Caribbean Destination Series Part 5-Barbados


As a side note, my wife and I visted Barbados during our honeymoon 4 years ago. The island is very quaint and charming and among  one of our favorites in the Caribbean. The British Charm is alive and well. The residents are also among the friendliest as well. I highly recommend Barbados as a destination, you will not be dissapointed!
 
Barbados is still very British. In fact, the island is commonly referred to as “Little England.” Afternoon teatime is observed in some circles, cricket is the national passion and polo is played all winter. Many villages, streets, monuments and parks in Barbados are named after locations in the U.K., as well. And Bajans (BAY-juns), as they call themselves, often possess a bit of the English reserve.

What’s more, British aristocrats have wintered in Barbados for decades, and the island reflects their influence in many ways. The resorts are luxurious, and the restaurants provide fine dining. Even duty-free shops are more upscale than those on other Caribbean islands.

In recent years, the culture has seen an increase in American influence and more appreciation of African roots as well, resulting in a revitalized discourse on Barbadian identity, particularly in the arts. Barbados is generally conservative, and prides itself on being Christian.

Though efficient is a word that is not used often in the Caribbean, it fits Barbados better than many other islands. It’s been catering to visitors for decades and has one of the most fully developed tourism infrastructures in the region.

Barbados is hardly an undiscovered or unspoiled paradise. Although it lacks rain forests, mountainous terrain and world-class reef systems, the island’s natural beauty and scenic variety are magnificent. You’ll find dramatic natural caves, rocky cliffs with blowholes by the sea, miles/kilometers of sugarcane fields and some remote scenic beaches. Those seeking a week of relaxation on beautiful beaches, perhaps with a little nightlife and history mixed in, will likely be pleased with what Barbados has to offer.

Another plus is the people of Barbados. Bajans are some of the best-educated people in the Caribbean (Barbados boasts a literacy rate of 99%), and they enjoy conversing on a wide range of subjects. This quality even spills over into entertainment: The island’s calypso music always has something to say and often deals with Barbados politics.

English is the official language, but a dialect with its own syntax, special meanings and some African words is also spoken. Though it may seem like a cross between bad English and gibberish, it is remarkably expressive and is often used even by the highly educated for emphasis or comic effect.

 Sights—The stained-glass windows of St. Michael’s Cathedral; the mysterious 1,000-year-old baobab tree in Queen’s Park; the many historic military buildings of Bridgetown’s Garrison area; a rum-distillery tour at the Mount Gay refinery in St. Michael Parish; Harrison’s Cave, a series of dramatic limestone caverns; Tyrol Cot Heritage Village, featuring authentic Bajan chattel houses and gardens; Andromeda Botanical Gardens.

Museums—The island’s colorful heritage at the Barbados Museum; vintage cars at the Mallalieu Motor Collection at Pavilion Court; colonial history at Sunbury Plantation House & Museum; the museum within the Barbados Marine Reserve at Folkestone; the history of sugar-making in Barbados at the Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Machinery Museum and sugar factory; the Nidhe Israel Museum of the island’s Jewish heritage; George Washington House at the Garrison; Arlington House in Speightstown; Springvale Eco-Heritage Museum in the scenic Scotland District; the museum at St. Nicholas Abbey.

Memorable Meals—Sunday lunch in sea-sprayed Bathsheba at a choice of restaurants; Bajan dishes in a lush garden setting at Brown Sugar; dramatic upscale dining at The Cliff.

Late Night—Two happy hours and nightly music at the Ship Inn; beach parties at Harbour Lights on Bay Street; a tropical dinner show at the Plantation Restaurant & Garden Theatre; dancing at McBrides Pub & Cookhouse in St. Lawrence Gap; anywhere in Oistins on the weekend; Lexy Piano Bar in Holetown.

Walks—Free nature walks with the Barbados National Trust on Sunday; guided hikes along the Arbib Heritage and Nature Trail; exploring the streets of historic downtown Bridgetown; bird-watching in the aviaries and along the boardwalk-style nature trail at Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary; tranquil, green Welchman Hall Gully.Especially for Kids—Feeding green monkeys and other local wildlife at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve; Ocean Park; The Concorde Experience next to the airport.

Geography

Although the island is only 14 mi/23 km wide and 21 mi/34 km long, its geography varies dramatically. Rugged hills and rough seas are typical of the eastern side. (The highest point, Mount Hillaby, rises 1,115 ft/340 m above the sea.) Gentle, rolling hills on the western side are lush with sugarcane fields. On the western coast, you’ll also find white-sand beaches, coral reefs and stunning seas that range in color from deep blue to transparent green.

History

Although England eventually ruled the island, Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos was the first European to come upon Barbados. When he visited in 1536, it was inhabited by Amerindians. The Indians had disappeared (decimated by disease, according to one theory) by the time the first British explorer saw the island in 1625. Two years later, 80 British settlers and their slaves landed at a site they named Jamestown (modern-day Holetown). The town prospered with the establishment of cotton, tobacco and sugar plantations.

The first labor force was white, consisting mostly of indentured servants and political prisoners who had been “Barbadosed.” As the more labor-intensive sugarcane evolved into the primary crop, the British colony’s vast plantations were increasingly worked by African slaves. Most Bajans are descendants of those workers. In the 1800s, slave uprisings and changes in world markets brought an end to slavery, and the prosperous industry slid into serious financial decline. Many plantations were destroyed in a series of destructive fires and hurricanes, as well. Today, only a handful of plantations predate the great hurricane of 1831.Barbados gained independence in 1966, becoming a self-governing member of the British Commonwealth. The island celebrated 350 consecutive years of parliamentary government in 1989. Barbados’ growing pride in indigenous—rather than British—history was demonstrated in April 1999, when the government voted to change the name of Trafalgar Square to National Heroes Square. Over the centuries, the economy has changed from agriculture to tourism, with international business running a close second as a foreign-exchange earner.

Snapshot

The island’s primary attractions include watersports, beautiful scenery, beaches, boat tours, golf, squash, tennis, cricket, polo, excellent hotels and restaurants, a lively nightlife, shopping, friendly people, colonial plantation houses, festivals, green monkeys, tropical birds and gardens, historic buildings and museums. Barbados boasts a startling number of spas, restaurants and heritage sites per square mile/kilometer.Travelers seeking an orderly Caribbean holiday with a slight British flavor will like Barbados. So will those whose curiosity is active; Barbados boasts plenty of well-interpreted sites focusing on its rich historic and natural heritage. With a stable, democratic government and a strong middle class, Barbados does not upset its guests with rampant poverty, social unrest or racial hostility. Statistics show that a good percentage of travelers are repeat visitors.

Port Information
Location

Nearly 50% of visitors to Barbados arrive by cruise ship. Ships dock on the southwest corner of the island at Deep Water Harbour, about 1 mi/2 km west of the capital, Bridgetown. As many as six to eight cruise ships may dock at one time. The port is International Shipping and Port Security (ISPS) compliant. When going off the premises, be sure to take along your ID and sailing card so you can get back in.

Near the piers is a modern, disabled-friendly terminal. Its interior resembles a colorful island street scene, with storefronts reflecting the designs and colors of the island’s colonial past. Inside are duty-free shops, lots of arts-and-crafts booths, souvenir and specialty shops, a business services center that offers Internet access, pay phones, a post office and a tourism office. There’s no currency exchange bureau, bank or ATM available for getting local currency, but U.S. currency is accepted anywhere on the island. Outside, there’s a simple restaurant under shade serving local food (a good place to select a taxi driver based on personality), and a bar with great music to put you in an island mood. http://www.bridgetowncruiseterminals.com.Once you disembark, we recommend that you take a Bds$4 shared shuttle to Bridgetown or spend Bds$6 for a shuttle to Brown’s Beach or Brighton Beach. A taxi ride from the ship terminal to central Bridgetown will cost about Bds$12 a car (not per person). Preposted fares to other parts of the island range Bds$20-$70, depending on the distance. The 10-15 minute walk to town has been landscaped along busy Princess Alice Highway and offers refreshments and art and crafts at Pelican Craft Village en route.

Shore Excursions

Consider signing up for the excursions offered by your ship. They may not be the least expensive way to see the island, but you won’t have to waste your limited time making arrangements—and you won’t have to worry about missing the ship. Shore excursions—and their prices—vary from cruise line to cruise line. Typical tours on Barbados include an island bus tour or an off-road Jeep adventure; visits to colonial plantation houses, formal gardens and other historic sites; and sailing out to swim with the turtles, snorkeling, kayaking or a submarine descent to view exotic fish and colorful coral. Try to plan time to fit in a tour of the Andromedia Botanic Gardens and the Barbados Wildlife Reserve. The beachfront Boatyard caters to cruise passengers with food and drink, sun loungers and umbrellas, and inflated water toys to climb, jump on and slide down. Check with your ship’s shore-excursion staff or your travel agent for additional information.

Potpourri

If you don’t believe that Bajans are crazy about cricket, take a look at the country’s five-dollar bill. One of their legendary players, Sir Frank Worrell, is pictured on the currency. Kensington Oval was completely and impressively rebuilt in 2006 as a venue for the ICC Cricket World Cup.

There’s a 1,000-year-old baobab tree growing on the grounds of the Queen’s Park House in Bridgetown. The tree is something of a mystery because baobabs are native to Africa, and this one predates the arrival of settlers from east of the Atlantic Ocean. Nobody knows how it got there.

Barbados’ green monkeys were brought from West Africa more than 300 years ago, and in that time have developed unique “speech” patterns—perhaps a Bajan accent. Monkeys can often be seen in the early mornings and late afternoons, even in residential areas. Though cute, monkeys are a nuisance to farmers.

Barbados has high levels of education, income and life expectancy. Bajans frequently live to 100 years old.

Tea means many things in Barbados. Tradtional British tea is usually taken with milk and sugar and in the afternoon, it is served with small sandwiches and bakery items, both sweet and savory. Older or less bourgeois Bajans use the term tea to refer to any hot morning beverage, ranging from cocoa to Milo to bush tea made from herbs. Many older Bajans use bush teas medicinally, and some are quite effective.

The mongoose was brought to Barbados to reduce the rat population in canefields. Unfortunately, rats are nocturnal, while mongoose are active in daytime. You might see a mongoose scurrying across a country road. They look like bushy-tailed rats but, like their cousins the ferrets, are actually part of the civet family.

Barbados was named after the ficus barbata, or bearded fig tree.

Barbados is the birthplace of rum and, arguably, the grapefruit.Barbados is the only place outside colonial America that George Washington ever visited. A young man at the time, he was impressed by Barbados’ fortifications, government and advanced agricultural methods. His lifelong love of theater also originated there. More importantly, he contracted and was cured of smallpox in Barbados, rendering him immune when others succumbed during the American Revolution.

See & Do
 
Sightseeing

Barbados’ heritage is displayed throughout the island. Museums, rum distilleries and plantation houses abound. Just as prominent are the islands natural attractions: caves, gardens or wildlife reserves can be found in most parishes.

 
Historic Sites

East Point Lighthouse at Ragged Point
As the most easterly place on the island, the lighthouse offers some particularly nice views of the wild east-coast surf. The strange tower apparatus next to it has a scientific function—measuring dust that blows across from the Sahara desert. Ragged Point, St. Philip.

George Washington House
This is where young Washington stayed in 1751 with his brother Lawrence, whose doctor prescribed Barbados as a cure for his ailments. The museum upstairs explains what George saw and learned there, and how his visit to Barbados marked a turning point in his life. Open Monday-Friday 9 am-4:30 pm. Admission Bds$20 adults, Bds$5 children ages 5-12, free for children younger than 5. Bush Hill, The Garrison, St. Michael. Phone 228-5461. http://www.georgewashingtonbarbados.org.

Gun Hill Signal Station
This old military outpost was built by the British in 1818 to to signal the arrival of ships and warn plantation owners of slave uprisings. The station has a wonderful statue of a lion that was carved out of a single piece of rock by bored British soldiers in 1868—it’s kept pristine with white paint to this day. Excellent views. Monday-Saturday 9 am-5 pm. Bds$10 adults. Gun Hill, St. George, Barbados. Phone 429-1358.

Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill
This is the only fully intact sugar-grinding windmill remaining on the island. (The ruins of hundreds more can be seen throughout the island.) The mill ceased operation in 1944 but has been restored to working order. It is put into operation one Sunday a month February-April. The engineering is a marvel. From the mill you have spectacular views of the hilly countryside and the sea. A container next to the mill houses historical information and a video about its rehabilitation to working order, but the site is currently unattended and does not offer access to the container. St. Andrew, Barbados. Phone 426-2421.

St. Michael’s Cathedral
Like most old Barbados buildings, the cathedral is made of coral stone. It also features some wonderful examples of stained-glass windows. St. Michael’s Row, Bridgetown. Phone 427-0790. http://www.saintmichaelsbarbados.com.

St. Nicholas Abbey
Not a religious abbey but a rare Jacobean-style plantation house with stunning grounds, a small museum, a rum bottling plant and a rare 1930s film of plantation life, this 17th-century abbey is located in some of the island’s finest scenery. Open daily for guided and self-guided tours. Bds$25 per person. Cherry Tree Hill, St. Peter. Phone 422-8725. http://www.stnicholasabbey.com.

The Garrison
The Garrison area is a collection of historic military buildings, including the Barbados Museum, the George Washington House and a rare collection of 17th-century iron cannons left over from the years when Barbados was an important military base. Southeast of Bridgetown, St. Michael. Phone 426-8982 (Main Guard House).

Tyrol Cot Heritage Village
This is the flagship property of Barbados National Trust. Built in 1854, the onetime home of Sir Grantley Adams is the centerpiece of this authentic craft village featuring traditional Bajan chattel houses, a blacksmith shop and a rum shop set in 3 acres/1 hectare of gardens. The village is open Monday-Friday 9 am-4 pm. Bds$14 adults, free for children younger than 16. Codrington Hill, St. Michael. Phone 424-2074.

Museums

Arlington House
Housed in an restored 17th-century building, this museum offers interactive exhibits on three floors, all of which have their own themes. The third floor was designed as a wharf and the second floor as a sugar-cane field. Open Monday-Saturday 9 am-4 pm. Admission is Bds$25 adults, half-price for children. On the island’s west coast, Speightstown. Phone 422-4064.

Barbados Museum
A relaxing place to spend a few hours—its exhibits depict the island’s colorful heritage, including the colonial era. The museum has a hands-on children’s gallery, a map gallery, an African heritage gallery and a natural-history gallery, as well as a research library and a classy gift shop with cards and crafts. Admisson is Bds$11.50 adults. St. Ann’s Garrison, St. Michael. Phone 427-0201. http://www.barbmuse.org.bb.

Crickets Legends of Barbados
The island’s first cricket-specific museum features historic West Indian cricket memorabilia. Interactive information kiosks allow visitors to see first-hand how the game is played. There’s also a shop with gear and memorabilia. On Fontabelle at Herbert House, Fontabelle, St. Michael, Barbados. Phone 246-435-6650. http://www.cricketlegendsofbarbados.com.

Mallalieu Motor Collection
Those with a passion for vintage cars will want to visit the Mallalieu Motor Collection. Owner Bill Mallalieu will tell you about his dozen-plus antique autos and may even take you for a spin in one of them. At historic Pavilion Court, Christ Church Parish. Phone 426-4640.

Nidhe Israel Museum
This museum tells the surprising story of the Jewish presence in Barbados. Also of interest is the synagogue next door, one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. The original 17th-century building was destroyed in an 1831 hurricane. Its replacement, dedicated in 1838, was restored and now hosts religious services December-April. It’s open to the public Monday-Friday 9 am-noon and 1-4 pm. Museum open Monday-Saturday 9 am-4 pm. Bds$25 adults; half-price admission for children. Phone 436-6869.

Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Machinery Museum
This museum is dedicated to explaining how sugar was processed in the past. It displays machines from the 1700s and 1800s, and also explains the colonial industry’s political and economic context. The museum is located at the Portvale Sugar Factory, which is still in operation. If you visit during harvest season (February-May), you can get a look at how sugar is made today. Open Monday-Friday. Portvale Sugar Factory, east of Holetown, St. James. Phone 432-0100 or 426-2421.

Springvale Eco-Heritage Museum
This rustic museum supplies an intimate look at daily life in bygone days and a short nature walk. Open Monday-Friday 10 am-3 pm. An artist’s studio and gallery on the premises is open longer hours. Bds$10 adults, Bds$5 children. Scotland District, St. Andrew Parish. Phone 438-7011.

Sunbury Plantation House & Museum
More than 300 years old but completely restored after a fire, this is the only plantation home in Barbados that opens all of its rooms to the public. There are guided tours, and a fascinating array of farm, carriage and domestic equipment. The full-service on-site restaurant offers breakfast and lunch, and elegant candlelit dinners are available for groups by advance reservation. Open daily 9:30 am-4:30 pm. Bds$15 adults, half-price for children younger than 12. In eastern Barbados, St. Philip. Phone 423-6270. http://www.barbadosgreathouse.com.

The Concorde Experience
From 1977 until the airline’s demise, Barbados was one of only four regularly scheduled Concorde destinations. One of the revolutionary, supersonic planes is displayed in The Concorde Experience, a state-of-the art, interactive aviation museum located next to the airport. Open daily 9 am-6 pm. Last entry 5 pm. Bds$35 adults, Bds$25 children ages 2-12. Grantley Adams International Airport, Christ Church Parish. Phone 420-7738. http://www.barbadosconcorde.com.

Nature

Andromeda Botanical Gardens
Contains the private gardens and botanical collection of the late Iris Bannochie, who was a world-renowned horticulturist. It’s worth a visit of several hours to explore the beautiful hibiscus, bougainvillea, orchids, palms, ferns, philodendrons and other flora. There’s a lovely gift shop, too. Open daily 9 am-5 pm. Bds$17.50 adults. Bathsheba, St. Joseph Parish. Phone 433-9384. http://andromeda.cavehill.uwi.edu or http://www.andromedagardens.com.

Animal Flower Cave
This large sea cave in the cliff has several chambers and pools, and rock formations, but few if any remaining sea anemones that give it its name. Swimming in the pools is allowed with permission, but they’re often closed when the weather is bad, so check ahead. North Point, St. Lucy Parish. Phone 439-8797. http://www.funbarbados.com/sights.

Barbados Marine Reserve
One of the biggest area attractions, the Barbados Marine Reserve offers coral-reef diving and snorkeling as well as a small museum. Open daily 9 am-5 pm. Museum admission Bds$1.15. Folkestone, Holetown. Phone 422-2314.

Barbados Wildlife Reserve
There you can roam freely among the local wildlife, enter a walk-in aviary and see an iguana sanctuary. The reserve is a great place for kids, especially at feeding time for the rare green monkeys when they descend from the trees to join a slew of tropical beasts and birds. At Grenade Hall, which dates back to the 1800s, you can explore the tranquillity of the forest and learn how messages used to be sent across the island via signals along a line of towers. One of the towers has been restored, and you can climb it for a view of the entire island. Open daily 10 am-5 pm; last entry 3:45 pm. Admission Bds$23 adults, Bds$11.50 children ages 3-12. Includes the reserve, signal station and forest. Across from Farley Hill National Park, St. Peter. Phone 422-8826. http://www.barbados.org/reserve.htm.

Flower Forest
This 50-acre/20-hectare park and botanical garden offers plenty of benches along the footpaths. It’s magical. Admission Bds$20 adults, Bds$10 children ages 5-12. Twin-pack entry for Flower Forest and Orchid World Bds$30. On the site of the old Richmond Plantation, St. Joseph Parish. Phone 438-8152. http://www.barbados.org/sightseeing/flowerforest/index.htm.

Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary
For nature lovers, this is the largest expanse of inland water in Barbados and home to more than 40 bird species. It has a walk-in aviary for viewing parrots and other birds, as well as a boardwalk-style nature trail designed to allow close access to the native vegetation and local birds. Open daily 8 am-6 pm. Worthing, Main Road, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-7078. http://www.graemehall.com.

Harrison’s Cave
Offers a one-hour ride past spectacular stalagmites, stalactites, underground rivers and waterfalls on a subterranean tram. There’s a light-refreshment area, handicraft shops and an Arawak Indian exhibition at the cave. Tours to the cave are available from Bridgetown. Open Wednesday-Sunday. Admission is Bds$40. St. Thomas, Barbados. Phone 438-6640. http://harrisonscave.com.

Hunte’s Gardens at Castle Grant
Compact but with a breathtaking aesthetic, Hunte’s Gardens offers coffee, tea or a drink and an encounter with its eccentric owner, while classical music wafts through the orchids and other vegetation. Open daily 9 am-4 pm. Bds$20. Castle Grant, St. Joseph Parish. Phone 433-3333.

Orchid World
Orchid World is a botanical delight. You can wander the grounds, which have 30,000 different orchids and excellent views of the countryside. Open daily 9 am-5 pm. Bds$20 adults. Twin-pack for Flower Forest and Orchid World Bds$30. Groves, St. George, Barbados. Phone 433-0306. http://www.barbados.org/sightseeing/orchidworld.

Welchman Hall Gully
Take time to explore this deep, 0.6-mi-/1-km-long ravine planted with an array of citrus, spice-bearing and other rare trees. (The monkeys there like the nutmeg trees.) Wandering through the serene gully, which is actually a split in the coral limestone, is a great way to spend time in Barbados. Admission Bds$15, less for children. Welchman Hall, St. Thomas, Barbados. Phone 438-6671. http://www.welchmanhallgullybarbados.com.

Parks & Gardens

Queen’s Park
This park offers a quiet respite from the hurly-burly of traveling, and you can relax in the shade of its 1,000-year-old baobab tree, or visit the art gallery there. Near St. Michael’s Cathedral, Bridgetown.

Wineries, Breweries & Distilleries

Banks Beer Visitors Center
Enjoy a tour of the brewery and bottling plant, including a stop at the beer garden and souvenir shop for a sample. Open weekdays 9 am-4 pm; tours are at 10 am, noon and 2 pm. Bds$12. Wildey, Barbados. Phone 228-6486. http://www.banksbeer.com.

Foursquare Rum Factory and Heritage Park
The island’s first rum distillery, built in the 20th century. Free self-guided tours; samples are for sale at the bar. Open Monday-Friday 9 am-4 pm. St. Philip, Barbados. Phone 420-9954 or 428-6846.

Malibu Rum
The Malibu Visitors Centre offers a lunch tour Monday-Friday that includes hotel pickup, lunch and four drinks for Bds$65. Regular tours are Bds$20 and include a Malibu Rum beach chair and a free drink. Spring Garden Highway, St. Michael. Phone 425-9393.

Mount Gay Rum
Mount Gay Rum is the best known of the Barbados rums and also has the longest history: It was probably first produced in the 1600s (accounts vary as to the exact year, anywhere from 1663 to 1703). Opening hours fluctuate with the season, and closing time is usually determined by the last customer—call ahead if you’re making a special trip. Guided tours with tastings are offered Monday-Friday 9:30 am-3:30 pm (Bds$14 adults), as well as special lunch tours by reservation on Tuesday and Thursday with a Bajan buffet (Bds$80) and a cocktail-making tour on Wednesday at 2:30 pm (Bds$50). Spring Garden Highway, St. Michael. Phone 425-8757 (Mount Gay Visitors Centre). http://premierattractions.bb/mountgayrum.htm.

Zoos & Wildlife

Ocean Park
This continually evolving attraction centers around dramatic aquariums, but also offers wet and dry play areas for kids, a marine petting zoo and miniature golf. It’s best to go at shark and ray feeding times; call for information. Open daily 9 am-6 pm, with golf until 10 pm Friday-Sunday. Bds$35 adults, Bds$20 children ages 4-12. Discounts available for families, seniors and groups of 10 or more. Minigolf available as a separate activity. Phone 420-7405. http://www.oceanparkbarbados.com.

Other Options

Future Centre
The Future Centre weighs old and new Barbados on the scales of sustainable development. It’s a homemade kind of place with a correspondingly low price, but it presents an enlightening point of view that you won’t find elsewhere. Open Monday-Friday 8:30 am-4:30 pm. Bds$10 adults. Edghill, St. Joseph Parish. Phone 425-2020.

