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Submerge yourself in Harrison’s Cave

Since 1981, Barbados’ top attraction has been taking visitors underground to explore the core of the island. In the footsteps of 18th- and 19th-century explorers, you’ll embark on a three-km-long underground journey marked by natural streams, cascading waterfalls, limestone and coral formations.

Your journey begins with a glass-elevator trip down from the visitor centre, high above a landscaped gully, where you can explore on your own before entering the interactive cave-interpretation centre. After a brief presentation, board the state-of-the-art tram for the 40-minute geological journey, including passage through the cavernous Great Hall, with its stunning 15-metre-high ceilings. Tours run from 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at a cost of US$31 for adults and US$15 for children under the age of 12.

Take flight with the Concorde Experience

With your “boarding pass” in hand, you’re set to journey back to the future as you revisit one of the most exciting chapters in aviation history. Opened in 2007, the Barbados Concorde Experience takes you on a remarkable journey through supersonic flight and the special relationship it shared with Barbados.

A modern hangar/museum on the airport grounds is now home to a Concorde G-BOAE (Alpha Echo), which flew to and from London for 27 years at record speeds before the entire fleet was retired in 2003. In the shadows of the 62-metre plane, a guided tour brings the amazing aircraft to life through a number of exhibits. From the hangar’s departure lounge, you can board the aircraft to explore its cabin. The facility is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at a cost of under US$20.

Head to the water and take a surfing lesson

Bathsheba Surfing Every November, world-class surfers descend on the infamous Soup Bowl in Bathsheba to compete in the Independence Pro Championship. A staple of Barbadian beach culture, visitors can hang ten at some of the island’s hottest surf spots, taking part in a uniquely Barbadian experience suited to all skill levels.

Barbados Surf Trips takes you to the hottest spots, monitoring the island’s best waves to ensure great surfing every day. Matching you with the best board for your age, the experienced teachers also make this experience safe for beginners and children over the age of eight.

Barbados Surf Trips start at US$80 for the first hour and US$50 for each additional hour (price includes transportation, surfboard rental and professional instruction).

Explore the island

There’s no better way to explore the real Barbados than by climbing aboard an open-air Land Rover with Island Safari Barbados. You’ll venture across the island’s hilly central terrain, crossing over to the wild side to experience the rugged beauty of the east coast.

Along the way, your knowledgeable driver will provide a comprehensive lesson in Barbadian history, culture and geography. Panoramic coastal views, historic sites and lush terrain all provide breathtaking memories of a very special place.

Daily tours (5.5 hours in length) begin with hotel pickup between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m, returning between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. The tour costs under US$90 per person, which includes transportation, plenty of on-board snacks and refreshments (including rum punch or Jungle Juice) and a buffet lunch served at the historic Sunbury Plantation.

Party on board the Jolly Roger Arrr, matey!

Jolly Roger You can’t keep a good pirate ship down, as evidenced by the return of the original Jolly Roger 1. It has been many years since real pirates roamed these waters but thanks to Black Pearl Party Cruises, the skull and crossbones are flying high above the Barbadian waters one again, setting sail out of Bridgetown Harbour.

Costumed pirates and wenches ensure the Jolly Roger’s reputation as the wildest party on water remains intact. Black Pearl Party Cruises also offers a children’s cruise, complete with everything necessary for your little ones to become pirates for a day.

Four-hour cruises depart at 10 a.m. daily at a cost of US$87.50 (US$45 for children), and include rope-swinging adventures, walking the plank and unlimited “yo, ho, ho and a barrel of rum.” Sunset cruises depart at 5 p.m., while dinner cruises set sail at 6 p.m. and include a barbecue dinner of steak, chicken or fish, as well as unlimited drinks. Both sunset and dinner cruises cost US$92.50 (US$46.25 for children).

Sip your way through a Mount Gay rum tour

A part of Barbadian history, culture and economy all in one, the Mount Gay Rum Distillery produces the world’s oldest brand of rum, dating back to 1703. Daily tours include historical background at the Mount Gay Rum Brand Museum, a replica rum shop (a staple of Barbadian society) and tastings at the Mount Gay Bar, where visitors can sample any two of the distillery’s branded products.

