Barbados has always been on the top of my “to-visit” list, so I was thrilled when I finally got the opportunity to go there. Here are three cool facts about Barbados that had me wanting to know more; 1) It is the most easterly Caribbean island, 2) It is an independent country built on a rich British and Caribbean culture, and 3) You are almost GUARANTEED to see a monkey here, probably in very close proximity. Barbados has a modern airport that makes traveling here easy with direct flights from popular cities including New York, Miami, London and Toronto. Unless you are familiar with the island, it is recommended you get a driver to pick you up from the airport. We zipped through some of the more local neighborhoods and through the sugar cane fields which all made for a nice introduction to Barbados. At last we arrived at Villa RL GRE where we were buzzed through the gate and followed the driveway for our first glimpse of where we would be staying for the next 3 nights. This is a lovely villa made of coralstone with lush gardens that make it very private even though you are bordering the famous Sandy Lane golf course. We had a pleasant welcome from our cook Nancy and maid/laundress Amaria who took such good care of us during our visit. Barbadians have a natural friendliness about them that makes this island pleasurable to visit. The villa itself is a real find since it was recently renovated and the result is a very bright and comfortable interior. I had the best girly pink and green bedroom ever, I never wanted to leave. The pool at this villa is really large and great for laps. We were swimming at every chance we had. We were all excited to be staying at the Sandy Lane Estates which is a central location intermingling with the golf course and just 5 minutes to the beach. Oh, and did I mention that the monkeys love to hang out in this area? We had our first monkey sighting on the evening of our arrival as we were lounging on the veranda. I couldn’t believe it when this creature emerged from behind the bushes just 12 feet from us! He looked at us and slowly walked by, unimpressed by my obvious awe. He then walked over to the Jacuzzi, looked back at us once, then hopped over and into the woods. Amazing, what a welcome to Barbados! Many of the estate houses, including ours, have cabanas at the beach adjoining the Sandy Lane hotel beach. This is a great asset to any house because it allows you to park at the beach and open up the cabana (a large storage closet) where beach chairs and other toys are stored. The staff there will set up all your stuff for you, and there are bathrooms and a fresh water shower to rinse off in. The swimming is great right there as well. And if you are really lucky, as I was, Bongo Man will be strolling the beach selling foot massages. The west coast of Barbados, where we spent most of our time, is a very active, vibrant area. The main road there is lined with villas, hotels, restaurants and shops. If you are staying off this road, you can easily walk to dinner via the road or beach. The beachfront villas can be reached through a smaller road or the actual driveway right off the main road. They are typically set back from the road behind gates which allow the villas very nice privacy and a shield from road noise which can’t be overheard over the sounds of the ocean. There are quite a few beachfront options in either a villa or a condo; here are some of my favorites: Villa AA EB1 is a 2 floor condo set directly on Gibbs Beach. It is one of only 6 condos in the complex which has a shared pool just steps from the villa. I could see 3 couples sharing this villa and enjoying meals in the gazebo prepared by the private cook. The price is a great deal especially when you consider that you are on one of the best beaches and have a pool! Villa RL HER is an elegant villa with beach frontage right on the Sandy Lane beach. This villa is for the guest who is looking for a grand estate with everything at their fingertips. This villa also has a large pool, a private tennis court, and is built of coralstone in an elegant but comfortable manner. Villa BS WHV is a recently renovated 4-bedroom villa on Gibbs Beach that would be great for families. It is right on the beach and has a very nice pool. The décor is fresh and bright and there are great gathering places like the beachside veranda for family dinners. One of the unique luxuries when staying at a Barbados villa is that you are pampered by a full-time staff that typically consists of a maid/laundress and a cook. Many of the larger villas also have additional staff which can include a butler who will help you coordinate your activities. For some people the idea of staff may seem foreign, I know it did for me. I wondered how comfortable we would feel with a staff in the villa. Any fear I had was totally unwarranted, because the ladies and gentlemen that work at the villas are very professional and experienced. They know how to get their work done and make your stay more pleasurable in the most discreet and friendly manner. We quickly adapted to this new way of living with our clothes freshly cleaned and pressed each day, and lovingly prepared meals served as the days schedule required. Each villa cook will have their own style, but many of them can and will cook any type of food you desire. We had some wonderful meals including our arrival dinner of fried flying fish, a blueberry apple pie for lunch one day that I will NEVER forget, and chicken and rice dinners that were cooked with the most delicious spices. Dining in at the villa is not only convenient and delicious; it’s a great way to save money as well because the staff is included in your rental package, so all you are paying for is the food which we found to be very reasonable. One of my favorite things about Barbados is how varied the activities are there. If you are there purely for relaxation and privacy then you will love being tucked away in your villa estate with a staff to take care of the details. For those who are looking for activity; the west coast beaches are great for sunning, snorkeling and boating. You can also spend a day driving along the quieter and rugged east coast where surfers like to play. We spent an afternoon exploring the east coast and I loved the contrast from the west. The waves were bigger and the coast rocky and extremely picturesque. We passed a few dozen hikers that were headed out for a mountain hike, and saw some teens surfing the Soup Bowl. Getting around the island by car is pretty easy as the roads are well taken care of and there are signs, although we also recommend a co-pilot who can be following the map. As we drove around we saw a lot of great sites that I would like to go back and visit like the botanical and wildlife preserves, The St Nicholas Abbey, and the Mount Gay rum factory. One activity that we did treat ourselves to was a glass bottom boat tour and snorkeling. I highly recommend it! It was reasonable priced at $35 and was a 2 hour ride along the coastline with 2 snorkeling stops where we swam with turtles, floated over gorgeous coral full of tropical fish, and snorkeled over an old ship wreck.