Barbados has the most repeat visitors of any of the Caribbean islands. Once you visit and take in the white sandy beaches, swim in the aqua blue sea, and get to know the people, you’ll see why. If you’ve not yet visited the beautiful coral island, here’s a primer to get you up to speed. Um, up to speed only to slow down once you’ve arrived and are happily on “Caribbean time.”
1. Location: Sitting outside the Caribbean island archipelago, Barbados is the eastern-most of the Caribbean island. It’s 13 degrees north of the equator, northeast of Venezuela at 13 degree north latitude and 59 degree west longitude.
2. Getting to Barbados: Direct, nonstop flights originate from Miami (3.5 hours’ flight), New York (4.5 hours), London (8 hours), Toronto (5 hours), and Atlanta. Travel on Virgin Atlantic, American, Air Canada, British Airways, JetBlue, BMI, Westjet, Delta, and US Airways.
3. Language: The English officially claimed the island as its own in 1627 and English is the official language. At a 99.9% literacy rate, you’ll have no trouble communicating — but don’t feel bad if you can’t understand some of the locals some of the time; colorful idioms and expressions pepper the language.
4. History: An English colony until 1966 when the island earned its full independence, Barbados is today known as “Little England” and is part of the Commonwealth. Long before the English, the Arawak and Carib Indians occupied the island. It was the Portuguese who named it Barbados (“bearded ones”), after the fig trees that have a bearded look.
5. Cuisine: Caribbean with African, East Indian, US, and European influences, moderately spicy with Bajan hot sauce made from bonnet peppers. Popular elements in Barbadian dishes include cou-cou (corn meal and okra), flying fish, chicken, breadfruit, bananas, plantains, and sweet potatoes.
6. The beaches: The famous sugar-white sandy beaches come from Barbados being a coral island. The Caribbean islands that are of volcanic origin have dark-sand beaches.
7. The coastlines: The west coast, called “The Platinum Coast,” is graced by the gentle Caribbean Sea. The Atlantic Ocean crashes against the east coast of the island, which is far less developed as a result. The south coast is a combination of Caribbean and Atlantic waters.
8. Where to stay: The west coast offers stunning villas and resorts up the upper price ranges and the south coast moderately priced mid-level holiday rentals. The east and north coasts offer a few modest rentals for vacationers.
9. Currency: The Barbados dollar, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar two-to-one. US currency and credit cards are accepted everywhere on the island.
10. Climate and hurricanes: It is warm and sunny all year round, with an average daytime temperature of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and the nights a bit cooler. Steady tradewinds make the warm days quite comfortable. Tropical rainstorm season runs June to October with quick rainstorms followed by sunny skies. Arising off the African coast heading toward the Caribbean, hurricanes usually swing by 100 miles to the north of the island. The last time Barbados suffered a direct hit was in 1955.