The 45-minute tours run from 9 a.m. until 3:45 p.m., Monday to Friday, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Though considerably more expensive (US$50 per person as compared to US$7 per person for the 45-minute tour), the two-hour luncheon tours feature the added cultural and culinary draw of a Barbadian buffet overlooking the sea, with plenty of Mount Gay Rum Punch to wash it all down with for the adults.

Slip back in time at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society

Housed in a former 19th-century British military prison at the Garrison, the Barbados Museum and Historical Society is a must-see – and well worth the US$7.50 admission (half price for children). The museum takes visitors through the key points of Barbados’ history via natural history displays, Amerindian objects, historical maps and a genealogy reference library.

Children get a glimpse of what life was like for young Barbadians in the Yesterday’s Children gallery, which provides an educational step back in time. Other exhibits include replica furnishings from an 18th-century plantation house, as well as a gift shop featuring West Indian literature, arts and crafts and handmade jewelry. The museum is open Monday to Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Take a speedy trip with Aerial Trek Zipline Adventures

Exhilarating adventure meets ecotourism as Barbados’ Aerial Trek zips you through the green landscape of Jack in the Box Gully. From the base camp located on the grounds of the Walkes Spring Plantation, experienced guides lead you on a memorable, scenic journey through multiple eco-systems as you glide along more than 300 metres of cable.

With eight platforms, including one reaching more than 30 metres above the ground, you’ll soar above the canopy of treetops as you take in some of the island’s most unforgettable vistas.

Ziplining isn’t for the faint of heart and this activity is categorized as a moderate-level tour. Open daily from 9 a.m. with a final departure leaving the base at 2 p.m., the price for this adrenaline rush is US$92.

Learn about artisanal rum making at St. Nicholas Abbey

Preserving more than 350 years of Barbadian heritage, this 398-acre property is the island’s oldest surviving plantation. Mahogany forests, tropical gardens and rolling sugar cane fields provide a picturesque framework for tours of the 17th-century Great House and its artifacts.

Unlike many plantation properties that serve as museums and restaurants, St. Nicholas Abbey has revived some of its treasured traditions since being privately purchased in 2006.

Visitors can sample and purchase the liquid gold of the small distillery producing handcrafted rum, aged to perfection in bourbon barrels on the estate. The plantation’s steam mill steps back in time to crush more than 254,000 kilograms of sugar cane each year, while its syrup plant converts raw cane juice into fancy molasses, also available for purchase.

St. Nicholas Abbey offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience authentic production processes, before unwinding in the serene surroundings of the Terrace Café, which overlooks the lush plantation gullies. Admission is US$16.50 for adults (US$9.50 for children) and the property is open Sunday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Wander through the beauty of Hunte’s Gardens

Hunte's Gardens With yet another unique twist on historic plantations, horticulturist Anthony Hunte has converted 9.8 acres of the former Castle Grant Plantation in the lush hills of St. Joseph parish into a unique tropical garden setting. The unconventional Hunte has converted the former plantation stables into his private residence, perched high above the lush gully.

Here, troubles seem to melt away as you descend into the gully to a blend of classical music and chirping birds. Don’t forget to visit Hunte’s home before you leave, where a refreshing glass of homemade lemonade welcomes you on the house’s scenic verandah. Admission is only US$9.50, making it well worth a stop on a sunny day. The gardens are open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Limegrove

Shopping

Looking for souvenir ideas, great bargains, or luxury retailers close to where you're staying?

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Golf Royal Westmoreland

Golf and spa

Would you rather hit the links or have your cares massaged away? Why not do both!

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SOL Rally

Calendar of events

Wondering what festivals and events are on during your visit?

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Shopping

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Broad Street (Bridgetown)

Barbados is a great place for duty-free shopping, with global suppliers vending their wares at prices that typically run between 30 to 50 per cent below North American retail prices.

In the capital city of Bridgetown, you’ll find the best jewelry shopping along the main thoroughfare of Broad Street. High-end jewelers found here include: Diamonds International, Little Switzerland, Colombian Emeralds International, Cave Shepherd, Milano, Harrison’s and many more.

