Founded in the early 1600s, this diamond-shaped cluster of islands quickly became an affluent hub for British trading. Steeped in history, the architectural glory still retains its colonial charms with detailing harking back to its Portuguese, Spanish and British beginnings. This rich isle has lots to offer the modern-day visitor, running the gamut from abounding history, lush tropical interior vegetation, water and land sports, shopping, restaurants to suit every pocketbook and a good selection of luxury accommodation.
The success story of its early years attracted wealthy traders and businessmen from afar; a tradition that has not ceased as the centuries have rolled forward. Barbados today appeals to the same affluent visitor. With Hollywood megastars calling it home and many more famous celebrities renting magnificent villas for a vacation or the high season, this is a spot that appeals to the moneyed and powerful. Barbados has built a reputation for itself as offering the better things in life in abundance but all with a characteristic laid-back island flair.
Ringed by the softest of white sandy beaches and a million hues of blue Caribbean Sea, what could be sweeter than basking on the beach, taking in some world-class golf or chilling in a chic eatery.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
With an almost year-round temperature never fluctuating far between 79-80 degrees, the climate just adds to your reason to visit. There are two seasons: dry and rainy. Nevertheless, the thermostat doesn’t move much between the two. Rain can fall any time of the year to one degree or another, with the potential for tropical storms in August, September and October.
Dry Season: November – May
Rainy Season: June – October
In the early 17th Century, both Spanish and Portuguese explorers came ashore in Barbados with the Portuguese christening it. Barbados means “the bearded ones,” which could have pertained to either the seemingly bearded trees or the local Indians. The name stuck but the explorers changed. A few years after the Portuguese, the British came to dominate the island.
As was the purpose of colonization in those days, trade soon flourished and Bridgetown — still the capital of Barbados — quickly became an extremely important trading post. It soon rivaled some of the major port cities in the UK and played host to the birth of exploitation of both slavery and sugar cane production. Homages to both are abundantly visible throughout the island.
Well-preserved sugar plantations still open their doors to today’s curious visitors, as do copious Rum distilleries. Most importantly, however, you will find poignant reminders of the island’s lamentable history of slavery, which are as prominent as the large Africa society that still populates and calls Barbados home.
Commerce has never left this thriving center and today’s tourist finds plenty of spending opportunities from high-end jewelry boutiques to discount souvenir shops. Bridgetown, with its beautifully-preserved colonial buildings in every color of the rainbow makes a marvelous day trip for either browsing the waterfront retail scene or finding a bustling quayside cafe or enjoying an historical tour of the informative and plentiful monuments and local places of interest.
Today, visitors can indulge all their nostalgic inclinations with an excellent historical Museum, a complete local library and several annual festivals to awaken the imagination.
FOOD AND DRINK
With international dining spots aplenty, chic restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs, not to mention the superb private chefs and villa staff, finding the perfect meal to suit the occasion is not difficult. Tradition still holds in Barbados with its nod back to British colonial days. Visitors can still expect to find tea rituals, cocktail hours and, in some establishments, a stricter dress code than many seaside destinations. For many visitors, this is part of the charm: the mix of island chill with the formality of bygone days.
Ceremony not your cup of tea? No need to pack the tux. A stop at one of the island’s authentic Bajan restaurants will immediately induce the “chill” factor, as will a local rum punch or rum drink!
No visit to the “Island of Flying Fish”— as Barbados is fondly called because of the large shoals of airborne fish that can be seen off its shores — is complete without trying some of its most typical local foods.
Here are a few examples of what we’ve enjoyed:
Cou Cou and Flying Fish – this legendary specialty is made with cornmeal grain and fresh okra, accompanied by savory stewed flying fish prepared with fresh onion, garlic, thyme, tomatoes, and pepper. This is widely proclaimed and the island’s national dish.
Fish cakes or cutters are without a doubt another favorite and can be found on just about every menu. Fish cakes are a savory mix of salted codfish and local herbs and spices all deep-fried to golden brilliance. A favorite version of the Bajan cutter is the Bread and Two which includes two fish cakes, a slice of cheese and the omnipresent pepper sauce.
And if fish doesn’t tickle your taste buds, you’ll want to try an island version of Macaroni pie. A rich, baked version of mac and cheese, macaroni pie includes generous amounts of cheddar cheese as well as some unexpected ingredients like ketchup and mustard for additional color and zest.
As you’d expect from a British-dominated land, the ubiquitous pub is never too far away. These local watering holes offer all the Homeland favorites such as Fish ‘n Chips, Pies, Bangers ‘n Mash as well as home-brewed beers and ales.
All this eating is bound to be thirsty work, but have no fear! Rum Punches and Rum Cocktails can be ordered just about everywhere and anywhere. You’ll never go thirsty in Barbados! With hundreds of independent rum stores throughout the island – imbibing of the Caribbean’s favorite tipple has never been easier.
CURRENCY AND LANGUAGE
English is the official language with lots of local Bajan dialects to add some distinct Caribbean flavor.
The Barbados Dollar is the local currency.
Since its independence in 1966, Barbados has had one of the most stable political systems in the English-speaking Caribbean and today plays host to a successful international banking scene. No worries here about finding ATMs or exchange bureaus for currency changing.
For most visitors, the island’s prime allure is its beaches. The West Coast, or Platinum Coast as it has been dubbed, is the favorite side of the island for swimming beaches and water sports opportunities. As you would imagine, water sports abound and can be easily enjoyed all over the island
Feeling adventurous? Try out stand up paddleboarding or challenge yourself with a kitesurfing lesson! Want a more relaxing experience? Then kayak on the tranquil West Coast or go swimming with friendly sea turtles!
Our favorite pastime is to charter a boat with skipper and crew and spend the day sailing on the sapphire and turquoise shades of the Caribbean. Let yourself be totally pampered and spend a day you’ll never forget snorkeling, diving, swimming with turtles or just enjoying the breeze in your face with a soft reggae beat on the sound system and maybe a cold rum punch or two…
The wonderful news about Barbados is both land and sea activities abound, keeping the most persnickety golfer happy as well as the coolest of water babies. Any destination with British influence usually extends to excellent golfing facilities. Barbados does not disappoint with 5 standard PGA golf courses.
Sandy Lane Estates is not only a prestigious housing enclave but also offers world-class golf with three courses: The Old Nine, The Country Club and The Green Monkey.
Royal Westmoreland is right up there on the fabulous fairway list too, not to mention the gorgeous properties located around the Royal Westmoreland Estates.
Rounding out the list is 18-hole Apes Hill.
Golfers will find plenty of challenges, some incredible vistas, lush scenery and an opportunity to meet “the locals” whilst participating in various tournaments throughout the year, including the Barbados Open and the Sir Garry Sobers Festival of Golf.