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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Barbados.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Barbados.
With a population of approximately 275,000 people and an official language of English, Barbados could just be the perfect destination for an intimate yet somewhat familiar holiday – of course with a hint of Caribbean luxury. To give you all a bit of background, the island – with a capital of Bridgetown – is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence, as up until 1966, Barbados was a British Colony. Regardless of this, and despite the fact that it takes an approximate nine hour plane journey to get to Barbados, many British holidaymakers are enticed by the familiarity of the English-speaking destination. Barbadians are typically friendly people, and welcome tourists onto the island with open arms – 39% of visitors claim that the friendliness of Barbadians is their reason for repeated visits.
Getting far away from the typically miserable British weather is appealing to anyone, and although Barbados can’t guarantee sizzling heat all year round, you’ll never experience daytime temperatures below 21 degrees. The country generally experiences two seasons, one of which includes noticeably higher rainfall. Known as the ‘wet season’, this period runs from June to November, while the ‘dry season’ runs from December to May. Annual precipitation ranges between 40 and 90 inches and from December to May, the average temperature ranges from 21 to 31 degrees, while between June and November, it floats somewhere between 23 and 31 degrees. The Barbados climate includes pleasant and revitalising north-east tradewinds almost every day, and ocean temperatures are wonderfully warm all year round.
Speaking of oceans, Barbados is the home of some of the most glorious beaches in the Caribbean, and Crane Beach, in the parish of St. Phillip, has consistently been recognised as one of the top ten beaches in the world. The island is 21 miles by 14 miles and is surrounded by the beautiful Atlantic Ocean the whole way around. Fine white sand and clear blue sea causes thousands of luxury-hungry holidaymakers to vacate to the island all year round. All beaches in Barbados are open to the public and access to them is considered a right of way. Not only are Barbados’ beaches perfect for basking in the sun all day long, they also host an array of sights for the wildlife and animal lovers out there.
Two of the world’s rarest sea creatures make their nests on the beaches of Barbados; the Hawksbill and the Leatherback Turtles. The Hawksbill nests between April and November, mainly on the west and south coasts of the island, whilst the mighty Leatherback, the largest of all turtle species, nests between February and July on the windswept beaches of the cast and southeast coasts. A long history of hunting these animals for their meat, eggs and shells has reduced Caribbean populations to fragments of their former size. As such there is currently a ban on turtle hunting in Barbados to allow population recovery of these endangered species. The Barbados Sea Turtle Project personnel carefully monitor the number of turtles making their nests on the island. The Barbados Sea Turtle Project is based at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. The Project provides a 24-hour Sea Turtle Hotline year round, which the public and visitors can use to call in information on turtles nesting, hatching of eggs, or lost or injured turtles. Project staff are called on to relocate nests made too close to the high tide line, to rescue hatchlings disoriented by hotel lights, and to rehabilitate turtles that have been accidentally hooked or partially drowned in fishing nets. In addition, Project staff patrol high-density nesting beaches nightly during the height of the nesting season, measuring and tagging nesting females and recording nest locations, showing that the preservation of the island and its natural inhabitants is incredibly important to Barbados’ residents.
Barbados is the home of over 39 diving sights, as well as some of the oldest diving wrecks, making it the perfect location for the more adventure- hungry visitors out there. For those who aspire for more than just a day spent upon flawless white beaches and beneath perfect blue skies, Barbados offers a number of exciting excursions to satisfy even the most adventurous soul. Offshore, the ocean beckons with the call of a deep sea fishing excursion or diving expedition to explore the shipwreck capital of the Caribbean. Closer in, the “white horses” provide ample surfing opportunities, including kite surfing and wind surfing along the southern coast, plus board surfing at Soup Bowl in Bathsheba and all along the eastern shore. Inland, the diverse terrain of the island offers a number of activities to enjoy, including biking through the tropical forest, discovering the water-carved caverns of Harrison’s Cave or hiking among the flora and fauna of Welchman Hall Gully, Flower Forest or the Barbados Wildlife Reserve.
Not forgetting the foodies out there, as the “culinary capital of the Caribbean”, Barbados is especially appealing to a vast array of food lovers, and with a multicultural society, feasting and dining in Barbados’ many first-class restaurants promises to, alone, be a sufficient reason to visit the island. Also, with the introduction of the Barbados Food and Rum Festival held in November, Barbados is fast becoming known for its appeal to the most seasoned foodies who continue to flock here to feast on fine food and beverages all year round.
Barbados has all this to offer and more, but don’t just take our word for it, go and taste for yourself!
The Food Game Plan
If it’s scene cuisine you’re after, look to the west coast: Beachfront Lone Star is great for Sunday lunch and rubbernecking Brit regulars like Simon Cowell; newish Cin Cin by the Sea has staying power, if the cult-like veneration of their pork buns is any indication; and the chic crowd all seem to wind up at Italian hot spot Daphne’s. To my mind, though, no meal compares with those at The Cliff, where chef Paul Owens has turned out elevated Caribbean since 1988 (try the fillet of dolphin – mahimahi – and open ravioli of shrimp). It’s undeniably pricey, but the view of the lighted cove below is worth it.
