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July 08, 2009

Beach Bytes: Barbados in Any Season


Mullins-Bay-Barbados
FRONT ROW SEAT: Mullins Bay in Barbados (Photodisc)

High season in Barbados officially begins in mid-December when North Americans and Brits (in particular) are eager to avoid their cold, beach-less winters. Nightlife comes alive on the island, and holiday activities are hopping. 

But for those in search of a good deal, or who still need a beach getaway even when the weather's warm at home, the good news is that all year is near-perfect season in Barbados.  Spring and summer rates for airfare, lodging, and travel packages are also quite enticing. This beautiful, friendly Caribbean island welcomes guests all year round, with its warm, interesting people the foremost asset. You can golf, dive, surf (or try really any water sport), plus swim with the turtles among the coral; there’s never a shortage of activity. The gorgeous beach itself provides the primary entertainment (at least for me), and beaches range from busy resort areas to secluded spots for napping under swaying palms—with an occasional break for a rum punch.

One of the highlights of summer is the Crop Over Festival, a five-week event underway right now. Its origins date back more than 200 years to when the sugarcane crop harvest was finished and called for a celebration. Though no longer based on the harvest schedule, it is the island's biggest event of the year.  The extravaganza includes dancing, parades, elaborate costumes, music competitions, fabulous food, arts and crafts, and of course lots of calypso, a style of music unique to the Caribbean. The event attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.

Apart from the beaches, there's plenty to do. Duty-free shopping is available in Bridgetown, the capital city, in department stores and jewelry shops, and in small malls outside the city. My favorite shopping, though, can be found among the craft vendors in Pelican Village or along the street in many areas. Though the tropical batiks, straw hats, and local art and pottery that are sold can usually be found in various locations, I find the browsing and light bartering to be part of the fun. One of the lovely things about Barbados is that vendors are not allowed on the beach, and hawking is not common.

Other choices for daily excursions beyond the beach include touring a rum distillery (including the popular Mount Gay label) or studying the island’s architecture, rich history, and culture.

Good food is not a secret here. Local dishes combine Caribbean influence with occasional Asian or French flair. A flying-fish sandwich was the first meal I chose in Barbados, and it’s often one of my favorite entrées. It’s local and plentiful due to its habit of flying out of the water (toward the anglers we believe) while it’s supposedly trying to escape larger fish. Other fresh fish, as well as fresh shrimp and lobster are also in abundance. Pickled sea cat, a relish made from octopus, adds a nice touch to seafood selections.

Upscale dining begins with Zen at The Crane Beach Resort for sushi, Thai, and Japanese creations. The Tides Restaurant in Holetown on the west coast is another classy spot. Carambola is an all-time favorite, especially for its water view from the cliff, as well as its lamb and lobster creations.

Sweet Potatoes for casual Bajan fare and David’s Place for stunning deck seating on the water are good choices in St. Lawrence Gap. Bistro Monet on the south coast is an eclectic restaurant with a combination of European and Caribbean flavors. Daphne's in St. James is lovely for Italian fare. The Village Bar at Lemon Arbour in St. John is in the middle of the island and a casual spot frequently recommended by all of our local sources, especially for drinks and Saturday lunch.

After you've been to the island and have tasted pudding and souse (local specialties), be sure to let me know what you think!


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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Trip Ideas

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There are some great deals at Barbados villas through www.villaluxe.com. Most have full staff and private pools!

Your write-up make me want to go there, and makes me especially want to be there during the Crop Over Festival. I have never been to the Caribbean, but I've heard that in the summer the breezes make it cooler than some parts of the U.S., including my native Florida. Assuming that is true, it's another reason to go there during that money-saving, off-peak season.

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