Barbados is the ultimate luxurious and sophisticated holiday destination. With its pink and white sandy beaches, abundance of water sports, colonial architecture and lively night life there's plenty to do and see. The Caribbean island also attracts its fair share of the rich and famous so you can add celebrity-spotting to your list of holiday activities.
Barbados is rightly seen as a glamorous destination but it does have a range of accommodation, from simple rooms through to high-end luxury hotels with hefty price tags and world-class facilities befitting the jet set.
Barbados is a former British colony and a member of the Commonwealth and has retained strong links with the UK. The historic capital of Bridgetown and its garrison became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012 in recognition of its outstanding British colonial architecture dating back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It's well worth exploring the old streets and visiting the Barbados Museum & Historical Society to learn more about the history and culture of the island.
Holetown became the first settlement on the island when the English landed there in 1627. The west-coast town is in St James Parish, right in the heart of aptly named Platinum Coast which is home to the most exclusive and expensive resorts on Barbados.
The annual eight-day Holetown Festival commemorates the first landing and includes a parade of vintage vehicles, music, Bajan arts and crafts and even a beauty pageant.
Also on the west coast is Speightstown, one of the island's biggest towns. Turtles nest on several of the beaches near here, with hawksbill turtles nesting from May to October and leatherback turtles from February to July. Hatchlings emerge from their eggs after 60 days to make their way down to the sea.
St Lawrence Gap, also known as The Gap, is located on the south coast and is a lively, cosmopolitan mix of high-class restaurants, reggae, salsa, calypso and Irish bars, throbbing nightclubs and street food. For the daytime, the Gap has four beaches to choose from and another two nearby, including Worthing. With its shallow, gentle waters, Worthing is ideal for swimming and perfect for children.
On the rugged east coast you'll find Bathsheba, a fishing village with a beautiful white sandy beach stretching along a coastline with dramatic rock formations. Big rolling Atlantic waves make this a popular destination for surfers and international surfing competitions are held here.
Bathsheba is not a recommended swimming spot due to the strong currents but you can lounge in the shallow waters of the inshore pools which have been carved out of a coral reef. Just a few feet deep, it's a bit like sitting in nature's very own Jacuzzi.
The glorious beaches of Barbados and the warm azure waters are some of its main attractions. More than 70 square miles of beaches, including more than 80 of the best in the Caribbean, mean the island's sandy shores are never crowded wherever you decide to lay down your towel.
Oistins is a fishing town with a famous fish market. Come here on Friday and Saturday nights to join the locals for the Fish-Fry, an extravaganza of delicious fresh grilled and fried fish, fish cakes, coleslaw, macaroni pie and lots more. Stalls sell arts and crafts and music fills the night air, making it an atmospheric place to spend an evening.
Harrison's Cave is one of the island's most popular and famous attractions. Only rediscovered in 1976, the cave consists of a huge underground network of caverns with unusual stalagmites and stalactites, crystal-clear waters running through it and a stunning underground waterfall. One of the best bits is a cavern called The Great Hall which is more than 100 ft high.
Your tour will take you through the cave complex by tram and you can alight at some points to get a closer look at the stunning formations.
Back above ground, another popular attraction is St Nicholas Abbey plantation house. Considered an architectural highlight, the house was built between 1650 and 1660 and is one of the Western Hemisphere's three genuine Jacobean mansions.
Tours take in the well-preserved house which is laden with antiques, the gardens, the rum distillery, the rum and sugar museum and Cherry Tree Hill, a magnificent avenue of mahogany trees which were planted in the 18th century.
Barbados is known for its first-class resorts with stunning spa, pool and sports facilities, luxury accommodation and fine dining. Five-star Barbados hotels attract celebrities such as Simon Cowell, Wayne and Coleen Rooney, Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, Kylie Minogue and Michael Caine, among others. The global megastar Rhihanna is from Barbados and returns to the island when she can.
You don't have to be a celebrity to stay here, however. Cheaper accommodation is available and with the warm sea on your doorstep you don't even need to find somewhere with a pool if you're really on a budget. All-inclusive resorts offering free dining and a host of facilities and activities have grown in popularity in recent years, allowing holidaymakers to know upfront the cost of their break.
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