Harry Bayley Observatory
Those with an interest in astronomy will enjoy the Harry Bayley Observatory, which has a 14-in/36-cm telescope. The observatory is also home to the Barbados Astronomical Society. Open on Friday 9-11 pm when skies are clear enough. Groups can arrange to visit on Saturday. Admission is Bds$15 adults, Bds$7 children younger than 12. Clapham, St. Michael. Phone 426-9117.

Recreation
Beaches

The best beaches for swimming and beautiful calm water are along the western shore—some of our favorites are Paynes Bay, Sandy Lane Bay (at the site of world-class golf resort Sandy Lane) and Mullins Beach. West-coast snorkeling is best at Paynes Bay, Folkestone Marine Reserve, Fitts Village, Port St. Charles and the southern end of Speightstown.

Along the southern coast, Rockley Beach, also known as Accra Beach (5 mi/8 km from Bridgetown), has a boisterous atmosphere and good body-boarding. Farther east, Crane Beach is surrounded by limestone cliffs and has big waves suitable for bodysurfing. The best swimming beaches along the south coast include Carlisle Bay, Accra Beach, Sandy Beach, Dover Beach and Enterprise (also known as Miami) Beach.

Expect some of the west- and south-coast beaches to be narrow—even those in front of some “beachfront hotels.” They’ve eroded in recent years because the coral reefs are dying, leaving the beaches unprotected. Though the waters of the west coast are far safer than those of the east coast (which receives heavier surf), even the west-coast beaches can have undertows. Don’t swim if warning signs are posted or if no one else is in the water—even if the water appears calm. Many beaches now have shower and changing facilities as well as lifeguards, though their alertness is not notable.

Cattlewash Beach and Bathsheba Beach on the eastern coast are rugged and generally too dangerous for swimming, but the cliffs and crashing waves do offer memorable vistas. There are some exceptions: Though often seaweedy, Bath Beach is popular among locals for its shaded shore, good beachcombing, picnic and playground facilities. Bathsheba has some tide pools that invite immersion—watch where the locals go. Bathsheba is popular for surfing, especially September-January, but you had better know what you’re doing before you venture into the heavy seas. Two of the better breaks are the Soup Bowl and the Parlor. The tiny village at Bathsheba is home to one of the most popular dining spots on the island, the historic Atlantis Hotel. George Lamming, Barbados’ most famous author, lives there when he’s on the island.You can reach quiet Gibbs Beach (about 10 mi/16 km from Bridgetown) via a lovely taxi or bus ride. Along the way, you’ll catch brief glimpses of resorts and other beaches. The bus ride can be long if you go during rush hour.

Bicycling

Private mountain-biking tours with experienced guides can take the adventurous (and physically fit) visitor to rarely seen places you can only get to on foot or by bike. Highland Adventure Centre arranges tours. Phone 431-8928.

Boating & Sailing

Boat cruises around the island are popular: Many give you the chance to view the coral, and some include lunch buffets.

Barbados has never been noted as a destination for sailboats because of the distance to the next destination, unfavorable wind directions and the lack of good anchorages. However, now that Port St. Charles is operating, more yachts are dropping anchor there.Barbados is considered among the world’s top windsurfing spots. Windsurfers generally head to the southeast coast, especially to a 3-mi/5-km stretch between St. Lawrence and Silver Sands Beach. November-July consistent 15- to 35-knot winds can be counted on to keep the sail full. Atlantis Submarines
Provides undersea tours for those who don’t want to get wet. Prices vary. The Shallow Draught (in the reception lounge), Bridgetown. Phone 436-8929. http://www.atlantisadventures.com.

Club Mistral
Rub shoulders with real enthusiasts. Two locations, in Silver Sands and Oistins, Barbados. Phone 428-7277. http://www.club-mistral.com.

Cool Runnings
Catamaran cruises and charters. Carlisle House, Carlisle Wharf, Hincks Street, Bridgetown. Phone 436-0911. http://www.coolrunningsbarbados.com.

de Action Man
Champion windsurfer Brian “Irie Man” Talma offers rentals, expertise, kitesurfing and radiant good vibes. Supposedly open daily 8 am-5 pm, but call ahead. Silver Rock on the east coast, Barbados. Phone 826-7087.

Small Cats
Offers smaller, more-personalized cruises. Cruises leave from the Colony Club beach on the west coast, Barbados. Phone 421-6419. http://www.smallcatscruises.com.

Tall Ships Cruises
This company offers several different experiences: If you want to drink and socialize while you sightsee, try the party cruise on the 100-ft-/31-km-long MV Harbour Master, with one of the largest floating bars in the Caribbean, or the catamaran Tiami. Both leave from Deep Water Harbour. Expect to pay about Bds$165 (half-price for children) for a five-hour Tiami cruise including lunch, drinks and snorkeling equipment; Harbour Master cruises are Bds$135 for adults and Bds$85 for children ages 4-12 for lunch (five hours) and Bds$155 for dinner (four hours). The Shallow Draught, Bridgetown Port, Bridgetown. Phone 430-0900. http://tallshipscruises.com.

Fishing

Barbados is not known for its sportfishing, but the sport’s popularity is growing. The waters around the island have a fair number of blue marlin, but perhaps not as many as a serious angler might like. January-April are the best months. Typically, the catch falls into the hard-to-find deepwater-fish category such as wahoo and sailfish. However, barracuda, mackerel and bonito are often caught along the coastline. The Barbados Game Fishing Association (BGFA) organizes tournaments July-April, with international events in March. The biggest of these is the Sagicor/Mount Gay Rum International Tournament. The BGFA practices conservation and encourages tag-and-release for billfish. The chart of seasonal fish on its Web site is useful. http://barbadosgamefishing.com.Many boats are available for half- or full-day fishing trips—you can find them moored along the Careenage in Bridgetown. Rates and services vary widely but usually total about Bds$950-$1,800. Bill Fisher II
This boat docks at the picturesque Careenage, where your fishing triumphs can be witnessed by strollers and cafe diners. Phone 431-0741.

Cannon Charters
This family-owned company offers deep-sea fishing. Phone 424-6107. http://www.fishingbarbados.com.

Fishing Charters Barbados
Operates three sportfishing boats and offers deep-sea and bar fishing as well as night and bottom fishing. It will organize a package to suit you. Sometimes individuals can join groups for Bds$300 a person, which includes bait and tackle, refreshments and hotel transport. Durants, Christ Church Parish. Phone 429-2326. http://www.bluemarlinbarbados.com.

IOU Charters
Run by a British captain with more than 40 years experience and his cheerful wife, the full-service charter takes up to six people for Bds$900 a day, and can slot in individuals for Bds$300. Accommodations also offered. 6 Hope Park, Middleton, St. George, Barbados. Phone 429-1050 or 238-9638. http://www.iouchartersbarbados.net.

Golf

Almond Beach Village
This resort has a nine-hole golf course and offers an all-inclusive day pass for Bds$240 that includes dinner and allows use of all its facilities. Smaller packages, such as a lunch pass with golf, are also available. Phone 422-4900. http://www.almondresorts.com/Resorts/AlmondVillage.

Barbados Golf Club
Has an 18-hole championship course. Greens fees start at Bds$230, plus caddy. Durants, Christ Church Parish. Phone 428-8463. http://www.barbadosgolfclub.com.

Rockley Golf and Country Club
Open to the public and affordable. Bds$78 for nine holes, Bds$98 for 18 holes. Rockley, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-7873. http://rockleygolfclub.com.

Royal Westmoreland Golf Club
The 18-hole course is pricey, but challenging. Greens fees Bds$500. Phone 422-4653. http://www.royal-westmoreland.com.

Sandy Lane Resort
Tiger Woods got married and played golf at this prestigious resort south of Holetown. Its two-plus courses total 45 holes, all open to the public. In high season, greens fees run Bds$115 for the Old Nine to Bds$470 for the Country Club to (are you sitting down?) Bds$8,000 for the Green Monkey course, not including caddy. Cheaper twilight rates also are available. Sandy Lane, St. James. Phone 444-2500. http://www.sandylane.com.

Hiking & Walking

Arbib Heritage and Nature Trail
These Speightstown-based trails are maintained by the National Trust. Two trails—one more vigorous than the other—take you through the town into magnificent Whim Gully and past plantations, forts and beaches. Allow about three hours. Neither trail is navigable on your own, so book a guide. You must book by 3 pm the previous day. Bds$100 per person. Phone 234-9010 (Victor Cooke). http://trust.funbarbados.com.

Barbados National Trust
Conducts nature hikes every Sunday at 6 am and 3 pm. Contact the trust for starting points—the itinerary varies from week to week. Though the three-hour walks are not strenuous, they aren’t Sunday strolls either: Wear a sturdy pair of walking shoes and insect repellent. Afternoon hikes offer three speed levels. Meeting places vary, so be sure to confirm where you’ll join your guide. Free, but contributions are gratefully accepted. Wildey House, Wildey, St. Michael. Phone 426-2421. http://trust.funbarbados.com.

Horseback Riding

There are several stables in Barbados that offer horseback riding to visitors for about Bds$130-$230, with helmet rental usually included in the price. Caribbean International Riding Centre
Leads tours on the east coast of the island. Bds$140 for one and a half hours; Bds$180 for two hours. Also offers jumping, dressage and English-style riding lessons. Cleland Plantation, St. Andrew Parish. Phone 422-7433. http://www.funbarbados.com/activities/moreinfo/ridebarbadosmore1.cfm.

Ocean Echo Stables
A friendly family offers scenic rides ranging from Bds$130 an hour to Bds$170 for two hours. The popular three-hour picnic ride to Bath Beach is Bds$230. All rates include transfers, helmets and a drink. You must weigh less than 200 lb/91 k. Newcastle, St. John. Phone 433-6772. http://www.barbadoshorseriding.com/ocean-echo-stables.html.

Polo
The resident professionals at Waterhall Polo offer group or private lessons for novices, intermediate and experienced players, stick and ball rentals (and a horse, of course), and can also arrange chukkas and tournaments. Waterhall Plantation, St. James. Phone 262-3282 (Jamie Dickson) or 230-3286 (Neil Dickson). http://www.waterhallpolo.com.

Scuba & Snorkeling

Although Barbados is not known for great snorkeling or diving, it boasts more than two dozen dive sites. If you want to snorkel, try the shallow reefs fringing the west coast or the south coast from Carlisle Bay to Worthing, both of which have an abundance of colorful fish, sea fans and corals. Most watersports places have gear to rent, and many sailing cruises provide it in the package.

Good wreck diving is also possible: There are more than 10 wrecks (some deliberately sunk) lying in 25-60 ft/8-18 m of water off Carlisle Bay and the west coast. Particularly interesting is the SS Stavronikita, a 365-ft/110-m-long Greek freighter sitting upright in 130 ft/40 m of water. Its enormous masts are within 20 ft/6 m of the surface.

Expect to pay Bds$25-$35 a day for snorkeling gear and Bds$110 for a one-tank boat dive, Bds$230 for a two-tank boat dive, including transport to and from your hotel. You must be a certified diver and present your C card to rent tanks and go diving, although some shops offer a supervised “resort course” dive for about Bds$180; check locally.

In the event of a diving emergency, the Divers Alert Network (DAN) will provide treatment advice and, if necessary, arrange for evacuation. Phone 919-684-8111 or 919-684-4326 (both lines connect to DAN’s headquarters in the U.S. and accept collect calls). DAN also answers health-related questions about diving. For more information, call 919-684-2948 or 800-326-3822 (toll-free in the U.S. and Canada). http://www.diversalertnetwork.org.There is a decompression chamber in the Garrison area, St. Michael; your dive operator will know the drill. Barbados Blue Watersports
Staffed by marine biologists. Also offers kids’ programs. Aquatic Gap, St. Michael. Phone 434-5764. http://www.divebarbadosblue.com.

Folkestone Marine Reserve and Visitors Centre
One of the most appealing areas for family snorkeling. Open Monday-Friday 9 am-5 pm. Church Point, St. James. Phone 422-2314 and 422-2871.

