I fell in love with Batteaux Bay in the late 1950s, when the property was home to a small summer camp. My memories of that beautiful beach and bay are deeply embedded and form one of the core building blocks to my love and empathy for Tobago. A love that resulted in this website.
Many years later, the property opened as a small hotel, the Blue Waters Inn. I didn't stay at the hotel until 2003. We enjoyed our stay and returned in 2007. The accommodation was basic, the catering poor and the service abysmal, but the location so stunning that all other considerations were swept aside.
As much as we would have liked to return, reader reports indicated that the catering problems and lack of investment were having an increasingly detrimental impact on the property. Our recommendations are only valid while endorsed by public consensus. So, it was with great regret that we dropped the hotel from our featured listings.
In recent years, the Trinidadian family that owns the Blue Waters Inn have made a major investment and undertaken a complete refurbishment of the hotel. Equally importantly, indications are that the hotel is benefitting from an entirely new service-led management philosophy.
It was clearly time to determine whether the refurbishment was merely superficial, or as deep as we believe they needed to be.
Batteaux Bay and the Blue Waters Inn are located just north of Speyside village, on Tobago's eastern Atlantic Coast. It is about an hour's drive from the capital, Scarborough, and realistically, around an hour and a half from the airport.
Speyside has little to commend it. There are no shops likely to be of interest to visitors. The nearest ATM machine and petrol (gas) station are at Roxborough, nearly 30-minutes away. There are, however, a few local dining options in the village. The best-known of these is the well-known Jemma's Treehouse Restaurant. It takes around 15 minutes to walk to the village from the hotel.
The Blue Waters is set amidst 46 acres of dense trees and foliage, on the edges of an old cocoa plantation. Being on the edge of the Main Ridge Rainforest, it is not surprising that bird watchers represent a major part of the clientele. The fact that Newton George, the island's most knowledgeable and highly-regarded bird-watching guide, lives in the village is a considerable bonus.
The seas off Speyside are also home to some of the best scuba diving sites in the southern Caribbean. Most of these sites are just minutes away from the hotel, who own and run the best dive service in the area.
The Blue Waters Inn comprises of several one and two-story semi-connected buildings set along the beach frontage. The mature foliage that surrounds the hotel makes it almost impossible to see more than a small portion of the buildings from any single viewpoint, giving the property the cosy feel of a much smaller establishment. Even from the sea, the sea grape trees along the beach frontage hide most of the buildings.
The buildings are pleasant and practical, despite lacking any great architectural merit. The truth is that you simply don't notice the building; the view out to sea is just so stunning that you seldom look elsewhere.
Wheelchair access around the hotel is good. There is also level access to the upper floor of one of the three standard room accommodation blocks and wheelchair access to the swimming pool, dining room and bar areas.
Other than a few small guesthouses and self-catering apartments, the Blue Waters Inn is the only hotel of any consequence in the north of Tobago. Visitors wanting 'luxury' accommodation had no choice but to stay in the south-west of the island and be satisfied with day trips that could only provide them with briefest of introductions to the stunning bird life or scuba diving of the 'north end'.
The 'new' Blue Waters Inn has faced the challenge head on. There is no longer any question of roughing it in order to enjoy the region's beauty, bird life and diving. I have never stayed at a hotel that attracts such a varied clientele. At the tail-end of the high season and more than a month into our current review trip, I must also express our surprise – and delight – that the hotel was positively buzzing during our week there. There are few hotels on Tobago that can claim that any longer.
Being a people-watcher by nature, I found the mix of residents and day visitors fascinating. I'm sure that most readers will agree with me that birders and divers are not groups that you would expect to find in the same establishment. Stereotypical examples of both were to be found in abundance and totally enriched the social mix. Unlike most hotels, the clientele truly crossed all socioeconomic, nationality and age barriers. As a result, the hotel seemed far less status conscious or cliquey than its more up-market competitors.
Whilst there are no specific facilities for children, the hotel is child-friendly. I know that cots are available, because I returned to find one in our room, one morning. I initially thought it might by Jill's way of telling me something. However, after the rising panic had receded, I remembered that we were pensioners and common-sense prevailed. Housekeeping apologised and confirmed that it was a mistake.