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Best of Barbados

Other notable waterfront restaurants include the Fishpot (Shermans, St. Peter; 246/439-2604; dinner for two $100), at Little Good Harbour; La Mer (Port St. Charles, St. Peter; 246/419-2000; dinner for two $125) in a new condominium development; the Eurotrash Lone Star (Mount Standfast, St. James; 246/419-0599; dinner for two $90); and Mango's by the Sea (West End, 2 Queen St., Speightstown; 246/422-0704; dinner for two $60), which has an adjoining gallery.

HOLETOWN HOT SPOTS Don't have a reservation?Not a problem. Just stroll through downtown Holetown, and if you're lucky you'll find an empty table. British chef Scott Ames goes Mediterranean at Olive's Bar & Bistro (Second St.; 246/432-2112; dinner for two $70). The Japanese restaurant Sakura (Second St.; 246/432-5187; dinner for two $75) is the Nobu of Holetown. Blue Rare (First St.; 246/432-6557; dinner for two $75), a new steak house and rum bar, serves USDA prime cuts that will make you forget about fish. In a rainbow-colored chattel house, Angry Annie's (First St.; 246/432-2119; dinner for two $76) dishes up a mean curry.

LUNCH SPOTS Select your meal from the tank at Lobster Alive (Bay St., Bridgetown; 246/435-0305; lunch for two $75), a fish shack that also supplies lobsters to most of the island's restaurants. The best tables are on the sand.

Hidden in the cool highlands above an organic flower farm, Naniki (Suriname, St. Joseph; 246/433-1300; lunch for two $55) uses only fresh ingredients in its dishes, which include stewed conch, seared shrimp with beetroot, and saltfish with ackee.

Two of the best places for flying-fish burgers are Bombas Beach Bar & Restaurant (Paynes Beach, St. James; 246/432-0569; lunch for two $25) and Fisherman's Pub & Beach Bar (Queen St., Speightstown; 246/422-2703; lunch for two $15).

BEST BRUNCHES Fisherpond Great House (St. Thomas; 246/433-1754; brunch for two $65, cash only) is said to be haunted, but the ghosts don't usually come out during Sunday brunch, which has become a who's who of island celebrities. Former hotelier John Chandler has filled the great house with antiques; his wife, Rain, cooks Caribbean specialties like pepperpot stew and guava bread-pudding. Be sure to ask for detailed directions, as the house is extremely difficult to find.

Fisherpond's closest rival is the restaurant at Villa Nova (St. John; 246/433-1524; brunch for two $110), which overlooks the hotel's gardens. Villa Nova serves dinner, but it's better to visit during the day and take a stroll through the grounds.

THE OISTINS FRY In a category all its own is the Friday fish fry in the fishing village of Oistins, an event that creates a traffic jam worse than rush hour in Los Angeles. Tiny fish shacks are arranged all along the water, but the best catch is at the Fishnet Grill (no phone), where Bajans stand in an hours-long line for $7.50 takeout dinners of grilled tuna, snapper, marlin, or swordfish. Grab a $1 Banks beer and a spot at a picnic table. As the night goes on, diners work off the calories dancing to calypso and reggae bands playing along the waterfront.

 

Nightlife

 

TOP SPOTS There's a happening night for every club and bar. But since Baku closed this summer, there has been a raging competition to take over the Saturday slot. Some say the prize might go to the new Club Xtreme (Worthing Main Rd., Christ Church; 246/435-4455), but not everyone is up for foam parties. Thursday is the night to be at the nautically themed Ship Inn (St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church; 246/435-6961), where the reggae band (and island legend) For the People plays. Fridays, head to the Boatyard (Bay St., Bridgetown; 246/436-2622), a colorful outdoor club near downtown. In a chattel house, the pubby Crocodile's Den (Paynes Bay, St. James; 246/432-7625) comes alive on Mondays, as does Harbour Lights (Marina Villa, Upper Bay St., Bridgetown; 246/436-7225), which throws a massive beach party. Throughout the week, crowds gather for margaritas during happy hour at Café Sol (St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church; 246/435-9531).

COCKTAILS Those after a cosmopolitan scene should try the bar at Daphne's (Paynes Bay, St. James; 246/432-2731) or the upstairs lounge at Olive's (Second St., Holetown; 246/432-2112).

AFTER HOURS Later in the evening, everyone flocks to Baxters Road, in Bridgetown. Also known as the Street that Never Sleeps, Baxters is lined with 24-hour rum shops and roadside chicken stands.

 

What to Do

 

ADVENTURE Sneak in a workout and a plant lesson on a Sunday hike with the Barbados National Trust (246/426-2421), which leads educational tours in unspoiled locations around the island. The free expeditions take off at 6 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and are split into three groups: choose according to how fast and how far you want to go. Call for directions; itineraries change each week.

Independent hikers can walk along the old Bathsheba-to-Bridgetown train tracks. Built in 1886, this stretch of railway was closed in the 1930's. The section from Bathsheba to Bath, where you can swim in the ocean, takes 90 minutes.

For a look at the island's hilly interior, sign up for a bicycle tour with the Highland Adventure Centre (246/438-8069; 1 1/2-hour tour $45 per person, including transportation, bike rental, and rum punch). The trip ends up on the Atlantic Coast.

Most sailings include snorkeling with turtles off Cobbler's Cove. Tip: the namesake hotel lends masks and fins to its guests. When the tour groups depart, you can swim alone with the mammals.

ENTERTAINMENT Longtime island residents Johnny and Wendy Kidd (supermodel Jodie's parents) open their plantation house every March for the Holders Season festival (Holders Hill, St. James; 246/432-6385; www.holders.net), which brings opera greats like Pavarotti to town.

Operated by the Barbados Astronomical Society, the Harry Bayley Observatory (Clapham, St. Michael; 246/427-0912; $5 per adult) lets you peek at the Southern Hemisphere through a 14-inch Celestron telescope on Friday nights. But be warned: the society operates on island time. The astronomers might be late—or might not show at all.

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