Hightide Water Sports
Offers a full range of dive experiences, including night dives. Coral Reef Club, Holetown. Phone 432-0931. http://www.divehightide.com.

Reefers & Wreckers
Specializes in taking small groups to the northern portion of the west coast reefs. Speightstown, St. Peter. Phone 422-5450 or 262-6677. http://www.scubadiving.bb.

The Dive Shop Ltd.
Located just minutes from the best dive sites. Aquatic Gap, St. Michael. Phone 426-9947. http://www.divebds.com.

Underwater Barbados
Fully equipped dive shop offers all levels of instruction. Bay Street, St. Michael. Phone 426-0655. http://www.underwaterbarbados.com.

West Side Scuba Centre
Offers trips for experienced and novice divers. Baku Beach, Holetown. Phone 432-2558. http://westsidescuba.com.

Surfing

Surfing is nearly a religious pursuit in Barbados, and the island offers many opportunities to join in the camaraderie. Board rentals run around Bds$50 a day, and lessons range Bds$150-$360 for six hours over a three-day period. Tours run Bds$200-$300. Barbados is a good destination for family surfing; all ages do it there. Surf pros are good guides to local conditions, and shops often offer a variety of boards, such as body boards, sailboards and kiteboards. Packages with accommodation are easily found. Bathsheba’s Soup Bowl is the site of international competition in the summer and attracts world champions. Dread or Dead Surf Shop
These folks offer full extreme sports on anything with a board. Hastings, Christ Church Parish. Phone 228-4785 or 826-7873. http://www.surfinbarbados.com.

Sea-U Guest House
Offers attractive accommodations in a popular surfing area with packages that include surf lessons with a certified Level Two instructor. Tent Bay, Bathsheba, St. Joseph Parish. Phone 433-9450. http://www.seaubarbados.com.

Surf Barbados
Provides lessons, board rentals, tours and accommodations. Locations are mobile, depending on wave forecasts and participants’ skill levels. Phone 256-3906. http://www.surfbarbados.com.

Zed’s Surfing Adventures
Perhaps the best for beginners, with multiple offerings. Locations at Surfer’s Point and St. Lawrence Gap, Barbados. Phone 262-7873.

Tennis & Racquet Sports

Aside from those on resort and hotel properties, there are several tennis courts on the island. Holetown’s Folkestone Park has free tennis on a first-come, first-served basis (phone 430-7700). The other public tennis court is located on the south side of the island at Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex in St. Michael. Reservations are a must, and court fees are Bds$16-$24 per hour (phone 427-5300). Barbados Squash Club
Three squash courts, two of which are air-conditioned. Lessons are available. About Bds$34 for 45 minutes. Hastings, Barbados. Phone 427-7913. http://www.squashbarbados.org.

Club Rockley
Four tennis courts. Bds$13.50 per hour; Bds$20 per hour with lights. Rockley, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-7873.

Ocean View Tennis Club
Courts can be rented for Bds$20 per hour or Bds$25 per hour with lights. Needhams Point (beside the Hilton), St. Michael. Phone 228-4863.

West Side Tennis
Expect to pay Bds$14-$24 an hour or more, not including racquet or ball rental. Sunset Crest, St. James. Phone 432-2050. http://www.tennis.bb.

Other Options

Kendal Sporting
Clay-target shooting in a country-club atmosphere. All the necessary equipment is supplied, and there’s a restaurant, a pool and bar for afterward. Carrington, St. Phillip, Barbados. Phone 437-5306. http://www.kendalsportingclaysbarbados.com.

Nightlife

The island abounds with nightclubs. They get quite lively by midnight and stay that way until 4 am. Most charge a cover of Bds$10 or more. No beach attire allowed.

The core of the island’s nocturnal scene is St. Lawrence Gap on the south coast, where many restaurants and pubs are within easy walking distance of each other.On the west coast, there’s usually entertainment on weekends at the various restaurants and bars that line First and Second streets in Holetown.

Bars, Taverns & Pubs

Carib Beach Bar
A local favorite on the south coast, with decent food, an active bar and extra tables out on deck where it doesn’t matter if you’re barefoot or sandy. There’s a DJ on Sunday from late afternoon, and its packed on Friday night for live music. Both result in dancing. Worthing Beach, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-8540.

Harbour Lights
There’s always something going on there, from beach parties to free-drink nights with DJ music. Youth euphoria. Bay Street, Bridgetown. Phone 436-7225. http://www.harbourlightsbarbados.com.

Lexy Piano Bar
Sophistication meets sing-along at this hot spot whose exuberant hosts are entertainers par excellence. Cocktails, substantial bar snacks. Open daily except Monday 8 pm-2 am. Second Street, Holetown. Phone 432-5399. http://www.lexypianobar.com.

McBride’s Pub & Cookhouse
Offers live music or a DJ most nights. Also a billiards table. Friday night salsa party includes a group lesson and line dancing. Plenty of fun. St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-6352. http://www.mcbridesbarbados.com.

Ship Inn
Big outdoor area with music nightly, often live. Happy hour 5-7 pm. St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church Parish. Phone 420-7447. http://shipinnbarbados.com.

Surfside
One of the longest-running beach bars on the west coast, with a loyal, local, laid-back following. Reasonable meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and a great location, especially at sunset. Five-monitor sports bar. On the beach, Holetown. Phone 432-2105.

Dance & Nightclubs

Club Xtreme
Youth in a frenzy? Depends on which zone of this high-concept disco you go into. Tuesday night’s casual and dub-laden; Saturday night’s dress is more upscale, and the music includes hip-hop, reggae, dancehall and alternative. Friday hosts special events only. Ladies free 10-11 pm. Worthing, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-4455.

Jumbies
After dinner the place turns into a dance palace, with DJs or live music. St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church Parish. Phone 420-7615.

Reggae Lounge
A rootsy, love it or hate it kind of place, where a lady will never be lonely and the dancing can get dirty. Check which nights have live music. If Biggie Irie is playing, go. St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-6462.

The Boatyard
Revelry and carousing reign there, several nights a week. Bay Street, Bridgetown. Phone 436-2622. http://www.theboatyard.com.

Live Music

Calypso Tents
In July, during the Cropover festival, numerous venues (few of which are really tents) hold shows featuring the current calypsos and party anthems as well as broad, topical comedy. Check local papers for dates and places.

Sandpiper Hotel
Our little secret: One of the most gracious small properties of the west coast, this hotel offers low-key live entertainment many nights of the week in a tasteful bar lounge with the comfiest chairs imaginable. The music is good background for romance or serious conversation, but is also worth pausing to pay attention. No sloppy attire, please. St. James Beach, St. James. Phone 422-2251.

Waterfront Cafe
A leisure landmark for more than 20 years, the Waterfront features Caribbean food, a lively bar and hospitality so abundant that it sometimes spills from table to table. Jazz Wednesday-Saturday nights. If you can sing, they might let you. The Careenage, Bridgetown. Phone 427-0093. http://www.waterfrontcafe.com.bb.

Other Options

Plantation Restaurant & Garden Theatre
Bajan Roots and Rhythms is a tropical dinner show with colorful choreography, steel bands, limbo dancers and fire eaters. Performances are Wednesday and Friday at 6:30 pm. Bds$170 adults, Bds$132 teens for hotel transportation, the show, buffet and unlimited drinks; Bds$99 adults, Bds$66 teens for show and drinks only. For the latter option, go at 8 pm. St. Lawrence Main Road, Christ Church Parish. Phone 428-5048. http://www.theplantation.bb.

Performing Arts

All variety of performing arts are available in Barbados. Towering stiltmen, green monkeys and shaggy bears (actually humans in costume) make appearances at festivals and also entertain hotel guests with their considerable acrobatic feats.

Pantomime is the thing to see late November-Christmas. Alternating each year between St. Winifred’s and the convent schools, these big productions star a huge cast of lavishly costumed children capably singing and dancing their way through some twist on a classic story, with lots of silliness.From ballroom to hip-hop, liturgical to jazz, ballet to Afro-Caribbean, dance abounds in Barbados. Troupes and choreographers to watch for include The Barbados Dance Theatre, Louise Woodvine, Pinelands Creative Workshop, Praise Academy and Dancin’ Africa. The all-male Spin Pooch Ink specializes in amazing gyrations.

Ticket Brokers

Tickets to performances are usually available at the venue. Sometimes additional outlets are used. Prime among these are C.S. Pharmacy on Broad Street, Bridgetown, and the Shell stations at Warrens and Black Rock. You have to ask at the stations; there’s no booth or signage.

Venues

Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination
Located on the campus of the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, this arts center hosts theater, music, poetry, fine art exhibitions and lectures. Cave Hill, St. Michael. Phone 417-4776. http://www.cavehill.uwi.edu.

Frank Collymore Hall
This elegant and acoustically balanced hall hosts numerous performing arts events and lectures year-round. Located at the Tom Adams Financial Centre, whose Grande Salle also functions as an art gallery on occasion. Central Bank of Barbados, Spry Street, Bridgetown. Phone 436-9083 or 436-9084. http://www.fch.org.bb/fch/coming_events.shtml.

Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre
Performances are not frequent there, but the fairs, lectures and expos it hosts can give great insight into Barbados and provide something different to do on a rainy day. Two Mile Hill, St. Michael. Phone 467-8200. http://www.bcslbarbados.com.

Spectator Sports

The horse races at Bridgetown’s Garrison Savannah on Sunday are a fun way to sample Bajan social life. Cricket is the national sport, so expect to see cricket matches all over the island on weekends. Polo, road rallies and field hockey are also popular.

Auto Racing

Road Rallies
Along with a dedicated rally sprint course, the country roads of Barbados achieve their potential as challenging courses for rally-car racing. From its beginnings in 1972, the sport has grown so popular that there’s now an annual international event on the calendar. Racetrack at Vaucluse, St. Thomas, Barbados. Phone 438-7825 or 228-2215. http://barbadosrallyclub.com or https://www.fluke-motorsport.co.uk/barbados/links.html.

Horse Racing

Barbados Turf Club
The horse races at Bridgetown’s Garrison Savannah are a fun way to sample Bajan social life. Racing season runs for most of the year, and races occur most Sundays. Contact the Barbados Turf Club for information on race dates. General admission is just Bds$2. Alternatively, spend Bds$10 for the grandstand, or Bds$20 for the owners and trainers bar. These prices go up for high-stakes races such as the Sandy Lane Gold Cup. Outside the ring, it’s always free. Phone 426-3980. http://www.barbadosturfclub.com.

Other Options

Cricket
The Barbados Cricket Association holds its bigger matches at the Kensington Oval, but you can see matches played just about anywhere. Kensington Oval, St. Michael. Phone 436-1397. http://www.bcacricket.org.

Field Hockey
Field hockey is a relatively obscure sport, but it enjoys a big following in Barbados. The annual Banks International Hockey Festival is billed as the biggest field-hockey tournament in the western hemisphere. The Barbados Ball Hockey Association is a good source for information. Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium or the NIS parking lot, Wildey, St. Michael. Phone 429-9430. http://barbadosballhockey.com.

Polo
Polo has an avid following in Barbados. The Barbados Polo Club and the more competitive Waterhall folks have regularly scheduled matches. The international season is from November to April or May, although local teams play most of the year. Entrance is around Bds$20 adults. There are four fields, located in Holders and Waterhall, St. James, and Lion Castle and Clifton, St. Thomas, Barbados. Phone 432-1802 for the schedule. http://www.barbadospoloclub.com.

Shopping

Shop for duty-free goods (especially items imported from the U.K.), jewelry and gemstones, beauty products, sunglasses, crystal and china. Local handicrafts include wire sculptures, glass art, leathercraft, pottery, woven goods of straw and other fibers, baskets, art, metalwork, bamboo candles, soaps and wood carvings. Condiments, jams and rum-soaked Bajan Great Cake are also worth seeking out. There are good handicraft shops in many major hotels and arts-and-crafts shops at Pelican Craft Centre. Barbados produces some of the finest rum in the world, with Mount Gay being the best-known brand.

Broad Street is Bridgetown’s main shopping street. There you’ll find a series of shops inside Norman Centre, as well as the Galleria Mall. In contrast to Broad Street, Swan Street is the bargain area, where working class people get their gear.

