Crop Over Festival honors the end of the sugarcane season with music, art, food, and some seriously bedazzled costumery.

Meet Barbados

By Nancy Rones

Photos courtesy of BTMI

Beautiful Barbados is a perennial favorite with Brits on holiday, given that the island nation is a former British colony. Yet, this tropical destination has somehow escaped many American vacationers — until now.

Recently, record-breaking numbers of tourists from the States have been visiting this compact island that lies between the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Flights between the U.S. and Barbados are on the rise as well, according to Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI).

Charlotte is included. American Airlines will introduce nonstop flights from the Queen City starting in December.

Here are eight reasons why Barbados deserves a top spot on any vacation short-list.

The crispy coconut prawns are a popular dish at The Lone Star Restaurant.

It’s a Field Day for Foodies

Flashing the titles, “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean” and “The Birthplace of Rum,” Barbados has a buzzing international food and spirits scene. Visitors get their food fix at establishments ranging from roadside stands to fine restaurants.

One should be sure to try modern and traditional takes on big-flavor Bajan food—a mash-up of African, Indian and British influences. Tip to the wise: Join the line at Cuz’s Fish Shack on Pebbles Beach in Bridgetown for fish cutters (a favorite local fish sandwich).  For fancier seaside meals, The Tides Restaurant in Holetown and The Lone Star in Mount Standfast never disappoint.

Rum is the king of libations here. A trip to Barbados isn’t complete without sipping the elixir on a distillery tour or imbibing at one of the about 1,500 lively bars and rum shops (a.k.a. rustic shacks that keep the rum, socializing and casual snacks flowing).

By happy hour, Charlotteans can be sipping rum punch with their toes in the sand.

A family walks on Miami Beach in Barbados.

One Flight and You’re There

Starting December 19, American Airlines is launching daily morning nonstops to the Barbados capital city of Bridgetown. By happy hour, Charlotteans can be sipping rum punch with their toes in the sand. Bless American’s heart.

Less Hurricane Stress

There are never guarantees when it comes to weather, but this island’s southeasterly position along the Caribbean island chain lies outside the hurricane belt. A direct hit isn’t as likely.

Gorgeous Beaches to Go Around

Eighty idyllic beaches hug this 166-square-mile island, and each coast has its perks. Head west, a.k.a. the Platinum Coast, for Caribbean-fronting beaches with calm, turquoise seas and soft golden sands; think swim, snorkel, sunset, repeat.

Off south-shore beaches, the simmering waves are perfect for watersports like kitesurfing and boogie boarding. Surfers flock to the rugged east coast to ride the massive Atlantic swells.

Starting December 19, American Airlines is launching daily morning nonstop flights to the Barbados capital city of Bridgetown.

Hotels with Personality

Sea Breeze Beach House offers stunning views like this one from its rooms.

Barbados is far from the land of cookie-cutter megaresorts. Nothing against the handful of fantastic larger resorts on-island, but this locale’s specialty is mid-to-intimate-size lodgings that are huge on warm, personalized service.

At Cobbler’s Cove, you check into an elegant English-style manor swathed in charming pops of bubblegum-pink, or retreat to a chic family-friendly all-inclusive at Sea Breeze Beach House. Wherever you land, expect special touches and a staff that knows your name.

Cobblers Cove Great House is an English-style manor swathed in charming pops of bubblegum-pink.

Mingling with Friendly Locals

Unlike some other vacation spots, visitors to Barbados should expect to stray from their resorts and connect with the welcoming people and culture here. Tourists and locals mix in the plethora of bars and rum shops, bonding over karaoke, a game of dominoes or live music.

On Friday evenings, a “melting pot” can be found at Oistin’s Fish Fry, a Barbados institution on the south coast. Crowds of residents and visitors feast on fresh authentic food (yes, lots of local fish) from outdoor vendors. They dine together at picnic tables, watch performers and just chill (what Bajans call “lime”).

They Do Festivals Right

To up the fun factor, time a trip to overlap with one of the island’s annual events. Celebrations may center on food, reggae, surfing, you name it. The spectacle of all spectacles though is the Crop Over Festival, a 200-year-old tradition that honors the end of the sugarcane season with music, art, food, culture and some seriously bedazzled costumery. The three-month-long festival goes through the summer and has been known to draw Rihanna, an official tourism ambassador of Barbados, and other celebs to the island.

Close Encounters with Sea Turtles

Let’s be honest: Swimming with gentle sea turtles is magical. (Barbados is a nesting ground for two rare species: the Hawksbill and gigantic Leatherback.) Swimmers with their own gear can snorkel around one of the notorious turtle hang-outs (Carlisle Bay and Alleyne Bay are two spots). Or, travelers can book a catamaran tour that provides snorkel gear, and possibly a meal on-board, snorkeling over a shipwreck and sunset viewing.

Photo by Cedric Frixon on Unsplash