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Barbados Essentials

What to See
Barbados is a mix of natural beauty, British colonial history and Caribbean charm. Rent a car, motor scooter, or bicycle and explore for yourself -- and when you're done, pull up a stretch of beach and make it your own.

The capital city of Bridgetown feels a bit like a miniature, Caribbean-esque London, especially along Broad Street, the main shopping drag. History buffs should head for St. Michael's Cathedral, the island's "father" church, and Trafalgar Square. Or take the 45-minute Mount Gay Rum Tour at the rum maker's Bridgetown visitor's center (246-425-8757).

Ride the electric tram through the otherworldly chambers of Harrison's Cave, a natural cave where you can see bubbling pools, craggy stalactites and streaming waterfalls. Advance reservations are recommended (call 246-438-6640 or reserve online).

Check out the island's natural beauty at one of its botanic gardens. Orchid World (Highway 3B, St. George Parish, 246-433-0306) lives up to its name, with thousands of exquisite blooms. Combination admission is available to both Orchid World and Flower Forest (St. Joseph Parish, 246-433-8152), where you can see a wider variety of flowers (and, if you're lucky, a few monkeys!). A bit further afield (but worth the trip) is Andromeda Botanic Gardens (St. Joseph Parish, 246-433-9384), showcasing palms, orchids and waterfalls with lovely views of the island's east coast.

Rent a car or hire a driver and head up to gorgeous North Point. On the way you'll drive through St. Lucy Parish, in the heart of Barbados' agricultural region; grown here, in addition to the ubiquitous sugar cane, are onions, squash, cucumbers, beans and cotton. At North Point, the Animal Flower Cave (named for sea anemones found in its pools) is one attraction; the view is quite another. Waves bash against dramatic 80-foot stone cliffs, sending spumes of water in all directions.

A good choice for the independent traveler in search of Kodak moments is a drive to Cherry Tree Hill; after winding through a grove of mahogany trees, you'll come to the second-highest point on the island, overlooking the white-flecked Atlantic surf and a valley nicknamed "Scotland" for its rolling green hills. Then head downhill and continue with a drive along the magnificent Atlantic coastline.

Pick a beach and let the world pass you by. On the southern part of the east coast, Crane Beach, with its cliffs, dunes and pink sand, has received accolades as one of the Caribbean's prettiest beaches; it's a great place for body-surfing. For romance and calm waters, check out the stretch of coastline in Holetown between Sandy Lane and Payne's Beach.

Where to Shop
Most of the shopping in Barbados is in Bridgetown, the capital city, where you can find plenty of duty-free goods, clothing and souvenirs. Authentic Bajan crafts are available not only in Bridgetown but also in other hideaways all over the island.

Prices are duty-free at Cave Shepard and Harrison's, two Bridgetown department stores that stock a bewildering variety of luxury goods like spices, made-on-island pottery and clothing. (Note: To get the duty-free prices instead of paying the much higher local prices, show your airline ticket or cruise card.) More shopping in Bridgetown can be found along Broad Street.

A few minutes outside downtown Bridgetown is Pelican Village (Princess Alice Highway, 246-427-5350), housing artisan boutiques and a working cigar factory. It's closed Sundays.

Earthworks Pottery (Edgehill Heights, St. Thomas Parish, 246-425-0223) is located mid-island -- not exactly convenient, but worth a detour. (Note: You can also buy some of its pieces at Cave Shepherd in Bridgetown.) The studio produces one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces such as vases, microwave-safe dishware and decorative items.

Next door to Earthworks Pottery is the Potter's House Gallery, located in a blue and white chattel house, where you'll find Caribbean crafts made out of clay, glass, fabric and metalwork. There's an adjacent cafe.

There are a number of artsy-crafty souvenir boutiques in Holetown, about halfway up the island's west coast; we especially like the colorful Chattel Village.

Related Links
  • Finding a Vacation Rental
  • The World's Best Beaches
  • Write About Your Trip to Barbados!
  • Caribbean Deals and Resources
  • Get the Independent Traveler Newsletter

    --written by Sarah Schlichter
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