Being the easternmost island in the Caribbean island chain puts Barbados off the most heavily traveled tourist path. But even out east, it has been attracting visitors since the 1700s. With such a long tourism history, Barbados offers much more to do than most Caribbean islands, from terrific wreck diving to visits to some of the oldest English homes in the Western Hemisphere.
Barbados' wrecks come in all sizes. The 365-foot World War II-era Greek freighter Stavronikita was gutted by fire and sunk deliberately in 1978, just 400 yards from shore. Upright in 150 feet of water, the Stavronikita offers divers at every level of experience a chance to experience her history. The forward mast is within 25 feet of the surface and the top deck is at 90. If you like deep dives and are qualified, you'll be happy to know the huge prop is still intact below the fantail.
The Stavronikita is a big contrast to another Barbados wreck, the Berwyn, a French tug that sank in Carlise Bay in 1920. Sitting upright in just 30 feet of water, the 60-foot tug is loaded with corals, sponges and fish. Look for schools of grunts and big squirrelfish in the hold and narrow openings. This is a terrific night dive for photographing frogfish and sea horses.
The Friars Craig is a 100-foot Dutch island freighter that sank in 1984 about a quarter mile offshore in 55 feet of water. The fish-filled deck rests at 30 feet. Although the cargo holds have caved in and the stern has broken away from the main deck, the stern is still intact and allows for a swim inside the cabin and through the engine room.
Most divers favor the wrecks over the island's low-profile reefs, locally called bars. The reefs are mostly a forest of sea whips, big sea fans and huge brain corals, but they teem with fish and small marine life ideal for macro photography.
Snorkelers will find plenty of good sightseeing at Folkstone Underwater Park. A marked trail leads right from shore into the water, where underwater markers explain what you're seeing all along the shallow path.Topside, Barbados sightseeing is extremely varied, from tours of old sugar plantations to wildlife refuges to underground caves and old churchyards. It takes at least two days to explore the island thoroughly. Barbados is one of those rare islands where the topside attractions equal those underwater. Don't forget to try a flying fish sandwich, the island's favorite delicacy.