WHY WE LOVE IT
- Superb resorts, soft, calm Caribbean beaches, friendly if button-down locals, and the wild Atlantic coast.
- Sunset cruises, buggy rides round Harrison’s Cave, visits to historic houses and rum distilleries.
- The best golfing in the West Indies, with several world-class courses.
- Sports you’re unlikely to see much at home, like cricket and polo.
- Swimming with hawksbill turtles, diving to shipwrecks, surfing the gnarly Soup Bowl at Bathsheba beach, parasailing together into the sunset.
- Nightlife that's not in your face but totally there if you want it.
- Music galore! Ballroom and disco at Oistins Friday Fish Fry, calypso at the Crop Over Festival, one of the Caribbean’s biggest jazz festivals, in January.
WHEN TO GO
From December through mid-April come high-season high rates. Find bargains during the (unlikely) hurricane season, from June through October.
WHAT TO PACK
Bathing suits, polarized sunglasses, sunblock, camera, U.S. passport, U.S. dollars in small denominations (bills, not coins, accepted in some stores), binoculars (if you’re a birder). For evenings, bring smart-casual clothing; a few of the fancier restaurants request that men wear jackets for dinner.
WHAT TO BUY
Locally made Mount Gay and E.S.A. Field rums, funky square plates from Earthworks in St. Thomas, calypso and soca CDs.
To marry in Barbados, you both must apply at the Ministry of Home Affairs. Foreigners are not required to bring birth certificates (or certified copies of them), although they are recommended. If you’re divorced, you’ll need a certified copy of the divorce decree; if widowed, a death certificate and a previous marriage certificate. The fee is BDS$200, in cash (BDS$1=US50¢/CAN50¢). There is also an additional BDS$25 stamp for the marriage license that must be brought on arrival before going to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Check out the special wedding and honeymoon site: idobarbados.com.
Bathsheba, St. Joseph
You'll definitely want to sample Bajan food while you're down here, and this open-sided spot on the east coast serves affordable, tasty versions of longtime island faves. The chefs pay homage to the traditional cuisine with pepperpot (a spicy beef-based stew) and, for adventurous types, healthy heapings of souse (pickled pig's tails and ears), but the menu also includes contemporary riffs on Bajan fare. The Sunday and Wednesday buffets are popular with locals and visitors alike. Atlantis, inside a rustic, historic hotel of the same name, isn't fancy, but it's plenty fetching, not least for the views out over the surf from the covered terrace.
Just south of Bridgetown, the patios and gardens of an old manse have been converted into an atmospheric eatery whose Planters Buffet Lunch, served daily except Saturdays, has become an island tradition. The Sunday edition is especially popular. But come sundown, when lanterns light the tables and you dine to the sound of gentle gurgling from the water gardens, Brown Sugar becomes completely romantic. The seafood here is swimmingly fresh—the version of flying fish is an absolute winner—and the chefs turn out beautifully presented updates on local dishes such as curried lamb, roast pork with plantain-bacon stuffing, bread pudding and a pie made from paw paw, a fruit whose flavor hints of banana and mango.
The allure of this cliffside alfresco stunner, where stingrays glide by in the waters below, is more than just the super-romantic atmosphere: Many people think it's flat-out the best restaurant in Barbados, with the best wine list and the best chef, Paul Owens. His au courant menu borrows mostly from England and the Mediterranean, with an occasional detour to Thailand, and the desserts will have you seeing stars (so might the prix-fixe rates). You can dine in a covered breezeway or on the open terrace—either way you'll be treated to voluptuous full-frontal sea views and wafting breezes. Call to reserve your table well ahead of your visit to this popular establishment.
Start off a superb evening watching the sunset while sipping lemon-meringue or passion-fruit martinis at this sophisto offshoot of famous Daphne’s in London’s Chelsea. (Try not to stare if you spot England's Prince Andrew or Sir Richard Branson sitting nearby.) Next door to the House on Tamarind Cove (see Sleep) and owned by the same folks, the restaurant serves modern Italian cuisine in a beach-chic indoor dining room and outside on an idyllic sand-side terrace lit at night by flaming torches. Milanese-born chef Marco Festini’s take on porcini risotto is creamy-dreamy, and we’d certainly cross the island for his pork saltimbocca with sage gnocchi or his mahimahi with peperonata (tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic, sautéed in olive oil), fried zucchini and asparagus.
