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Home > BARBADOS

Getaway Guide: BARBADOS

by Pat Richardson, founder of Hotels That Were Not


This sun-drenched Caribbean island is an exotic cocktail that will melt away stress and quickly tie you to the island’s laid-back vibe. You’ll get your first taste as you step off the plane, and the air wraps you in a heated embrace which won’t fall away until you leave – which, I guarantee, will be reluctantly.

It’s a colourful concoction: overhead, the sky’s almost bound to be blue, and the sun a disc of bright gold which, at the day’s end, warms to red before slipping into the sea. Sugar-white beaches and turquoise water edge this paradise. Elsewhere, amid a forest of greens, flamboyant trees flame with fire-bright blooms, and vivid hibiscus, bougainvillea and oleander vie to catch the eye.

As the warm night falls, those tropical floral fireworks release their heady scents. And right on cue whistling frogs - so small you’ll never see them - begin their chiming, dusk-to-dawn chorus. It’s a sound that's belonged here far longer than the calypso, soca, reggae and steelpan you’ll hear from local musicians.

Favourite island flavours include the rum that makes a perfect punch. Local cuisine doesn't pack such a hot-hot-hot one as some places in this part of the world, but Bajan seasoning – a blend of herbs, garlic, onions and peppers – does add a delicious kick to any dish it graces. Nowhere else in the Caribbean has as many fine-dining restaurants to tempt you, so eating out is easy, although choosing where to go won’t be.

Be sure to explore – you really should see more of Barbados than your nearest beach!

+ Take a day’s scenic drive round the island, to marvel at the contrast between the west coast’s gentle, palm-fringed beaches, lapped by the crystal-clear Caribbean, and the turbulent Atlantic rollers’ relentless, exuberant assault on the long, lush east coast.

+ Book a catamaran cruise: it's a cool way to see Barbados. To cool off even more, dive in and swim with the turtles!

+ Check out lively St Lawrence Gap on the south coast. It’s the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night if you want to party with a crowd.

+ To learn more about the island and its past, spend an hour or so at Arlington House Museum in Speightstown, where it’s presented in an engaging way.

+ To feel the past, in place that still holds the echoes of history, spend a morning at St Nicholas Abbey (it’s closed from mid-afternoon). This beautifully restored Jacobean mansion, built in 1660, was the ‘great house’ at the heart of a thriving plantation. Rum and sugar products are still made and sold here, and you can visit the distillery and museum, watch a rare 1930s film of sugar-plantation life, and wander through the extensive gardens and gullies.

I know just the place...

...to shop, without hitting a mall. And just the place for a great lunch at an outdoor table, overlooking the sea.

Check out Holetowns’ charming Chattel Village, where pretty little shops, in sweetshop pastel shades, sell a selection of local wares worth taking home.

Chill out at The Tides Restaurant, just across the street. Food, view, atmosphere and service are all as good as it gets.