Barbados Travel Guide [y]

[y] Barbados Visitors Guide

Barbados, 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, the most eastern island in the Caribbean, is one of the lushest and beautiful of the Caribbean with rolling hills, white sand beaches, cascading waterfalls and its unique underground streams found at Harrison’s Cave. Barbados remained under British rule from its first settlement in 1627 to its Independence on November 30, 1966, but British influence is still noticeable on the island.

Among the British traditions are afternoon tea, polo, and cricket – a national pastime that has produced some of the best players in the world. More than 70 % of the islands 260,000 residents are descendants from the late 1600s forced African slave trade migration. So, the African influence is also a big part of this island. If traveling to Barbados, you must carry a valid passport. Photo IDs and birth certificates are no longer valid.

Getting to Barbados

More than 20 flights land at Barbados Grantley Adams International Airport every day. Flying time to Barbados is 4 1/2 hours from New York, 3 1/2 hours from Miami, 5 hours from Toronto, and 1 1/2 hours from San Juan.

American Airlines has dozens of connections passing through San Juan, plus daily nonstop flights to Barbados from Miami. BWIA the national airline of Trinidad and Tobago, also offers daily flights from New York and Miami.

US Airways flies daily from New York’s LaGuardia. Air Canada has nonstop flights daily in the winter, and Air Jamaica offers daily flights that link Barbados to Atlanta, Baltimore, and Miami through the airline’s Montego Bay hub. Air Jamaica offers nonstop flights from New York to Barbados about three days a week.

Barbados Beaches

Getting Around the Island

Be very cautious about renting a car in Barbados. Visitors continue to complain about the poor service, conditions of the cars, and being overcharged. None of the major US car rental agencies are on this island. Driving requires a temporary permit that you can obtain for $5 if you have a valid license. All rental agencies will give out permits and will even deliver the car to your hotel.

  • National Car Rentals, Lower Carlton, St. James (246/426-0603)
  • Sunny Isle Motors, Worthing Main Road, Christ Church (246/435-7979)
  • P&S; Car Rentals, Cave Hill, St. Michael (246/424-2052)
  • Stoutes Car Rentals, Kirtons, St. Philip (246/435-4456)

Taxis aren’t metered, but rates are fixed by the government; one cab can carry up to four passengers for the same fare. Taxis are readily available and easily identifiable by the letter Z on their license plates. A typical taxi ride from the airport to Bridgetown costs $35; to Holetown along the western Gold Coast, $40; and to St. Lawrence Gap, site of many of the less expensive hotels, $30.

Barbados Hotels

Barbados has a number of luxurious accommodations available to tourists. Many of the high-end facilities are north of Bridgetown, and most of the hotels are on St. James Beach on the West Coast. For lower prices, look at the South coast.

Cobblers Cove

(St. Peter, West Coast; 246/422-2291; cobblerscove.com; $400), is a beautiful beachfront hotel that is on the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List 2005 as one of the top hotels in the world. This former mansion once was the site of a British Fort. A member of the Relais & Châteaux group, the hotel is always in great shape. All units have a large living room, a private balcony or patio, and a wet bar.

Sandy Lane

(West Coast; 246/444-2000; sandylane.com; $400 and up), offers beautifully landscaped grounds at this mansion overlooking the beach. Guest rooms are incredibly luxurious; remote-controlled lighting, sound, draperies, fans, and temperature; flat-screen plasma TVs and DVD; a Quadriga communication system for e-mail; a private bar, luxurious bathrooms, and a personal butler. The hotel will rent guests Mini Coopers to drive around the island. The site has a tennis center, pools, four restaurants, one 9-hole golf course, two 18-hole golf courses, nine tennis courts, hair salon, spa, steam room, beach, snorkeling, windsurfing, boating, five bars, and shopping.

Fairmont Royal Pavilion

(246/422-5555; Fairmont.com; $400), just underwent major renovations in 2003. All rooms have beautiful furnishings, flat-screen TVs, DVD players and private patios on the ground floor. Breakfast and lunch are served near the beach. The facilities and dining privileges are shared with the next-door hotel, Glitter Bay and include two restaurants, golf privileges, two tennis courts, pool, gym, hair salon, outdoor hot tub, beach, dive shop, snorkeling, windsurfing, boating, waterskiing, billiards, croquet, Ping-Pong, volleyball, two bars and shops.

Almond Beach Village

(West Coast; 800/4-ALMOND; almondresorts.com; $350 – $800), is an all-inclusive resort that sits among the posh hotels on the “Gold Coast.” It was once the site of a sugar cane plantation and in 1994 underwent million dollar renovations. All meals, drinks, and sports are included in price. One section of the hotel is for families with kids.

Sandy Beach Island Resorts

(South Coast; 800/448-8355; sandybeachbarbados.com; $100 – $372), sits on two acres of beachfront southeast of Bridgetown. Rooms are simple and spacious, were renovated in 2001. All units have kitchenettes and private balconies or patios.

Villa Nova

(East Coast; 246/433-1524; villanovabarbados.com; $450-$800), is an all-suites hotel on 15 acres of gardens and forest. Antiques and art fill the rooms that have king-size beds, sitting areas, and old clawfoot tubs. A butler will serve breakfast on your terrace if desired. The hotel offers a restaurant, room service, cable TV, in-room data ports, golf privileges, two tennis courts, pool, gym, spa, billiards, hiking, three bars, library, piano, shop and limo service from the airport.

