With the island haven added to the green list, we look at what it offers and, over the next few pages, the numerous diving and food options as Caribbean holidays return to the menu
Home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, a Unesco World Heritage-listed capital, and the sprawling, colourful Crop Over carnival, Barbados is one of the Caribbean’s most fascinating and enduringly popular destinations.
The former colony, where English is the official language, is unsurprisingly popular among Brits and is connected to the UK by regular, direct British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights.
The island has a wealth of hotels, world-famous beaches (all of which are public) and fantastic culture and cuisine.
Visitors usually choose between the West and South Coasts as a base. The West Coast, also known as the Gold Coast, is made up of the parishes of St Peter, St Michael and St James, and famed for its pristine and quiet beaches. Guests can choose between the likes of Brandons, Batts Rock, Fitts Village, Paynes Bay, Sandy Lane and Folkestone Park in St James, or Mullins Bay and Heywoods in St Peter.
The upmarket St James is home to hotels such as the extravagant Sandy Lane, and welcomes celebrities such as Simon Cowell, Mariah Carey and Rihanna, who grew up on the modest Westbury New Road (since renamed Rihanna Drive).
The South Coast is known for its nightlife and watersports, and is generally more affordable than some parts of the upscale West Coast. The North and East Coasts offer some of the island’s most majestic views, but are generally better suited for walking than for swimming, given the ferocity of the Atlantic waves. Carlisle Bay, just south of Bridgetown, is also a good bet. But given Barbados is only 34km long and 23km wide, it doesn’t take long to get from one end of the island to the other.
Many will spend their days sunning themselves, but the historical sights in and around Bridgetown – such as the 19th century Parliament Buildings and the city’s synagogue – are worth exploring. Ten minutes outside the city is the impressive George Washington House, where the US president once resided. It’s found in the Garrison area, once a British military base.
Elsewhere, the Mount Gay Rum bottling plant offers one-hour tours with tastings. There’s also the 17th century St Nicholas Abbey, a plantation house, museum and rum distillery and three genuine Jacobean mansions in the West.
Barbados is a key port of call on Caribbean cruises: the likes of P&O Cruises, Fred Olsen, Seabourn, Carnival Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Windstar, Star Clipper and Sea Cloud Cruises all usually begin itineraries in Barbados. The cruises tend to range from seven to 14 nights and take in the likes of the British Virgin Islands, Antigua, St Kitts and St Lucia.
The cruise terminal is located in its capital, Bridgetown. The harbour is just 20km from the Grantley Adams International Airport, and transfers cost around £20. P&O Cruises, for example, charters flights to the country, meaning customers are taken directly from the airport to the port, without having to wait around at passport control.
The port itself has cafés, bars and shops, and is a 20-minute walk to the centre of town – or there’s a minibus shuttle, which costs £1.50. A walk will take in the impressive Cheapside Market, where vendors sell clothing, crafts, fruit, vegetables, spices and more. It’s busiest and most enjoyable on Saturday mornings.
Cruise lines are slowly restarting operations from Bridgetown. Celebrity Cruises has already resumed sailings on board Celebrity Summit, and will be joined by Seabourn later this month, followed by Windstar and Crystal (from August), Royal Caribbean (from September) and P&O (from October).