Interested in taking a Barbados vacation? We have you covered in this guide from the Caribbean experts.
Barbados is an island country located in the eastern section of the Caribbean Sea and is a part of the island chain known as the Lesser Antilles. Bridgetown is its capital. At 21 miles long, it is one of the smaller islands, a mere two and half times the size of Washington, D.C. It makes up for its diminutive size with sheer charisma. It is nicknamed the “Land of the Flying Fish,” because the fish that fly, or glide, through the air here are a huge part of its culture and culinary history. Cruisers report entire shoals of 1,000 fish leaping and gliding 70 feet through the air. Instagram moments are everywhere.
The beaches are the most seductive part of Barbados. Here, visitors can enjoy 70 miles of sun, sand, and clear waters. The year-round tropical weather makes Barbados the ideal beach getaway for everyone. St. Philip’s Crane Beach is called one of the top ten beaches in the world. The western coast is calmer, the perfect place to unwind with a soothing island rum drink. The eastern shore boasts huge waves and great surfing. The best beaches for swimming and snorkeling are on the southern part of the island.
In the 17th century, Barbados was the primary territory connecting Portuguese and British explorers and colonizers to other eastern Caribbean nations. The British eventually claimed the new island on behalf of King James I. Barbados grew prosperous as wealthy settlers arrived from England and other parts of Europe, some of them bringing their slaves, both black and white. A thriving tobacco, cotton, and sugar industry contributed to the island’s substantial wealth. Slavery was finally abolished in 1834. Today’s Barbados population is a mix of descendants from African, European, and Oriental ancestors. One of the most famous living Barbadians is the singer Rihanna.
The island remained a British subject until the mid-1960s. The currency used is the Barbados dollar, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar. English is the island’s official language.
Although Barbados is no longer the world’s major sugar producer, it celebrates its sugar history every July during its highly anticipated Crop Over Festival. Thousands of visitors come to Bridgetown to celebrate with food and arts and crafts, especially those relevant to Barbadian history. Calypso music is everywhere. Children can dress in colorful costumes and join the Kiddies Kadooment parade.
What Is Barbados Most Known For?
Barbados and Food
Visit Barbados for the beaches; stay for the food. One of the favorite dishes is cou cou (a cornmeal dish) served with the famed flying fish. Some of the best flying fish can be had at the Brown Sugar Restaurant near Bridgetown.
Seafood is an important part of Barbados’ culinary scene. Fish cakes can be found everywhere, from street carts to exclusive restaurants. Oistins Restaurant in Christ Church Parish is famous for its Fish Fry Friday nights, which includes their wonderful fishcakes. Nothing fancy, simply the best possible fresh seafood.
A Barbados staple is Pudding and Souse – pickled pork with sweet potatoes. Try the best at the Village Bar at Lemon Arbour.
The Barbadian drink to wash down all this delectable food is rum. They take great pride in their Bajan Rum Punch.
Just about every Barbadian eatery will serve one of the kids’ favorite dishes – macaroni and cheese, a dish that is an island favorite.
Things To Do In Barbados
Barbados is famed for its pure beaches.
Bathsheba Beach on the eastern coast is made for surfers. It also has a dramatic rocky landscape that makes it a favorite for photographers. The waters are a bit rough for swimming, but it’s a wonderful place to take in the sights while enjoying a picnic.
Dover Beach in Christ Church Perish is where to go for kayaking, jet skiing, and paddle boarding. There is also a gentler portion of Dover Beach appropriate for swimming. This is one of the less crowded and more laid-back beaches. The beach bars here have a thriving happy hour.
Carlisle Bay Beach is a calm family-style beach offering swimming and snorkeling and examination of the off-shore shipwrecks. Kids love the lagoons with rock lobsters and turtles.
Catamaran Sailing and Charter Cruise in Bridgetown has something for everyone. Their three- and-a-half hour afternoon cruises include two snorkeling stops. These stops are by the waters with turtles and the other stop is at a shipwreck. Lessons are provided for novice snorkelers. There is plenty of food, from tapas, pizza, wings, fish cakes, banana bread, cheese, and sandwiches.
The company provides more intimate sunset cruises, as well.
Harrison’s Cave in St. Thomas has a huge cavern displaying stalactites and stalagmites and spectacular formations throughout. A 2.3-kilometer stream flows through the entire cavern system, which includes several wonderful waterfalls. There are several tours available, but everyone’s favorite is the electric tram which moves throughout the cave but stops for photo opportunities.
In addition to the popular tram tour, visitors can take a walking tour. For youngster between the age of 5 and 12, a Junior Explorers Tour is designed to explore the caves, rock formations, and waters.
