Travel Column: Barbados Resort Treads Lightly, Artfully

Updated January 28, 2005

Editor's note: The Casuarina Beach Club, profiled below, won the 2004 World Legacy Award for General Purpose Hotels and Resorts. A joint effort of National Geographic Traveler and Conservation International, the World Legacy Awards encourage sustainable tourism.

Experiencing a sun-kissed, palm-fringed Caribbean beach for the first time can be like getting religion. Little wonder, then, that resort hotels are a dime a dozen in the island-dotted Caribbean region. Not so common are resorts that help protect their coastal environment, and even less so resorts that engage the authentic life of the island. Casuarina Beach Club, on Barbados's south coast, does both.

During a recent stay there, I noted recycling bins in every room and corridor. Local fine art hung on the walls. And on Barbados's Independence Day, which coincided with my stay, schoolkids in uniforms came and presented Bajan (Barbadian) songs and poetry.

Casuarina's community involvement benefits Bajans—such as wheelchair-bound Muriel Jordan, who sells flowers in the lobby from a cart that the resort donated to her—and visitors, who get impromptu invitations to play cricket or soccer with a pickup team of sports-loving locals.

"Some of us on staff, if we are going out for a Friday evening, we'll take along guests and go fishing, go to a rum shop, have drinks, play some pool, and then bring the guests back," said Loreto Duffy-Mayers, the resort's environmental manager.

Casuarina has been a leader in sustainable practices since it opened in 1981. The resort retained much of the original on-site forest, Dover Woods, and has since added to it. Buildings are engulfed in palms, frangipani, mahogany trees, and hibiscus hedges.

Much of Casuarina's environmental work goes on behind the scenes. The beach happens to be a nesting site for hawksbill turtles, so the resort keeps the area dark during nesting season with low-wattage lights that won't confuse the turtles.

The tropical forest? It's a "carbon sink" that offsets the carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, the resort generates. Minimal use of chemical fertilizer means less harmful runoff and healthier near-shore coral reefs. Showers, sinks, and toilets employ water-saving devices. Everything from kitchen scraps to palm fronds are composted.

Yet guests get the full resort experience. "We won't compromise service," Duffy-Mayers said. "But we ensure that our resources are not wasted." Same goes for the guests' resources. Kitchenettes in the rooms spare visitors the island's typically high restaurant bills.

Casuarina will keep you busy. But you can also opt to just sit on the beach and watch a Caribbean sunset—and feel good about doing so.

For more information, contact Casuarina Beach Club, St. Lawrence Gap, Barbados; Telephone: +1 246 428 3600; Web site:

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