Chilling out in Barbados: A Travel Guide

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 or

May 1, 2001

Caribbean Dreams – Barbados Travel Guide

Steeped in English tradition and more straightlaced than some of its neighbours, Barbados has been giving the wealthy and famous the royal treatment for centuries.

Known for its posh resorts from Sandy Lane to the Royal Pavilion (think Robyn Leach and ‘Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous’), Barbados offers a range of accommodation, whether you’re seeking a chilled getaway at an intimate guesthouse or the frenetic activity of a sprawling resort. You’ll receive the royal treatment from the moment you are greeted at the airport and whisked away to your hotel. And you’ll pay for it too – the star treatment doesn’t come cheap.

Barbados is a favorite destination of an older, British crowd who migrate to the island year after year. This is hardly surprising when you consider the island was under British rule for three centuries until 1966. The place is full of the type of people who dress up for dinner. Dressing up is a must in Barbados and the mood is unmistakably civilized. The British influence is still strong, but the many locals, Bajans, provide the island with an animated dose of culture. The one good thing about the island’s demanding clientele is that the food is of a world class standard. Dining in Barbados is definitely worth dressing up for.

The Best Bits

The Dining Scene:

Chefs on Barbados, unlike those on similar Caribbean islands, are experimental, sophisticated and eager to meet the challenge of demanding palates.

The Service:

You won’t want for attention; you’ll have help at your beck and call.


Crime is hardly a concern on this well-heeled island.

On the East Coast:

You’ll see miles of untouched beach along the island’s wildest, hilliest and most beautiful stretch of coast. Bathsheba/Cattlewash beach is the premier destination for surfers keen to lap up the East Coast’s crashing waves. Locals ride the waves here daily but swimming here or anywhere along the Atlantic coast can be extremely dangerous, so you should stick to sightseeing in this area.

On the South Coast:

Here you’ll find medium waves and a young, energetic crowd. The beaches are consistently broad with white, powdery sand; the reef-protected waters are crystal clear and safe for swimming and snorkeling. South coast beaches to check out: Accra, Casuarina, Needham’s Point, Sandy, Bottom Bay and Silver Rock.

On the West Coast:

If you want the calm, magnificently clear Caribbean, head for the west coast, where you’ll find stunning coves and sandy beaches as well as excellent water sports. You can even water ski here. This area is also nicknamed the ‘gold coast’ for it’s unbroken chain of beaches. Beaches to check out: Mullins, Paynes & Bombas.

Read more about this exciting destination in California for Dummies Travel Guide or check out The Travel for Dummies series covers many more of the world’s most fabulous cities. The Travel for Dummies series is available from all good book stores nationally.

March 1, 2001