Visiting Barbados

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I love Barbados. It is one of the most enjoyable of the eastern Caribbean islands. It is quite different from the majority of the islands of the Lesser Antilles, that long arc of small islands that stretches southeast from Puerto Rico to Trinidad.

  • Barbados is not a volcanic island like the majority of the Lesser Antilles; it composed of limestone and sits farther to the east, away from the other somewhat isolated from the other islands of the chain
  • Yet Barbados is not flat and uninteresting like a typical limestone island, as it has a rugged northern zone that rises up to 1,120 feet in elevation, cut by erosion into small valleys or canyons
  • The island is honeycombed with caverns, the largest and most impressive being Harrison’s Cave, open to the public as a major attraction that is well worth visiting
  • Barbados is a member of the British Commonwealth, recognizes Queen Elizabeth as its sovereign, yet it does not picture the queen on its currency
  • The Bajan government ranks second in the Americas after Canada with regard to its level of transparency and its lack of corruption
  • The overall standard of living for the majority of Bajan people is higher than other island nations of the Lesser Antilles and it is the 53rd richest nation in the world
  • Less than 20 percent of Bajans live below the poverty line, making it one of the cleanest and most well ordered islands of the Caribbean
  • Barbados has the third largest stock exchange in the entire Caribbean region
  • The tourist infrastructure is exceptionally well developed, but caters to a much higher overall clientele than other islands in the Lesser Antilles
  • Barbados has become a significant embarkation or debarkation port for many cruise itineraries in the eastern Caribbean

The wild Atlantic coast of Barbados at Bathsheba

The Spanish and Portuguese claimed Barbados during the 16th and 17th centuries, but never made any serious attempt to settle. The British took possession in 1624 and ruled without interruption until independence in 1966. They imported slaves to work their plantations, thus giving the island its majority population today. But the imprint of British tradition is strong.

  • The Bajan Parliament in Bridgetown is on Trafalgar Square
  • High tea is served in many of the island’s fine hotels
  • A beautiful historic Anglican church is found in each of the island’s parishes
  • Cricket is the island’s most popular sporting event

Bridgetown is the hub of island commerce and culture. It is one of the larger cities of the Lesser Antilles, and its architectural flavor reflects its colonial heritage. Bridgetown is also well known for its fine shopping that includes British china, woolens, fine quality Bajan rum. molasses and vanilla to name a few products.

The waterfront in downtown Bridgetown, Barbados

The west side of the island is protected by the bulk of the landmass and its calm turquoise waters are where most visitors and locals enjoy the mix of sun and sand. Holetown is home to elegant hotel properties such as Sandy Lane and the Four Seasons. The east side of the island is the windward shore with wild surf and strikingly beautiful coastline, but somewhat risky for swimming. The town of Bathsheba is a quiet community with small guesthouses and outstanding restaurants such as Atlantis and the Roundhouse.

Driving on the island is a challenge as traffic moves on the left side of the road, there are few traffic lights, numerous roundabouts and very few directional signs. I have an excellent sense of direction, but always have difficulty finding my way around Barbados. Stop and ask for directions and you might hear something like this, “Well man, take this road until you see some sheep on the right, but then you turn left. Next look for the red telephone booth and then just after that you turn right…..” I found the red telephone booth and turned right and after that was lost again. But that’s the fun of driving in Barbados.

Here are just a few of the major visitor attractions on the island:

  • Carlisle Bay in Bridgetown – White sand and calm water makes this a perfect beach for people of all ages
  • Bathsheba Beach on the island’s eastern shore – A wild and breathtaking beach filled with sea stacks and pounding surf
  • George Washington House in Garrison – It is here that a young George Washington spent a couple of months, which is the only foreign destination he ever visited
  • James Parish Church – The oldest of the parish churches of the island
  • Jewish Synagogue in Bridgetown – Built in 1654, it is the one of the oldest synagogues in the Americas
  • Hunte’s Garden in St. Joseph Parish – A magnificent tropical paradise

The Bridgetown skyline from the Barbados Hilton Hotel

This is a carefree island in which people are friendly, crime is minimal and visitors are always welcome since they know we bring in hard currency that is the mainstay of the economy. But there is an atmosphere of pride and accomplishment, as the Bajan people have worked hard to make their country a safe and healthy place to live or visit. So if your cruise begins or ends in Barbados, stay a few days, relax and take a drive around the island to experience its charm. You will be happy you did.

 Submitted by, Dr. Lew Deitch