You’ll find craft vendors behind the fish market in the fishing village of Oistins Thursday-Saturday nights; quality is mixed. It may also be worth your while to check out the interesting little shops in Sunset Crest, Chattel Village in Holetown and Chattel House Shopping Village in St. Lawrence Gap.

The local art scene has grown over the years, and there are a number of galleries that are worth a look. Should you decide to purchase something, the gallery can usually arrange proper packing and shipping for you.

Be sure to get some local music while you’re on the island—from steel pan to soca and calypso, Barbados has a wealth of musical talent. Recommended CDs include anything by The Merrymen for a bit of nostalgia, The Banks Soundtech Steel Orchestra, soca anthem compilations, Alison Hinds, Red Plastic Bag, John King, Arturo Tappin for jazz saxophone or David Kirton for reggae. Ask the staff in the music stores for their suggestions.

Don’t expect to bargain in stores. Save your bargaining skills for the Rastafarian street market in Temple Yard (Bridgetown) or for the strolling beach vendors.

Be aware that Barbados has a nonrefundable value-added tax (VAT) that runs around 15% on most items, excluding duty-free goods.Shopping Hours: Generally Monday-Friday 8:30 am-4:30 pm and Saturday 8:30 am-1 pm. Smaller establishments close for lunch. Expect extended shopping hours (including Sunday) in tourist centers.

Antique Stores

Antiques can be found at La Galerie Antique in Paynes Bay, St. James. Estate sales, advertised in the newspapers, can be fascinating as well as good sources of items. Check export laws before purchasing mahogany antiques.

Bookstores

Pages Bookstore
For books, check out this shop at Cave Shepherd. Broad Street, Bridgetown. Phone 431-2120. http://www.shopatcaveshepherd.com/browse.cfm/2,1.html.

The Cloister Bookstore
Near the wharf area. Hincks Street, Bridgetown. Phone 426-2662.

Department Stores

Cave Shepherd
The island’s largest department store features a wide range of clothing and other goods. Open Monday-Thursday 8:30 am-5:30 pm, Friday 8:30 am-6:30 pm, Saturday 8:30 am-4:30 pm, Sunday 9 am-2 pm. Broad Street, Bridgetown. Phone 227-2197. http://www.shopatcaveshepherd.com.

DaCosta’s Mall
Features 25 shops, including Little Switzerland, Colombian Emeralds, Harrisons and The Royal Shop. Broad Street, Bridgetown. Phone 426-1049.

Galleries

Photography in Barbados has reached top levels, a process that began almost with the dawn of the medium. In black and white or color, subjects and styles vary. Watch for exhibitions. For evocative shots of old Barbados, order prints from the Barbados National Trust in Wildey, St. Michael (phone 426-2421) or check shops for the ubiquitous Beachgate Images series.Local artist and photographer Corrie Scott lists every gallery and art event in Barbados on her Web site. It is essential homework for serious buyers. http://www.corriescott.net. #17 Art Gallery
Artist Corrie Scott’s studio and gallery of fine art and photography, limited edition reproductions and cards. By appointment only. Pavilion Court, Hastings, Christ Church Parish. Phone 424-3965 or 233-6078. http://www.corriescott.com.

Earth & Fire Workshop
If you’re driving to North Point, stop en route at this gallery for colorful pottery items. Connelltown, St. Lucy Parish.

Gallery of Caribbean Art
Barbadian and Caribbean art collection. The main store in Speightstown is huge, and its works run the gamut of tastes. The Needham’s Point branch at the Hilton Hotel in St. Michael stays open late. Open Monday-Friday 9:30 am-4:30 pm, Saturday 9:30 am-2 pm. Phone 419-0858. http://www.artgallerycaribbean.com.

Gang of Four Studio Gallery
Specializes in almost Fauvist works by Gordon Webster, filled with emotion. The small ones are most valued and affordable. Springvale Plantation, St. Andrew Parish. Phone 438-7883.

Kirby Art Gallery
Collection of high-quality works by local and international artists. The Courtyard, Hastings, Christ Church Parish. Phone 430-3032. http://www.kirbyartgallery.com.

Lancaster Great House
Changing exhibitions for collectors, decorators and the gold coast crowd. Open Monday-Friday 9 am-4 pm and weekends by prior arrangement. On Highway 2A, St. James. Phone 432-0458 or 234-2494.

Mango’s Fine Art Gallery
Displays hand-pulled silk-screen artwork by Malaysian-born artist Michael Adams. West End, 2 Queen St., Speightstown. Phone 422-0704. http://www.funbarbados.com/Art/mangosart.CFM.

Medford Mahogany Creations
Pair a visit to this shop with a trip to the nearby Tyrol Cot Heritage Village. Whitehall Road, Bridgetown.

On the Wall
One curator, several locations: Champers Restaurant, Worthing, Christ Church; Earthworks complex at Shop Hill, St. Thomas; The Restaurant at Southsea, St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church. http://www.onthewallartgallery.com.

Queens Park Gallery
A good little gallery where the exhibition changes every month or so. Queens Park, Bridgetown. Phone 427-2345.

The Barbados Arts Council
Originals and a large selection of prints. It’s usually a group show with varying styles and levels of competence. Open approximately 9 am-4 pm. Pelican Craft Centre, Princess Alice Highway, Bridgetown. Phone 426-4385.

Tides Art Gallery
Located in the Tides Restaurant. Open noon to around 10 pm. Balmore House, Holetown.

Zemicon Gallery
This tiny space specializes in locally and regionally collected artists, and the charming curator gives good advice. Open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10 am-4 pm, Wednesday 10 am-2 pm. Hincks Street, Bridgetown. Phone 430-0054.

Markets

Brighton Farmers Market
The Saturday morning farmers market is not just for fruits and vegetables; it’s a social event too, with cappuccino and pastry, art and crafts. Go early. Brighton Plantation, St. George, Barbados.

Cheapside Market
Visit this fruit and vegetable market for a taste of authentic, old-time Caribbean shopping and a chance to have exotic items explained to you. Don’t think the outside vendors are it; go inside the big building. Look hard (or ask) and you’ll also find people selling traditional baked goods, as well as fresh juices. Saturday is the big day, but there’s a fair number of vendors there on Thursday and Friday as well. Across the road is the relocated Temple Yard, where Rastafarians make shoes and sculpture, and sell a few fruits and souvenirs. Cheapside, Bridgetown.

Shopping Areas

Chalky Mount Potteries
This area is known for producing pottery on treadle-run wheels, and it’s possible to visit the potters’ workshops. The village’s main pottery shop is open daily 9 am-5 pm. Western side of Chalky Mount, St. Andrew Parish.

Pelican Craft Centre
Find a collection of good arts and crafts shops at this center near the pier. Princess Alice Highway, Bridgetown. Phone 427-5350.

Quayside Centre
Shops, restaurants and an Internet cafe across from Accra Beach Hotel. Rockley, Christ Church Parish.

Sheraton Mall
Features dozens of shops catering to the local market. Food court, movie theaters, a FedEx depot, a doctor’s office—the works—and great for people-watching, too. Open Monday-Saturday 9 am-9 pm. Sargents Village, Christ Church Parish.

Sunset Crest
With three separate shopping areas, this strip is loaded with discoveries. Yes, it’s touristy, but well done. Don’t overlook the Supercentre supermarket; its adjoining minimall has some lovely items. South of Holetown, St. James.

Specialty Stores

Best of Barbados
Specializes in local arts and crafts. Numerous additional locations across the island. St. Thomas, Barbados. Phone 436-1416. http://best-of-barbados.com.

Bliss Bath & Body
Savor island aromas with locally-made soaps and lotions; bath accessories, too. You may be tempted to keep these gifts for yourself. Hastings, Christ Church Parish. Phone 426-3318.

Dingolay
Locally made fashions. Locations at Sheraton Mall, Christ Church (phone 435-6482); Da Costa’s Mall, Bridgetown (phone 437-4107); and Chattel House Village, Holetown (phone 432-8709).

Irie Blue
Locally designed beachwear. Broad Street, Bridgetown. Phone 431-0017.

SimonPeter
Simon Foster thinks women are goddesses, and it shows in his fabulous, floaty dresses. Paynes Bay, St. James.

The Potter’s House at Earthworks Pottery
An interesting selection of gifts and wares made from red-clay ceramic. The complex also contains a gallery of fine craft and small artworks, a batik studio, the Ins & Outs Emporium and a sweet, breezy cafe. Worth the drive. Shop Hill, St. Thomas, Barbados. Phone 425-0223. http://www.earthworks-pottery.com.

Walker’s Caribbean World
Caribbean arts and crafts mingle with furnishings from the Far East. St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church Parish. Phone 428-1183.

Itinerary
Local Tours

If the ship-sponsored excursions are full or if you prefer to arrange a self-guided tour, check first with your travel agent, who may be able to book one in advance. If you book your own tour, you might save a few dollars—but keep in mind that it can take some time to contact the operators, comparison shop and make a booking. Most of the tours are similar to those arranged by cruise ships; prices may vary. Adventureland 4×4 Tours
Get off the tourist circuit and see the interior of the island. Full-day tours include refreshments and drinks (alcoholic and nonalcoholic). 8:30 am-3 pm. Bds$160 adults includes hotel pickup. Manager’s House, Wotton Plantation, Christ Church Parish. Phone 436-3687. http://www.adventurelandbarbados.com.

Bajan Helicopters
Barbados is best seen from the ground, but those who like to buzz around above can take a flightseeing tour. Monday-Friday 10 am-3 pm; no tours on bank holidays. Costs run about Bds$280 per person for 20 minutes, Bds$360 for 30 minutes. Bridgetown, Barbados. Phone 431-0069. http://www.bajanhelicopters.com.

Coconut Tours
Offers tours of different types on different days. Prices range Bds$140-$160. Bayside, Bay Street, St. Michael. Phone 437-0297. http://www.coconutcars.com/tours/index.html.

Island Safari
In addition to half-day Land Rover tours for Bds$159, this company also offers an eight-hour land and sea package featuring lunch on a catamaran for Bds$240. Bush Hall Main Road, St. Michael. Phone 429-5339. http://www.islandsafari.bb.

J.C. Williams Tour Co.
This established tour operator runs a round-the-island day tour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with pickup from the terminal or your hotel. Bds$135 per person includes lunch at Sunbury Plantation and the entrance fee to Animal Flower Cave. The Marine, Historical and Wildlife Tour on Tuesday and Thursday offers three attractions and a Bajan lunch for Bds$150. Harrison’s Cave tour is offered Wednesday-Sunday for Bds$100. South Coast, Christ Church Parish. Phone 427-1043.

Johnsons Tours
Barbados’ oldest tour company offers a wide range of tours by taxi, van or coach, including Made in Barbados, Flower Power, Visit Yesteryear, Oistins Fish Fry and, of course, scenery tours, all offered on different days of the week. Prices range Bds$65-$145 a person; children are usually half-price. Bideford, Brownes Gap, Hastings, Christ Church Parish. Phone 426-5181. http://www.johnsonstours.com.

Transport Board
These scenic island tours aboard Barbados Transport Board buses follow different routes every week. Tours on Sunday at 2 pm. Bds$15 adults, Bds$10 children. Tickets are available from the change booths at the Fairchild Street or Princess Alice terminals. Buses leave Independence Square, Bridgetown. Phone 228-6023 during normal business hours. http://www.transportboard.com/ser_scenictour.php.

Day By Day

Most visitors stay a week in Barbados. Because of its size, logistics are no problem, so we don’t recommend a day-by-day itinerary. Any part of the island can be seen in an easy trip from your hotel—just do whatever you feel like on any given day.

Day Plans

To help you make the most of your cruise stopover time in Barbados, we’ve designed three different itineraries. PLAN A

Life’s a Beach, One Way or the Other

Barbados’ beaches are beautiful, so get out and enjoy them, and get a glimpse of coastal life, too. You can save money by taking the shuttle to Bridgetown and then taking a bus to the beach, but take along some taxi phone numbers before leaving port so you’ll have a choice of how to return. If you’re making a day of it, it’s best to incorporate some shade time, and take a bottle of water. Don’t forget to wear clothes on the way back, and remember that afternoon rush hour will slow your journey back to the port.

