On the West Coast

A lot of the evening entertainment around here revolves around the big resorts, many of which have lovely bars, some of which host bands and beach parties in the evening.

Scarlet (tel. 246/432-3663; www.scarletbarbados.com) is a wine bar and bistro-style restaurant that's positioned in a scarlet-colored old-fashioned house across the coastal road from the House and Tamarind Bay resorts. Frankly, we prefer it as a drinking hangout and wine emporium instead of as a full-fledged restaurant, ordering a glass or two from the comprehensive wine list or perhaps any of the staggeringly potent cocktails. Try, for example, an "elderflower Collins" or a passion fruit Caipirhumba (they call it "a caipirinha revisited"). At the bar, you'll find Warhol portraits of the women who got intimate with JFK, including Jackie O. and Marilyn Monroe. Know in advance that you don't "sit" here, you "perch" somewhat uncomfortably, on a high bar stool overlooking the crowds of urbanized 30-somethings that make the place their hangout. Cocktails cost from $8 to $18. Small amuse-bouche platters of decidedly stylish food (flying-fish lollipops, smoked-salmon sushi with wasabi) cost from $8 to $14. It's open Tuesday to Sunday 5 to 10:30pm as a restaurant, till around midnight as a bar.

John Moore Bar, on the waterfront, Weston, St. James (tel. 246/422-2258), is the most atmospheric and least pretentious bar on Barbados. Open to the sea breezes and very weather-beaten, it's the nerve center of this waterfront town, filled day and night with a congenial group of neighborhood residents and a scattering of tourists. You might even find Barbados's prime minister hanging out here -- the bar is a stronghold of his island constituency, and since he won his office, things around this bar became a lot more interesting. Most visitors opt for a rum punch or beer, but you can order up a plate of local fish if you don't mind waiting.

What's our ultimate fave in the "raffish bars on the waterfront" category? It's Fisherman's Pub & Beach Bar, Queen Street, Speightstown, St. Peter (tel. 246/422-2703). Set within a dilapidated wood-and-corrugated-steel building directly on the waterfront, it's a local hangout for Bajan residents and the politicians who serve them, as well as an occasional rock, soccer, or cricket bigwig. There has been a bar here since the 1940s, with chairs and battered tables set on a covered wooden deck built over the water. Beer costs $2.50, rum punch costs $3.50, and full meals, served by an employee, cafeteria style, from a steam tray in a corner, cost from $5 to $15 each. Expect boiled chicken, shepherd's pie, flying-fish filets, and various preparations of beef. It's open Monday to Saturday 11am to 9pm as a restaurant and till around midnight as a bar. A steel band plays here on Wednesday nights.

In Bridgetown

For the most authentic Bajan evening possible, head for Baxters Road in Bridgetown, where there's always something cooking Friday and Saturday nights after 11pm. In fact, if you stick around until dawn, you'll find the party's still going strong. Some old-time visitors have compared Baxters Road to the back streets of New Orleans in the 1930s. If you fall in love with the place, you can "caf crawl" up and down the street, where nearly every bar is run by a Bajan mama.

The most popular "caf" on Baxters Road is Patsy (she has a phone, "but it doesn't work"), a little ramshackle establishment where Bajans come for fried chicken throughout the evening between around 5pm till as late as 2am, depending on business. Even if you're not particularly hungry, consider stopping in for a Banks beer.

Boatyard Bar & South Deck Grill, Bay Street in Bridgetown (tel. 246/436-2622; www.theboatyard.com), is one of the busiest and most hard-drinking of the youth-oriented bars in Bridgetown. Occupying the beachfront, the interior is lavishly decorated in bright Creole colors of yellow, blue, and pink. If you want food, the menu features simple platters of fish, chicken, or burgers. If you want to go swimming, the beach lies almost directly adjacent to the foundations of this place. Expect a 5-minute trek from central Bridgetown; hordes of dancers jiving to the DJ every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; and lots of local gossip. It's open daily 9am to sometimes as late as 3am, depending on business.

Harbour Lights, Marine Villa, Lower Bay Street, 2km (1 1/4 miles) southeast of Bridgetown (tel. 246/436-7225; www.harbourlightsbarbados.com), is the island's most popular weekend spot for dancing, drinking, and flirting. In a modern seafront building with an oceanfront patio (which gives dancers a chance to cool off), the place plays recorded versions of reggae, soca, and whatever else is popular until the wee hours nightly. Monday is Beach Party Night; the $73 charge includes transportation to and from your hotel, a barbecue buffet, drinks, a live band, and lots of theme-derived entertainment that includes limbo contests and fire-eaters. On Wednesday and Friday, the cover is $25.

On the South Coast

The bustling activity at Cafe Sol, St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church (tel. 246/420-7655; www.cafesolbarbados.com), attracts a very convivial crowd. As a specialty of the house, the bartender rubs the margarita glasses with Bajan sugar instead of the usual salt. There's an on-site local restaurant as well.

Plantation Theatre Restaurant, Main Road (Hwy. 7), St. Lawrence Main Road, Christ Church (tel. 246/428-5048; www.plantationtheatre.com), is the island's main showcase for evening dinner theater and Caribbean cabaret. It's completely touristy, but enjoyable nonetheless. Every Wednesday and Friday, dinner is served at 7:15pm, followed at 8:15pm by a show, Bajan Roots and Rhythm. Expect elaborate costumes and reggae, calypso, and limbo. For $98 you get dinner, the show, and transportation to and from your hotel; the show alone costs $58. Reserve in advance.

The Ship Inn, St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, near Oistins (tel. 246/420-7447; www.shipinnbarbados.com), is among the leading drinking, dining, and entertainment centers on the south coast. The pub is the hot spot: Top local bands perform 3 nights a week, offering reggae, calypso, and pop music. Otherwise, there's a live DJ. The entrance fee ranges from free (if you're eating dinner) to between $5 and $10. The place draws an equal number of visitors and locals.

The biggest and best sports bar in Barbados, without equal, is Bubba's Sports Bar, Rockley Main Road, Christ Church (tel. 246/435-6217; www.bubbassportsbar.net), which offers a couple of satellite dishes, a 3m (10-ft.) video screen, and a dozen TVs. Wash a Bubba burger down with a Banks beer.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.