Depending on the size and circumstances of your purchase, arrangements can even be made to have your goods delivered straight to the airport on your departure date. When shopping for duty-free items, you must present your passport or airline ticket in order to be eligible to make purchases.

Limegrove Lifestyle Centre (Holetown)

In the heart of Holetown, the new Limegrove Lifestyle Centre has an upscale offering of designer-branded clothing and specialty items. With approximately 7,897 square metres of retail space and parking for more than 300 vehicles, Limegrove is Barbados’ new home for the world’s leading retail brands. Stores here include Agent Provocateur, Armani A/X, Audemars Piguet, Cartier, Chopard, M.A.C., Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and Vilebrequin.

The Limegrove Lifestyle Centre also features cafes, gourmet food retailers, an art gallery, a spa and a salon.

Pelican Village (Bridgetown)

On the outskirts of Bridgetown, across from the bus depot, a stroll through colourful Pelican Village will connect you with local handicrafts, including straw bags, wall hangings, batik, paintings, rum cakes, metal works and more.

For more arts and crafts, check out the shops in communities such as Holetown and Speightstown. Souvenirs, handmade jewelry, clothing and other locally made crafts can be purchased from street-based vendors in places like St. Lawrence Gap and Oistins Fish Market.

Mount Gay Distillery, St. Nicholas Abbey (and other local rum stores)

With more than 1,500 rum shops on the island, rum is undeniably a major part of Barbadian history, culture, geography, and of course, the economy. It’s also a great way for visitors to take home a bit of Barbados in a bottle.

While Mount Gay’s award-winning collection of rums can be bought almost anywhere on the island, the Mount Gay Distillery’s rum store sells premium brands at very good prices.

For a truly special rum purchase, try St. Nicholas Abbey’s own handcrafted rum, aged to perfection in bourbon barrels on the estate. Decorative bottles of 10-year-old and 12-year-old rum can be purchased at the Abbey.

Dining

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Nishi Restaurant (Japanese, $$-$$$)

Set in a two-storey house at the entrance to Holetown’s bustling 2nd Street, Chef Paul Edwards has introduced the best of traditional and leading-edge Japanese cuisine to Barbados.

Opened in 2009, Nishi’s Asian-inspired decor includes a bamboo lounge level and an upstairs dining room with a sushi bar. A signature Nishitini, made with blueberry vodka, pomegranate and a blend of blueberry and lime syrups is a great starter before a two-course dinner of Asian and Caribbean selections.

Choices include tempura shrimp and grilled jerk pork. There are also selections for sushi lovers such as Godzilla, made with spicy tuna, asparagus, tobiko and crab sticks, deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs and topped with a spicy mayonnaise.

The Tides Restaurant (International, $$$$)

In addition to its elegant, seaside setting, The Tides has multiple dining rooms in different settings – from the Tree House, to the Garden Gazebo. Mouth-watering dishes available here include selections of seafood, meat, poultry and vegetarian options.

From sauteed bay scallops, lightly spiced and served with a cauliflower cream, to melt-in-your-mouth desserts, including Mars Bar cheesecake, you’ll be delighted by Chef Guy Beasley’s creations.

David’s Place by the Sea (Caribbean, $$-$$$)

Barbadian dining at its best. That’s what awaits you at David’s, located in the St. Lawrence Gap area. In a sophisticated environment flavoured by classical music and views of St. Lawrence Bay, owners David and Darla Trotman deliver on their promise to serve the very best of authentic Barbadian cuisine.

Open Tuesday through Sunday, David’s provides a gourmet touch to Caribbean staples such as pumpkin fritters and flying fish melts. Try the spicy pepperpot made with cassreep stock (cassava extract), beef, salt pork, chicken and lamb. There are also steaks of mahi mahi, kingfish or shark, prepared to your tastes – either blackened, deep-fried, grilled, poached or steamed. David’s also features an extensive wine list.

The Cliff Restaurant (International, $$$$)

Located in St. James Parish, The Cliff is one of the west coast’s finest establishments. Elegant, candlelit, seaside dining here includes Moo Shu pancakes, made with Chinese roast pork, spring onions, cucumber and hoisin sauce. Other entrees include grilled swordfish, seasoned with a Thai yellow curry sauce, jasmine rice, coriander vinaigrette and grilled pineapple relish. The restaurant also has extensive wine selections available by the glass.