St. Lawrence Main Road
A great bet for upscale Bajan, David's Place, south of Bridgetown along a cute section of St. Lawrence Bay waterfront, isn’t trendy or chichi, but it is warm, romantic and pretty. And the food, accompanied by the house cheddar-cheese bread, is absolutely delicious. If you dig shrimp or fish (steamed, blackened, grilled, in soup or as fishcakes), then this is the place for you. Should you dare to, you can sample not only flying fish but also barracuda. Vegetarians will be pleased with the extensive pasta and salad selections; save room for David’s locally famous coconut-cream pie.
The signature restaurant at the chic Sandy Lane resort (see Sleep), is renowned for creative cuisine, but management upped the ante in 2008 by hiring the globe-trotting Scottish chef Grant McPherson. The dishes have become even more imaginative: The molasses-glazed sea bass most def does it for us, as do the nouvelle-Asian accents of dishes like the tempura chicken breast with pickled-cucumber salsa and the spicy beef-noodle salad. The wine list surveys the world's best grape-growing regions; take the guesswork out of your own selections by opting for the wine-pairing menu. With armchairs and elegant florals, L'Acajou's rose-tinted dining room can come off a tad stuffy, but the atmosphere's looser outside at the terrace tables—plus you get views of sturdy old mahogany trees (in French, les acajous).
OISTINS FISH FRY
For a laid-back break from trendy fusion, make a Friday-night excursion to the south-coast fishing village of Oistins for its unpretentious street-food feast. Various fish shacks prepare seafood every which way—grilled, barbecued, fried—and you dine at picnic tables. As the evening progresses, you can dance cheek to cheek to the sound of retro ballroom numbers or shake your bonbon to old-school disco. Calypso, reggae and steel bands also perform along the waterfront. If you're vacationing at Easter time, don't miss the Oistins Fish Festival, which celebrates the area's fishing heritage.
RAGAMUFFINS BAR & RESTAURANT
Holetown, St. James
Should you find yourself hankering for funky and fun, as opposed to quiet and intimate, slip over to this casual spot inside an old wood-frame chattel house (where plantation workers lived). You’ll love the straightforward dishes—local curries, blackened fish with garlic, fishcakes with dip and chicken-breast nut crumb—almost as much as the convivial atmosphere. The scene in the back garden is fairly mellow, but inside, where the walls are decorated with colorful murals and fishing nets drape from the ceiling, things can get pretty lively (sometimes heading toward rowdy)—the owners and wait staff are real pistols. Ragamuffins is small and popular, so call to reserve a table, especially if you want to catch the, ahem, drag show on Sundays.
SASSAFRAS AT SUGAR HILL
Royal Westmoreland Road
Mount Standfast, St. James
Recently relocated but still in fine fettle at the très chichi Sugar Hill Resort, a five-minute drive north of Holetown, this open-air, white-and-earth-tone dining room serves up primo H2O views. The chef's pan-Asian and global-fusion twists on Caribbean favorites yield goodies like the crawfish cakes with green-papaya jam and the spicy udon-noodle salad with Szechuan duck. The wine list is relatively short, but it's impeccably chosen and the reasonably priced selections pair well with the innovative cuisine. The well-attended Sunday brunch includes a prix-fixe option that’s an exceptional value.
When in Barbados’ capital, have dinner or at least lunch at Susan Walcott’s restaurant. Inside a historic converted warehouse, it sits right on the Careenage marina, with views of a flotilla of fishing and pleasure boats and, behind them, the parliament buildings. You can sit outside and catch the breeze, or inside, where locally made artworks (they're for sale) hang on the walls. If one of you craves Bajan—crab cakes, flying fish, jerked pork, pepper pot and other dishes—but the other is homesick for a juicy burger, you'll both leave satisfied. Visitors and even some locals flock to the Tuesday-night Bajan buffet and steel-band show; there’s live music on most other nights too—jazz, calypso, Latin, Dixieland.
