Barbados, located northeast of Trinidad and Tobago, is the easternmost island in the Caribbean sea and borders the western Atlantic Ocean. With its pristine waters, British colonial history and idyllic climate, this limestone island ringed by coral reefs is a tropical gem you'll not soon forget—a mere 166 square miles, with plenty to do.
Things to See and Do
To get an idea of early Barbadian culture, the Barbados Museum is the place to go. Built in 1817, it's housed in the old garrison and features Amerindian and African artifacts, European decorative arts, a rare-maps collection and a display of the island's coral structure.
History buff? Barbados is home to one of the only 2 working sugar windmills in the world today: the Morgan Lewis Windmill. For a taste of architecture, the Sunbury Plantation House & Museum dates back to the 1660s and is the only plantation house on the island with all rooms open for viewing.
Got a thirst for a different kind of culture? Head to the Mount Gay Rum Tour on the northern edge of Bridgetown. Guests can learn the story of island rum produced here since the days of the first British settlement in 1627.
If it's shopping you seek, Barbados rivals any duty-free destination in the Eastern Caribbean. Broad Street is the main shopping area where you can find competitive prices on diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies and designer jewelry and watches.
One of Barbados' most famous attractions is Harrison's Cave. Ride on a tram through the cavern's chambers, amid an amazing display of stalactites hanging overhead and stalagmites poking up from the floor, and a waterfall that plunges into a subterranean pool deep within the cave.
Barbados has fabulous beaches. Among them: Brighton Beach has over a mile of fine white sand and calm, clear waters that make it ideal for families. Crane Beach, located on the southern part of the east coast, is undeniably picturesque with its cliffs, dunes and pink sands.
Local Culture and Flavor
Barbados' population is known to be friendly, respectful and conservative. To this day, its English roots are apparent: Drivers stay to the left side of the road, cricket is the most popular sport, and even the police uniforms date back to the British era of HMS Admiral Lord Nelson.
Besides its British connection, the Barbadian or "Bajan" culture is rich with influences from the Spanish, Amerindians and African cultures, languages, crafts and religions. The Carnival-like Crop Over festival is a major celebration, a tradition dating back centuries to commemorate the end of the sugar harvest.
Culinary delicacies of the island include flying fish, which is usually breaded and fried with a hot Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce guaranteed to scorch your palette; or pepperpot, a traditional pork stew seasoned with a spicy sauce. No matter your spice tolerance, Barbados has something of interest to suit every taste.
Past and Present
It is believed that Barbados' first inhabitants were the Amerindians, who reached the island around 1623 BC from the part of South America known today as Venezuela. Various tribes followed over the next 3,000 years, including the Arawaks and the Caribs. In 1537, the Spanish and Portuguese happened upon the island, christening it "Los Barbados," supposedly after the hanging roots of the Bearded Fig Tree.
By the time the British arrived in 1627, the original inhabitants had been virtually wiped out. Barbados was a boon for agriculture with its mild climate, rich soil and favorable geography. English rule lasted some 339 years; Barbados gained its independence in 1966.
Today, Barbados is a popular tourist destination, often called "The Little England of the Caribbean," because it remains close, as a commonwealth nation, and still observes many of England's laws and traditions.