Champers Restaurant & Wine Bar (Caribbean, $$-$$$)

Barbados’ most acclaimed restaurant features cliff-side dining on the south coast with spectacular panoramic views overlooking Accra Beach. Champers embodies the Barbadian dining experience with its authentic Caribbean design and multiple seating areas, each with its own unique feel. Its casual, relaxed atmosphere offers consistent value, freshness and quality at every turn.

Start the evening with a house specialty – Champers kingfish ceviche with lime zest – before tackling an entree of parmesan-crusted barracuda, served with seasonal vegetables and a wholegrain mustard sauce.

Café Luna (Fusion, $$-$$$)

Romantics love the rooftop setting of Café Luna, the signature restaurant of the elegant Little Arches Hotel. Wonderful panoramic views of the south coast, in a Mediterranean-style alfresco ambiance, set the stage for the creations of Canadian executive chef Mark De Gruchy.

This critically acclaimed restaurant features pan-tropical fare, including appetizers of hot duck salad and baked Camembert. Entrees include rack of New Zealand lamb and Caribbean yellow-fin tuna, pan-seared and served with a Roquefort chive sauce.

Fisherpond Great House (Caribbean, $$-$$$)

One of Barbados’ most authentic and historic dining experiences unfolds at the Fisherpond Great House on Sunday and Thursday afternoons. In a former plantation house that’s been restored to its original splendour, the Chandler family has spared no expense in providing an unparalleled blend of Barbadian history, culture and cuisine.

Rum punch flows in the quiet, secluded nooks of a landscaped garden before lunch is served in the elegance of the main house, where each room has been set for a variety of group sizes. The decor includes historic paintings, photographs, furniture and china, as well as the original chandelier that once hung at historic Sam Lord’s Castle.

Dress is casual and lunch includes a hearty Caribbean buffet of pepper pot, flying fish, macaroni pie and much more, all laid out beautifully on flower-laden tables. This is one spot not to miss.

Cafe Sol (Mexican, $-$$)

After a fire forced it to move from its original location, Cafe Sol is back in business at the entrance to the St. Lawrence Gap. This Mexican grill, furnished with equally Mexican decor, offers casual dining for families, couples and groups in a vibrant atmosphere.

Cafe Sol is known for its popular drink specials, including two-for-ones all day on designated cocktails, and 16 flavours of margaritas to choose from. Cuisine includes a creative tapas menu as well as a wide variety of selections from both the Mexican and Gringo menus.

Golf and spa

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Sandy Lane

There are 45 holes of exceptional golf at the posh Sandy Lane resort, but like the surrounding accommodations, they can come at a price.

One of the more economical options is the resort’s Country Club course, designed by Tom Fazio. The Country Club course is playable for higher handicappers and features the type of wide fairways that help instill confidence on the first tee – no matter how long your inbound flight took. Caddies (US$40, plus tip) are mandatory on both the Country Club and Green Monkey courses, but not necessary on the Old Nine course.

As of May 2011, green fees for 18 holes ranged from US$200 to US$240 for individuals in winter, and US$150 to US$195 in summer.

Royal Westmoreland

Even though it is set inside a 499-acre resort property, the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Royal Westmoreland golf course is hard to miss. Its reputation alone travels well outside the property grounds (Golf Digest ranked it as the 31st best golf course outside the United States).

On the course, not only does each hole offer an ocean view but all 18 greens overlook the turquoise offshore waters. The Royal Westmoreland course is carved from quarry walls, but golfers here must also contend with multiple ravine carries, especially on the treacherous par-3 holes.

Rates start at US$300 for resort guests and US$375 for non-resort guests.

Kids

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Get a history lesson at Arlington House Museum (age 4 and up)

Housed in an 18th-century home in scenic Speightstown, Arlington House Museum features three floors of interactive exhibits that will keep the kids entertained while they learn about Barbadian heritage and history. Using state-of-the-art fun and interactive multimedia attractions, each floor of the museum tells the story of an important chapter in Barbadian life.

