No port of call in the southern Caribbean can compete with Barbados when it comes to natural beauty, attractions, and endless stretches of pink and white sandy beaches. Its fertile land once made British colonial plantation owners rich; now it’s tourists who pay to see the tropical rainforests and gardens of the island. Cruise ships dock at a modern terminal about 1 mile from the capital, Bridgetown; taxis, tour buses, and shuttles meet the boats to help passengers sample the island’s natural beauties. top draw In the island’s center, Harrison’s Cave (www.harrisonscave.com ) takes visitors through a massive crystallized limestone cavern aboard an electric tram. smell the roses Barbados’ green center has a wealth of topnotch gardens. Two of our favorites: the preserved rainforest of Welchman Hall Gully (www.welchmanhallgullybarbados.com ) and the Flower Forest (www.barbados.org/flowfrst.htm ), a former sugar plantation now overrun with tropical flowers and trees. slice of history Get a sense of Barbados’ plantation past at the 300-year-old Sunbury Plantation House (www.barbadosgreathouse.com ), the only plantation great house on Barbados whose rooms are all open for viewing. bottoms up A variety of tours are offered at Bridgetown’s Mount Gay Rum Distillery (www.mountgayrum.com ), a Barbados institution which claims to be the world’s oldest rum top beaches On Barbados’ western coast a.k.a. the Gold Coast baby-powder sand and calm waters are ideal conditions for sunning. Bridgetown’s Fresh Water Bay has a trio of fine beaches: Brighton Beach, Brandon’s Beach, and Paradise Beach.