By Jo Finzi
For those in search of a tropical paradise this autumn, Barbados remains the idyllic island of choice for many seasoned jetsetters.
More “English” than the rest of the Caribbean, the islanders have happily adopted a few English customs – notably cricket. But the Bajans are just as West Indian as their island neighbours, with a liking for flying fish and rum punch. You’re unlikely to find them in a pub chatting over a pie and a pint.
“Barbados sits almost a hundred miles east of its closest neighbour, so when the Spaniards, Danes, French and others were busy fighting over the rest of the Caribbean, Barbados sat back with its Pimm’s on ice, remaining solidly British.” explains the Lonely Planet Guide.
Climate peaks at around 30°C (86°F) in the winter months. Although the tropical storms from the hurricane season are over by October, the island’s pleasant rain showers go through to December, making it an ideal Christmas and New Year destination.
Most people imagine that the island is all about warm Caribbean seas lapping on white sand beaches, but that’s just the western side.
The island’s Atlantic east side is ruggedly beautiful, and more sparsely populated. Traces of its Cornish connections can be found in the churchyards high up on the cliff tops. This also explains the unusual local accent – an intriguing mixture of conventional West Indian and Cornish.
Barbados actively promotes ecotourism - both in the ocean where its reefs are vigilantly guarded - and on land. The Barbados National Trust owns and protects many sites of interest (http://trust.funbarbados.com/).
A popular choice for visitors is Welchman Hall Gully - a thickly wooded ravine difficult for settlers to cultivate and therefore home to many rare fruit and spice trees.
For those who prefer to get a taste of the old plantation life, there’s the Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Museum and Factory. There you’ll hear the story of the sweetest product in the world, from cane-field to sugar and rum, told in an original sugar boiling house – and with a chance to taste samples!
The best hotels are on the Caribbean coast in St James. Our recommendation is the Sandpiper – recently renovated and featuring the exquisite treetop suites (http://www.sandpiperbarbados.com/accommodation-treetop.htm) and the world-famous celebrity stopover – Sandy Lane http://www.sandylane.com/
There’s also the Fairmont Royal Pavilion (http://www.fairmont.com/royalpavilion/), pictured right.
For further information check out the Barbados Tourism Encylopedia (http://www.barbados.org/) and the Lonely Planet Guide (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/worldguide/destinations/caribbean/barbados/)
or read the reviews from other travellers at http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotels-g147265-St_James_Barbados-Hotels.html