The journey begins with a look at Speightstown’s coastal living, while the second-floor exhibit Plantation Memories explores the historic, cultural and economic ties that bind Barbadians to the legacy of sugar production. On the third floor, pirates await landlubbers in Wharf Memories, an interactive history of Speightstown’s rise as a seafaring port of trade.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is US$12 for adults and US$6 for children.

Journey under the sea with Atlantis Submarine (age 4 and up) 

Climb aboard the Ocean Quest shuttle and transfer to the Atlantis Submarine, where you can experience one of Barbados’ top family attractions. This unique adventure takes you on an underwater journey aboard a real submarine, exploring aquatic life beneath the water’s surface. Exotic fish, shipwrecks and coral reefs are just some of the exciting discoveries made as you go 45 metres below surface.

The narrated, 2.5-hour tour, including a 40-minute undersea dive, leaves twice a day – in the morning and afternoon and costs US$52 for children under the age of 17 and US$104 for adults. Children must be at least three feet tall to board Atlantis.

Make new friends at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve (age 3 and up)

In the mahogany forests near Farley Hill National Park in St. Peter Parish, the Barbados Wildlife Reserve provides visitors with a rare glimpse into the natural environment of the island’s most exotic creatures.

Unlike a zoo, the Wildlife Reserve features mainly free-range animals that come and go as they please, including the playful Barbados green monkeys. Other sightings range from caimans (alligators) and armadillos, to colourful parrots, flamingos, peacocks and pelicans. The park also features its share of resident reptiles, including giant tortoises, exotic snakes and scaly iguanas.

The best time to visit is in the afternoon between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., when the green monkeys typically descend on the feeding area. The Barbados Wildlife Reserve is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with last admissions at 4 p.m. The cost of admission is approximately US$12 for adults and US$6 for children ages three to 12.

Join the party at the Harbour Lights Beach Extravaganza Dinner Show (age 3 and up)

Bordering Carlisle Bay, Harbour Lights is known as one of the island’s hottest nightspots. But on Monday and Wednesday nights, it’s also a great place for families as the Beach Extravaganza Dinner Show takes centre stage. The entertaining, open-air dinner party features live music, stilt-walkers, fire-eaters and limbo dancers who dazzle the crowd.

The experience includes a barbecue meal of steak, chicken or fish, complemented by pumpkin fritters, breadfruit fries, macaroni pie and more. Kids tend to gather on the sandy floor in front of the main stage, enjoying the foam noodle fights and torch-lit marshmallow roast presided over by a stilted Green Monkey and Shaggy Bear.

The cost of US$78.50 for adults and US$35.50 for children includes transportation to and from your hotel, dinner, entertainment and unlimited drinks. The Harbour Lights Beach Extravaganza Dinner Show takes place on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., after which adults may stay to enjoy the nightclub.

Sign up for a resort program (all ages)

While a Barbados vacation full of sun, beach and rum punch by the pool may appeal to moms and dads, Barbados takes great strides to ensure kids are happy as well. Many of the island’s family-oriented properties offer extensive children’s programming, ranging from arts and crafts workshops, to scavenger hunts and nature walks. Babysitting services are also available at many of the properties.

Nightlife

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Lexy Piano Bar (Holetown) (Bar, $$-$$$)

Looks can be deceiving when it comes to Lexy Piano Bar, a local favourite that wins over the hearts of many visitors. Nestled on vibrant 2nd Street, Lexy is one of Holetown’s hottest nightspots.

Japanese master chefs man the sushi bar and teppanyaki table here, while live entertainment from international piano bar entertainers gets the evening rolling. Things really get hopping after 10 p.m., when sing-alongs and dancing kick into high gear until “late.” The smart-casual dress code here includes a ban on baseball caps and sleeveless shirts for men.

Harbour Lights (Bridgetown) (Dance club, $-$$)

The beach party is on at Harbour Lights, complete with dancing in the sand on an open-air dance floor bordering beautiful Carlisle Bay. Open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the spacious locale attracts a young crowd of locals and tourists. For an admission price of less than US$30, drinks are free all night and include rum, gin, vodka, Banks beer and soft drinks. By day, Harbour Lights is also a popular beach club with the cruise ship crowd.

