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Barbados: A pocket guide

Thrilling waves, outstanding British colonial architecture, cricket on the beach, and a laid-back coastal life-style—these are some of the charms associated with Barbados, often considered the most charismatic of the Caribbean islands. It is also reputed to be one of the safest, a place where visitors are made to feel comfortable when exploring independently outside the resorts—lose your way and pretty soon a helpful stranger will set you back on track. All this and more (great food, wine, and rum; white-sand beaches) has made Barbados a magnet for the mega-rich in search of a vacation home.

Beach resorts range from humble to lavish, and it’s best to imagine the 21-mile long, 14-mile wide island in five separate parts when deciding where to stay. Those white-sand beaches lined with palms are found in the south and west. The glamorous west coast has narrow beaches with calm waters, as well as fine hotels and vacation rentals, the latter equipped with private pools and ocean vistas.

The south coast is more developed, and swimmers must compete with a veritable sea of surfers. The east, too, is a surfer’s mecca, and restricted development on its rugged coast allows for just a few resorts and small but elegant holiday homes. In the center of the island you’ll find tropical forest, plantation houses, and botanical gardens. With accommodation limited here, too, it’s best to visit by day to explore the culture at the heart of Barbados.

The historic garrison at Bridgetown, on the southwest coast, has recently been awarded a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list and is well worth a visit. The weather is most comfortable on Barbados during the cooler, drier months of January through April, though you can always expect some moisture in the air.

Meet the Experts for Barbados