in partnership
Sandals beach photo credit Sandals.jpg
Being part of a couple is all about compromise, but when you’re sans a travel companion, what you decide goes. (Image: Courtesy Sandals Royal Barbados)

I vacationed solo at a couples resort and it was pretty awesome

My job as a freelance writer means I get to travel to cool places. A lot. And while usually I’m part of a group, occasionally I’ll get the chance to explore a city or region all by myself. As someone who’s always been very independent, this can be absolute bliss. No disrespect to my husband and kids--I adore vacationing with them, too -- but there is just something about a few days all by myself that’s really mentally and emotionally recharging.

Recently, I flew to Barbados for a few days to learn about the rum produced on the island and the punch it’s mixed into. In between the extremely hard work of touring and tasting at distilleries, drinking cocktails at bars and sampling local cuisine at restaurants, I soaked in some sun and fun by myself at Sandals Royal Barbados, a couples-only, all-suites, all-inclusive resort that opened last fall. It boasts 222 suites, Sandals’ first rooftop pool and bar, its first four-lane bowling alley, a 15,000-square-foot spa, six dining concepts (including two new ones: American Tavern and Chi Asian) and exchange privileges with the adjacent Sandals Barbados. If you think it seems rather odd to vacation alone at a property geared towards romance for two, lemme tell you why you just might want to consider it for your next getaway:

Your time’s your own.
If you want to sleep in and then enjoy breakfast on your patio, or would rather take an early morning walk on the beach followed by the buffet at American Tavern, you don’t have to run either by anyone first. Ditto for opting to hold court all day long in a cabana by the pool with endless frozen drinks in hand instead of racing from ocean kayak to paddle board to Hobie Cat. Being part of a couple is all about compromise, but when you’re sans a travel companion, what you decide goes. Think of it as a rare opportunity for days full of unapologetic, guilt-free "Me Time."

The people watching is amazing.
As I quickly discovered, attempting to figure out the relationship dynamics of the couples I encountered was an unbelievably fun spectator sport. Especially addictive was a game I liked to call “spot the honeymooners.” Their tells made them easy to identify. Incredibly amenable at meals? Check. (“What do you want to order honey?” “Whatever you want baby?”) Slight deer-in-the-headlights awkwardness? Check. But the most visible sign were the shiny new rings they sported that were literally slipped onto their fingers mere days before. It was pretty irresistible for those of us who have been married for awhile not to give them knowing smirks. So cute. So naive. So much to learn about each other.

That bottle of bubbly in your room becomes a single-serving beverage. As it’s intended.
I always have a hard time sharing a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine with another person. I just love bubbles too much. Guess what? I didn’t have to. Before dinner I was free to uncork a bottle, sip a glass on the terrace, take another into the shower and then enjoy one more while I was putting on my makeup and getting ready. And I still had some leftover for a nightcap. That is winning at life.

Soaking in your suite’s pool is peaceful, quieter--and roomier.
Lucky enough to have snagged a swim-up suite with its own private pool? Then you are lucky enough indeed. These rooms have two lounge chairs built right into the pool, where you can listen to your curated beach-friendly Spotify playlist, read a magazine, take a noon nap (sans judgment) or hop off for a dip. Doing all of this by yourself puts the “tranquil” in “tranquility pool”.

You can relish the chance to play photog for happy couples.
Sandals actually has incredible staff photographers that will capture the best moments of your vacation, which you can purchase a la carte or in a printed/digital package. This is pretty great as it prevents the need to tote your camera or phone around all day. (Check out the gallery for some photos their snapped of me on the beach.) But, I also got to be the hero for couples floundering with the timers on their phones while attempting a poolside selfie or waiting for someone to walk by to snap a pic with their digital SLR, and I didn’t even ask for IG photo credit.

You don’t have to share your food.
I’m usually all about ordering several dishes and splitting them, mainly so I can try as many things on the menu as possible. But sometimes that leads to #foodfomo if my dining companion chose more wisely than I did. One night at Butch’s, I ordered several different wines, steak and lobster tail. Because I could. And I devoured every last bite. And did I mention how much easier a reservation is to snag for a solo diner?

You don’t have to feel pressured into booking a couple's massage.
In theory, it sounds sexy, right? I mean, what could be better than a deep rubdown next to your SO, followed by some more time together in the relaxation room? But what if you aren’t a fan of chatter? Or hearing someone else breathe? Stay at Sandals by yourself, and you don’t have to pretend to like this ritual that somehow has become de riqueur for any romantic vacation.

A restful night’s sleep is all but guaranteed.
My husband’s a big time snorer, and many a night I spend tapping him repeatedly and asking him to roll over--or shoving him over myself if I’m getting especially annoyed. (He claims the same holds true about me but I don't buy it.) But since I had that king-sized, high thread count sheet-adorned bed all to myself, I wasn’t woken up all night long by his snores--or him telling me I was doing the same. Take that, cuddling, spooning honeymooners!

It can still be romantic---in its own way.
Just as fun as picking out the honeymooners was trying to figure out how long other couples had been together. I chatted up people from all over the world celebrating their 10th, 25th, 30th and more anniversaries. If you are coupled, it can make you grateful for your own relationship. If, on the other hand, you are single, a solo Sandals sojourn can make you believe in love, or validate your own decision to go it alone!