Don't make the same mistake that we made.

During a recent trip to this gorgeous island, Home-Based Travel Agent wasn't able to find time to swim with the turtles. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (well, unless you're a travel writer), and an attraction that separates this island from others in the Caribbean. A beach in Bathsheba on the east coast of Barbados offers palm trees, lush vegetation and tranquility

Barbados is home to a huge population of hawksbill and leatherback turtles, which are enormous, and interacting with them in their natural habitat is something you won't easily forget.

While most resorts offer guests turtle excursions at an extra cost, there also are some independent companies that will arrange an outing, such as Cool Runnings Catamaran Sailing Cruises and Rubaiyat Catamaran Cruises. You can ask your travel agent to book your excursions in advance.

Another must-see is Harrison's Cave, a crystallized, limestone cavern that's surrounded by clear water and flowing streams.

If it's a little history you're seeking, visit the George Washington House, also known as the Bush Hill House. This simple, yellow, two-bedroom, colonial-style home is the site of George Washington's stay on the island. In fact, Barbados is the only place Washington ever vacationed outside of the U.S. With the exception of some old beams in the ceiling, virtually nothing about the house is original. But thanks to the work of the nonprofit group the Bush Hill Tourist Trust, Inc., the home serves as the perfect replica. A tour lasts about 20 minutes and also includes a 16-minute film. Admission is $10. We recommend tour guide David Jones. Call 246-228-5461. A Few Helpful Tips

If you want to experience the true culture of Barbados, you have to visit Oistins fish market on the south coast. Here, you can experience live music, fish grilled and fried right before your eyes, locals mingling with tourists and an array of tables offering handmade crafts and jewelry. Everything in Barbados is cheap, as the Bajan dollar is twice the value of the U.S. dollar. There's no better example of a good deal than a meal at Oistins, where we treated ourselves to a plate of mahi-mahi, with a side of rice and beans and a cold bottle of Banks beer—all for $6. In fact, hours of eating, drinking and dancing along with gifts for the whole family cost us about $60.


The Abbey

For one of the best eco-friendly tours money can buy, we recommend St. Nicholas Abbey. Built between 1650 and 1660, the Abbey is Barbados' second-oldest sugar plantation. In 2006, the property was sold to a local named Larry Warren, and, as the result of his renovations, it has become quite the tourist attraction. A tour is about 20 minutes, then guests are welcome to continue to explore the grounds on their own for as long as they wish.

The tour allows you access to the St. Nicholas Abbey House and grounds and consists of the main residence, the immediate gardens and lawns, the terrace, outbuilding and courtyard, as well as a movie.

At the Abbey, rum can be purchased for $60, which includes a beautiful glass bottle. (You can choose to have one of about 50 slogans sandblasted onto its surface.) You also can bring home sugar and molasses for about $12. We recommend tour guide Heather Stoute. The Abbey is so beautiful that we expect it to become a booming location for weddings. We were told that the property already has hosted three small weddings.