Kids between the ages of 7 and 11 can tour the bat habitats within the cave system and learn about these nocturnal creatures.
Best Road Trips To See The Sights In Barbados
One definite advantage of visiting a small island such as Barbados that that it is easy to see the entire island with just a few road trips. These drives are meant to lure you away from the usual tourist areas and guide you through the real Barbados.
Barbados’ West Coast
Fourteen miles on Highway 1 to Paynes Bay is a great way to enjoy the sunset and calm waters of that area. Begin in Bridgetown and view the homes and villas of the well-to-do. Continue past Brighton Beach and take a swim in Paynes Bay with the turtles. You’ll be right in front of Rihanna’s place on Sandy Lane. Walk along the boardwalk by the homes of the movers and shakers.
Explore nearby Holetown, one of Barbados’ original English settlements. Continue on Highway 1 through scenic small villages and stop at Speightstown and get a glimpse of colonial life at the Arlington House Museum. Continue down the Highway to the Village of Six Men and enjoy a cold one at Braddie’s Bar while reveling in one of the best sunsets on the island.
Begin this 14-mile trip in Holetown on Highway 1 to Rock Hall and drive from one coast to the other. Enjoy the peaceful rural countryside of Barbados on your way to Harrison Caves. If you haven’t toured the Caves, this would be the time to do so. Before you leave, purchase some freshly-baked coconut bread at Celestine’s diner situated right by the cavern.
Welchman Hall Gully on Highway 2 is a good place for a picnic. Then wander through the Flower Forest Botanical Gardens, a former plantation.
Next, take Richmond Road to Highway 3 to see one of the island’s best attractions, the beauty and tranquility at Hunte’s Gardens set within a collapsed cave.
Best Road Trip for the Best Food
Enjoy a day of indulging in Barbados’ best tasty treats from coast to coast by exploring 25 miles of the island. Begin in Maxwell Beach in the southern region of the island and begin the day with the traditional Bahamian pudding and souse. Drive inland on Highway Q to the Brighton Farmers Market for homemade treats and browsing the local art exhibits.
Drive east on Highway 5 to Cutters, where you will get one of Barbados’ best sandwiches. This would be a good time for a picnic at nearby Shark Hole. Continue east on the highway until you reach Bottom Bay and simply enjoy the beach here.
Return to Highway 5 and head to Martin’s Bay and Bay Tavern by the ocean for one of Barbados’s delectable fish platters.
Take advantage of Barbados’ small size and really explore all the unexpected surprises it has to offer.
Best All-Inclusive Resort or Hotel In Barbados
At the all-inclusive Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels in St. James, guests are surrounded by clear, blue waters and white sand. It’s an all-inclusive Eden designed for intimacy. Fabulous oceanfront accommodations with terraces are just the beginning.
Adults can enjoy the romance while kids can frolic at the Flying Fish Kids Club.
The Cave Bar (located inside a cave with a gorgeous waterfall) has been selected as one of the 10 best swim-up bars in the world. There are several options for dining, including a private meal right by the water. The buffet has a large selection of Bajan-spiced specialties, including the famous fish fry.
The Crystal Cove offers glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling tours with turtles, and many other watersports.
Best Hotel for Couples in Barbados
The Colony Club
The Colony Club in St. James offers the ultimate in secluded romance with its gorgeous rooms spread out through stunning tropical gardens like private retreats. All rooms are a mere step from the shore. Relax by the beach or poolside before enjoying a couples massage at the spa. Enjoy dining and drinking on the beach in refined elegance. And don’t miss the unique Rum Vault, where you can enjoy rum pairing with 150 different types of rums.
Take advantage of a never-ending array of water sports such as boating, swimming snorkeling, and water-skiing.
Best Hotel for Families in Barbados
Sugar Bay Barbados
Sugar Bay Barbados is family-owned and promises its guests the kind of dividual care that is not always available in chain hotels. The focus is on gourmet dining and comfortable, ocean-front rooms. Th hotel has been named one of the 25 best all-inclusive resorts in the entire Caribbean. For families, the Sugar Bay offers parents a second vacation by arranging for special activities for children of all ages.
For babies and tiny tots up to three years, the Creche is open daily until 9:00 p.m. with trained nannies in charge. Off-hour babysitting services can be arranged with the front desk. The Kids’ Club is for children ages 4 through 12 and offers kids fun in the hotel’s playpark.
Teens can do their thing in the Teen Clubhouse, which is filled with an array of favorite tech games. They can also participate in the available watersports.