The Ship Inn (St. Lawrence Gap) (Sports bar, $$-$$$)

Since 1974, the Ship Inn has been a fixture of Barbadian nightlife, known as “where it’s at in The Gap.” Open for lunch and dinner in the elegant garden setting of a former plantation house, this place transforms into one of the best party atmospheres in Barbados for a young-to-middle-aged crowd in the evenings.

The interior is similar to a traditional English pub, with big-screen TVs carrying a variety of international sporting events. A further extension in the rear features nautical-themed decor, an open-air courtyard dance floor and a large stage.

On Tuesday nights, competing DJs spin their best, while Thursdays feature the live music of Strategy, the house band. The Ship Inn is known for having the best bartenders on the island and half-price drink specials from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and again from 11 p.m. until midnight.

Reggae Lounge (St. Lawrence Gap) (Dance club, $-$$)

You can hear the island vibes all night long from the Reggae Lounge, located next to the Ship Inn in St. Lawrence Gap. The open-air club attracts a younger crowd with a wide array of island rhythms, ranging from reggae and calypso to R&B. It’s also happy hour every night here until 10 p.m. On Sunday nights there’s live music and on Thursday evenings, you’ll find all-inclusive drinks.

Bert’s Bar (Rockley, Christ Church Parish) (Sports bar, $-$$)

Co-owned by Bert Inniss and Eugene Melnyk, owner of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, Bert’s Bar is a slice of Canadiana with a relaxing island ambience. The sports bar features 24 flat-screen TVs and has been a hugely popular spot for Canadian visitors for the past 35 years, particularly during hockey season.

Hockey Night in Barbados is a common theme at Bert’s, where sporty decor includes hockey memorabilia, an Ottawa Senators boutique and a countdown clock to the next Sens game. Known as the House of the Daiquiri, one of the establishment’s world-famous banana daiquiris is the perfect complement to a Bert’s pizza, prepared in the island’s first stone-fired oven. Eat, drink and chill at Bert’s with a daily happy hour from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. that includes selected food and drinks.

Club Xtreme (Worthing, Christ Church Parish) (Dance club, $$$)

For a walk on the wilder side, Club Xtreme is Barbados’ newest addition, located on the south coast. The club boasts the latest in sound and lighting technology.

Club Xtreme is divided into three unique sections, known as the Xtreme, Game and Chill Zones. While house DJs rock the party in the Xtreme Zone with the best in alternative, dance and R&B, the Game Zone and Chill Zone provide sanctuaries for those looking to take a step back from the party. With a cover charge in effect, Club Xtreme offers a variety of rotating drink specials and themed nights.

All-day adventures

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Barbados is known as an island of exclusive resorts, fancy cuisine and sky-high prices, but this Caribbean jewel is so much more than that. Here, you can easily have the vacation of your lifetime, without a huge budget. Experience the best Barbados has to offer, from spectacular free views to the Friday fish fry.

Go coastal and head to Holetown

Start with a sunrise breakfast on the South Coast Boardwalk. The boardwalk is located just outside Bridgetown and spans almost two km of the island’s south coast. Joggers, travellers and families gather in the early evenings here, but at the break of dawn, you’ll likely have it to yourself.

Grab a coffee and a pastry from Italia Coffee House, across from the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa near the west end of the boardwalk entrance. Once the coffee kicks in, head to Sandy Lane. This world-famous west coast resort sits on one of the most elite strips of sand in the country, but in Barbados even the fanciest hotels must provide free public access to the beachfronts they occupy.

To get to Sandy Beach, head to Holetown. There, you’ll find another boardwalk across from the West Coast Mall, running south towards beautiful Sandy Lane Beach. Once there, you may find yourself rubbing elbows with celebrities. Stars like Mick Jagger, Simon Cowell, Sir Elton John and even Queen Elizabeth II have vacationed here.

Once you’ve had enough time on the beach, Holetown’s Chattel House Shopping Village is a favourite stop for shoppers, with crafts and souvenirs sold from traditional plantation-style cottages. Just north of town, the pretty coral-stone St. James Parish Church welcomes visitors. It’s the island’s oldest Anglican church.

Wherever Holetown takes you, don’t leave without stopping at the Super Centre to grab some treats for a picnic.

