There’s much more to Barbados than the resorts along the azure waters and white sand beaches. Listen to the local reggae and soca beats at Oistins fish market on the island where Rihanna grew up. From green monkeys to swimming with sea turtles the wildlife is truly amazing to see. Snorkelers and scuba divers can see the colorful marine life and enjoy hundreds of beautiful shallow water shipwrecks in Carlisle Bay and beyond. Barbados is one of the safest countries in the world with free education and a 98% literacy rate, one of the highest in the world. Barbados is considered the birthplace of rum and Mount Gay distillery, established in 1703, distills the oldest brand of rum in existence, so you must try the local rum punch. Thank you to Barbados Tourism Board for hosting us on this trip.
When to visit: Barbados’ daily temperature stays close to 80 degrees F year-round. It is recommended to go to Barbados off peak, between July and November, which falls within hurricane season, but the island is so far east it rarely feels an impact. The Crop Over Festival, which marks the end of the sugarcane growing season, is one of the biggest Caribbean carnival celebrations. The Festival begins the first Monday in August with events and parties lasting 2-3 weeks.
Transportation: Fly into Grantley Adams International Airport, aka BGI. It is about a 5 hour flight from New York, 11 hour flight from LA and 9 hour flight from London. From the airport it is 8 miles to the capital, Bridgetown and about $2 by bus.
In Barbados cars are driven on the left side. The island is relatively small at about 21 miles long by 14 miles wide, taking about four hours to drive all the way around it. Taxis do not have meters so pay attention to the airport sign with taxi rates to each parish if you want to negotiate rates with drivers. There are two types of buses to get around: a blue government owned bus and a yellow reggae bus for a fun local experience.
Official Language: The official language is English, but the Bajan dialect, spoken very quickly can often be heard.
Currency: The Barbados Dollar is the official currency, but the USD is also widely accepted.
What to do:
- Harrison’s Cave: This underground cavern is a must-see natural wonder turned playground if you choose to get muddy on the Eco Adventure-Tour. Read our Know-Before-You-Go article to learn how to prepare and what to wear HERE.
- Nidhe Israel Synagogue: This pink synagogue is brimming with history and is one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere.
- Shipwrecks Carlisle Bay: Scuba dive or snorkel in the shallow waters of Carlisle Bay to see wrecks dating back to 1919.
- Animal Flower Cave: This cave located under the cliffs at the Northern tip of the island is the only accessible sea cave in Barbados. On calm days you can swim inside the cave’s rock pools.
- Bathsheba beach: Along the rugged eastern coast Bathsheba’s white sand beach, natural coral pools, and rock formations are an iconic sight in Barbados.
5 Things Not To Do in Barbados:
- Wear camouflage: It is against the law. The government does not want anyone impersonating the military.
- Bring a drone: There is a ban in place to prevent the import of drones into the country. There are a few local drone operators though who you can hire to capture drone shots for you.
- Touch or stand under Manchineel fruit trees especially while it’s raining: These trees, often marked with a red ring, are poisonous to the touch or if you are even standing under the tree while it is raining.
- Go topless on the beach: Public nudity is prohibited.
- Drive on the wrong side: The British influence causes locals to drive on the left side of the road.
What to Eat and Drink:
If you could only eat out once, go to Oistins fish market for the ultimate Barbados experience. The best day to go is Friday when everything is open, local crafters display souvenirs and everyone is there! A procession of drummers will do their rounds while you devour the freshest fish on the island. When ordering sides, ask for the macaroni pie! It is a more sophisticated, seasoned version of mac and cheese, which is baked with long tubed noodles. The national dish is worth trying as well, which is flying fish and cou cou, which is similar to grits.
Head to Cocktail Kitchen for the best variety of dishes from fish to pasta by the Caribbean “Chef of the Year” Damian Leach. Enjoy daily drink specials of 2 for 1 margaritas, daiquiris and pina coladas during happy hour from 5-7 p.m. and 10-11. p.m.
Go to Brown Sugar Restaurant for a sweeter twist on Bajan cuisine served buffet style.
The local rum punch which is made with Barbados’ own Mount Gay Rum is also a must-try. The Bajan rum punch recipe showcases its own national rhyme: one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, and four of weak. This means: one part lime juice, two parts sweetener, three parts Bajan rum, and four parts water.
Banks, the local beer is a pilsner lager nicknamed “the beer of Barbados.”
Where to stay:
The top two areas that are great to stay are the Gap area in the south if you’re looking for nightlife and the West coast if you’re looking for restaurants and a more relaxing vibe.
- The Sandpiper: This family run 5-star boutique hotel is located along the powdery white sand beaches of the west coast. Lush tropical gardens surround rooms and suites providing privacy and an award-winning restaurant serves international and local fare. $$$
- Cobbler’s Cove: This elegant coral pink and white plantation house turned luxury hotel offers colonial-style rooms with private plunge pools or terraces. Located on the platinum west coast, each of the 40 suites are individually decorated and open directly to the ocean and gardens. $$
- Sugar Bay: This all-inclusive resort on the south coast is centrally located near restaurants and bars. Everything you might need is also on property from four restaurants to a swim-up bar to a full-service spa. The lobby and rooms are decorated with pastel-colored Caribbean details. $$
- The Crane: The Crane first opened in 1887 on a cliff overlooking the pink-white Crane Beach. The location on the east coast guarantees peaceful seclusion and privacy. Some rooms have their own plunge pools but the pool over the cliff is one-of-a-kind place for a swim! $$
- Southern Palms: (photo above and photos below) Nicknamed the “Pink Pearl of Barbados,” the many buildings are all painted in pink with white highlights. The location is perfect on the South Coast in St. Lawrence Gap which is walking distance to restaurants and nightlife. The hotel comes complete with 2 pools, a number of water activities and even mini-golf and tennis. $