Trends are a tricky thing; your instinct is to follow and buck in almost the same breath. A popular holiday destination may be the ‘it’ place to go, but will it be overcrowded and spoilt? Somewhere off the beaten track, though, can often be a lot more beaten than you’d bargained for and make you yearn for a good steak, a comfy bed and a foot massage with a view.
So should we set aside our scoffing and follow the crowds? Well, yes, sort of.
Barbados is popular, there’s no denying it, but this celebrity magnet in the Caribbean still has boundless authentic character. And with tourism has come some of the finest dining in the Caribbean, excellent golf courses, exquisite spas and hotels – not a completely unattractive offering.
So be in no doubt, there are good reasons why Britons flock to Barbados every year – and not only for a holiday: more people are choosing second homes there, not least Hollywood a-listers.
1. Luxury living but laidback too
Thanks to its butter-coloured sand, glittering bays and fine dining, Barbados has attracted something of a celebrity fan base. Elle MacPherson, Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cara Delevingne have all holidayed there. Wayne Rooney, Rhianna and Simon Cowell own property on the island.
It’s not all glitz and glamour, though, as Barbados retains much of its authenticity and colonial architecture, something that sadly cannot be said for some islands closer to the American coastline. Bars are usually beachside, relaxed affairs and the island’s lush interior has quiet parishes and small villages.
2. White sand beaches and rum punch sundowners
For cocktails in the sun, Mullins Beach Bar is an island favourite and offers delicious freshly caught seafood for lunch and dinner. Relax on the white sands and then head up for a rum punch and live music as the sun sets. With live bands in the evenings it’s a great place for authentic Bajan music and casual dining.
Beaches range from golden sandy stretches on the west coast to rugged, boulder-strewn and breathtakingly beautiful on the east side. Ensure you take a guided tour around the island’s different parishes and to the rugged beaches and chilled out surf communities on the east coast.
During the season you can watch pro surfers ride the huge waves near Bathsheba (just avoid the slightly tatty tourist stalls selling shells and T-shirts).
3. Best restaurants in the Caribbean
For special occasions book early and get a table at the five-star The Cliff. Settings don’t get much better; tables line the over-water balconies, fish swim below and grand torch flames light the restaurant. Cocktails are fantastic and you may well spot a celebrity or two.
From rum shacks and seafood grills to high-end dining spots of the rich and famous, Barbados has it all. For laidback yet stylish, head for Lonestar, an open-air Savannah-feel restaurant and boutique hotel where tables are at a premium. Enjoy beautiful seafood and steaks and relax with the sound of the waves in the background.
4. Best fish fry and live music
Oistins fish fry, every Friday night in the small fishing village of Oistins, is a Barbados institution. Get ready for live music, smoky grills and tourists and locals soaking up the vibrant atmosphere. Sit down at the plastic picnic tables for a rice and BBQ fish dinner and leave before 11pm when things can get a little more rowdy.
If you go in July you’ll be there for Crop Over, Barbados’s fantastic annual carnival. The Jazz Festival also runs in January.
5. Second home options
If all of the above leaves you smitten by the island, there are new investment opportunities opening up this year.
The gated resort, which covers 750 acres of lush landscaped lawns, lakes and gardens and a championship 18-hole golf course, has traditionally sold its mix of colonial cottages, villas and mansions. The fractional ownership scheme gives use of a four-bedroom villa as a stepping stone for guests who don’t have the time to commit to full ownership 365 days a year.
You’ll be in good company too: famous residents with homes here include cricketer Michael Vaughan, golfers Ian Woosnam and Lee Westwood, and footballer Wayne Rooney, among others.
Prices for fractional ownership start at US$56,000 (£36,300) for two weeks out of season and US$159,130 (£103,100) for four weeks.
Chris Parra from Chestertons Barbados adds: “It’s the right time to offer customers a new route into the market in Barbados. It is buyer’s market for sure.”
The property is held freehold/deeded in a third-party trust in the Isle of Man, governed under UK commonwealth property law, and ownership shares in the villas are fully transferable, sellable and willable. Owners can also exchange weeks at other resorts around the world through an affiliation with Preferred Residences.
6. Beautiful coves and swimming with turtles
Barbados is sailing heaven, and even if you’re not a skipper you can enjoy numerous boat excursions to some very special bays dotted around the coast. Cool Runnings is an excellent boat tour firm and the excellent staff ensure that young and older, families and groups mix and have a great day out on the water.
Stop off and snorkel in the clear waters, check out a shipwreck or two, see dolphins dance around the bow wave and swim with turtles off the west coast.
7. Tons of watersports and activities
Choose from parasailing, snorkelling, scuba diving and all the usual holiday options, but also tour Harrisons Caves and its beautiful stalagmites and stalactites or head for the wold-famous Mount Gay Rum factory tour.
8. Duty-free and luxury shopping
For duty-free shopping and luxury stores, visit the new Limegrove shopping centre in Holetown. Brands including Dior, Agent Provocateur, Cartier, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren have opened boutiques here with duty-free prices for overseas visitors.
9. Getting there is easier than you think
There are direct flights daily from the UK and the time difference a manageable four hours, making Barbados a pretty easy winter escape.
10. High 50 insider tips
- Tune in to the Voice of Barbados on 92.9FM for great local music, lively phone-ins and local news.
- While Barbados is one of the safer Caribbean islands, take care when on isolated beaches. And take a tour guide around the island rather than doing it independently.
- British holidaymakers can get the home-from-home feel and pick up Waitrose teabags at the local supermarket.
Chantal Borciani is travel editor High50, responsible for food, travel and lifestyle content and reports on travel trends and destinations. Twitter: @ChantalBorch