TRENDSETTERS Each guest is welcomed to the House (Paynes Bay, St. James; 800/326-6898 or 246/432-5525; www.eleganthotels.com; doubles from $550) with an in-room massage. There's no front desk; instead, your personal "ambassador," a butler-concierge, takes care of everything. The 31 one-bedroom suites were carved out of a low-slung 1960's hotel. Some elements of the former property remain—which explains the odd mix of Asian and colonial furniture. White slipcovered chairs, teak checkerboard sets, and giant urns with flaming torches set the scene in the main area.
With just eight rooms, the Lone Star (Mount Standfast, St. James; 246/419-0599; www.thelonestar.com; doubles from $350) can barely be called a hotel. But this former roadside gas station still manages to attract a fashionable clientele with its Philippe Starck-inspired design. Guests can roll out of bed and be drinking coffee at a table on the beach in as much time as it would take to walk down the hall at a bigger resort.
BOUTIQUE HOTELS Housed in one of the oldest structures on Barbados, the newly opened Little Good Harbour (Shermans, St. Peter; 800/347-9154 or 246/439-3000; www.littlegoodharbourbarbados.com; doubles from $226) is a sweet Bali-meets-Barbados find. The 15 one- to three-bedroom cottages—all with full kitchens—are modeled after chattel houses, but the best rooms are in the 17th-century stone fort.
Just up from Miami Beach on the south coast, the stucco Little Arches (Enterprise Beach Rd., Christ Church; 800/860-8013 or 246/420-4689; www.littlearches.com; doubles from $163) throws in extras, depending on the length of your stay. Two weeks in an ocean-view suite ($269 a night) will get you a free cliffside wedding ceremony.
THE CLASSICS A cluster of high-end hotels falls into the category of lovely place to stay, nothing much to say about it. Sister hotels Coral Reef Club (St. James Beach, St. James; 800/223-1108 or 246/422-2372; www.coralreefbarbados.com; doubles from $330) and the Sandpiper (St. James Beach, St. James; 800/223-1108 or 246/422-2251; www.sandpiperbarbados.com; doubles from $330, including breakfast) have recently been redone with sophisticated fabrics and West Indies-style furniture.
Down the beach, another pair of siblings has had a much-needed update: Fairmont Glitter Bay and Fairmont Royal Pavilion (Porters, St. James; 800/441-1414 or 246/422-5555; www.fairmont.com; Glitter Bay doubles from $339, Royal Pavilion doubles from $389).
BEST VALUES Sea-U (Tent Bay, Bathsheba, St. Joseph; 246/433-9450; www.seaubarbados.com; doubles from $95) is a clean and attractive five-room guesthouse run by Uschi Wetzels, a former travel writer from Germany.
On the tip of the south coast, the Silver Rock Resort (Round Rock, Silver Sands, Christ Church; 800/868-9429 or 246/428-2866; www.gemsbarbados.com; doubles from $100) is a water-sports haven. Windsurfing champion Brian Talma can often be spotted offshore.
At the Coral Sands Beach Resort (Worthing Beach, Christ Church; 800/588-9504 or 246/435-6617; doubles from $158) all the rooms have kitchenettes and overlook the white sand.
Casuarina Beach Club (St. Lawrence Gap, Dover, Christ Church; 800/223-9815 or 246/428-3600; www.casuarina.com; doubles from $110) takes its eco-friendly approach very seriously—guests are asked to recycle in their rooms.
ALL-INCLUSIVE With so much to do on Barbados, it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to stay at an all-inclusive resort. But Almond Beach Club & Spa (St. James; 800/425-6663 or 246/432-7840; www.almondresorts.com; doubles from $500) keeps its fans content with a spa, four bars, three pools, and two restaurants, including Enid's, modeled after a famous local chicken joint with the same name.
TOP RESTAURANTS In recent years, as chefs have found it easier to import ingredients from abroad, the Barbados food scene has taken off. Some claim the catalyst was the Cliff (Derricks, St. James; 246/432-1922; dinner for two $165), which opened on a precipice in 1995 and raised the bar with such innovative combinations as Cajun salmon on a spicy eggplant salsa with Indian curry oil and minted cucumber relish.
The oceanfront Carambola (Derricks, St. James; 246/432-0832; dinner for two $100) puts an Asian spin on seafood dishes. Witness: Vietnamese-style lobster and snow-crab spring rolls with sweet and hot sauce. Owner Robin Walcott guarantees nightly stingray sightings.
What a difference a new location can make. Being moved from a nightclub onto the grounds of the Royal Westmoreland villa development utterly transformed La Terra (Porters, St. James; 246/432-1099; dinner for two $100). Before opening his restaurant, Barbados-born chef Larry Rogers traveled the world, dreaming up recipes such as jerked-pork gnocchi served over a sweet pea purée.
SEASIDE SPLURGES A number of Barbados restaurants supply the perfect combination of fabulous food, beach setting, and flawless service. The sexiest new entry is Daphne's (Paynes Bay, St. James; 246/432-2731; dinner for two $115), from the owners of the House hotel. The dimly lit room has carved Indonesian teak panels and tables surrounded by silk curtains, to ensure privacy. The menu takes its inspiration from Italy, with minestrone di verdure, and linguine and spicy crab.
Casuarina trees grow through the roof at the Tides (Balmore House, Holetown, St. James; 246/432-8356; dinner for two $110), run by Guy and Tammie Beasley, both of whom trained under the Roux brothers at France's Le Gavroche.
Josef's (Waverly House, St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church; 246/435-8245; dinner for two $150) provides a respite from raucous St. Lawrence Gap. Request a table by the water and indulge in twice-baked goat cheese soufflé, lobster thermidor, and warm rum cake.