing yourself to your partner. There is also a relatively rich gay nightlife, but you need to know where to go and when. Tony Chanthavong, a Canadian who lived there for nine months on a work assignment, commented that there were no gay bars and that he only knew where the popup “bush parties” were after he made some gay islander friends.
I recently visited Barbados with my boyfriend, and we were initially a bit guarded, but at no point did we feel unwelcomed or self-conscious. By the end of the trip, I almost forgot we were on a conservative island and I felt comfortable to just be myself.
If you’ve always wanted to explore the beautiful island nation of Barbados, here are three different accommodation options that I personally verified to be welcoming to LGBTQ guests.
TREASURE BEACH BY ELEGANT HOTELS
Treasure Beach is verified by their management to be a LGBTQ-friendly, adults-only, boutique resort in Paynes Bay. The resort was recently renovated and features only 35 suites for an intimate experience that is focused on relaxation and amazing food. Breakfast at the Tapestry Restaurant is included for all guests. The staff is very welcoming, and the resort is pretty secluded, so you can just be yourself without having to worry. All suites come with one king bed. The resort is next to one of their sister properties, Tamarind, and you have access to their beach and water sports such as waterskiing, tube rides, kayaking, sailing, and much more. I stayed here with my boyfriend and the staff was more than welcoming to us. The resort is so quiet and secluded that often time it was just the two of us by the pool or on the beach.
FAIRMONT ROYAL PAVILION
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, as a global brand, are accepting and welcoming of all guests no matter their sexual orientation. The Fairmont Royal Pavilion is no different. The resort is located on the famed “Platinum Coast” with powdery white-sand beaches. The property is 5-star and romantic, with beautiful pink colonial architecture and lush green gardens. All the rooms are ocean-facing and just steps from the beach. Hotel guests are treated to complimentary afternoon tea, weekly cocktail receptions, and snorkeling with turtles, among many other activities and amenities. This is where you want to be if you like to be pampered! I also stayed here with my boyfriend, and everyone greeted us with a smile and some even offered to take our photo together as a couple. Our room had butler service and he happily came by each day to make sure we had everything we needed. We did not feel judged or uncomfortable at all.
This modern designed penthouse condo is privately owned and managed to the highest standards. The host, Rodney, welcomes all guests with open arms and is the best person on the island to help you with your itinerary to see Barbados. The penthouse apartment is located within the Beach View resort complex so you have access to the pool and all the other facilities. There are three bedrooms, a living room area, a fully equipped kitchen, and two full bathrooms. This is the perfect spot for a small group trip. We did not personally stay here, but we met with Rodney to talk about the condo and how it will be renovated later this year to give it a fresh new look. The Penthouse has only received 5-star reviews to date and we can see why. Rodney really takes pride in welcoming each guest personally, gay or not, with the same Barbadian hospitality.