5 August 2013 by Bert Hyett
With it's crystal clear waters and palm fringed beaches, Barbados is comparable to many of the Caribbean Islands; what sets it apart is its charming atmosphere where people are renowned for their hospitality, sense of humour and optimism. As the most developed of the Islands, Barbados is exotic whilst remaining comfortably familiar. The island also offers more than just a luxury beach experience, and gives travellers the opportunity to see endemic wildlife, breath-taking scenery and to catch a glimpse into Barbados's colonial past.
Festivals and events
If you're travelling in late July or beginning of August make sure to catch the Crop Over Festival. Originating in the colonial era, dancers in vivid costumes cavorting to calypso rhythms celebrate the sugar cane harvest. The three week long event climaxes on Kadooment Day, with a carnival to rival those in Brazil and Trinidad.
Running Sunday-to-Sunday over the second week in February, The Holetown Festival celebrates the arrival of the first English settlers in Barbados in 1627 and features street fairs, a music festival in the historic parish church and a road race.
Barbados is also popular for its sporting events such as the Barbados Windsurfing World Cup in January, Caribbean Surfing Championship in November and Polo. Polo is played to a high level in Barbados and the season for first class international matches runs from December to May.
Best beaches in Barbados
With so many beautiful beaches it will be difficult to choose where to stake out your towel. The luxurious West Coast lends itself to a more tranquil experience, whilst heading to the East Coast will provide the action. Visit Carlisle Bay on the West of the Island for great scuba diving and snorkelling opportunities; the 200 wrecks to explore offshore make this a truly unique experience. Paradise Beach, on the Gold Coast is aptly named and will be exactly what the more relaxed traveller is searching for. Make sure to visit Crane Beach as well though. With its pink tinged sand, it has been recognised as one of the world's most beautiful beaches and can be found on the South East of the island.
Essential experiences in Barbados
- Explore the island's capital, Bridgetown, with its historical buildings, vibrant harbour and luxury boutiques. Uncover the islands history here at the Barbados Museum.
- Visit the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, located in the Northern Parish of St Peter, to see the Barbados green monkey, red footed turtles, Brocket deer, iguanas and agoutis.
- Take a luxury Catamaran Cruise to get up close and personal with turtles and tropical fish, or book an experience with the Atlantis Submarine.
- Marvel at Harrison's Cave, a crystallised limestone cavern and the islands greatest natural wonder, which is located in the centre of the island in Allen View.
- Visit the Sunbury Plantation House in St Phillip for an insight into the sugar trade, vital to the island during colonial times.
- Go shopping for traditional handicrafts; jewellery, clothing, ceramics, straw goods and batiks.
- Visit a rum shack for a truly local experience and try a drop or two of the preferred local tipple.
- Take a scenic drive down the Atlantic East Coast to see the island's dramatic landscapes and beautiful coastline
Read and watch
Read: 'Jill Walker's Barbados' is an autobiography from a once aspiring British artist who settled in Barbados and created paintings that depicted life in Barbados from the 1950s onwards.
Read: 'In the Castle of my Skin' by George Lamming is an autobiographic novel of race and class written by a young man growing up black in colonial Barbados.
Watch: 'The Tamarind Seed' featuring Omar Shariff and Julie Andrews is a romantic spy thriller set partially in Barbados.
Food and drink in Barbados
Barbados is notorious for its fabulous seafood. Flying fish, deceptive in name, is a local favourite along with lobster and sea urchins. Dining experiences are wide-ranged with plenty of 5-star establishments or more indigenous alternatives if preferred. If searching for something special then book a table at The Cliff, located in Derricks, St James; it boasts a breath-taking setting, built into the cliffs, and delivers the finest dining experience. Italian restaurant Daphne's, sister restaurant to Daphne's in London's South Kensington, is located in Paynes Bay, St James's and has developed quite a celebrity following, counting guests such as Mariah Carey and Claudia Schiffer amongst its regulars.
If you're after a more local flavour, then try The Round House Inn located in Bathsheba, St Joseph where Caribbean food is accompanied by live jazz and reggae. Or if looking to create your own dining experience try The Gourmet Shop in Old Town, St James where you can purchase luxuries such as tamarind balls, caviar and fois gras.
Barbados is also famous for its abundance of Rum. Home to the Mount Gay distillery, where tours and tasting sessions can be booked, make sure to try it in all of its many and varied forms! As an alternative, try Banks, a good locally brewed beer.