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The skinny palm trees rustling in the sea breeze, powdery soft beaches, and topaz-blue water of Barbados are so lovely you may wonder if you’ve been sucked into a screensaver. Nope — it turns out there are places on this earth that just look this way. This Caribbean island is known for its beautiful shorelines, marked not just by pretty beaches but by cliffs, secluded coves, and caves — including the Animal Flower Cave, famous for the abundance of sea anemones that cluster on its bumpy floor. The ocean is this island’s playground, and you can snorkel, dive, surf, and sail here. Come up for air and head into the historic capital city of Bridgetown, where you can partake of an open-air fish fry or upscale dining, and where you’ll find a thriving nightlife inflected with the sounds of calypso music. A former colony, Barbados earned its hard-won independence from the United Kingdom in 1966. That country’s influence remains, and tea and cricket are still popular here, but Barbados has a distinct culture all its own.
Fly into Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) located about 20 minutes from Bridgetown. Once on the ground, grab a taxi or rental car to get you the rest of the way to your destination. You won’t need a rental car on the island, unless you plan to travel off the beaten path. Taxis on the island don’t have meters, so ask for a fare estimate before booking a ride. Public buses serve major highways in urban and rural areas and require exact fare, and privately owned minibuses — called ZR vans — can be crowded.
Barbados is warm and sunny year round, though crowds are highest during the island’s dry season, which lasts roughly from winter through spring. During the wet season, you’re likely to experience daily rainfall, and days are warmer. In August the island celebrates the Crop Over Festival, marking the end of the sugar cane harvest, with days of music and dance performances, culminating in Grand Kadooment, a massive street party.
All of Bridgetown has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the colonial architecture that lines its streets. The grand neo-Gothic parliamentary buildings of Barbados, whose construction began in 1871, are operating centers of government. But they also house a museum that chronicles the country’s journey from the pre-colonial era to independence. Interactive exhibits include displays honoring the country’s heroes, such as Bussa, an enslaved man who led a significant uprising in 1816.
On an island ringed by impressively perfect beaches, it’s hard to name the best one — but many choose Bottom Bay as their ideal spot. Protected by dramatic coral cliffs, this pristine pocket of white sand is decorated with waving palms and offers an uninterrupted view of eye-poppingly blue water. It’s an ideal spot for a picnic with a view, but not probably not a swim — strong currents abound. Consider this your excuse to simply relax on the sand.
Go spelunking in this incredible cave network that features a main chamber with 50-foot-high ceilings, otherworldly limestone stalactites, a wending stream network, and an underground waterfall. You can choose your level of adventure: opt for a leisurely tram tour, or slap on a lighted helmet and tromp through the caverns, occasionally crawling on your hands and knees.