Speightstown, St. Peter
Tel: 246-422-2291, 800-890-6060
Relais & Châteaux counts just five properties in the Caribbean, and it’s no surprise that one of them is this luxurious pink-and-white palace toward the northern end of the west coast. With 40 suites divided among 10 villas that flank a garden, it's intimate and elegant; you'll feel like you've checked into a stately English castle. All the requisite resort amenities are provided—a swimming pool, tennis courts, spa-treatment rooms and a gym—and of course there's prime beachfront. But the biggest deal is the Terrace Restaurant, whose brilliant chef, Christophe Letard, oversees the Euro-modern-meets-Caribbean cuisine. For a super splurge, book the Colleton Suite, whose extravagances include a private rooftop terrace with a plunge pool.
CORAL REEF CLUB
Tel: 246-422-2372, 800-223-1108
Like Cobbler's Cove a manse turned resort (though with 88 rooms, cottages and suites, it's more than twice as big), Coral Reef is plenty elegant yet more laid-back than Cobblers or Sandy Lane (see below). Owned and run by three generations of the O’Hara family—also responsible for another super property in the area called the Sandpiper—this is a sweet spot indeed, with a dozen palm-filled acres of lush gardens, buildings with white gingerbread gables and a talcum-white strand; the beachside restaurant's a class act too. As much as we adore children, we also love that from mid-January to mid-March this resort is a tranquil kid-free zone.
THE CRANE RESORT & RESIDENCES
Tel: 246-423-6220, 246-416-6531
Once upon a time (specifically, in 1887), an 18th-century plantation was converted into the what's now the oldest operating hotel on Barbados. On a 40-acre swath of the southeast coast, it’s still going strong, thanks to a mammoth, soon-to-be-completed expansion project. The impressive results to date include three upscale restaurants and a new acre-and-a-half pool area with waterfalls. From among the 202 rooms, suites, and villas you can choose one in the original manse if Victorian chintz and mahogany are your thing; opt for one of the new buildings if Caribbean-goes-Vegas swank floats your boat higher. The pièce de résistance for us, though, remains the gorgeous pink-sand crescent out back.
Tel: 246-426-0200, 877-464-4586
If you like being as close as possible to the shopping, dining and nightlife of Bridgetown and St. Lawrence Gap, consider staying at the Hilton, a short hop away and a good-value resort with all the trimmings. Other places may have more attractive buildings, but the hotel's contemporary facilities (it was built in 2005) and setting on a small peninsula—providing sweeping sea views to all 350 tastefully designed rooms—are top-notch. Even the conference business and the high-volume family traffic can't keep this place from being a swell honeymoon choice. Here are a few more things we like: the beautiful trio of palm-fringed pools (one an infinity) spanned by a bridge and that cute little lighthouse thingie overlooking the beach.
Tel: 246-432-5525, 800-467-4519
A paean to maximalist pampering amid minimalist chic, this 34-suite boutique hotel on the west-coast resort corridor’s Tamarind Cove is part of the five-property Elegant Hotels group. The ambience is Bali-meets-SoBe, with terracotta floors and crisp white arches, walls and practically everything else. Servers in white robes pad around the ample decks and sleek bar. They’re pompously titled "service ambassadors," making this the rare diplomatic service that provides complimentary massages (in this instance to new arrivals). From scented candles to Frette sheets, luxe touches abound, but the greatest highlight just might be the house cantina next door, Daphne’s (see Eat), an offshoot of the sophisticated modern-Italian original in cool Britannia.
Barbados vacationers flock to the west coast, but some find the rugged east side more dramatic and compelling. (Surfers certainly do: For them Bathsheba beach’s Soup Bowl is a world classic.) You’ll find less exorbitant rates over here, along with fewer and less elaborate places to stay. The best option is this handsome whitewashed and very affordable inn dating back to the 18th century but brought nicely into the 21st with a pool, a good restaurant and 24 attractive rooms that have all the mod-cons—check out No. 226, which has a wet bar, a double Jacuzzi and two balconies. Right outside is a nine-mile-long beach and an 85-acre rain forest; not far off you’ve got Bathsheba fishing village, the beautiful Andromeda Botanic Gardens and several other attractions.