One option sends you south to gorgeous, virtually tourist-free Miami Beach, on the far edge of Oistins. Go behind the public buildings and you can choose between two bays; one is calmer than the other. Both are served by a facility with restrooms, showers and lockers. There’s a lifeguard, and a pay phone, too, for that taxi. For lunch, buy food at the brightly painted bus and eat at picnic tables in the shade, walk into Oistins and eat at one of the cute kiosks (stroll through the fish market while you’re there, and maybe pop into a rum shop); or dine at Little Arches hotel. If the beach begins to bore you, hop a cab to nearby Ocean Park to see the aquariums or head south for 20 minutes to Sunbury Great House for a tour of grand-style plantation life.

If you’d rather go to where the watersport and beach-bar action is, take the scenic trip to the western part of the island to Payne’s Bay in St. James. There’s a beach access sign by the Blue Monkey bar, across from Tropical Escape Hotel. For a change of pace in this part of the island, take afternoon tea at the Sandpiper Hotel in Holetown; go shopping in one of Holetown’s little malls or the charming chattel-house village; or head farther north to Speightstown and visit the Arlington House museum, which tells of sugar and the seafaring trade. Each of these is a simple bus ride up the coast.

If you just want some time at the beach and then to shop, take the port’s convenient shuttle to Brandon’s (Brighton) Beach or to the Boatyard on Carlisle Bay. Both offer facilities and fun in the form of water sports and bars.

PLAN B

No Hassle, Just Heritage

Compared with other islands, Barbados’ heritage is rampant and admirably displayed. Sites are all over the island, but you’ll find lots to see within 3 mi/5 km from the harbor. Take the port shuttle into Bridgetown, then wander down Broad Street, which is shared by historic and modern buildings. Turn left on Prince William Henry Street, where a short walk takes you to tiny Synagogue Lane on the right. The lovely synagogue is one of the oldest in the western hemisphere, and the Nidhe Israel museum at its side tells the little-known story of the Jewish presence in Barbados. Afterward, continue down the lane to the 19th-century Parliament buildings, whose striking museum illustrates the island’s impressive political progress.

If you’re not yet hungry, walk to Queens Park, stopping at St. Michael’s Cathedral on the way. If you’re ready for lunch, cross the picturesque Careenage and eat overlooking the boats. Then take a short taxi or bus ride to the Garrison, where you have a choice of options. You can also wait to eat a big Bajan buffet at Brown Sugar in Aquatic Gap, a ten-minute walk from the Garrison. At the Garrison, choose between the cannon collection, the culture-spanning Barbados Museum and George Washington House, whose own museum explains this island’s surprising impact on the course of history. Afterward, get refreshments at the George Washington House’s cafe or walk to Aquatic Gap for a fish sandwich at Cuz’ Snackette by the sea. Take a taxi back to Bridgetown for more wandering or to port to explore Pelican Centre, a colorful collection of craft shops. Remember that afternoon rush hour traffic can slow you down considerably.

PLAN C

Country, Cave and Coast

This trip definitely requires a rental car or taxi for the day. First, make reservations for a noonish lunch at the family-run Atlantis Hotel in Bathsheba. Then, get an early start and drive to the center of the island to Harrison’s Cave. Ride the tram through the extensive cave system to see the stalagmites and stalactites. A few minutes’ drive away, stop and stroll through wooded Welchman Hall Gully (a ravine thick with native plants that is reminiscent of pre-agricultural Barbados) or drive down to the rustic Springvale Eco-Heritage Museum for a quick trip back in time and a chat with the charming owner. Either choice is inexpensive.Then head down the hills through quaint villages to the wild waters of the east coast, and swing over to Bathsheba for a traditional Bajan buffet at the Atlantis. From there it’s a short ride up to the Andromeda Botanic Gardens. Drive through banana groves to cool off afterward, and maybe have a dip at scenic Bath Beach in St. John (facilities are available). Another option is to continue on to breathe in the serenity of Codrington College. Allow an hour to return to port, more if you get lost easily or drive slowly. Remember, driving is on the left.

Dining
Dining Overview

Traditional island cooking primarily consists of fish, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cristophene (chayotte), coconut bread, rice and peas, chicken, pork and Bajan black-belly lamb. We suggest trying some Bajan specialties: flying fish, jug-jug (green peas, meats and corn flour), fish cakes, cou-cou (okra and corn flour), dolphin (the fish, not the mammal—also called dorado), pepper-pot stew, puddin’ and souse (pig entrails stuffed with grated sweet potatoes, served alongside lime-pickled pig feet and ears), roti (curried chicken or beef—sometimes with potatoes—or vegetables wrapped in pastry) and conkies (made from cornmeal, raisins, spice, pumpkin and sweet potatoes). If you spot a van parked roadside at lunchtime with people lining up for food, give it a try. You’ll get an authentic meal at good value.

Do try some of the local fruit: Barbados cherries, dunks, guavas, shaddock (a huge grapefruit,) soursop and ackees (known in other parts of the Caribbean as ginips)—a small, green-skinned fruit with a sour-sweet gelatin inside that surrounds a seed. Attend a West Indian barbecue if the opportunity arises, and be sure to sample the island’s rum punch. A popular local soft drink is the molasses-based Tiger Malt, and mauby is a bittersweet local drink made from tree bark and sugar. If your palate is partial to sizzle, drown everything in the local hot pepper sauce (and take some home for your friends with fireproof mouths). Wash it all down with the local award-winning Banks beer.

Bajans cook with a traditional combination of fresh herbs. To replicate the flavor at home, take back a jar of Bajan seasoning, available in supermarkets and specialty shops.

Visitors should note that breakfast is usually served 7-10 am and lunch noon-3 pm. Dinner is the main meal of the day and is served 6-10 pm.Eating out in Barbados can be expensive, though the best value is available at lunchtime. Expect to pay within these guidelines for a meal for one, not including drinks, tax or tip: $ = less than Bds$25; $$ = Bds$25-$48; $$$ = Bds$49-$100; and $$$$ = more than Bds$100.

Local & Regional

Atlantis Hotel
The family-run Atlantis Hotel offers a wonderful lunch of traditional Bajan cooking. If you’re there on a Sunday, don’t miss the groaning Sunday buffet (locals love it, too). The restaurant overlooks the dramatic eastern shore where tiny, brightly painted flying-fish boats bob at anchor. Daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations required for dinner and Sunday buffet lunch. $$-$$$. No credit cards. Bathsheba, St. Joseph Parish. Phone 433-9445. http://atlantisbarbados.com/dining.html.

Boatyard
It used to be known as the yachting set’s hangout, but this beachside bistro, just a five-minute walk from the center of Bridgetown, has turned into an island hot spot with its casual grill, bar, watersports, party boats and Internet cafe. Daily for lunch. Reservations available. $$. Most major credit cards. Bay Street, Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown. Phone 436-2622. http://www.theboatyard.com.

Brown Sugar
This popular spot’s cool interior is a favorite for businesspeople and visitors alike. The setting is a lush, covered garden with potted plants, ferns and small waterfalls. The Planter’s Lunch buffet features an array of Bajan specialties, and dinner offers Caribbean dishes a la carte, such as dolphin and flying-fish entrees. The drinks are exotic and colorful, and the wine list is exceptional. Sunday-Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner only. $$$. Aquatic Gap, St. Michael. Phone 426-7684.

Fisherpond Great House
Furnished with museum-quality antiques and surrounded by stunning gardens, this 17th- and 18th-century house is a gracious venue for lunch on Wednesday and Sunday, and can be booked for group dinners. The resident hosts are experts on many aspects of Barbados. Reservations required. $$$$. Fisherpond Great House, St. Thomas, Barbados. Phone 433-1754.

Frankie’s Canteen
This friendly rum shop and basic restaurant serves good, inexpensive local food and a final, authentic Bajan experience before you catch your flight. $. Across the road from the airport, Christ Church Parish.

Olive’s Bar & Bistro
One of the most popular restaurants for locals, the menu offers generous portions of unpretentious food, combining Mediterranean and Caribbean flavors. Casual yet elegant, with inside or courtyard dining, consistent standards and great service. Daily for dinner. $$$-$$$$. Most major credit cards. Second Street, Holetown. Phone 432-2112. http://www.funbarbados.com/Restaurants/olives.CFM.

Roundhouse
Though it might blow your salad away, the wind is part of the pleasure at this 19th-century oddity overlooking Bathsheba. Popular with locals, especially for Sunday lunch, the Roundhouse offers eclectic fare and frequently has live music. It doesn’t need to advertise, but you do need to make reservations. Want to just stay on? There are six rooms to rent upstairs. $$-$$$. Bathsheba, St. Joseph Parish. Phone 433-9678. http://www.barbados.org/apt/roundhouse/home.htm.

Waterfront Cafe
This is always a great people-watching place, and the Tuesday-evening Caribbean buffet is a real bargain at Bds$70. Jazz musicians perform there regularly. Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. $$$. Most major credit cards. On the Careenage, Bridgetown. Phone 427-0093. http://www.waterfrontcafe.com.bb.

Cuisines
Asian

Apsara and Tamnak Thai
Serenely enclosed in a walled garden, good food vies for kudos with the decor. Open daily for lunch, Saturday and Sunday for dinner. $$-$$$$. Most major credit cards. Worthing, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-5454 or 435-5446. http://www.apsarabarbados.com.

Asian Palm Thai
Reasonably priced but not so special Thai food, casually served, in a trendy area. Open daily for lunch and dinner. $$. First Street, Holetown. Phone 432-7939.

New Galaxy
Simple, clean Chinese restaurant and bar with an extensive menu; MSG optional. Takeaway available. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Worthing, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-4302.

Sitar
East Indian cuisine in a cozy setting. Lunches are served buffet-style. Daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Second Street, Holetown. Phone 432-2248.

Zen
Classic Thai and Japanese food in a spectacular setting. A tatami room for groups, private booths for foursomes and a sushi bar add variety. Unfortunately, the hard surfaces bounce sounds, making it louder than anything called Zen should be. $$$-$$$$. Crane Beach, St. Philip. Phone 423-6220. http://thecrane.com/crane_resort/aboutus/restaurant.asp.

Greek

Opa!
Greek food, seaside, with a comfortable lounge area for drinks and appetizers. Lunch, dinner and some of the island’s best pizza too. $$-$$$. Hastings Main Road, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-1234.

Italian

Daphne’s
Daphne’s has taste in more ways than one. Relax and enjoy this water’s-edge restaurant serving imaginative cuisine with an Italian accent. Go on, have some champagne. $$$. Paynes Bay, St. James. Phone 432-2731. http://www.daphnesbarbados.com.

Il Tempio
Casual elegance right on the beach, with lunch, dinner and happy hour. Open daily except Monday for lunch and dinner. Closed August and September. $$-$$$. Visa and MasterCard accepted. Fitts Village, St. James. Phone 417-0057. http://www.iltempiorestaurant.com.

Luigi’s
Home-style Italian food, and the serving size is generous. Relaxed atmosphere; excellent service. Monday-Saturday for dinner only. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Dover Beach Road, Christ Church Parish. Phone 428-9218.

Mama Mia
Justly popular Italian deli and pizzeria with indoor and outdoor tables. Dinner is simple—just pasta, pizza and salads. Open Monday-Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. $-$$$. Hastings Main Road, Christ Church Parish. Phone 434-3354. http://www.accessbarbados.com/infoplus.php?ipid=122.

Spago
Good contemporary Italian food, with a bar, pleasant ambience and sometimes live music. Open daily for lunch and dinner. $$-$$$. Second Street, Holetown. Phone 432-7394. http://www.spagobarbados.com.

Mexican

Cafe Sol
A hip little slice of Mexico in Barbados. Crowds gather nightly on its corner patio for mildly spiced and mildly priced Tex-Mex specialties, a dozen kinds of margaritas—and lots of fun. We have one regret, though: Its not open for lunch. Daily for dinner. Reservations necessary for parties of five or more. $$. Most major credit cards. St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-9531. http://www.funbarbados.com/Restaurants/cafesol.CFM.

