A long-time favourite Caribbean destination, Barbados has all the sandy beaches, sunny weather and laid-back tropical charm that you could ever wish for. The island has been welcoming overseas visitors since the 17th century, when the British shipped up with their colonial plans, fortifying this latest outpost of their empire. But even they were impressed by the island's natural, and over the centuries Barbados became a symbol of a tropical paradise, culminating in the tourism boom of the 1970s when it became the choice destination for wealthy Brits and North Americans seeking a luxurious place in the sun.

Although Barbados has retained its popularity with the rich and famous - many of which now have holiday homes on the island or one of its neighbours - it shouldn't diminish the island's appeal for those who aren't fortunate enough to count themselves among the jetset. The island now caters to all, with accommodation ranging from charming but basic beach huts to five-star luxury. With the best entertainment being the natural charms of the sand and sea, you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy a stay here either.

The west and south coasts - those on the Caribbean Sea - are the most developed and also the best for swimming. Here you'll find the long stretches of sandy beaches and calm azure waters lapping at the shore. Many visitors don't venture very far from this picture postcard Barbados. It's a shame, as the less touristy areas of the island are actually some of the most interesting. The north and east coasts, swept about by Atlantic Ocean, are wilder than their Caribbean counterpart. Less developed with resorts, they have a more natural feel to them, although the obvious caveat is that much of the sea in this area is too rough for swimming. The flipside is that it's ideal for surfing, especially on the east coast, while towards the north of the island it's not hard to find small, sheltered bays, where you'll have a beach all to yourself.

Away from the beach there are enough attractions to keep less idle visitors occupied, from walks in the forested interior to visits to plantation houses and exploring the Mount Gay rum distillery. Don't forget though that this is Barbados, where the living is easy. Follow the Barbadians' example, sit back and take it as it comes.



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