GETTING THERE: Pan American flies daily from Washington to Barbados with one stop in Miami. Eastern Airlines flies nonstop from Miami, and American, BWIA and Pan Am offer service from New York. The winter high-season round-trip economy fare from Washington, Monday through Friday, is $630 for departures through April 14. Weekend fare is $719.
GETTING AROUND: Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive. A three-hour taxi tour costs $50. Bicycles rent for $25 a week, motorscooters for $100 a week. There are also buses that run all over the island for about 35 cents. But the best way to see the island is to rent a mini-moke. (Remember to take your driver's license; otherwise you will have to take a written test.) License fee is $15. Mokes rent for about $35 per day on a three-day basis or $150 a week. Gasoline costs $5 a gallon.
WHERE TO STAY: Almost every hotel on the island is on the beach and has a pool. Many have tennis courts but only Sandy Lane, Heywoods and Rockley Resort have golf courses. The range in rates is vast, from $55 to $365 double, without meals, this winter
In addition, there are guest houses and fully staffed luxury villas for rent. Rates for guest houses range in winter from $17 to $54 double, without meals, and in summer from $13 to $45.
For more information about accommodations, contact the Barbados Board of Tourism, 800 Second Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017, (212) 986-6516.
WHERE TO EAT: La Cage aux Folles and Bagatelle are very good and have set menus at about $40 per person without wine. I found Josef's, Koko's, Reids and the Treasure Beach less pretentious, with a la carte menus and prices ranging from $12.50 to $36 for three courses of very good food. For Barbadian cooking, the Atlantis Hotel, Brown Sugar and Giggles all serve terrific lunch buffets less expensively than dinner.
* FESTIVALS: An exuberant people, the Barbadians delight in celebrations -- you can drop into one at almost any season. The biggest festival of the year is called "Crop Over"; it takes place the last two weeks of July. Historically a plantation festival for slaves to celebrate the end of sugar-cane harvesting, it now draws many Barbadians living abroad back home for the festivities. Elections are held at the end of the festival in a show called Pic-o-de-Crop. The Calypso King is crowned along with the king and queen who have cut the most cane (plantations keep a running tally) and the king and queen of bands (from 15 to 20 costumed groups). The high point is a sort of Mardi gras celebration, a national holiday called Kadooment Day.
Other annual island festivals include: The Holetown Festival is the February celebration of the first settlement of Barbados in Holetown Feb. 16, 1627. Street fairs, traditional food.
Oistins Fish Festival takes place on Easter on the south coast, with boat races, casting and fish-boning competition.
Independence Day is Nov. 30, with a reception at the Prime Minister's residence following a month-long cutural festival.
Old Years Night is the Barbadian equivalent of New Year's Eve, on the same night.