There’s a fine line between too much and too little rum on a Caribbean holiday… but be warned: once you cross it, it can lead to twerking.
Well, it was my first time in Barbados, so I figured it would be rude not to get into the, er, spirit of things.
Learning to dance – and drink – like a local was just one of many highlights on my whirlwind trip on this intoxicating island.
I was in love from the first glimpse of those straight-from-the-brochure views from the plane window as we came in to land at Grantley Adams International Airport, near the island’s southern tip.
Midway through a bleak British winter, there’s nothing quite like stepping off a plane into a blast of 30C heat and sweltering humidity.
This was nicely tempered by being whisked off to the Savannah Beach Hotel, which is all cool tiled rooms with air con, shady palm trees and breezy terraces for sipping cocktails on. It is just south of Bridgetown, the buzzing capital, and there are two pools to cool off in.
The hotel has two restaurants – trendy Asian fusion food is on offer at Chopstix Noodle Bar or try traditional Bajan cooking at Rachel’s, where the macaroni pie and lamb neck is hearty and delicious.
After eating and drinking to our hearts’ content, and soaking up the tropical evening atmosphere, some well-earned sleep beckoned ahead of an early start to take in the sights on a whistlestop tour of the island.
The pristine beaches we had spotted when coming in to land would have to wait – we were heading off to explore inland with Island Safari.
You would be forgiven for thinking a holiday to Barbados entails nothing more than lying on a beach but there is plenty to see and do.
This is a country with a rich history, which marked its 50th anniversary of independence in November more than 400 years after it became a British colony.
Perched atop Gun Hill in the centre of the island is a striking white sculpture of a lion, which marks the country’s largest military outpost.
Panoramic views from here reveal a thick carpet of the plantations which made the Caribbean a key outpost of the British Empire, evoking a rich history over which the slave trade continues to cast a long shadow.
Today, Bajans are taking ownership of their future, after half a century of self rule which has set the island on the path to prosperity.
Our 4×4 safari took us through rolling hills into tropical forests, along rugged coastlines and past the luxury hotels which support the booming tourism trade that now boosts the economy. Copious quantities of jungle juice – main ingredient: rum – and the relaxed, dry wit of our tour guide Ian fuelled our journey of discovery before a return to the Savannah Beach Hotel for sunbathing and sundowners.
Next day we headed to another SunGroup hotel, the Sugar Cane Club, on the northwest coast, where the lap of luxury awaited. Set in gorgeous green grounds, our four-star hotel had an on-site spa, where a full range of pampering packages are popular with guests and locals.
A heavenly 60-minute Green Monkey massage went a long way to soothing my sunburn.
Another fantastic hotel is the Almond Beach Resort in the far northwest.
While the stunning beaches make Barbados, it is what’s under the water which really dazzles – and a swim with the turtles hammered home how much life there is beneath the waves.
Much of the island’s infrastructure is built from coral washed up on the shore at the end of its lifespan, but just yards offshore lies a hidden kingdom – all you need to find it is a snorkel.
We shared the water with the turtles that help make the west coast such a popular tourist destination. We tried to get up close to these remarkable creatures, so slow on land, but they dipped and darted between us as we struggled to keep track of them in the water.
Our evening took a different turn with a trip to Oistins, an unassuming fishing village that becomes an all-night street party after dark.
After enjoying some of the best swordfish known to man and sinking a seemingly bottomless barrel of Mount Gay Rum, we set about learning how to twerk, with varying degrees of success. But we all agreed that the islanders really know how to party.
On our final day we just had time to squeeze in an in-depth tour of one of the vast cave networks that run beneath the surface, before heading to Grenade Hall Wildlife Reserve.
Here, a stunning array of tortoises, deer and peacocks roamed as our cameras whirred.
Our previous encounters with monkeys on the jungle safari had been all too brief as they scurried into the thick forest after stealing bananas and coconuts from roadside stalls, so this was a great chance to see them up close.
After a week of relentless sunshine, the tropical rain was almost inevitable and as we left for the airport, the heavens opened. But it failed to dampen memories of a beautiful holiday – although hopefully it washed away the locals’ image of my twerking…
British Airways flies from Gatwick to Barbados in May and June from £571 return; book by March 31 for sale fares starting at £497. ba.com .
Rooms at the Sugar Cane Club Hotel & Spa in Barbados start at £152 a night. sugarcaneclub.com .
Rooms at the Savannah Beach Hotel in Barbados start at £114 a night. savannahbarbados.com .
Oistins fish fry is the place to be on Friday nights, and Cheapside market on Saturday morning.
Feel free to drink the water on the island – it’s safe.
Buses are cheap and easy to use – and the place to be if you want to soak up the local culture.