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Barbados Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in BarbadosWhere to Stay
Barbados is known for its fabulous resorts, which are scattered all over the island. Some of the most luxurious, however, are found on the south and west coasts in the parishes (districts) of Christ Church, where the main airport and town of St. Lawrence are located; St. Michael, with its capital city of Bridgetown; and ritzy St. James, recognized for its noted hangouts in Holetown. While you could get by with shuttles from hotels, to have enough autonomy to cover the mountainous island and visit all eleven parishes, renting or hiring a vehicle is also a possibility.
Caution: Barbadians drive on the left hand side of the road.
Take It or Leave It: While the best deals at the resorts are usually during the summer, it's also hurricane season.
What to Eat
Restaurants in Barbados specialize in fish; in fact, flying fish (served with cou cou, or corn meal) is the national dish. Influences range from West Africa to Portugal and Spain, with a heavy British food culture as well. Hotel concierges are happy to provide recommendations to places like the Waterfront Café or Oistin’s Fish Fry, where locals frequent. Many also overlook the water or are even perched right on the beach, such as Mango’s by the Sea or David’s Place by the Sea.
Take It or Leave It: Many restaurants offer entertainment of some sort—local musicians, a DJ and dancing.
Be Sure to Sample: Flying fish with cou cou, salt codfish cakes, pepper pot stew, Bajan black-eyed peas and rice, coconut bread, ginger beer.
Things to See
Naturally, Barbados is all about the beautiful beaches and the water sports including windsurfing and kite boarding, or the celeb-spotting, rum punch-sipping Catamaran Cruise in which you can partake. But there’s also some interesting natural and historical sightseeing on the island, ranging from the 120-foot plummet into Harrison’s Caves to a tour of George Washington House.
Caution: Off-road rum and adventure tours aren't for the faint-hearted.
Hot Tips: A huge variety of tours, such as the one offered by the Colony Club, take you around the island.
Places to Party
Barbados nightlife is some of the best in the Caribbean—just ask Rihanna. Bars, pubs, taverns, rum cruises and restaurants all provide party-like atmospheres in one way or another, ranging from live music to dinner shows to venues like Lexy’s Piano Bar. Densely populated Holetown, where state-of-the-art bars like Priva attract the celeb scene, and British-influenced St. Lawrence are two places to spend an evening drinking, chatting and making island friends.
Caution: Barbados has no blood alcohol limit, so stay off the roads if you're unfamiliar with driving British-style.
Hot Tips: Unless they're specifically advertising happy hour, most nightlife venues don't really get going until 9 pm.
Where to Shop
The island is a shopper's dream: Limegrove is stocked with stylish, chic boutiques; Speightstown is where to go for local arts and crafts; and Chattel Village is rife with souvenirs. Stock up on spices and hot sauces, especially ones based on tamarind, and don’t neglect the sugar and rum factories including Mount Gay Rum Visitors Center and boutique producer St. Nicholas Abbey.
Caution: Wrap up shopping early in the afternoon, as traffic around 4 pm anywhere on the island becomes an instant nightmare.
Avoid: Sherton Mall, which is commercial, and Cave Shepherd, which stocks nothing that you can't get at home.
Best Local Souvenir: Anything rum, especially the island's famous rum cake.
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
Renowned for its clear blue waters and soft, pink-sand beaches, Barbados is a mecca for scuba divers, windsurfers and sun-worshippers from all over the world. The island's tropical climate is delightful year-round. Temperatures rarely dip below 75 or rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The name "Barbados" comes from the Portuguese and refers to the bearded fig trees that grow wild all over the island. English settlers first arrived in 1627 and quickly started planting cotton and tobacco. These crops were not productive, but the introduction of sugarcane changed the face of the island and set its course in history. Imposing plantation houses were built and farms established to grow and process sugar and molasses for the production of rum. Now, in the 21st century, rum is still produced, and a few old plantation houses survive, but today Barbados is most famous for its numerous exclusive resort hotels.