Top 10 Things to See and Do
1. Barbados’ south coast boasts some of the best surfing conditions in the Caribbean, and with surf schools scattered liberally up and down the coastline, they can be enjoyed by those at all different levels of experience; especially popular is the famous Soup Bowl, the site of the annual Reef Classic Barbados international surf contest held each November. Generally, the best months tend to be from August to March, with veteran surfers and adrenaline junkies taking to the waves during the hurricane season from September to November.
2. A calm antithesis to the surf-mad south, the calm, turquoise waters of the west coast make it a haven for a plethora of different water sports; from snorkelling and scuba diving amongst the rainbow-hued coral to windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing and jet-skiing, there are you few water-based activities you can dream up that aren’t on offer here!
3. Originally constructed in the late seventeenth century, the regal Sunbury Plantation House was painstakingly restored after being almost obliterated by a fire in 1995. Take a tour given by a friendly, knowledgeable guide well-versed in local history, and admire a grand interior that has retained its plantation-era atmosphere, as well as a collection of horse-drawn carriages parked behind the house.
4. The crystalline waters of Barbados are home to an extensive population of sociable hawksbill and leatherback turtles, who enjoy protected status throughout the island. Ask locals about the best spots to swim with them, or take one of the many boat tours on offer to throw snorkelling and onboard picnics into the mix!
5. For perhaps the best place to see the captivating colours of Barbados condensed into one place, visit the Andromeda Botanic Gardens. Six acres of hibiscus, bougainvillea, begonias, cacti and endless other varieties of exotic flowers and trees are punctuated by streams and waterfalls, all looking out over the resplendent east coast.
6. One of Barbados’ most famous attractions besides its notorious beaches, the magnificent Harrison’s Cave lies burrowed deep below the earth in the central uplands, an awe-inspiring crystallised cavern scattered with plunging pools of glassy water, cascading waterfalls and regal columns. Tour options range from tram rides to a comprehensive four hour eco tour, and a bat tour for children.
7. For the best way to see the rugged beauty of Barbados that lies off the beaten track, book yourselves on to a jeep safari. Journey through the sugar plantations, chattel houses, rum shacks, river forests and secluded beaches as friendly tour guides educate you on the lesser known stories of the island, and provide the occasional glass of rum.
8. A vibrant complex of workshops and galleries that lies between downtown and the cruise ship terminal, the Pelican Craft Village features the work of many local artists. The Barbados Arts Council also has a shop here, featuring the work of more than 100 of its members.
9. Located on the north side of Bridgetown’s National Heroes Square, the Parliament Buildings comprise two neo-Gothic style buildings; the west-side building contains public offices, while the east-side is home to the Barbados Senate and House of Assembly. An interesting museum showcases the islands stellar democratic heritage, and the price of entry also includes a tour of the parliament buildings themselves.
10. Originally constructed in the mid-seventeenth century and destroyed by a hurricane a century later, the slightly more diminutive (but still imposing) St. Michaels Cathedral of today dates from 1789, and has the capacity to seat 1600. Admire the astonishing stained glass windows, wide ceiling and ornate coral tower, and take a wander around the adjacent churchyard, where many of the islands most notable figures are buried.
Top 10 Family Experiences
1. Cricket is more than a sport in Barbados; it’s a way of life, and one that the islands inhabitants take extremely seriously! With cricket pitches in every parish, it’s easy to watch a local match or even get involved in the fun yourself – if you’re a real enthusiast, book tickets to go and watch a professional game at the main cricket stadium in Bridgetown.
2. For a unique (and fun!) way to explore Barbados as a family, why not race each other across white sandy beaches and scenic nature trails on a segway tour! Various companies offer a number of different scenic trails and tours, providing a different and memorable way to experience the beauty of the island.
3. Visit the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, where you can stroll through a mahogany forest alive with quick-footed green monkeys, as well as deer, iguanas, agoutis and red-footed turtles. There is also an aviary with macaws and cockatoos, parrots, peacocks and pelicans, not to mention an iguana sanctuary and a beautiful orchid display!
4. For those with children too young for scuba diving or snorkelling (or who simply fancy exploring Barbados’ stunningly colourful marine life without getting wet!) the Atlantis Adventures Submarine journey is the perfect day out. Climb aboard to be transported down to the ocean floor, where you can view the colourful coral, tropical fish and diverse marine life including stingrays from your own porthole (each passenger gets one!)