PEACH AND QUIET
The appealing whitewashed garden compound of Brits Adrian and Margaret Loveridge sits on a pretty patch of oceanfront at the island’s southern tip, about a 20- or 30-minute drive by car from Bridgetown. The 22 cheerful rooms have their own terraces or balconies and either surround a courtyard or are situated elsewhere on the property. The pool's pleasant, and there's a good bar and a restaurant that serves organic local fare. Children younger than 12 aren't allowed, boosting the romance factor considerably. All this is yours at amazingly affordable rates—about $100 a night. A few caveats: The rooms are fan-cooled and lack TVs and phones, you have to take a short stroll down to the water, and the place is closed in summer and early fall except for weddings and other special events.
Tel: 246-444-2000, 866-444-4080
One of the Caribbean’s most famous resort names since it opened in 1961, this 112-unit classic has been reinvented several times, most recently and completely in 2001, practically from the ground up. In our new gilded age, outrageous luxury at outrageous rates continues to spell success. Mingle with moguls and models in the 47,000-square-foot spa and out on the stunning beach, or wallow in your sumptuous suite (700 square feet is a small room here), opening your push-button drapes to test the parabolic speakers on your ample terrace. L'Acajou (see Eat), one of the island’s top restaurants, is on-site, and with three fabulous golf courses the resort is a duffer’s dream. Not a bad choice, if you don’t mind the occasional whiff of old- and new-money snootiness.
SUNSWEPT BEACH HOTEL
Holetown, St. James
Relatively inexpensive honeymoon spots near the beach aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in Barbados, and they're rarer still where most lovebirds want to be: along the west coast’s hotel corridor. But this little resort on a stretch of beach above über-fancy Sandy Lane pulls off the trick neatly. The service is friendly, and though the 23 rooms won't win design awards, they’re cheerful, clean and comfortable, with kitchenettes, private baths, balconies or patios and all the basics you’d expect: air-conditioning, phones and TVs. There’s a handsome little pool area out back, and while there’s no eatery on premises, a great one called Cocomos is next door. You’re right in Holetown, so other good places, including Ragamuffins (see Eat), are nearby.
This east-coast resort, centered on the historic "great house" of a sugar plantation established in 1834, is undergoing renovations and will reopen sometime in 2008. The 15-acre estate—which before it became a posh resort hosted British royalty and other bigwigs—provides an intimate experience. Exquisite Victorian antiques grace the rooms and suites, which have the usual high-end mod-cons, and the public areas include a dining room, a spa and gym, tennis courts, and a piano bar and tea terrace. The pool's downright bucolic, a good thing because you'll be using it more than any of the coastal beaches, which on this side of the island have rougher surf.
BARBADOS NATIONAL TRUST HOUSE OPEN HOUSES
Life's one big garden party on Wednesday afternoons from January through April when the Barbados National Trust (Wildey, St. Michael, 246-426-2421; trust.funbarbados.com) opens up approximately 13 mansions, most of them private. Get an eyeful of history touring architectural masterpieces and sip punch and munch on canapés on the expansive lawns. The mansions open for touring change each year; in 2007 one of the open houses was the prime minister’s residence in Bridgetown, Ilaro Court. Other standouts included the 18th-century Lascelles House, near Holetown, and Las Palmas in Rockley, now the official residence of Brazil’s ambassador.
The Caribbean coast (also known as the gold or platinum coast) has Barbados' most popular strands and the calmest waters, yet it never feels too crowded. The top beaches include Paynes Bay, Sandy Lane Beach, Church Point (with diving/snorkeling at Folkstone Underwater Park) and Mullins Beach. The Atlantic coast, on the other hand, is more dramatic, rugged, much more unspoiled (and undeveloped) and at spots like the Soup Bowl at Bathsheba, Crane Beach, Cattlewash and Bottom Bay has the kind of gnarly waves and currents that surfers and windsurfers groove on. Down along the southern shoreline you’ll find medium surf at places like Carlisle Bay, Accra Beach, Sandy/Carib Beach and Silver Sands. Needham’s Point and Dover Beach are two good bets for swimming and snorkeling.
