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If your idea of a holiday on an Island Paradise consists of lounging on a sunbed, cocktail in hand, with gentle waves of a stunningly clear blue sea lapping against the sand, and the sun beating down - with just an occasional cooling breeze - as the sound of birdsong mingles with the vibrancy of a reggae beat…you might well be in Barbados.

Friends of my wife, whose work in yachting had led them to regularly visit the Carribean, suggested we consider it for our November break. As this fell at the latter end of the Hurricane season, they recommended somewhere in the South Carribean which would be less likely to be troubled by storms. We ended up booking Barbados through Tropical Places (who I found in the past to be excellent) and got a very good deal on an all-inclusive holiday at the Almond Beach Club which is a no-kids resort hotel on the West Coast, in the next bay to Barbados' most famous hotel the Sandy Lane.

One of our reasons for choosing Barbados was that it is a direct flight from the UK - and surprisingly only seven and three quarters hours away. British visitors will also appreciate that they drive on the same side of the road as us - which makes hiring a car a fairly comfortable experience.

You get a sense of Barbados' laid back attitude the moment you arrive and it is sometimes easy to mistake this for diffidence, but don't be fooled, the chances are that your request has been noted and will be dealt with.

Bajans are generally a warm and friendly bunch but they tend to do things at a relaxed pace, which is fine as soon as you get into their way of thinking - relaxation seems to be the name of the game in Barbados.

The island certainly has everything you would expect of a tropical paradise - coconut trees, humming birds, a rain forest, blue coral-reefed seas and miles of sandy beaches. If, however, you expect to find a deserted stretch of sand you are likely to be disappointed, as all of Barbados' beaches are public. Beach-side hotels, however, will have their own sun loungers which are for hotel patrons only and are guarded by hotel security - which means that you can sunbathe pretty-much undisturbed even by the beach vendors (who tend to be very mild mannered in comparison to those in some places).

The climate is pretty even with average temperatures varying between the high sixties and low eighties - however, make no mistake, when the sun comes out it is HOT. In the July-December period it's also pretty humid, which means you need to be well protected against mosquitos.

Barbados may be small, but there's no shortage of attractions. An Island tour will give you a good taste of all there is to offer - and high on a list of "must-do's" are: Harrison's cave, a visit to one of the Island's Rum distilleries - Rum is Barbados' main export - and one of the flower gardens or forests. Inevitably, however, you are never very far from the sea and many of Barbados' best activities are water based.

Feeding the turtles is a superb, low cost excursion from most hotels. If you want something a little more exclusive, try a catamaran cruise or deep-sea fishing and, for anyone who fancies examining the marine life of the Carribean from 150 feet below the waves, a voyage on the passenger Submarine Atlantis will prove to be an unforgettably brilliant experience.
Bridgetown, the capital, is also the bustling commercial centre of the Island. Everywhere there are signs of the country's heritage as a former British colony and also its passion for Cricket - Barbados' national sport.

For many visitors, however, I suspect that the main attraction will be that Barbados is simply a superb place to chill out.
All-inclusive holidays are increasingly popular in the region - and it's not hard to understand why. You will never run short of food, the watersports (if our experience is typical) are excellent - with sailing, water skiing, winsdsurfing, kayaking, snorkelling and more, all included. And of course, with unlimited Cocktails, it is almost possible to drink your way into profit at UK prices! One word of warning, however: Make sure you really know what you are getting by way of hotel.

The Almond Beach Club was almost great but was let down by a lot of detail niggles - especially for a Four Star establishment. The room was OK but needed a good lick of paint and the bathroom was tiny with rusty fittings. The beach area was too small for the number of guests - and there weren't enough sun loungers. The menu was limiting and their Dine Around programme (which would have allowed us to eat in restaurants around the island) had been cancelled; we were able, in theory, to dine at the sister Almond Beach Village Hotel - but the popular restaurants were booked up days and days in advance.

Oh yes, and nobody told us that the swimming pools area was going to be under repair for a large chunk of the time we were there - had we known all this we might well have booked the Almond Beach Village or even another hotel.

When all is said and done, however, we still had an enjoyable, generally relaxing, holiday and would both love to return to Barbados - so we have no hesitation in recommending a visit.

Make sure, however, that your travel company is really on the ball - and if you aren't sure shop around until you are certain what you are going to get for your money.



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