The easternmost of all the Caribbean isles, beautiful Barbados was once known as the "Brightest Jewel in the English Crown." Flanked by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west, Barbados consists of 430 square kilometers of low-lying terrain divided into 11 parishes. Although the island is just about 33 kilometers long and 22 kilometers wide, it is home to over 270,000 residents, topping other Caribbean destinations of Aruba, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Saint Lucia.
Similar to these Caribbean neighbors, Barbados was originally inhabited by Amerindians, likely from Venezuela. However, the island was uninhabited at the time of the 17th century arrival of the British, who quickly overtook the island as a valuable holding in the world sugar trade. In fact, at its height Barbados was home to one of the biggest sugar industries in the world. For 339 years the British dominated the politics and culture of the island, even establishing the Commonwealth's 3rd oldest Parliament in Bridgetown.
Now a diverse mix of Afro-Caribbean, European, Asian and mixed-race peoples, the Barbadian culture still maintains remnants of its British heritage. Pay a visit to Kensington Oval, a sporting facility primarily used for cricket matches, to see how the English game has grown into both the nation's official sport and intense passion. At the Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Museum and Factory, guests can watch the production process of the crop that played such a major role in the nation's development.
Barbados' diverse heritage is also reflected in the eclectic flavors of its cuisine. Celebrated specialties such as Pepper Pot, Bajan Black Cake, and Fried Flying Fish with Cou Cou, the national dish, are favorites at the many distinguished dining establishments. Guests can discover intimate bistros and lively pubs that line the streets of historic Holetown, or sit down for an elegant meal at one of the fine dining restaurants scattered along the South Coast's St. Lawrence Gap. No matter the location, Barbados' restaurants serve up eclectic fare in a spirited ambiance enlivened by the rhythms of live jazz and calypso music.
The transition from nights spent dining on open air patios to days under the sunny Caribbean sky is an easy one at this tropical getaway. The warm, tranquil waters off the West Coast are perfect for swimming, waterskiing and parasailing. Snorkelers and scuba divers eagerly take advantage of the clear view to the marine life swimming 20 to 25 meters below the surface. Steady trade winds at Barbados' South Coast make it a mecca for windsurfers, while the roaring waves along the East Coast attract surfers from around the globe.
The recreational activities continue on land where visitors can stroll through the charming fishing villages of the North Coast, bask in the blossoms of Andromeda Botanical Gardens or go for a refreshing tropical trek through the Barbados Wildlife Reserve. From the spectacular "Green Monkey" at the famed Sandy Lane to the par-3 challenge of the Royal Westmoreland Golf Club's 12th hole, Barbados is also a haven for golfers of all skill levels. Whether dancing at colorful club or lounging on a sandy beach, visitors are never at a loss for ways to enjoy the unmatched allure of Barbados.