Pull yourself away from duty-free shopping to explore Bridgetown's "Little England"-style architecture and monuments. Top examples include National Hero'sSquare, the site of a statue of Admiral Nelson put up in 1813 (well before London's was erected), and the 17th-century St. Michael Cathedral, where George Washington didn’t sleep but supposedly did pray. They say he slept in what's now called the George Washington House (georgewashingtonbarbados.org), which you can visit. It's just south of B-town. Near Trafalgar Square you’ll also find the dignified neo-Gothic parliament buildings with their stained glass. And finally, you don’t have to be Jewish to be verklempt by the simple elegance of the Bridgetown Synagogue (trust.funbarbados.com), one of the oldest synagogues in the western hemisphere and still used for worship.
They know how to toss parties down here, and it’s worth timing your post-nups to take advantage of them. First up is mid-January’s Barbados Jazz Festival (246-437-4537; barbadosjazzfestival.com); one of the Caribbean’s biggest jazz fests, it holds events in venues like Sunbury Plantation House and Farley Hill National Park. In early April, the Oistins Fish Fry (see Eat) goes on steroids to become the Oistins Fish Festival (oistins.org), with parties, races, arts and crafts and competitions (lordy, don’t miss the fish-deboning race). The biggest party of all may be Crop Over (cropoverfestival.bb). Hitting fever pitch during the first week in August, it commemorates the harvest in the island’s defining industry: growing and processing sugarcane. Lubricating the event are gallons of hopped-up sugarcane juice (um, that would be rum).
The island’s lush 166 square miles have in recent years become well known for their alluring links. The three major world-class options are the 18-hole, par-72 Ron Kirby course at the Barbados Golf Club (Durants, Christ Church, 246-428-8463; barbadosgolfclub.com); Sandy Lane (St. James, 246-444-2000; sandylane.com/golf), with a choice between the Old Nine and the Country Club; and the Robert Trent Jones championship 18-holer at the Royal Westmoreland Golf Course (St. James, 246-422-4653; www.royal-westmoreland.com). If you’re determined to play every hole on the island, you could also have a whack at the nine-hole Rockley Golf & Country Course (Rockley, Christ Church, 246-435-7873; rockleygolfclub.com), near Bridgetown, and another nine-holer at Almond Beach Village (Heywoods, St. Peter, 246-422-4900; almondresorts.com), up the west coast near Speightstown.
Near the Flower Forest and Welchman Hall Tropical Forest Reserve (St. Thomas), a few miles inland from Holetown, Harrison's Cave is probably the island’s most popular attraction. People explored parts of the breathtaking cave system as long ago as the 18th century, but Harrison's Cave didn't open to the public until 1981. There are stalactites and stalagmites galore, of course, but you’ll also see underground streams, lakes, waterfalls and chambers full of phantasmagoria. Unlike at many other caves, here the tour is via electric cart, though you get off a couple of times to get closer looks at this and that.
MOUNT GAY RUM TOUR
Spring Garden Highway
The world's oldest rum distiller (it dates back to at least 1704), now mostly owned by the Rémy Cointreau Group, puts on some pretty entertaining (hic!) tours at its visitor center with a re-created rum shop, a movie and views of an assembly-line setup. But let’s face it, the distilling part plays second fiddle to the tasting section. Line up a designated driver—or a taxi, or call the visitors center to arrange transportation—and sip to your heart's content. BTW, if you’re keen to see the actual distillery, ask about making a reservation for a tour.
ST. NICHOLAS ABBEY
Cherry Tree Hill
Not a church abbey but rather one of the island’s oldest great houses, this pointy-gabled pile sits amid 200 acres of sugarcane fields on the northeast coast. Built around 1658, the manse is on the Barbados National Trust's open-house roster but also welcomes the masses year round—well, on the ground floor, anyway. One of only three true Jacobean (i.e., early 17th-century Renaissance) residences in the Western Hemisphere, it's worth a look for the original furniture and fetching Chinese Chippendale staircase. Workers still mill cane and make molasses and rum right here on the estate.