Get wild with the monkeys at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve

Wildlife reserve Bring your picnic fixings to North Point for lunch. The island’s northern apex is all seething surf and ragged cliffs – a perfect spot for a picnic with a view.

To get there, head north along the West Coast Highway as it veers inland just after Speightstown. At the roundabout below St. Lucy’s Parish Church, turn north and follow the signs to the Animal Flower Cave. North Point is just beyond the cave entrance. Its raw, rocky beauty stands in stark contrast to the idyllic beaches on the coasts and its well worth the 30-minute trek from Holetown.

After lunch, get set for some close encounters at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve. The reserve is one of the island’s busiest attractions for a reason. Deer, peacocks, turtles and the island’s green monkeys roam freely here. Be sure to make your way to the feeding area in time for the 2 p.m. feast; it’s a spectacle.

To get to the reserve from North Point, drive 20 minutes southeast along Highway 2. However, there is an an entrance fee here, so expect to pay about US$25 for adults and US$12 for children.

Take in the natural beauty at Bathsheba

Go from monkey-gazing to wave-spotting at Bathsheba, a tiny, laid-back village on the east coast where the island’s best surfers come to play. The water here is generally too rough for swimming, so wander the beach and check out the rock formations carved by the waves and tides instead. Or, just kick back on the cliffs and watch the surfers.

The Round House Inn Restaurant and Bar, at the north end of town is a good pick for a drink and bite to eat. To get there, head east on Highway 2 until you reach Belleplaine, then take the East Coast Road to Bathsheba.

Fishy Feast

Locals and tourists bond over the day’s catch in Oistins. This south coast fishing village is home to a cluster of beachside huts serving up slabs of grilled swordfish and tuna nightly (though the scene is at its best on Friday evenings).

Check out Annie’s, one of the easternmost stalls, for typically Bajan side dishes like macaroni pie or peas and rice, or head to Uncle George’s, at the opposite end, for enormous cooked-to-order local fish.

As you enjoy the fresh catch at a communal table in the sand at day’s end, you’ll realize that, in Barbados, true luxury has nothing to do with how much money you spend.

Local feature

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Friday Night Oistins Fish Fry

To say fishing is a way of life in Barbados is an understatement. While the industry plays an important role in the island’s economic structure, the fishing way of life is an important part of the social and cultural fabric of Barbados. Nowhere is the impact of the fishing community felt and experienced on a greater level than in the coastal town of Oistins, in Christ Church Parish, along Barbados’ southwestern shores.

Oistins is home to the island’s most traditional fishing community, where Barbadian seafarers have proudly practiced their trade for generations. Local fishermen still weave their nets by hand and before dawn each day, a group of fishing boats anchored in the calm waters off Miami Beach set sail for the open seas

When the sun starts to set over Oistins on any given Friday, the end of the fish market day gives way to preparations for one of the island’s most authentic cultural experiences: a Friday night fish fry. Beside the fish market, a mixture of food stalls and permanent structures are linked together by communal seating areas, made up of adjoining picnic tables grouped together under tented roofs.

Arts and crafts vendors begin to occupy their stalls nearby, as a slow parade of tourists begin to haggle over the handmade jewelry, handbags and sundresses.

By sundown, the grills fire up and the focus turns to getting a hearty meal. Music fills the air and the smoky haze of frying pans and barbecues carry the tastes of a nation.

While locals endorse their preferred spots, it may take first-timers several visits (or an enormous appetite), to narrow it down to a single favourite. The choices here range from fried or grilled fish to fish cakes, grilled shrimp, barbecued chicken and more – all garnished with sides of sweet or grilled potatoes, macaroni pie and coleslaw.

At the Fish Net Grill, lines start to stretch around the corner as Uncle George fires up his popular grill, tirelessly attending to a seemingly endless supply of marinated mahi mahi, swordfish and marlin. Behind Uncle George, the ladies at the Fish Net Grill keep the lines moving, placing grilled selections in containers, each filled to the brim with sides. An ice-cold bottle of Banks beer completes the order, all for between US$12 and US$15.

Locals and tourists take to the picnic tables, flopping down shoulder-to-shoulder in a casual setting that’s perfect for making new friends. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the freshest local cuisine imaginable, while experiencing a unique cultural setting where Barbadians and visitors can share a worry-free evening together.

