Above And Beyond: Rare Finds - Barbados

High above the sugary sands of Carlisle Bay and beyond the bustle of Bridgetown, Sweetfield Manor is a bed-and-breakfast for travelers who wouldn't normally be caught dead in a bed-and-breakfast. In this restored 1903 plantation house – the island's only great house B&B – there's no forced intimacy between the hosts and guests and not even a hint of chintz in the decor.

Even the food is exceptional. Owner Anni Clarke's morning feasts might include boiled eggs marinated in sweet soy and oolong, fresh-baked croissants, roast pineapple and Mason jars brimming with tangy juices, all served alfresco in a sun-dappled walled garden strewn with bougainvillea petals and shaded by mahogany trees.

In 2002, Anni and her husband, George, a New York transplant with Barbadian heritage that reaches back to the 18th century, purchased what was then a decrepit, ivy-strangled property and dedicated four years to its renovation. They painstakingly furnished the coral-stone mansion with local antiques and planted its hilltop acreage with palms and flowering shrubs that attract bananaquits and hummingbirds. Today, the main house's four spacious rooms feature period furniture, original wood floors and window seats that encourage cozy curl-ups; three more rooms in the converted carriage house and servants' quarters offer privacy and plenty of historic charm.

A family of green monkeys was first to sign Sweetfield's guest book, and as day dawns, a rooftop terrace dubbed the Monkey Observation Deck is the perfect vantage point to witness their antics. Below, secreted amid lush tropical foliage, there's a hot tub and lagoon-style pool, in which moonlight swims are encouraged.

Most important for the B&B wary: The Clarkes are masters of the art of magically materializing when you need them and disappearing when you don't, nimbly negotiating the line between being available and overbearing. "I treat my guests just as I would company in my own home," says Anni. And when visitors want to venture beyond the lofty oasis, she and George proffer the sort of island intel that only insiders could provide. Ask George where to find the island's best puddin' and souse (a local delicacy) or to show you the beach where wild horses bathe.

Take-away loaves of homemade banana bread are the icing on the Sweetfield experience, which elicits raves from pre- and post-cruise overnighters (the port is just two miles away) and a cosmopolitan long-stay clientele. A Brit on his third visit in two years offered possibly the highest praise: "Frankly, I don't care if I never stay anywhere else."

From $225 in low season ($245 high)

Sweetfield Manor, St. Michael, Barbados
246-429-8356; sweetfieldmanor.com