Barbados is the most frequently visited cruise port in the southern Caribbean. It offers white-sand beaches and rolling hills and fields of sugarcane. Its nickname, Little England, is reflected in its British traditions of afternoon tea and cricket matches and its colorful cottages, neat little gardens, and stone parish churches.
The compact island is 21 miles (34 km) long and up to 14 miles (23 km) wide. Most of Barbados is flat, but the middle of the northeast coast is rugged.
The island is divided into eleven sub-regions, called parishes. Of most interest to tourists are St. James (the west coast), St. Michael (Bridgetown), Christ Church (the south coast), and St. Andrew (the northeast). The Scotland district is in the island’s north.
Bridgetown, with its Garrison, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Broad Street is the city’s main street and consists mainly of banks, department stores, and duty-free shops. Sights include St. Michael’s Cathedral; the Old Synagogue, which was restored on the site of the original 17th-century one; and the Garrison Savannah, the home of horse racing in Barbados since 1845.
The west coast north of Bridgetown is a series of towns and resorts. Holetown (the name comes from the town of Hole on the Thames River) is where the English settlers landed. The town is quite modern and is known for its beaches. Visitors will want to stop at St. James Church, built in the 1600s, and see tombstones dating to the 17th century. To the north is Speightstown. This former whaling port was founded in 1635 and has many historic buildings.
Much of Barbados is reef surrounded by more reefs covered with coral. Its porous limestone interior has eroded through the years, creating caverns. In Harrison’s Cave, visitors tour the underground world aboard an electric tram. Bubbling streams, deep pools, and cascades are punctuated by stalactites and stalagmites. On a hot and humid day, a visit to the cool cave is a refreshing experience.
The south coast road west of Bridgetown passes through towns with British names — such as Hastings and Dover — on the way to Oistins, a colorful fishing village. The town comes alive around 1 p.m., when the day’s catch is brought in and sold. Attending a Friday night fish fry is a must-do.
The east coast is a series of rugged cliffs rising from the sea. This area, with old churches and fishing villages, appeals more to sightseers than to beachgoers. Andromeda Botanical Gardens are located high above the fishing town of Bathsheba. Barclays Park and Barbados Wildlife Reserve are two other places to visit while touring the island.
Barbados is on the world windsurfing circuit because it is one of the best wave windsurfing spots in the world. On the east coast, visitors can enjoy deserted beaches, but ocean swimming is not advised. The sea current is very strong. People seek rock pools for their dips. Bathsheba is popular with surfers because it is home to the “Soup Bowl,” a set of breaking waves.
Farther north on the coast is Ragged Point Lighthouse, which was built in 1885 on a steep cliff. This is the point where the sun first hits Barbados, and the views are spectacular.
As befits an island that receives so many tourists, the choice of restaurants is large. Foodies will be tempted to try Bajan dishes such as pepper pot stew, salt fish with cou-cou (corn meal and okra), and peas and rice. The flying fish is a national dish and island symbol. It is caught from December to June and is on many menus during the tourist season.
Rum is an enduring symbol of the Caribbean. More than a drink, it is the region’s historic, cultural, and economic raison d’être. The demand for rum in Europe and North America fueled the sugarcane boom. Although no one knows for sure, Barbados’ Mount Gay distillery claims to be the world’s oldest rum producer, with a history spanning three centuries.
Bajan tourism is a well-developed industry. Visitors looking for beach fun and nightlife in an exotic setting with all the conveniences and comforts they expect will not be disappointed.
The island is a good destination for mixed generational touring. The young have lots to do, and the more mature can either relax on the beach or tour the island.
For Anglophiles, this could be the perfect choice. The British experience can be enhanced by touring plantation houses and gardens, as well as the stately and beautiful Codrington College.
Barbados is an easy-to-reach location with a diversified economy, a high standard of living, English as its official language, and sophistication in dealing with the tourist trade — qualities that make it a fine destination.
Information for this article was taken from the Barbados section of the The Travel Institute’s Caribbean Destination Specialty Course.