SWIM WITH SEA TURTLES
Dolphins? Oh, puh-lease—been there, done that, Flipper. But a friendly wallow with these huge, craggy but gentle dinos of the deep (hawksbills and leatherbacks) is something you can’t do every day or everywhere, now, is it? This is one of the Caribbean’s top marine-turtle meccas: There’s even a foundation here, the Barbados Sea Turtle Project (246-230-0142 for the "turtle hotline"; www.barbadosseaturtles.org), dedicated to restoring the local marine-turtle population and preserving their environment. Tour operators that will take you for a swim, snorkel or glass-bottom-boat peek at various offshore habitats include Adventureland (246-429-3687; adventurelandbarbados.com), which runs shipwreck visits to Carlisle Bay in custom-built yellow Power Cat speedboats.
WALKIN’ IN THE MOONLIGHT
Hike Barbados (246-228-8027; barbados.org/hike1.htm) conducts free (though donations are welcome) three-hour walks on Sundays, including one (the Stop 'n' Stare), which will give you the inside scoop on the nature, history and society of different parts of the island. The tours we like best, though, are the Moonlight Walks, which take place only during a full moon. You'll go to rain forests, beaches, historic monuments, plantations, whatever (the hikes vary). The Stop 'n' Stare is probably the best choice for honeymooners; at five or six miles tops, it won't leave you too pooped to canoodle after the stroll.
BEST OF BARBADOS/WALKERS’ WORLD
(Also five other locations)
A Brit who moved here with her husband in 1955 and launched this line of gift shops 20 years later, painter and graphic designer Jill Walker created a line of locally made products from the sweet to the silly to the sublime. Now run by her daughter Susan and son-in-law Chris, her shops certainly stock plenty of tourist tchotchkes (mouse pads, potholders, refrigerator magnets) but also carry classier items such as antique map reproductions, art prints, candles and books on local lore. The shop even has its own line of perfumes. Besides the Christ Church location, there are locations in Rockley’s Quayside Centre, Holetown’s Chattel Village shopping center, the Southern Palms Hotel in St. Lawrence Gap, and the airport and cruise terminals.
As you walk along Bridgetown's Broad Street, look for the multiple pointy gables on the blue-and-white facade of the Caribbean’s largest department store, in business since 1906. You’ll find a respectable bit of everything, from big international and designer brands to local rums, music, books and, of course, tourist souvenirs and T-shirts. Cave Shepherd operates an inexpensive weekday shuttle service from many resorts. The Bridgetown store is the this chain's flagship location, but there are branches at the airport, in Worthing on the south coast and up on the west coast at Holetown’s cruise-ship terminal and the Sunset Crest West Mall. By the way, you’ll also see its competitor, Harrison’s, here on Broad Street and elsewhere on island.
Prince William Henry Street at Victoria Street
Like many Caribbean islands, Barbados is crammed with places to buy shiny metal and sparkly rocks. Chains like Little Switzerland, Diamonds International and Emeralds International are all represented. But we recommend giving your business to a homegrown operation whose merch is just as good—and at similar duty-free prices. Trained in California at the Gemological Institute of America, Maurice Correia moved here from Guyana and set up Barbados’ oldest gem, jewelry and watch emporium in 1961. Correia knows his stuff backward and forward—this gemologist’s a world-class diamond cutter from way back, not some young Indian gal who parachutes in from St. Thomas or wherever for high season. He also sells Seiko and other brands of high-end watches.
Another Broad Street icon is the historic Colonnade Building, a low-slung Victorian-era vision in pink and white. These days it houses Bridgetown’s biggest and best-known mall, with nearly three dozen shops, mixing local offerings with famous names like Little Switzerland, Tiffany and Coach. A unique boutique here is called Flamboya, with clothing painted or dyed with tropical scenes. If you’ve got kitchen facilities in your room and want to use them, the mall has a good supermarket. The restaurants and food courts at Dacostas make it an excellent lunch stopover; after you eat you can check your e-mail at the Internet café. If you can't find what you need at this mall, other options include the nearby Broad Street Mall and Mall 34.
