By Bill Bisanz | Barbados

English, preppy, exotic, Rihanna were just a few of the thoughts that came to my mind prior to visiting Barbados. Located at the southeastern end of the Lesser Antilles in the Atlantic Ocean, this independent state is one the most developed islands in the Caribbean and still has many ties to its former colonial past as part of the British Empire.

Settled by the English in the 1600’s, Barbados was an important economic powerhouse for England, mainly due to its sugar cane plantations and sugar exports. Vast fortunes were made, unfortunately at the cost of many lives, setting the stage for Barbados as a place of wealth and privilege.eveloped islands in the Caribbean and still has many tiesto its former colonial past as part of the British Empire.

Today, Barbados is still home to a privileged few, especially on its golden west coast, where several large estates dominate parts of the coastline. However, the country also has a healthy middle class and what appeared to be a well-integrated, vibrant society that, in my experience, was extremely welcoming during my first visit to their lovely island.

We spent most of our time in the Holetown area, located in St. James Parish on the west coast in the heart of the most beautiful homes and hotels the island has to offer.  I was astonished at the scale and grandeur of some of the estate homes we viewed, including the former home of the late Pamela Harriman, former US Ambassador to France. Most of the nicer homes belonged to English families, as the UK has a much greater tradition of travelling to Barbados than US citizens. In addition to the opulent beachfront estates, Holetown is also the home to the most expensive hotel I have ever heard of- the Sandy Lane Hotel. During Christmas the minimum booking is two weeks and the lowest price for a single hotel room is reportedly $2000/night. Polo and Cricket are alive and healthy in Barbados, although we didn’t check either out due to our lack of proper attire and soft ground conditions given the recent rains.

The Holetown area has a lot to offer with nice beaches, a good assortment of restaurants, several golf courses and a wide range of luxury villas for rent, most of which include a 2-4 person staff. From a family travel point of view, I think Barbados is an undiscovered gem. You can rent a luxury 4-5 bedroom villa for prices comparable to other Caribbean markets, e.g. Turks and Caicos or Anguilla, but you also get a cook, maid, laundress and butler, depending on the villa. For anyone with young kids (like me), you understand that even a luxury vacation can feel like parenting in a different location with the incumbent duties of cooking, cleaning and laundry.

We didn’t have time to fully explore the available dining options, but we did eat at a few restaurants in Holetown all of which I would return to.

  • Sitar – Indian food located on 2nd street
  • Spago – Italian food, also located on 2nd street
  • The Tides – located on the west cost road right in Holetown
  • Opa – a Greek lunch joint in the upscale, new Lime Grove shopping mall
  • Lone Star – didn’t eat here but had a drink – nice atmosphere

Other Notables:

  • Lime Grove Shopping Mall – for those with an affinity for Louis Vuiton and Ralph Lauren
  • Speightown – a charming seaside village just a few miles north of Holtetown, further up the west coast in St. Peter’s parish
  • Fresh coconut water for sale on the roadside – excellent, refreshing and healthy
  • Beautiful, historic and architecturally significant Anglican churches including the St. James Parish church on the West Coast Road
  • Several government-run fish markets dot the coast road including the MILLIE IFILL market in St. James
  • Green monkeys live all over the island including in residential neighborhoods
  • Old Year’s Night is Barbadian speak for New Year’s Eve

Overall, I was pleasantly impressed with Barbados. I felt a sense of history, culture and style that was particularly unique to the Caribbean. I look forward to my next journey to Barbados to more fully explore, enjoy and relax in this charming and beautiful island.

Oh yes, and,…. a Lime Squash is a lime-aid with fizzy water!