For casual options, Kit Kemp likes Good Choice Chinese, in Holetown. If you have a few hours to kill, she adds, go farther south to Lobster Alive, a nondescript shack on the beach, for evening jazz.
If you’re up in the northwest near the parish of St. Lucy, stop in at the Fish Pot, set on the water in a seventeenth-century fort. In season, it’s the place to try the Bajan specialty of grilled barracuda with drawn butter.
At night, if you’re in the south and not feeling Oistins again (which is in the town by the same name), head to Cafe Luna, on the roof of the Little Arches Hotel, for a solid Bajan three-course menu, including flying fish with coconut shrimp.
The beaches to hit
Barbados is where the Caribbean and Atlantic collide, and the west coast gets most of the love, with stunning turquoise beaches behind practically every hotel. Take your pick (strictly speaking, there are no private beaches in Barbados), but I have a soft spot for Paynes Bay (near Sandy Lane); its quiet surf feels made for swimming and snorkeling.
Most locals will tell you to venture farther. Though hardly secrets. Accra Beach. Dover Beach, and Brandons offer relative seclusion from the crowds and street vendors. There are several surf schools in the area, but deAction Shop & Beach Apartments in Silver Sands is ground zero for the island’s beach sports scene.
And you absolutely have to stop at Bathsheba on the east coast, one of the top surfing spots in the world.
The water is too dangerous to swim in, but the tide pools are perfect for cooling off. Park at the nineteenth- century Round House Inn and Restaurant up the hill, a good spot for an afternoon drink.
It’s barely 6 p.m. on a Friday night, and already there’s a line forming at Oistins. To the uninitiated, the cheerful outdoor fish fry in this sleepy south coast village might resemble an overflowing beer garden. But since the mid-’90s, the knockabout local institution first popularized by fishermen and windsurfers has functioned as a tropical Studio 54 of sorts, a riotously diverse melting pot of deep-pocketed voluptuaries and flip-flop-wearing locals and action-seekers. The ruddy man in cargo shorts next to you, waiting for his mahimahi and macaroni pie, is just as likely to be a German tourist from the all-inclusive down the beach as he is the British billionaire Lord Bamford (he of the 204-foot yacht, Sikorsky helicopter, and $25 million Heron Bay estate), who is evidently not above queuing like everybody else to eat dinner out of a plastic container.
“My grandmother’s house is literally up the street, so I’ve been coming here all my life,” says André Parris, a chatty 25-year-old radio personality, his voice barely audible above the din of steel drums. Parris, it transpires over a Mount Gay or two, is one of the most in-demand DJs in the Caribbean, used to island-hopping with the likes of British Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and Barbados’s most notorious international export after rum, Rihanna. But not on Friday nights. “If you are out early and wondering why everywhere [else] is empty, it’s because they’re all here,” Parris tells me. “It’s a little scrappy, but you always have fun.”
He might as well be referring to Barbados. I started coming to this former British colony in the Lesser Antilles a dozen years (two passports and many rum punches) ago, lured by a vague idea of a gently fading elegance that conjured louche aristocrats and even more disreputable Hollywood celebrities with grand Palladian homes. Of course, by the time I arrived, the island’s heyday had long since passed: when screen legend Claudette Colbert entertained neighbors like Sir Ronald and Marietta Tree (Heron Bay’s original owners) and their friends Bill and Babe Paley at Bellerive, the eighteenth-century plantation house Colbert bought in the early 1960s; and when interior designers Oliver Messel and Happy Ward were the last word in refined tropical glamour. Even the Concorde – which, along with the emergence of the bikini and the closing off of Cuba, arguably put Barbados on the map – was no longer flying in paparazzi bait like Mick Jagger and Princess Margaret. Although its classic hotels such as the lace-latticed Colony Club had seen better days and an influx of nouveau riche Russians and rowdy booze-cruisers had sent discerning jet-setters scrambling to the chic enclaves of St. Barts and genteel seclusion of Mustique, I kept coming back. Something about this plucky coral island, which emerged from a seismic dustup on the seafloor nearly one million years ago and went on to survive colonization, slavery, at least one decimating hurricane, and even McDonald’s (which the locals run out of town in 1996 to protect their beloved homegrown chain Chefette), remained defiantly appealing.
I like it in Barbados!
The island’s diverse terrain keeps me interested; even though traversing the entire country can be done in a day, if so desired…why would you? Gazing at the waves on the Atlantic side of the island, I can bask in the sun and take in the action of surfers who simply adore the swells that whip them closer and closer to shore. On the East Coast, the most famous surf spot on the island, The Soup Bowl is where I park and ride the emotional waves of watching people time the pace of the swells and try to catch their next ride. That’s a sight that never gets dull. The view sucks me in, but I’m content bravely cheering from the shore. One of these days I’ll take surfing lessons and get out there…