You’ll find some of the very best hotels and restaurants in the Caribbean on Barbados’ glam west coast. But the island’s appeal is far broader than that. For British holidaymakers, it offers a winning combination of the familiar and exotic, with Anglican churches and cricket greens in every village – yet also green monkeys sometimes appearing in your hotel garden.
The beaches are good and varied, with the sea usually mill-pond calm on the west coast, and with surf in the south. It’s an island where, by and large, everything works, and the Bajans are a self-confident, dynamic lot who get things done.
Barbados also has lots to see and do – you should make time to visit the wild, wave-pummelled east coast and a plantation house or two hidden among the sugar cane fields of the interior.
Barbados is pretty safe by Caribbean standards. So while in some other Caribbean countries many holidaymakers only venture out of their hotels on the occasional organised excursion, on Barbados you can, and should, explore independently, as long as you are sensible and security conscious.
In terms of the weather, the best months are January through to April, as they are the driest and least humid, and usually a couple of degrees Centigrade cooler than other times of year. The official hurricane season for the region runs from June to November, with most major storms occurring August to October. However, Barbados’ easterly position in the Caribbean means that it normally escapes direct hits. Nonetheless, if you travel in the late summer or autumn, you do increase the risk of coinciding with poor weather, and you should at the very least be prepared for some rain.
In terms of price, winter is, unfortunately, the worst time to go, with hotel and villa rates much higher from mid-December to April than at other times of year (especially over Christmas/New Year and Easter, when additional premiums are often charged).
Taking into account both the weather and price, May is a great month to travel – accommodation rates are much lower than January-April, but the weather is almost as good as in the preceding months. Failing that, go in early December. If you’re tied to school holidays, the May half term usually works out cheaper than the Christmas, Easter or summer holidays.
Lastly, bear in mind that in the peak winter months, everywhere is pretty busy, while in the quietest months of September and October, some hotels, restaurants and bars are shut.
Where to go
Think of the island as five parts. First, there’s the upmarket west coast, where the narrow but pretty beaches are usually lapped by mill-pond calm water and overseen by luxury hotels and villas. Second, there’s the more heavily developed south coast, where the beaches are sometimes too populous with surfers for safe swimming. Third is the tranquil and unspoiled east coast; battered by Atlantic breakers, it has just a few places to stay. Fourth is the island’s rolling interior, with some absorbing sights such as plantation houses, botanic gardens and caves nestled among the fields of sugar cane. Lastly, there’s Bridgetown and its environs: though the island’s capital is not especially appealing, the nearby historic Garrison area, recently placed on Unesco’s World Heritage List, warrants a visit, ideally on a guided tour.