5. Housed in an early 19th Century military prison, the Barbados Museum is an excellent place to learn more about the fascinating culture and history of the island. Beginning with the earliest indigenous residents, a series of engaging displays take you on a journey through the colonial era, with exhibits covering slavery, the emancipation and military history.
6. For a spectacular cultural extravaganza that is sure to both entertain and educate the whole family, book tickets for the Bajan roots and rhythms show, a package that includes a party, dinner and a show! Enjoy exuberant live entertainment and dance performances that celebrate and pay tribute to Barbados and its heritage.
7. Resorts and companies across the island offer a diverse range of water sports for all ages and abilities; take to the waves with boogie boards and surfboards, explore the colourful coral on a scuba diving excursion or try your hand at kite surfing, wind surfing or sailing!
8. Step aboard the British Airways Concorde for the Barbados Concorde Experience, an aircraft that thrilled visitors for many years with its advanced engineering, speed and sleek beauty. Learn about the development of the technology, admire the luxurious interior and even experience how it would have felt to fly the plane yourself in a nerve-tingling simulation!
9. For those who prefer scaled-down, less serious version of the game of golf, there are several fun miniature golf courses located across the island, ideal for family outings!
10. An obvious one perhaps, but the beaches of the Barbados deserve another mention: pack your buckets, spades, books and sunscreen and let the hours melt away sunbathing on the pristine sandy shores, building castles or paddling in the warm, translucent shallows.
Top 10 Honeymoon Experiences
1. One of the most spectacular experiences of a stay in Barbados is undoubtedly watching the sky transform into a kaleidoscopic vista of tropical colour each evening, as the vivid colours leak out across the sea and the palms turn to dusky silhouettes. No two sunsets are exactly the same, and you will not want to miss a single one – enjoy happy hour as you watch it from the terrace of a lively bar, or take an evening walk along the beach.
2. With spectacular views, astonishing coastline and unspoilt landscapes spilling over in every corner of the island, hiring a car and getting lost together among the rolling hills and sugar cane plantations is truly the best way to explore the other side of Barbados, away from the resorts and tourist beaches.
3. One of only three genuine Jacobean mansions in the Western Hemisphere, St. Nicholas Abbey lies amongst picturesque gardens and mahogany trees, and has beautifully preserved its plantation heritage. Take a tour of the house and grounds to see how rum is made on the estate and watch a fascinating film (containing clips from the 1930s) about plantation life, before purchasing your own hand-engraved bottles of their finest liquor!
4. For a night out in true Bajan style, the Oistins fish fry is an absolute must. Hosted in the vivacious southern town of Oistins, locals and tourists alike flock from all over the island to enjoy the fresh local produce (everything from lobster to flying fish is served), watch the sun go down and dance the night away to calypso and Caribbean favourites.
5. With its rolling hills and dramatic coastline, Barbados provides an ideal hiking terrain that encompasses varying levels of difficulty. A great way to experience the island, meet the locals and take in the abundance of astonishing views, go on an organised walk with a specialist hiking company or forge your own path.
6. Barbados is fast becoming a destination of choice for those looking to rejuvenate their bodies and minds in its many exquisite health and wellness spas; choose from a wide range of luxurious treatments, therapies and massages in surroundings that are about as close to paradise as it comes.
7. Explore the Welchman Hall gully, a stretch of tropical rainforest located in a gully a little less than a mile long, home to a number of colourful tropical plants and trees; visit in the morning, when the horde of Green Monkeys who inhabit the gully are fed.
8. Enjoy the cobalt blue waters and pristine shores of Barbados in total luxury and comfort on a catamaran cruise; spend a day swimming with turtles, snorkelling, fishing, diving or simply sunbathing on deck, before watching the sun go down in a kaleidoscope of vivid tropical colours.
9. The cuisine of Barbados is a mouth-watering fusion of past and present recipes, drawing from strong British, Indian and African influences and made with freshly grown local produce. Venture out of your hotel to sample the excellent local restaurants together, and be sure to try the islands national dish of Flying Fish.
10. Head to the historic Garrison Savannah Racetrack to enjoy a day at the races, one of Barbados’ major national pastimes. Get dressed up for the glamorous grandstand, or enjoy a more casual picnic and glass of rum outside the course as you watch the islands best locally bred horses compete with international thoroughbreds.
Culture in Barbados
A culture comprised of truly multinational influences, Barbados takes its love of cricket and horse racing, colonial architecture and Anglican churches from Britain, while their music, dance, cuisine and irrepressible island spirit are all West Indian. Bajans, perhaps the friendliest people in the Caribbean, are always ready to give a warm welcome and proud to share their news and reviews of the island and its hotspots!