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Area: 430 sq km (166 sq mi)
Population: 264,000
Capital city: Bridgetown (pop 7500)
Language: English
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Barbados is a distorted pear-shaped island lying 2585km (1610mi) southeast of Miami and 860km (535mi) northeast of Caracas, Venezuela. It's about the size of a large US city. The western coast has white-sand beaches and calm turquoise waters, while the cliff-lined Atlantic eastern coast is much more turbulent. Coral reefs surround most of the island. Over eons the buildup of coral on sedimentary rocks has created the bulk of the island. Water permeates its soft coral cap, creating underground streams, springs and limestone caverns. The most notable of the caverns, Harrison's Cave, is one of the island's leading tourist attractions.

The best time to go to Barbados is during the cooler, drier months of late winter and early spring (February to May). Keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season when prices are higher and places most crowded.

The capital of Barbados is a busy commercial city set on Carlisle Bay, the island's only natural harbor. It's an architectural hodgepodge of modern and colonial, with side streets leading off into residential neighborhoods sprinkled with rum shops and chattel houses. True to the island's British heritage, there are monumental obelisks, gothic parliament buildings, and a large Anglican cathedral. Military history buffs should head to the Barbados Garrison, the 17th-century base of the British Windward and Leeward Islands Command. It has a museum, fortifications, brigs and cannons a-plenty.

It's the oldest town in Barbados, but you'd hardly know it from its modern appearance. Founded in the 1620s, Holetown is now a major cog in the island's tourism machine. You can absorb some of the town's history at St James Church, a 19th-century structure that still has traces of its 17th-century past, including a bell inscribed with the name of King William.

St Lawrence
Along the southwestern coast there's a cluster of small, low-key towns with excellent beaches that provide much of the island's low to mid-range accommodations. St Lawrence, about 15km (9mi) southeast of Bridgetown, is the liveliest, offering plenty of opportunities to boogie down or fill up on flying fish. Dover Beach, the town strand, has powdery white sand. A few minutes' walk west along the beach at low tide brings you to the towns of Worthing and Hastings, which have interesting local crafts and lovely white-sand beaches.

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