A white-sanded paradise and the Caribbean home of stage and screen’s finest, Barbados makes a lasting impression upon visitors. Whether it’s the kind climate, hospitable culture or traditional food and drink, we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to just kick back with rum punch in hand and simply drink in the paradise views.
Got a thirst for exploring? Here are 15 brilliant things to do while in Barbados...
1. Do a walking tour of Bridgetown
Aside from having a great selection of shops and street markets, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is filled with fascinating historic sites to explore. See the National Heroes Square, formerly Trafalgar Square - home to Lord Nelson’s statue. And marvel at St Michael’s Cathedral, the Bridgetown Jewish Synagogue and Parliament Buildings – all accessible by foot. Why not end the day with a refreshing rum punch by Bridgetown harbour at sun down, watching fishermens’ boats and catamarans sail by.
2. Visit the Garrison Savannah
A historic military base, Garrison Savannah is home to architectural splendour and is worth taking a day to explore. You’ll see the beautiful Matthias Church once used by British Forces, the ruins of St Ann’s Fort and the famous Savannah race course where plantation owners used to race their horses. These days, the track is home to many other sporting activities. And many people come here to fly kites, go jogging or simply watch the world go by!
3. Find flora and fauna
From the Andromeda Botanic Gardens to the lush oasis of Hunte's Garden, Barbados is heaven to the green-fingered types. With dense Caribbean jungle and leafy paths filled with tropical plants, Hunte’s Gardens is an enchanting place to explore. The legendary horticulturalist Anthony Hunte sometimes even greets visitors himself, with welcoming stories and a refreshing glass of rum punch. You can make a day of it by visiting the nearby Welchman Hall Gully, a tropical forest cave home to 2,100 exotic plant species and green monkeys. And close by, Harrisons Cave unveils stalagmites and stalactites that date back thousands of years.
4. See the giant Baobab Tree
Visit Queen’s Park and you the magnificent Baobab Tree will be easy to spot. One of the largest trees on the island, it takes approximately 15 adults to stretch their arms all the way around its enormous trunk and it looks like it’s come straight out of a fantastical story book.
5. Sample local delights
Wherever you visit in Barbados, trying the island’s soul food is a must. Street side stands offer the best in macaroni pie, and of course fried chicken, rice and peas. And Speightstown is home to the Fisherman’s pub, a no-frills locals’ spot where you’ll get some of the best flying fish, and traditional specialties like cou-cou and pepper pot. For something more upscale, The Cliff, a celeb spot in St James and Daphnes, a waterfront restaurant in Paynes offer seafood and fusion cuisine in a romantic setting.
6. Drink in the Bajan spirit
It’d be wrong to visit Barbados and not sample its most famous tipple. A cheeky tour around Mount Gay Rum Distillery reveals a fascinating insight into the island’s identity. Smell the heady aromas as you pass huge vats of molasses and sample a variety of aged rum blends. Or why not visit the family-run Foursquare Rum Distillery that’s home to Rum Sixty Six. The more modern Malibu Visitor Centre is worth a visit too. It offers tastings of its coconut-flavoured Malibu, all by the picturesque Brighton Beach front.
7. Visit the home of sporting heritage
Horse racing, polo and car rallies are all popular sports in Barbados, although a trip to the Sir Garfield Sobers stadium leaves you with no doubt at what the reigning sport is here. Bridgetown’s historic Kensington Oval, the ‘mecca’ of cricket, was once the grounds of a plantation house. Now an ultra-modern stadium and home to a statue of Sir Garfield Sobers himself, it hosts rum-swilling crowds, lively entertainment and some of the best cricket action in the world.
If you’re heading out at the end of July/early August then get ready for Carnival as a wealth of costumes, street food and good vibrations carry across the island as smoothly as the perennial warm breeze. Known as the ‘Crop over’ festival, it dates back to the 1780’s and celebrates the sugar cane harvest. See Calypso and Soca competitions and witness the coveted ‘Pic-O-De-Crop’ announced at the island’s Kensington Oval stadium.
9. Experience a ‘lime’
A party is known as a ‘lime’ to Bajan people and the best place to experience one is at Oistins Fish Fry which is held every Friday and Saturday. This fish market in Christchurch is where fishermen bring in the local catch by day, and where a party atmosphere emerges by night. There’s Calypso music and dancing on stage, stalls selling arts and crafts and traditional Bajan BBQ food. Locals often then head to nearby St Lawrence Gap afterwards, home to plenty of clubs and bars.
10. Visit charming Speightstown
Arlington House is a restored 18th century building in Speightstown – a quaint port twinned with Reading in England. Over three floors of interactive exhibitions, you can watch fascinating videos about local people and learn about the island’s sugar cane production and slave trade history before hearing ‘pirate’ tales of its trading past. With an onsite café and souvenir shop too, it makes for a great family day out. Why not stroll around Speightstown itself. Spot fishermen bringing in their daily catch and the charming colonial buildings will feel like they’re miles away from the tourist hotspots.
11. Soak up the Plantation history
For a glimpse of colonial history, why not visit some of the few remaining Great Houses on the island. Sunbury Plantation House in the tranquil St Philip countryside offers tours of its antique-filled rooms and unique collection of horse-drawn carriages. You can even enjoy candlelit Plantation dinners unveiling the grand lifestyle that plantation owners used to lead. Fisher Pond Great House, hidden away in the Parish of St Thomas is equally as elegant. Why not try their Bajan Sunday brunch? Even food critic Michael Winner was a fan.
If you can tear your toes away from the super soft sand then you’ll be treated to an underwater experience like no other. From swimming with turtles to watching vibrant coral reefs, there aren’t too many activities quite as enchanting as a good old snorkel. Above the water watersports such as kayaking, windsurfing and kitesurfing are all guaranteed to get the pulse going.
13. East coast waves
The East Coast is famous for being a surfer’s heaven and home to many surfing championships. So if you’re turned on by huge waves, head to northern Bathsheba – home to the famous reef break known as the Soup Bowl. This reef-filled part of the Atlantic is for advanced surfies only. But the beautiful rugged coastline, sea front restaurants and weird rock formations that point out of the sand, are worth the visit alone.
14. Explore the star-studded West Coast
The West Coast isn’t known as the Platinum Coast for nothing. Home to the rich and famous with many upmarket hotels and villas you’re sure to feel like a VIP if you visit. Splash your cash at the boutique Lime Grove shopping mall, filled with designer clothes, jewellery and trendy bistros. And if you’re looking for a special romantic getaway or something a little quieter, this is the place to be. It’s dotted with gourmet restaurants and beautiful adults-only spots like The House on Paynes Bay. The waves here are calmer too.
15. Take a catamaran trip
For the ultimate Caribbean experience check out the Virgins Ahoy trip that takes you on a crewed catamaran ride along the exclusive West Coast. Then if you want to venture below the water, Barbados is full of great scuba diving opportunities. You could see shipwrecks, hawksbill turtles, giant sand eels, sea horses and a variety of other amazing sealife.