DASRAT SUGRIM LTD.
St. Lawrence Main Road
If you’ve been enviously ogling the gorgeous dark-wood furniture at the island’s mansions and high-end resorts, here’s your chance to buy some for your new household. A skilled craftsman and antiques restorer, Dasrat Sugrim is an ethnic Indian from Guyana whose showroom, a short drive along the south coast from Bridgetown, is filled with dining room, living room and bedroom sets, along with desks crafted out of dark rich mahogany or white-stained pickle pine. If you don’t spot the sideboard that made you swoon at Lascelles House or St. Nicholas Abbey or wherever, go and snap a picture for these folks and they'll build you an amazing copy.
EARTHWORKS/ON THE WALL GALLERY
2 Edgehill Heights
In the interior hills east of Holetown, Canadian-born David Spieler oversees the funky fiefdom founded by his mom, Goldie, in 1983. The pottery studio cranks out colorful, whimsical, even poetic bowls, boxes, plates, platters, cups and vases (all lead-free, dishwasher-safe and microwaveable). The craftspeople here will do special commissions too. Next door at the On the Wall Gallery, David’s busy bees sell island paintings, and there are also a batik-making studio; a gift shop selling jams, cakes and books; and a little cafe with fantastic front-porch views over the valley. Not far from Harrison’s Cave (see Play), the complex makes for a delightful stop, and if you’re in the market for charming table service for your new household, they've definitely got you covered.
GALLERY OF CARIBBEAN ART
Northern Business Centre
Speightstown, St. Peter
Just north of Cobblers Cove and the string of other west-coast resorts, this eclectic 2,600-square-foot gallery represents more than 50 fine artists from countries and territories all across the Caribbean basin (from Cuba and Haiti in the north all the way down to Guyana on the coast of South America). Barbadians are especially well represented, among them Heather Dawn Scott (exquisite impressionist watercolors), Neville "Oluyemi" Legall (colorful realism) and Vincent Castellanet (scenes from the locally beloved game of cricket and luminous portraits). There’s also a branch of the gallery down on the south coast, in the lobby of the Hilton at Needham's Point (see Sleep).
HEATHER HARRINGTON JONES FINE JEWERLY
Holetown, St. James
Montrealer Heather Harrington Jones came down here in 1999 after a long career as a diamond buyer in Canada to run this little boutique in the village of Holetown. On first thought, there's no reason to plug yet another bunch of imported merch, nice as it might be, but this stuff is spectacular, and some of it is truly unique. There's jewelry from Italian designer lines such as Calgaro (stunning woven-gold and -silver pieces), Mattioli (molto elegante yet often whimsical), Nanis (from plain to very fancy) and Tagliamonte (pure romance in metal and stone, with its Cupids and flowers transformed into brooches, rings and necklaces). Tutto bellissimo, eh?
PELICAN CRAFT CENTRE
Some travelers diss this group of studios, shops, and eating and drinking spots as an overpriced tourist trap—it was, after all, set up for cruise-ship day trippers. But the quality is good, and even if you don’t buy (first compare prices elsewhere on island), it can still be fun to browse. You might even spot glassblowers at work, Diane Bourne-Daniel sewing her dolls or the ladies at the Caribbean Cigar Company rolling and cutting premium stogies. Custom jewelry, straw bags and baskets, sauces and condiments, clothing, shell art—it’s all here in a one-stop venue. You'll even find fine art—mostly paintings and prints but some sculptures—at the gallery of the Barbados Arts Council.
THE SHELL GALLERY
Off Highway 1
Gibbes Hill, St. Peter
We won’t blame you for thinking this sounds like some cheesy tourist shop in Cape Cod or Daytona Beach, but Anne Smith and Sue Staffner’s otherwise unassuming little place on the west coast—it's between Holetown and Speightstown—is worth a visit for its museum-quality riot of one of nature’s coolest "art forms." The shells come from all over the Caribbean and elsewhere: You'll be blown away by the endless colors and variety of the shells. The gallery sells conventional gifts like ceramics, marine-motif china, shell boxes and so forth, and there's a great selection of locally made crafts incorporating shells.