Ruined by Hurricane Irma, a Resort Reopens on Princess Diana’s Favorite Island
It’s taken more than a year to rebuild Barbuda Belle, an exclusive family-owned resort that’s set along 11 miles of white-sand beach
Barbuda, the sister island of Antigua, is a private oasis of pink- and white-sand beaches that’s known for being one of Princess Diana’s favorite destinations. But the peaceful Caribbean island was devastated in 2017 when Hurricane Irma hit, leaving Barbuda empty for the first time in 300 years. The hurricane also damaged Barbuda Belle, a resort that had opened less than two years before the storm. After a year of rebuilding, the hotel has reopened—a sign that recovery is slowly but surely coming to the 62-square-mile island.
When reconstructing the resort, which is set on 11 miles of white-sand beach and accessed by boat, the team behind the family-owned business took lessons from the initial construction just a few years earlier. “Originally only two bungalows were covered with wallaba shingles and they were undamaged, so we installed them throughout the rest of the buildings,” says engineer Agustin Fonrouge. The storm caused a large amount of beach erosion, and the sand beneath the clubhouse and one of the bungalows had washed away, so Fonrouge took steps to keep this from happening again in the event of future storms. “A lineup of large storm sandbags are now installed and protect most of the length of the hotel on the seaside,” he says.
The cleanup was initially done by hand since there was no power. “At first the repair jobs were done with hand tools and power tools running under small generators,” Fonrouge says. “It felt like the early stages of the original construction. Once the power plant was back online and we brought in a backhoe to do the heavy lifting, we were back at full speed, and with the construction process still fresh in our minds, everyone knew what to do.”
But while the team worked to restore the property, they also took the opportunity to improve it. A new bungalow was added, bringing the total to eight. The Jelly Tree Bar and Grill was built on the beach and is under the direction of the same French chef behind the Mangrove, the hotel’s gourmet seafood restaurant. And there’s still more on the horizon: A spa is scheduled to be completed in 2019. Rates start at $890 per night.