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Barbados

Though independent, Barbados embraces its British Empire roots. Afternoon tea remains a tradition, cricket is the national sport, and many Bajans speak with a British accent. The past is alive everywhere, including 18th- and 19th-century homes scattered around the island. A-listers and budget travelers alike flock to the island's natural pink-and-white sands and turquoise waters. Here, a dynamic culture is built on a reef of coral, colonialism, Christianity and the former slave trade -- with a calypso beat.

Things to Do

The low-lying west coast, gently washed by a Caribbean breeze, shimmers with star-studded beaches and provides divers with a colorful haven of marine life. The windblown Atlantic east coast is great for cliffhanging hikes, secret beach picnics and surfing. Relive colonial days at the Sunbury Plantation House or visit a rare Jacobean mansion at St. Nicholas Abbey. On land, Flower Forest is a fragrant oasis of exotic flowers and spice trees, and the Andromeda Botanical Garden and Farley Hill National Parkoffer even more quiet respite. Taste the island's famous libation with a tour of the Mount Gay Rum Factory.

Shopping

For the best in duty-free shopping, Bridgetown is a smorgasbord of cameras, watches, crystal, gold jewelry and local Mount Gay rum. Buy straw bags and rum cakes from the Pelican Crafts Centre and whimsical, vibrantly colored ceramics from Earthworks, a longtime artistic highlight. Find quintessential Barbados handicrafts like black-coral jewelry and clay pottery on the east coast, near Chalky Mountain. Shops across the island brim with a fine selection of locally made vases, pots, mugs, glazed plates and ornaments.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Nightlife on the west coast revolves around the big resorts, many of which have waterfront pubs and wine bars. For an authentic Bajan evening, try Baxters Road in Bridgetown for a ""caf crawl."" The south coast buzzes with sports bars and clubs, where margaritas and the local Banks beer flow freely. When the sun sets, join the party for lime, a Bajan street party.

Restaurants and Dining

Seafood, like snapper, shellfish and the popular national emblem, the flying fish, is on every menu, from five-star restaurants to beachside cafes. It's usually served with spicy cou-cou (cornmeal and okra ), but pudding 'n souse (pickled pork, breadfruit and sweet potato pudding), and macaroni pie are local specialties worth trying, too. For fresh grilled fish, rum and reggae, Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry is a must.

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