Just beyond the seating areas, DJs set up shop on a large open-air stage. Through the dinner hours, the stage becomes a gathering place for children eager to show off their dance moves. As the sounds of island music fill the air, locals gather at card and domino tables for an animated night of competition.

Closer to the beach, an older crowd begins to descend on Lexi’s Bar, where an open-air dance floor sets the stage for ballroom dancers celebrating another Friday night at Oistins in their own style. As the evening progresses, young adults start to gather, ready to let their hair down at the end of a busy week.

Karaoke emanates from bar-fronts along the main strip, while the Oistins DJs pump up the volume on the centre stage. Locals and visitors alike are increasingly ready to party, island style. The party takes hold and rages on until the small hours of the morning.

Over the last decade, the Oistins draw has organically grown into one of Barbados’ most culturally pure traditions, coveted as an atmosphere rather than as an event. As a result, Oistins’ Friday night fish fries have become part of the tourism experience and one of the island’s hottest attractions.

Calendar of events

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Music festivals (throughout the year)

The rhythms of a nation are well-represented in the island’s mix of world-class annual music festivals. Each March brings the best of opera, classical, jazz, Latin and Caribbean music in a series of open-air concerts in the garden of historic Holders Plantation House. Other significant events include the Barbados Reggae Festival (April to May), Gospelfest (late May) and the Calypso Monarch finals held at the end of July as a major component of Crop Over Festival.

Oistins Fish Festival (April)

Celebrating Barbados’ most traditional fishing community, this annual festival is held in the scenic fishing town of Oistins. One of the island’s most culturally rich events, Oistins Fish Festival is highlighted by a colourful street party that runs through the weekend, with live music, fresh seafood and plenty of ice-cold Banks beer.

Sol Rally Barbados (June)

For more than 20 years, Sol Rally Barbados has been the Caribbean’s most important motorsports event. Organized by the Barbados Rally Club, the annual road race features national champions from Europe and beyond who go head-to-head in a competition of speed and precision driving.

Six-A-Side Masters Football (June)

Soccer fans here rejoice for this two-day event, featuring eight of England’s Premier League teams taking to the pitches of Barbados. The twist is that teams compete in six-man formations, as opposed to 11. Squad members from Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle and Blackburn all make appearances at this annual event.

Crop Over Festival and the Grand Kadooment (July to August)

Crop Over Festival Barbados’ most-explosive event, Crop Over Festival kicks off the first Saturday in July with a full calendar of festivities right through to the first Monday in August.

Crop Over celebrates the end of the sugar cane season. The island springs to life with arts and crafts displays and heritage fairs showcasing the heart and soul of Barbadian culture. Calypso tents feature weekly performances by local entertainers.

The Grand Kadooment, also known as Kadooment Day, takes place in the first week of August and is the climax of the Crop Over Festival. This celebration is similar to Brazil’s Carnival, with people in costumes dancing down a parade route, loud music and all-night parties. Mas Camps is headquarters for more than a dozen Kadooment bands whose thousands of costumed performers compete in the annual Kadooment Parade. Mas Camps also hosts themed parties stretching into the early hours of the morning.

Sizzlin Sands Beach Volleyball Tour’s Barbados Sunsplash (November)

Bikini beach parties, live music and some of the islands hottest DJs all come together for this world-class competition held at Brandons Beach on the outskirts of Bridgetown. The tournament features some of the sport’s most-talented athletes from the Caribbean and the Americas.

Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival (November)

Emphasizing its “Epicurean Capital of the Caribbean” theme, Barbados’ annual Food & Wine and Rum Festival showcases the creations of the island’s most talented culinary superstars. The four-day event features the very best in mouth-watering local cuisine, complete with wine parings, rum samplings and an abundance of Barbadian culture.

Independence Pro Classic Surfing Championship (November)

Since 1994, the infamous Soup Bowl on Barbados’ choppy east coast has been home to the annual Independence Pro Classic Surfing Championship. This professional event, sponsored by the Barbados Surfing Association, draws tens of thousands of spectators who flock to the coastal town of Bathsheba to cheer on competitors from the Caribbean, United States, Europe and South America.