Barbados is a distinctive island, both in its natural beauty and fun-loving culture. This West Indies gem is actually a coral island. The sandy beaches are made up of pulverized coral, which makes for fine, soft sands. Just off the coast, there are coral reefs that tempt snorkelers and scuba divers with their exotic underwater life. The island of Barbados is divided into 11 parishes, each with its own collection of beaches, hotels and tourist attractions. Almost all of the beaches lining the island's coast are perfect, with fine stretches of sand and warm aquamarine waters. The beaches along the island's south coast stretch out for miles with little interruption. One of the finest on the island is Bottom Bay, a tiny haven on the southern part of the island.
Bottom Bay has a picture-perfect setting with its wide, bright white beach framed by tall coral cliffs. It's a great place for a long, lazy beach day or a late-day picnic underneath the swaying coconut palm trees. Swimming is not advisable, however, as the waves create a strong current. The good news is there are plenty of nearby beaches with the perfect blend of waves and currents to please surfers, boogie boarders and even plain old swimmers. Crane Beach is known for its great waves, and the waters are filled with surfers and even some body surfers, though again the rough waters are appropriate only for strong swimmers.
Bottom Bay is in a quiet part of town, but nearby Christ Church and St. Michael parishes provide a little more action. St. Lawrence Gap is packed with restaurants and bars that fill up with a happening night-life scene. The capital Bridgetown is known for its pricey resorts and busy streets -- visiting cruise ships dock here, making the area a little congested. But no worries -- if the crowds get to be too much when you're out exploring, just hightail it back to Bottom Bay for more rest and relaxation.
Nearest Major International Airport: There are many direct flights from the United States to the island's Grantley Adams International Airport.
Ground Transportation: Most resorts and hotels will provide shuttle transportation to and from the airport, and sometimes even around the island to the tourist hot spots. Independent travelers who prefer to keep their own schedules can look into renting a car for the duration of their visit. Drivers must have an international license -- or apply for a temporary permit -- and they must be comfortable navigating the roads on the left side of the street. Cabs are another reliable way to get around the island. While there is a bus system, it's not the best option for visitors as routes aren't always clear and wait times can be long.
The weather is fairly typical of the Caribbean -- nearly perfect all year long with temperatures ranging from 78 to 88 degrees F. The high season, when the prices reach their peak and tourists are aplenty, starts in mid-December and fizzles out in mid-April.
The Crane Beach Resort is one of the area's most famous hotels. Perched above the lovely Crane Beach, the resort was the first of its kind to be built in the Caribbean, back in 1887. Of course, there have been many renovations along the way to keep this island pearl modern, but the resort maintains its charm and romantic vibe that made it so popular. There are more hotels in the neighboring Christ Church parish. Little Arches is an intimate, luxurious boutique hotel with only 10 rooms on a great little beach. Silver Sands Resort offers more basic accommodations and boasts a seaside spot at Silver Sands beach, the best place on the island for windsurfing. Further south in St. Lawrence Gap is the lively all-inclusive Turtle Bay Resort, perfect for families traveling with little ones.
Dishing up everything from sushi to hamburgers, the restaurants around town show a Continental flair in the kitchen. As with the rest of the Caribbean, seafood is always a popular menu item, whether it's served raw in sushi or fried on a platter. If you try only one local Bajan dish, it should be flying fish, the island's national dish and most recognizable symbol. The best place to hang with the locals and taste some real authentic cuisine is at the Friday night Oistins Fish Fry. This fishing market hosts a weekly street party where residents and visitors line up at food stalls to try fried flying-fish sandwiches, grilled dolphin and fish cakes while listening to live music. If rum isn't your thing, try the local brew, Banks beer.
The local branch of the tourism authority can be found on Harbour Road in Bridgetown.
Festival fans planning a summer visit may want to check out the island's 5-week-long Crop Over Festival, an old tradition with parades, parties and lots of calypso music.
While You Are Here
Want to find out what makes that pina colada so tasty? Join the Mount Gay Rum tour and learn about how they make this amber-colored goodness. After the tour, try some samples and pick up a bottle of your favorite kind at the gift shop.
Immerse yourself in the British culture that permeates this island's style. Check out Barbados' national sport, cricket, by taking in a match at Kensington Oval, or indulge in a fancy afternoon tea.
To Fake That You've Been Here
Turn up the calypso music, buy a bottle of imported Mount Gay Rum and fry up some fish for supper -- just tell your guests it's flying fish and hope they don't ask any questions.
Linking for a Better Vacation
For more information, visit the Barbados Tourism Authority.