In Barbados, cricket is the national passion, afternoon tea is common and a mannerly reserve is typical of the inhabitants, all of which demonstrate the British influence on this small Caribbean island. In fact, Barbados is frequently referred to as “Little England,” although in recent years, its African roots have shown through, particularly in the arts. The people of Barbados, called Bajans, boast a 99% literacy rate, a strong middle class and a stable democratic government, so it doesn’t tend to have the pervasive poverty or social unrest that afflicts some other Caribbean island nations. Barbados has been hosting travelers for decades and has a strong infrastructure with many cultural and natural attractions to enjoy.
About half of Barbados’ visitors arrive by cruise ship, as it is the second busiest port in the Caribbean. The cruise terminal is a large, clean, modern facility with many duty-free shops, local craft stalls and specialty shops. There is a tourism office, WiFi access and plenty of taxis available, so it’s easy to arrange off-ship excursions.Travel Maestro tip: There is no bank or ATM available at the cruise terminal, but U.S. Dollars are accepted everywhere on the island. A shared shuttle to Bridgetown for shopping (about $4 Bajan =$2 US) or to the beach at Carlisle Bay (about $6 Bajan = $3 US) are easy outings that fit most cruise schedules. For tours, most are similar to those offered by the cruise lines, so don’t waste valuable vacation time making comparisons unless you want to customize your outing, and then let your travel advisor arrange it in advance.
If you’re visiting Barbados by land, a week is a good length of stay. Because the island is only 14×21 miles in area, with most beaches and resorts on the calmer-water western side, it is easy to see and do whatever you like in day trips from your hotel. Besides beautiful white-sand beaches, natural attractions include the Andromeda Botanic Gardens and Orchid World, each worth a couple hours stroll to appreciate the beautiful flora. At Harrison’s Cave, you can ride a tram through the extensive cave system to see the stalagmites and stalactites, underground rivers and waterfalls. And be sure to visit the mysterious 1,000 year old Baobab tree at the Queen’s Park in Bridgetown.
Barbados also has quite a lot of well-presented heritage attractions and historic sites. One of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere sits on a tiny lane in Bridgetown and Codrington College is a hauntingly beautiful, centuries-old theological seminary out in the country. Guided tours and tastings at the Mount Gay Rum Distillery are always popular, or you can visit George Washington’s House to learn how his life was changed when he lived in Barbados as a young man. The 18th-century Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill, one of only two in the world still operating, and St. Anne’s Garrison, a collection of military buildings with a rare collection of 17-thcentury iron cannons, also depict parts of Barbados’ heritage. Many museums showcase Bajan culture ranging from cricket legends to sugar.
Recreation opportunities in Barbados are many. Water sports include scuba and snorkeling, fishing and sailing. The wild Atlantic waves on the eastern side of the island make for serious surfing (but can be dangerous for swimming) or the Caribbean side is much calmer for swimming, windsurfing and general beach lounging. Mountain biking, horseback riding, golf and hiking are other popular sports found there.
If shopping is your preferred form of recreation, you’ll want to hone in on Broad Street in Bridgetown and the Pelican Craft Centre near the pier. Or Saturday is the main day for the markets in St. George and Cheapside where you can get a taste of authentic Caribbean shopping and the social event that ensues. Travel Maestro tip: Barbados’ 15% value-added tax (VAT) is non-refundable as, but does not apply to duty-free goods.
Nightclubs are happening spots throughout the island, with the core of the nightlife on the south coast in St. Lawrence Gap. The party stays lively until the wee hours (3:00-4:00 a.m.) and karaoke is rampant, so be ready to participate in the revelry.
Barbados is a sophisticated, yet never stuffy destination with an extremely friendly and welcoming residents. To plan your Bajan vacation, contact Covington Travel’s Caribbean experts.