Barbados is located at the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles, in the western North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea, outside of the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. The island nation encompasses 166 square miles, measuring 21 miles long and 14 miles wide. Barbados has a well-developed, mixed economy, and a moderately high standard of living. The island is classified by the World Bank as being in its 66 top global high-income economies. Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, the economy has diversified into manufacturing, tourism, and offshore finance and information services. The island has seen a construction boom, with the development and redevelopment of hotels, office complexes, and homes.
Barbados is also one of the Caribbean’s leading tourist destinations and is the most developed island in the region. It offers everything from inexpensive guest houses to five-star luxury hotels and resorts, many of which line the island’s abundant beaches. The Boatyard is among the most popular of the many accessible beaches around the island.
The island offers much to see and do beyond the beachfront: Broad Street in Bridgetown, the island’s capital city, is home to several large department stores and duty-free. Sunbury Plantation House, which dates from 1660, features historic antiques, including carriages and farm implements. St. Nicholas Abbey is another historic home and part of new Slave Route Project, a heritage tourism initiative of the Ministry of Tourism. St. Nicholas was erected in 1650 and is one of the only three houses of Jacobean architecture still standing in the Western Hemisphere. The Abbey features Dutch gables and finials of coral stone.
Barbados’ premier festival, Crop Over, is a traditional celebration of the end of the sugar season. The festival lasts for five weeks and features markets, carnival shows, calypso concerts and colorful parades. Other special events include Holders Season, which is held in March and internationally renowned for opera, theater and music performances. The Barbados Jazz Festival has live performances seven nights in a row, each held at a different island venue.
Arlington House Museum, formerly Barbados’ first modern hospital, is located on Queen Street in the historic town of Speightstown. The 18th-century, three-story “Single House” is now restored and features an interactive museum chronicling Speightstown’s history as a port and hub connecting three continents. Duffers can tee off at one of three golf courses, including the Green Monkey, at the rebuilt Sandy Lane resort. Barbados has an active sports scene with professional horse racing, cricket (the national sport), tennis, squash and polo.
Air transportation to and from Barbados is widely available from major U.S. gateways, and there are several inter and intra-island air transportation providers. Barbados is among the cruise industry’s premier Caribbean ports, with homeport and port-of-call cruises available throughout the year.
The most popular dishes are flying fish (a Barbados icon also found on the island’s currency), “cutters,” a local sandwich made using salt bread, and pepperpot, a pork stew in a spicy dark brown sauce. Barbados’ Mount Gay brand rum is among the world’s oldest and indeed the beverage was created in Barbados.
Barbados offers extensive, reasonably priced taxi service. Drivers do not use meters and, as is the case anywhere, it’s best to negotiate the price before you proceed. Driving is on the left. The bus system is extensive, cheap, and fast. Blue-colored public buses are run by the Barbados Transport Board.