Cafes & Tearooms

Chatters Tea Room
Serves three-course English tea for Bds$35 in oh-so-floral surroundings at the 17th-century Bagatelle Great House. Monday-Saturday 2-6 pm. Bagatelle, St. Thomas, Barbados. Phone 438-7403.

Surfer’s Cafe and Obskewer Bar
Hip and unpretentious, this attractive cafe serves simple, delicious food at reasonable prices. Besides the usual drinks, the bar offers espresso and its offspring as well as smoothies. Check your e-mail, use the Wi-Fi, flop on the couch or just gaze at the sea. Intimate live music some nights. $-$$. Oistins, Christ Church Parish. Phone 420-9283.

Seafood

Lobster Alive
Clever design, good food and jazz on Friday elevate the tone of this breezy seaside shack with a lobster tank and friendly bar. Large portions. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Closes mid-May to August while lobsters do their breeding thing. $$-$$$$. Most major credit cards. Bay Street, Bridgetown. Phone 435-0305.

Mango’s by the Sea
This restaurant is renowned for the amazing variety of fresh seafood on the menu. Fish, shrimp, scallops and lobster—grilled, blackened, any way you like it. Open daily for dinner. Reservations recommended. $$$. Most major credit cards. Main Road, Speightstown. Phone 422-0704. http://www.mangosbythesea.com.

Pisces
One of Barbados’ oldest restaurants is still one of the best. You can dine alfresco on the freshest of seafood in a greenery-filled, waterside courtyard. Save room for the excellent desserts. Daily for dinner. $$$. Most major credit cards. St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-6564. http://www.funbarbados.com/Restaurants/pisces.cfm.

The Fish Pot
At the water’s edge in the tranquil village of Shermans in St. Peter Parish, The Fish Pot is informal, relaxed and uncomplicated. The menu offerings are simple yet delicious, and the views are wonderful. Request a table by the sea. Open daily for lunch and dinner. $$$. Most major credit cards. Little Good Harbour, Shermans, St. Peter. Phone 439-3000. http://www.littlegoodharbourbarbados.com/restaurant.html.

The Mews
This place is known for its superb seafood dishes and live jazz on Friday. The hip bar scene doesn’t interfere with dining. Open daily for dinner; closed Sunday in summer. Reservations recommended. $$$. Most major credit cards. Second Street, Holetown. Phone 432-1122.

Other Options

Josef’s
This sophisticated dining spot offers an interesting menu of Caribbean and Asian delicacies and white-glove service. Patrons can enjoy their meals in the dining room or venture to the veranda overlooking the Caribbean. For a taste of the sea, start off with the lobster and shrimp bisque bathed in cognac or try the shrimp dim sum. Grilled dolphin with fresh mango makes a perfect main course. Sample the sushi and maki dish or the chef’s selection of sashimi and maki rolls. Daily for dinner. $$$-$$$$. St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church Parish. Phone 435-8245. http://www.josefsinbarbados.com.

L’Azure at the Crane
The premises, the presentation and the food itself are all spectacular. Perched cliff-edge, overlooking fabled Crane Beach, L’Azure offers award-winning continental and Caribbean cuisine, with lots of seafood. If you’re not staying at the Crane it may be a long drive, but it’s worth it. Open daily for lunch and dinner, Sunday for the gospel breakfast buffet. $$$. Crane, St. Philip. Phone 423-6220. http://thecrane.com.

The Cliff
One of the top restaurants in the Caribbean, where magical ambience meets haute cuisine. Dress to be seen by the snooty. $$$$. Derricks, St. James. Phone 432-1922. http://www.thecliffbarbados.com.

The Restaurant at South Sea
Foodies will be pleased by acclaimed cuisine presented with elan, and the right wines to go with it. Dress nicely and enjoy the luxury. $$$-$$$$. St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church Parish. Phone 420-7423. http://www.therestaurantatsouthsea.com.

The Tides
Accolades and art combine to give this seaside restaurant its distinct flavor and loyal following. Open daily for lunch and dinner. $$$-$$$$. Balmore House, Holetown. Phone 432-8356. http://www.tidesbarbados.com.

Security
Personal Safety

Although it’s not free from crime, Barbados contains no significant dangers for those who exercise common sense: Don’t leave valuables unattended, always lock your car, be aware of your surroundings and avoid deserted areas after dark, especially remote beaches. Be polite but firm with street and beach vendors. Petty theft and street crimes are most common, but violent crime does occur. This is a drinking culture, with two cautionable results: It is easy to consume too much before you know it, lose your good sense and behave like prey, and late-night drivers can be erratic, so exercise caution on the roads at night.For the latest information, contact your country’s travel-advisory agency.

Health

The water is safe to consume, as is the food served in most restaurants and on roadsides. Common medicines are available at pharmacies around the island, and many supermarkets have in-house pharmacies with qualified staff. You may want to consult your doctor or a travel-medicine specialist before your visit to ask about vaccinations against hepatitis and typhoid, though neither of these diseases is prevalent in Barbados. If you are coming from a yellow-fever-infected area, you may be asked for a certificate of vaccination.

Dengue fever outbreaks do occur. This painful but rarely fatal illness is mosquito-borne, particularly by twilight or daytime mosquitoes, which can be dealt with by applying insect repellent or burning mosquito coils. Dengue (also known as breakbone fever) symptoms resemble the flu, but your eye sockets will also ache and a telltale rash usually appears. If these symptoms occur when you get home, do not expect North American doctors to quickly recognize the cause, and do NOT take aspirin, which may lead to other complications.

The entire Caribbean has significant rates of HIV infection, so if you plan to indulge in sexual activity with someone you don’t know very, very well, use condoms.

Steer clear of the manchineel tree—the applelike fruit is poisonous, and any moisture (such as rain, dew or sap) dropping off the tree can blister your skin. If contact occurs, rinse the area well with water—the burning sensation normally won’t last longer than two hours. Many manchineel trees in Barbados have warning signs posted nearby, or a red stripe painted around the trunk.

Barbados has no poisonous snakes, and the island is free of rabies, which is why you can’t take your pet. There has never been a shark attack in Barbados. In some areas, watch for sea urchins with long black spines, and don’t step on them. At some times of year, the occasional jellyfish appears; their tentacles can give a nasty sting.

There are two hospitals, including the government-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) on the outskirts of Bridgetown (phone 436-6450) and the private Bayview Hospital in St. Michael (phone 436-5446), as well as numerous public and private clinics with U.S.-, Canadian- and British-trained staffs.

For emergencies, it is wise to avoid QEH. Instead, try the FMH Emergency Medical Clinic in Belleville, St. Michael (phone 228-6120); it is open 8 am-11:30 pm. A round-the-clock alternative is the Sandy Crest Medical Centre (phone 419-4911) in the Sunset Crest/Holetown area. Though response can still be slow at times, ambulance service has improved, and EMTs are aboard. Your best bet is to call Island Care Ambulance (phone 435-9245) or Medic Response (phone 228-86334) and specify where you prefer to be taken. Good dentists are abundant at reasonable rates.

Medical tourism has begun in Barbados, with the highly rated, competitively priced Barbados Fertility Centre leading the way (http://www.barbadosivf.org). There is also a psychiatric hospital in Black Rock, St. Michael, dialysis service at Island Dialysis (phone 228-5311; http://www.islanddialysis.com) and a decompression chamber in the Garrison area (phone 436-5483). Cardiac care is widespread and up to date. Medical and rehab supplies such as oxygen, wheelchairs and the like are available through Carib Rehab (phone 429-8266 or 427-9687).For more information, contact your country’s health-advisory agency.

Dos & Don’ts

Don’t drive around corners too quickly in Barbados—you might run over some Bajans playing road tennis. The game is similar to lawn tennis and is played in the streets with homemade wooden paddles.

Do have someone cut you a piece of raw cane if you visit one of the sugar plantations. (Try sucking it—don’t chew it.) We can’t promise you’ll like the taste or the texture (the sweetness depends on how ripe it is), but it’s an experience everyone should have.

Do visit a rum shop (bar) in the afternoon, order a bottle of rum (they come in three sizes), a bowl of ice and a mixer. Mix your drink, then join in the local banter.

Do use a bank if you need to change foreign currency. You’re likely to get a better rate of exchange than at most stores.

Do try to attend a cricket match to observe the national pastime.

Don’t expect to gamble, since there are no casinos. There are slot machines, however.

Do expect to pay a fee to use hotel beach facilities if you’re not a guest.

Do be aware that the island’s freshwater is not as abundant as it seems, and that electricity generation is fueled by oil, so it is appropriate (and considerate) not to waste them.

Do expect a wide variety of nightlife on the island, ranging from discos to local bands (including indigenous tuk bands and steel bands).

Don’t go topless on the beach if you’re a woman—it’s illegal.

Do say good morning, afternoon, evening or night when entering a populated space. This greeting can be addressed generally to all and sundry or to the person whose eyes first meet yours. Its considered basic good manners to do so.Don’t be alarmed if you hear shouting. Caribbean people tend to be loud, and many disputes are agreeable rituals that end in a good laugh.

Hotels
Hotel Overview

Barbados has a variety of accommodations, ranging from deluxe resorts to posh villas to locally owned inns to inexpensive guest houses. There is a wider choice of moderately priced accommodations available than on some other Caribbean islands. In our experience, most of the hotels in Barbados are clean and fairly well managed. It’s very important to consider location when selecting a place. Be aware that some are quite isolated and have only infrequent or no shuttle service to town (taxis can cost Bds$50 or more each way), and others are conveniently located in residential areas. Many fine hotels are set amid tropical gardens along the Platinum Coast (also known as the Gold Coast) between Bridgetown and Speightstown. Along the coast south of Bridgetown, accommodations tend to be more reasonably priced and tucked into residential areas.

Facts
Geostats

Passport/Visa Requirements: All U.S. citizens must have a passport when traveling by air to or from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Mexico. Citizens of Canada, Mexico and the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda also must have a passport or other designated secure document to enter the U.S.

Passports are required for land crossings at the Canadian and Mexican borders with the U.S. and for cruise passengers returning to the U.S. from Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada or Bermuda.

Proof of onward passage required. Departure tax is Bds$60, payable at the airport if not included in your ticket. Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure.

Population: 280,946.

Languages: English, Bajan dialect..

Predominant Religions: Christian (Church of England, other Protestant sects, Roman Catholic), Jewish, Muslim and Rastafarian..

Time Zone: 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

Voltage Requirements: 110/120 volts.Telephone Codes: 246, country code;

Money
Currency Exchange

U.S. dollars are freely accepted throughout Barbados. (Just remember to check whether prices are being quoted in U.S. or Bajan dollars.) The rate of exchange is fixed at about US$1=Bds$2. Most major credit cards are accepted at major resorts, department stores and finer restaurants, but plan on using cash at smaller establishments. Note that credit cards are not accepted at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.Most banks around the island have ATMs. Expect to find branches of major banks along the western and southern coasts. Those will readily make cash advances on credit cards. Banks are commonly open Monday-Thursday 8 am-3 pm and Friday till 5 pm. A few branches are also open Saturday 9 am-noon.

Taxes

A value-added tax (VAT) of 15% is added to all purchases except certain food items in markets. Hotels charge a 7.5% VAT and often a 5%-10% service charge.

Tipping

Tip about 15% in restaurants when a service charge is not included in the bill. Tip taxi drivers 10%-15%.

Weather

The climate in Barbados is ideal for much of the year. The only time not perfect is July-October, during the hurricane season, when it gets a bit more rain. But even then it isn’t bad, as long as a hurricane doesn’t come calling, and they rarely hit Barbados. Daytime temperatures are almost always in the 80s F/28-32 C, with nights in the 70s F/23-27 C. Temperatures can get into the 60s F/15-22 C at night in the winter.

What to Wear

Bajans are conservative and do not appreciate seeing swimsuits anywhere except the beach and pool—a sarong or coverup is needed even for a poolside cafe. Do not wear shorts and halter tops or skimpy clothes on the buses or in town.