Casuarina Beach Club

(Dover; 246/428-3600; causarina.com; $150 – $250), is a four-story hotel of five Spanish-style buildings on eight acres of gardens. This is a more peaceful option but within walking distance of hot spots and shopping. The restaurant and a mobile bar are on the beach all rooms have a kitchenette and a large balcony. The club offers golf privileges, two tennis courts, pool, wading pool, hair salon, beach, snorkeling, billiards, shuffleboard, volleyball, three bars, piano bar, library, shops, babysitting, playground, laundry facilities, and internet.

The Crane

(Crane Bay; 246/423-6220; thecrane.com; $150 – $350), was the first resort in Barbados. It sits on a seaside cliff delivering panoramic ocean views. Many of the suites have their own pool. The beach is 200 steps down the cliff. The hotel’s infinity pool has been the backdrop for numerous photoshoots. The Crane has four rooms, 64 suites, a restaurant, in-room data ports, four tennis courts, two pools, a beach, bar, laundry facilities, but it does not have air conditioning and TV in all rooms.

Barbados Activities and Attractions

Barbados has lots to see and do with its championship golf, great water sports, historic sights, unique caves and great shops.

GOLF

Barbados has four excellent 18-hole championship golf courses. Sandy Lane has two Tom Fazio designed courses and the course at Royal Westmoreland, a Robert Trent Jones Jr., is the best on the island. Also open to the public, The Barbados Golf and Country Club.

SCUBA DIVING

Barbados is a great place to dive with its miles of coral reefs and underwater wrecks full of ocean life. The Marine Reserve (an underwater park protected by legislation from destruction or damage from careless divers) is four miles long and includes reefs from Sandy Lane to Colony Club.

CAVES

The Caves are located near the parish of St. Thomas and are a natural phenomenon. First located in 1795, the caves were then forgotten until Barbadian Tony Mason and Danish speleologist Ole Sorensen “rediscovered” them in 1976. In 1981, Harrison’s Cave was opened to the public.

MANSIONS

Barbados is the home of two of the three remaining “Jacobean Mansions” left in the Western hemisphere. St. Nicholas Abbey in St. Peter and Drax Hall in St. George. Both of these architectural sights are known as part of the “Seven Wonders of Barbados”.

NIGHTLIFE

The big resorts on the West Coast offer plenty of bars, live music outlets, beach parties, and restaurants.

The Coach House, Paynes Bay, St. James, is a 200 years old English pub, with a beer garden. Starting at 9pm on most nights, there’s live music-everything from steel bands to jazz, pop, and rock.

John Moore Bar, on the waterfront, Weston, St. James, is full of neighborhood locals and a few tourists who come for the laid back atmosphere near the sea.

In Bridgetown, Baxters Road starts partying after 11 p.m. and doesn’t end till morning.

Enid’s is a popular spot on Baxter Road, locals come at 3 a.m. for the fried chicken.

Boatyard Bar & South Deck Grill, Bay Street in Bridgetown (tel. 246/436-2622), is busy with a young crowd dancing to a DJ on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Right off the beach, Boatyard also offers a small menu of fish, chicken, and burgers.

Harbour Lights, Marine’s Villa, Lower Bay Street, is a great place for dancing, drinking, and singles. Music is always playing till the early morning and some nights the party moves out onto the beach. Live bands on the weekend make this a favorite of tourists.

On the South Coast, Cafe Sol, St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, serves up margaritas.

The Plantation Restaurant and Garden Theatre, Main Road (Hwy. 7), St. Lawrence, Christ Church, is the island’s main showcase for dinner theater and Caribbean cabaret. It’s a true tourist joint, but provides great entertainment. Every Wednesday and Friday, dinner is served at 6:30 pm, followed by a show at 8 pm.

The Ship Inn, St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, has local bands performing nightly and is a favorite spot for regulars and tourists alike.

The best sports bar is Bubba’s Sports Bar, Rockley Main Road, Christ Church.

SHOPPING

Duty-free shops have two prices listed on items of merchandise: the local retail price and the local retail price less the government-imposed tax.

You can find deals on items such as cameras, watches, crystal, gold jewelry, bone china, cosmetics and perfumes, and liquor (including locally produced Barbados rum and liqueurs), along with tobacco products and cashmere sweaters, tweeds, and sportswear from Britain. At times you could be saving up to 50% off US pricing.

If you purchase items made on Barbados, you don’t have to pay duty.

Highland Pottery, Inc. is worth a visit for some of the islands quintessential pottery.

In Bridgetown, Bridgetown Harbor has 20 duty-free shops, 13 local shops, and many vendors.

Articrafts, Norman Center Mall, Broad Street, has a collection of Bajan arts and crafts.

Colours of De Caribbean, the Waterfront Marina (next to the Waterfront Café, on the Carenage), has some original hand-painted and batik clothing, all made in the West Indies, plus jewelry and interesting objects.

Cave Shepherd, Broad Street, is the largest department store on the island and the best place for duty-free merchandise. There are branches at Sunset Crest in Holetown, Da Costas Mall, Grantley Adams Airport, and the Bridgetown cruise-ship terminal. You will find perfumes, cosmetics, fine crystal, and bone china, cameras, jewelry, swimwear, leather, men’s designer clothing, crafts, liquor, and souvenirs.

Harrison’s, 1 Broad Street, has six stores with duty-free merchandise like china, crystal, jewelry, leather goods, and perfumes.

Little Switzerland, in the Da Costas Mall, Broad Street, offers a great selection of watches, fine jewelry, Mont Blanc pens, and Waterford, Lalique, Swarovski, and Baccarat.