LAY OF THE LAND
Compared with its more volcanic Caribbean cousins, Barbados (21 miles long and 14 miles wide) is a relatively flat island, mapped with sugar-cane plantations and veggie farms. But the island still boasts its share of peaks and valleys: St. Thomas, in the island's lush centre, has been dubbed The Scotland District for its fertile, emerald hillsides and rocky spikes. The island's glammed-out Caribbean western shore, known as The Platinum Coast, is lined with grandiose mansions and decadent restaurants and resorts; head southward, and you'll find non-descript condo developments, suburban-style strip-malls, and a crush of brew-and-rum scented pubs at the island's nightlife nexus, St. Lawrence Gap. On the wind-tousled Eastern Atlantic Coast (largely favored by insiders), hotels grow sparse, surf-friendly waters are rough and the seascape is marked by plunging cliffs and untouristed beaches.
WHEN TO GO
Barbados is blessed with an ideal climate: tropical but breezy, with a year-round temperature of about 78 to 88° F. Rainstorms tend to be brief and heavy. The high season in the Caribbean runs from mid-December to mid-April, and this is when hotels fill up and prices are highest. June through September is hurricane season and is marked by high humidity, but rates drop by as much as half. The three-week summertime Crop Over Festival (246-424-0909; www.barbadoscropoverfestival.com) is great fun—especially for calypso fans—as is the January Jazz Festival (246-437-4537; www.barbadosjazzfestival.com).
HOW TO GET THERE
There are direct flights from several U.S. cities to Grantley Adams International Airport in the southern part of the island (Christ Church; 246-418-4242; www.gaiainc.bb). Many hotels arrange transfers for guests.
Barbados Tourism Authority
Tel: 246 427 2623
Grantley Adams International Airport
Tel: 246 428 5570
Cruise Ship Terminal
Tel: 246 426 1718
NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Bridgetown
Area: 166 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 1
Electricity: 115V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 Barbados Dollars = $0.50 US Calculate Other Amounts
Barbados does not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a six-month stay.
GOOD TO KNOW
Local specialties include flying fish (which does not really fly), chicken steak (which is not really steak), and pickled codfish (which can't really be recommended). But you'll probably never see any of these on a menu, because hotels and better restaurants generally serve Continental fare.
The islands of the Caribbean are pretty much identical when it comes to shopping potential. The main attractions are always duty-free goods, which offer substantial markdowns on jewelry, electronics, makeup, fragrance, liquor, and tobacco. Each island usually has a homegrown product it claims is famous. Barbados, home of Mount Gay Rum, is actually justified in this regard. Savor a bottle of the Extra Old instead of just dumping it into a piña colada.
January: 1, New Year's Day; 21, Errol Barrow Day
April: 28, Heroes' Day
May: First Monday, Labor Day
August: 1, Emancipation Day; first Monday, Kadooment Day;
October: First Monday, United Nations Day
November: 30, Independence Day
December: 25, Christmas Day; 26, Boxing Day
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter; Monday after Easter, Easter Monday; eighth Monday after Easter, Whit Monday