You’ll want to wear a hat and sunscreen to protect against the hot Caribbean sun and beach footwear to protect against the hot Caribbean sand. Nights can get a tad cool year-round, especially if you’re out on the water, so take a light sweater or jacket.Covered but casual (no shorts at dinner) is the rule for Bridgetown and for most restaurants. Pack light cotton dresses and light jackets for more formal occasions. Wear your Sunday best if attending church. For business meetings, shirts and ties for men (and sometimes jackets) and dresses for women are the norm; despite the warm climate, short-sleeve shirts are not normally worn at business functions.

Communication
Telephone

Phone service on Barbados is provided by Cable & Wireless (http://www.candw.com.bb/barbados) and is generally good. If you’re calling from outside Barbados, dial your country’s international access code followed by the country code—246—before dialing the local phone number. From the U.S. or Canada, the international access code is unnecessary.

Cell phones have taken the island by storm. If you don’t have one, you can rent one from many places for the duration of your stay, such as Global Business Centre at West Coast Mall (phone 432-6508). Rates are about Bds$70 per week, plus a refundable deposit.Public phones are either card- or coin-operated and widely available in all towns. In rural areas, they can be found at gas stations. You can easily find calling cards in tourist areas.

Internet Access

There are several Internet cafes on the island, and most hotels also offer high-speed Internet access, both wired and wireless. Internet cafes include the Global Business Centre; the Bean-n-Bagel Internet Cafe in Christ Church (phone 420-4604); and the Netsurf Internet Cafe at the Osterley Inn, Maxwell Main Road (phone 420-8079).

Mail & Package Services

Mail service is fairly reliable, with at least one collection a day, but anything you send will take a considerable amount of time to reach its destination. There are post offices in every parish and mailboxes dotted around the island. The main post office is in Cheapside, Bridgetown, and it has a good philatelic department. Hours are Monday-Friday 8 am-3 pm. http://www.bps.gov.bb/intro.html.There are also courier services, both local and international.

Newspapers & Magazines

Both daily newspapers, The Barbados Advocate and the Nation/Sunday Sun, are tabloids. The weekly Heat is inflammatory. The weekly Barbados Business Authority is what the name says.

For visitors, the monthly Friends provides tips, articles and listings. Although there is some overlap between events listed in Friends and those advertised in the Nation, it takes both to cover everything and even then you might miss something. Two Web sites help fill the gaps: http://www.totallybarbados.com and http://www.funbarbados.com.Select Barbados, a general-interest monthly magazine geared to residents, provides considerable insight into island ways, activities and personalities, as well as a calendar of main events. Published annually, Ins & Outs of Barbados gives a comprehensive picture of the island’s culture, attractions, shopping and regular annual events. The smaller Barbados in a Nutshell is a useful pocket guide. All visitor publications are available free at hotels and many other locations.

Transportation

Several major air carriers serve Barbados on a regular basis. Once on the island, rental cars, buses and taxis are the principal ways of getting around.

Air

The island’s airport, Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI), is located 8 mi/13 km southeast of Bridgetown and can be speedily reached by the ABC Highway. Public buses, minibuses and route taxis all service the airport, and rental cars and taxis are available as well.The entire airport has been expanded and upgraded, from runways to check-in, public courtyard, shops, restaurants and amenities, to immigration and customs processing, baggage claim, parking, and arrival and departure halls. Three car rental companies have offices on the premises. Boarding bridges are not yet in place, but a shuttle eases the long walk between the terminal and the planes. With its translucent membrane roofs, whose shapes are meant to resemble whitecaps, Grantley Adams International is one of the most striking airports in the region.

Bus

Large public buses, small minibuses and privately owned white vans called route taxis run daily 6 am-midnight. All can be packed when local residents are going to and coming from work and school (rush hours are Monday-Thursday 7-8:30 am and 3:30-6 pm, all day Friday). A flat rate of Bds$1.50 will get you anywhere on the island on all three types of vehicles. (Exact change is required on all but the route taxis.) The bus routes radiate out from Bridgetown like spokes in a wheel, which means you will have to change buses at terminals to get to the different coasts. The terminals are often hot and crowded, but even so, the buses are a great way to hop from place to place, particularly up the west coast. In the countryside, all bus stops are marked either “into city” or “out of city.” (Remember: Beachwear is not appropriate on buses.)

Car

You can rent a car in many locations, but you may want to take public transportation instead. Local drivers are, to be polite, aggressive; gasoline is expensive; and it’s very easy to get lost on the congested, narrow, winding roads (the exception is the ABC Highway from the airport to the west coast). It’s only worth renting a vehicle if you want to explore the countryside. Although Bridgetown is congested and difficult to negotiate, the rest of the island is a bit easier. Maps are readily available, though they tend to lack detail, and bus signs can help you navigate—”into city” means toward Bridgetown, “out of city” the opposite. Luckily, getting lost can be fun; just allow time. Lost drivers will find that people give directions readily, but they are often confusing.If you do rent a car, expect to pay about Bds$160-$185 a day for one of the island’s signature vehicles, the minimoke (a small, open recreational vehicle with optional canvas overhead), or about Bds$740 a week (including all taxes) for a small hatchback with air conditioning. Rates for larger cars start at about Bds$225 a day or Bds$880-$926 a week, including value-added tax and insurance. You will need a valid driver’s license. You must register with the police and pay a fee of about Bds$10 for a temporary Barbados driver’s license. Driving is on the left.

Ship

Many cruise lines include Barbados as a port of call. Most ships dock at Deep Water Harbour, 1 mi/2 km west of Bridgetown (http://www.cruisebarbados.com/index.cfm). The most convenient way into town from the port is to take a taxi.

Taxi

Taxis can be expensive because the fares are set by the government, gas prices are high, and the island’s roads and climate are unkind to vehicles; be sure to establish the price before you get in a cab. Bargain hard if you’re hiring a driver for a tour. Taxis are easy to find at hotels and shopping centers along the western and southern coasts. Arrange for pickup if you are going farther afield. Most taxi drivers are honest, friendly and a goldmine of information. They make excellent impromptu tour guides, especially if you remember them during your stops for cold drinks. The official rate is about Bds$90 an hour driving, Bds$14 an hour waiting. The average rate for a five-hour tour is Bds$450-$550 (per car, not per person).

Other

Flex Bicycle Rentals
Bicycles are available for Bds$40 per day. Be extremely careful in heavy traffic and on narrow roads. Phone 419-2453 or 240-5554.

For More Information

Tourist Offices

Barbados: Barbados Tourism Authority, Harbour Road, Bridgetown. Phone 246-427-2623. Fax 246-426-4080. http://www.visitbarbados.org.

Canada: Barbados Tourism Authority, 105 Adelaide St. W., Suite 1010, Toronto, ON M5H 1P9. Phone 416-214-9880. Toll-free 888-227-2236. Fax 416-214-9882. http://www.visitbarbados.org.

U.S.: Barbados Tourism Authority, 800 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017. Phone 212-986-6516 or toll-free 800-221-9831. Fax 212-573-9850. http://www.visitbarbados.org. There are also offices in Los Angeles and Coral Gables, Florida.

Barbados Embassies

Canada: High Commission for Barbados, 130 Albert St., Suite 302, Ottawa, ON K1P 5G4. Phone 613-236-9517. Fax 613-230-4362.

U.S.: Embassy of Barbados, 2144 Wyoming Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20008. Phone 202-939-9200. Fax 202-332-7467.

Foreign Embassies in Barbados

Canada: Canadian High Commission, Bishop’s Court Hill, Bridgetown (mail address: P.O. Box 404, Bridgetown, Barbados). Phone 246-429-3550. Fax 246-429-3780. http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/bridgetown.U.S.: U.S. Embassy, Wildey Business Park, Wildey, St. Michael (mail address: P.O. Box 302, Bridgetown, Barbados, BB11000). Phone 246-436-4950. Fax 246-429-5246. http://barbados.usembassy.gov.

Recommended Guidebooks

Adventure Guide to Barbados by Lynne Sullivan (Hunter Publishing).

Additional Reading

Pigtails ‘n Breadfruit by Austin Clarke. A culinary memoir of the author’s childhood in Barbados. Clarke also wrote Growing Up Stupid Under The Union Jack, in which he reminisces about growing up in Barbados’ colonial past, and The Polished Hoe, about relations between a planter, his kept woman and their daughter.

Ancestors by Kamau Brathwaite. An anthology of works by this well-respected Caribbean poet.

In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming. The work of Barbados’ most famous writer deals with the Caribbean colonial experience and the struggle for self-rule.

It So Happen by Timothy Callender. A collection of comic short stories capturing Bajan village life.

How to Be a Bajan by Harold Hoyte. Explains the Bajan way of life, with some good laughs.

Barbados in Bloom (Miller Publishing). The private and botanical gardens of Barbados, in a beautiful coffee-table book. An excellent reference, too.

Bygone Barbados by Ann Watson Yates (Black Bird). Black-and-white photos of yesteryear, lovingly explained.

Side by Side by Ann Watson Yates. Characters in the Barbadian landscape, in words and photos.

Architecture & Design in Barbados (Miller Publishing). This coffee-table book reveals splendid residences.

Historic Houses of Barbados by Henry Fraser (Barbados National Trust).

Jill Walker’s Barbados by Jill Walker. The richly illustrated story of the artist’s 50-plus years on the island.

A Concise and Illustrated Military History of Barbados, 1627-2007 by Major Michael Hartland (Barbados Books).

Barbados: Experience the Authentic Caribbean by Arif Ali (Hansib Publishing). Comprehensive coffee-table book.A-Z of Barbados Heritage by Carrington, Fraser, Gilmore and Forde (Macmillan Caribbean). Heritage is broadly defined in this useful, highly readable compendium of information.

Events
Calendar

Barbados celebrates a variety of festivals throughout the year, including the Barbados Jazz Festival in January, an annual weeklong festival with international jazz, soul and rhythm-and-blues artists. http://www.barbadosjazzfestival.com.

The Slam-a-Dom Extravaganza, also in January, is an annual international dominoes tournament.

February’s Holetown Festival celebrates the arrival of the first European settlers in 1627 with steel-band competitions, sporting competitions, live music, street parades, food and crafts. http://www.holetownfestivalbarbados.com.

Also in February, the Waterman Festival features a series of events celebrating surfing, windsurfing and kite surfing.

On Sunday during January and February, the Barbados Horticultural Society, which captures gold medals almost annually at the prestigious Chelsea Flower show, hosts Open Garden tours at various homes (phone 428-5889). The Annual Flower Show takes place in late January or early February.

Holders Season in March features cutting-edge opera, theater and musical performances (http://www.holders.net). The Barbados Reggae Splash, a fusion of Jamaica’s music with Barbados’ culture, is in April.

If you happen to be in Barbados on a Wednesday mid-January to April, you can take one of the private-homes tours of the Open House Program sponsored by the Barbados National Trust. Hours are 2:30-5:30 pm. Homes range from colonial plantations to luxurious modern villas. Tours are self-guided, with the aid of printed matter and helpful volunteers in each area. Phone 426-2421 or 436-9033.

In mid-May is the two-week Celtic Festival, celebrating the cultural heritage of Barbados’ settlers from Ireland, Wales and Scotland, with lots of music and dancing (phone 426-3387). Late May’s Gospelfest evokes religious fervor in song, liturgical dance and even Christian comedy. http://www.barbadosgospelfest.com.

The biggest event of the year is the five-week Crop Over festival in July and August, traditionally held to celebrate the sugar cane harvest. Calypso music, carnival parades and the crowning of the king and queen of the festival are among the annual highlights. http://www.cropoverfestival.bb.

In November, the month-long National Independence Festival of Creative arts draws out both known and hidden talents in all art forms, at numerous venues. This is also the occasion for the Spirit of the Nation show, a bloated pageant combining nationalism, corn and glitz, with all the parishes vying for prizes in talent and costumes.

A variety of other events take place throughout the year, celebrating everything from dominoes and bridge to gospel music to the local culinary scene. Golf, fishing, watersports, football (soccer), polo and hockey all have dedicated festivals as well.

Information in this calendar is subject to change and should be confirmed.

NORTHSTAR Travel Media, LLC. ©2010 All rights reserved. | Terms of Use | Privacy.

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