An Ottawa woman is in critical but stable condition after suffering brain injuries in a brutal attack while on vacation in Barbados.

Friends say Terry Schwarzfeld, 60, and her daughter-in-law Luana Cotsman were walking along an isolated stretch of beach when they were approached by a would-be robber Saturday night.

Neighbour Andre Brantz told CTV Ottawa when the women told the man they didn't have anything to offer, the man grabbed a piece of wood and attacked them.

"They were running, but he overtook them," he said.

Both women were beaten up. Schwarzfeld took the brunt of the attack and suffered swelling to her brain.

"The daughter-in-law was unconscious, she was beaten. When she woke up, Terry was unconscious at the water's edge. (She) tried to pull her out of the water," said Brantz.

Foreign Affairs has confirmed Canadians were injured during a robbery attempt in the southern part of Barbados.

In a statement, the department says: "Officials are supporting and assisting two Canadian citizens who were assaulted Feb. 28."

Schwarzfeld and her husband Stephen Cotsman have visited Barbados five times.

The family lives in a tight-knit Ottawa community and a number of families on the block have taken the trip to Barbados together.

Schwarzfeld was recently elected as the international vice president of Hadassah International, a leading Jewish women's philanthropic organization.

"I just want to be there holding her hand. She's a very close friend," said Gloria Rankin, who's been friends with Schwarzfeld for 14 years.

"Knowing she's sedated, and she's not there; I'm worried. She's never really had an injury like this."

Meanwhile, Canada's department of foreign affairs says local police in Barbados are investigating the case.

"The authorities in Barbados have been very supportive and helpful, and we are continuing to look out for their well-being and eventual safe return home," said Peter Kent, foreign affairs minister of state for the Americas.

"We will do everything in our power to make sure perpetrators are pursued," added Edward Greaves, the High Commissioner of Barbados.

Despite the incident, the federal government says travelling to the Caribbean is still relatively safe for Canadian tourists.

"For the most part Barbados, Mexico have highly respected secure resort areas. We do caution folks not to wander away from security of hotel or resort," said Kent.

Regardless, anyone planning a trip abroad is advised to check with Canada's Foreign Affairs department for the latest updates and travel warnings.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Kate Eggins and Natalie Pierosara