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As someone who used to live there, it’s easy to understand what draws so many tourists to this remote island. There’s the sandy beaches lined with frangipani, bougainvillea, and vibrant flame trees, which provide an exquisite backdrop to the crystal clear blue water that laps the shores of this island paradise. Chaos and stress become a distant memory on Barbados. Inevitably you will find yourself asking, “Hey man, what speed you at?”Here are a few facts about Barbados, as most people know little or nothing about this gem of a place.
  • It’s located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic, northeast of Venezuela.

    Barbados is only 34 kms long and 23 kms wide.

  • It was originally named Los Barbados, or “the bearded ones”, by the Portuguese after the “bearded” fig trees which grow along the beaches.
  • The English later ‘re-discovered’ Barbados in 1625, and it was only in 1966 that Barbados declared its independence, while still remaining a member of the British Commonwealth.
  • Barbados has a population of approximately 264,000, and is the most densely populated of all the Caribbean islands.
  • Approximately half the population lives in the capital Bridgetown, and along the west and south coasts.
  • An estimated half a million long-stay tourists visit Barbados annually, and it is no surprise that this beautiful island has placed emphasis on the development of a strong tourist infrastructure.
  • Barbados also has a large community of ex-pats from Britain, Canada, Europe, and the USA, who tend to spend half the year in Barbados, and the other half, “at home”.
  • The best time of year to visit Barbados is during the months of November through to March.
  • Although the temperature varies slightly, this season is known as the dry season, and temperatures hover between 23 and 31 degrees. The months from July, through to September, are known as the wet season, and it becomes, horribly humid and hot. Hurricanes at this time of year are not uncommon, and if it is at all possible, avoiding the Caribbean is advisable.

Okay, so where do you stay? What do you do there?

Barbados has 200 hotels, guesthouses, and apartments that cater for most budgets. There appears to be a large number of luxurious accommodation as over the last decade Barbados has become the playground for the seriously rich and sometimes famous, who escape the northern hemisphere winter, in search of warmth, the Barbadian pace of life, and a damn good Pina Colada. The art of relaxation has been mastered on Barbados, and although lying on a sandy beach seems to be mandatory during the day, Barbados boasts an extraordinary range of sporting activities.

There are a number of exceptional golf courses on the island, with the course at the exclusive and luxurious Sandy Lane hotel being the most famous. Snorkeling and scuba diving are also popular on the sheltered west coast, as there is a 4 mile stretch of coral reef, that is not only home to marine life, but also to some impressive wrecks. Swimming is often forbidden on the rugged east coast, however serious surfers relish the wild conditions, risking the wrath of the Atlantic weather, in hope of finding the perfect wave.

Getting around the island is relatively easy, if not amusing. Car hire is readily available and reasonable, however catching the local bus is a cultural experience not to be missed. Bus stops are not clearly marked, and people appear to jump on and off as they please, with no one, least of all the drivers in a hurry to get anywhere. The bus is an ideal, and inexpensive way to see the inhabited parts of the island, as it winds its way through hamlets, and rows of delightful chattel houses. These are a unique part of Barbadian heritage, and are made of wood (often painted different, bright colours), with a symmetrical facade and an overhanging porch.

Aside from sugar cane, production of vegetables and crops is limited, with the majority food for the island being shipped in daily from the USA. This makes food expensive, both in supermarkets and restaurants, and the choice fairly limited. However Barbados does have some extraordinary restaurants and the combination of a gastronomic feast and exquisite beach surroundings equate to pure heaven in the realm of global dining experiences.

The nightlife in Barbados is fabulous. The Harbourlights nightclub is the most renowned, with local and international DJs performing nightly, but also provides its patrons with some of the best reggae in the Caribbean. Bars such as the very groovy Croc’s have a more laid back (if this is at all possible) atmosphere, where regulars play pool, and compare suntans.

For more about Barbados go to www.funbarbados.com or http://barbados.org/