From the rum-swilling buccaneers and colonial sugar barons of old, to the modern day jet set playing cat-and-mouse with the paparazzi on board their luxury yachts, Barbados has long enticed adventurers and pleasure seekers to its platinum sands. Today this tiny island in the eastern Caribbean offers everything from magnificent, tranquil beaches to dramatic cliffs, rugged rolling hills, superb restaurants and picture-perfect golf courses. And it’s particularly popular with British travellers; the quaint little villages, with their churches and cricket pitches, are at times rather redolent of home, albeit with the occasional green monkey munching on a breadfruit to remind you that you’re in the tropics.
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The west coast is where it’s at for endless white sand beaches and grandiose high end hotels, and if you need a new outfit for dinner then hit the chic boutiques of Holetown’s Limegrove mall and get your fix of designer shopping. Get into the island spirit and cram on to a reggae bus, where you’ll be whisked from A to B to a soundtrack of juddering basslines, or hire a car and spend a more sedate afternoon exploring the east coast’s sleepy local villages and dramatic Atlantic coastline. Bajans and tourists alike head to the buzzing bars of the St. Lawrence Gap on the south of the island to party when the sun goes down, and the Friday night fish fry at Oistins is a veritable Barbados institution. Bustling Bridgetown, the capital, is also well worth a visit, home to colourful chattel houses, rum shops aplenty and some impressive colonial architecture, while the gently undulating island interior is dotted with plantation ruins that give up clues to Barbados’ fascinating history, as well as the natural wonders of the three mile long Harrison’s Cave.
Dining out on Barbados can be smart or barefoot, with reservations essential in high season. We highly recommend The Cliff, simply the best restaurant in the Caribbean, but you’ll be spoilt for choice as there are so many other superb places to eat on the island, including Daphne’s, elegant Cin Cin by the Sea and the cool, contemporary Lone Star Garage. For a taste of authentic Bajan cuisine, try Angry Annie’s or Ragamuffins in Holetown, Pisces at St. Lawrence Gap or Champers overlooking Accra Beach. You’ll find flying fish, one of the national symbols of Barbados, on pretty much every menu, and it’s delicious when breaded, fried and served with a big fat dollop of fiery yellow pepper sauce. Barbados is also widely held to be the birthplace of rum, that most famous of Caribbean tipples, and a trip to the Mount Gay distillery for an informative tour is a great excuse to sink a couple of zesty rum punches.