A jewel in the crown of the Caribbean, Barbados is a blissful tropical destination that is definitely on most people’s bucket list. If you’re lucky enough to be heading for a warm Bajan welcome then you will be eager to find out how to get the best out of this amazing destination and we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 things to do when visiting Barbados.
Behind rum, Barbados’ charm and charisma is arguably its greatest export. Warm and vivacious, the allure of Barbados is in great part thanks to the infectious atmosphere created by the people on the island, and perhaps the best way to experience this charm is in 1st and 2nd Street. When evening descends upon 1st and 2nd Street you begin to understand why these two streets carry such an appeal, running parallel from each other and competing for the cravings of hungry locals and tourists alike. A strong food scene is sure to leave connoisseurs of world cuisine suitably impressed – authentic Caribbean restaurants are accompanied by Indian, Asian, French and Italian cuisine. A lively atmosphere builds as laughs and stories are exchanged over good food and drink and crescendos later into the evening in vintage Barbados fashion as the bars fill up and live music plays the night away.
When most people think of Barbados, a mental image is usually dominated by turquoise blue seas and stretches of white, sandy beaches. But one of the island’s greatest adventures can actually be found within the corridors of Harrison’s Cave, where upon visiting intrepid explorers can weave in and out of the marvellous crystallised limestone formations. Be inspired by nature’s architectural prowess as deep pools and streams of crystal-clear water are surrounded by ornate stalagmite and stalactites. The brilliantly named Great Hall measures some 15 metres high and makes this an unmissable stop on any Barbados itinerary.
You simply can’t go all the way to Barbados without sampling their oldest and greatest export: rum. Hear the untold stories and discovery the mysteries and secrets behind the island’s finest and most celebrated spirit. The Mount Gay Rum tour is one of the island’s most popular attractions and tells the story of the world’s oldest (and some say finest) rum. The 300-year-old story of how a plantation in Barbados’ northern parish of St. Lucy became home to a world-famous rum is brought to life through an immersive mix of exhibitions, artefacts, presentations and galleries. And to answer your question: yes, there are tastings! The sweet flavours of Mount Gay Rum taste even better with a greater appreciation and understanding of what has gone into this Caribbean spirit.
Barbados is, for good reason, one of the most popular destinations for beach lovers with over 80 picture-perfect beaches on the island. Though all beaches in Barbados are brochure-cover-worthy in equal measure, each have their own idiosyncratic charm that’s sure to delight. Some are great family friendly options that will guarantee everlasting memories while others hold a more rustic and peaceful charm. At some beaches it is even possible to swim with the turtles whilst others offer the quintessential Barbadian experience with excellent water sports facilities, lively atmosphere and vendors serving up Caribbean delights! We recommend giving Shark Hole on the island’s southeast coast a visit for those all-important Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. A small strand of beach is almost completely encircled by rocks with a gap revealing vistas of the reef and beyond. What’s more is that the reef keeps the water calm and clear for swimmers to enjoy.
Barbados is the best place for watersports in the Caribbean. In Barbados the adrenaline and fun is topped up just as regularly as the rum! Get the heart racing with some jet skiing, kite-surfing and parasailing against shades of blue you don’t even recognise. Alternatively, adventure-seekers can satisfy their inner curiosity with scuba diving attractions that take you down to the majestic natural reefs where you can even spot shipwrecks and make friends with the adorable sea turtles.
With hundreds of plant species intertwining and dancing a colourful dance, the Andromeda Botanic Gardens is a heavenly place on earth. As you watch the delicate pink, dark red and bright yellow flowers dance gracefully in the balmy Caribbean breeze, a feeling of relaxation and gratitude quietly takes residence. Canopies of larger leaves tower over you while below peculiar and quirky species compete for attention amid the cascade of tropical colours. As the meandering path leads you through the gardens, a delightful day is made better by the presence of playful monkeys and musical birds setting the most wonderful soundscape.
One of only three heritage sites of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, St. Nicholas Abbey is a fantastic option for those looking to enrich themselves with the history of Barbados. St Nicholas Abbey was built in the 1600s, the time when sugarcane was first raised and harvested, and it is indeed possible to stroll the plantation’s tropical grounds and gain a greater understanding of the island’s colonial past. One of the few Jacobean mansions left in this part of the world, St Nicholas Abbey’s storied history comes to life in its restored interior rooms which hold 17th and 18th century antiques and heirlooms. St Nicholas Abbey is a place of heritage and historical significance and since it is so well-preserved, is capable of provoking a visceral reaction among those delving into Barbados’ history. An incredible experience not to be missed here is also a visit to the distillery. St Nicholas Abbey is devoted to creating rum which is worthy of its 350-year heritage!
Part of the St Nicholas Abbey plantation is Cherry Tree Hill, a popular spot on any trip to Barbados thanks to its fantastic views over the horizon. It is thought that this beauty spot derives its name from cherry trees that once populated this hill, but today mahogany trees and sugar canes line the descent down the hill, not unlike a grand winding staircase leading to a great hall!
In 2011, Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison were inscribed onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and it’s not hard to see why. Bridgetown still has the signature Bajan atmosphere and tropical flora found on the island but it is enhanced with beautiful, historic architecture, granting it a distinctly unique feel. Built in the style of Victorian England, neo-gothic buildings and British colonial architecture is well-preserved with places like the Parliament Building and St Mary’s Anglican Church which are both well worth a visit. Though it is unusual to see such architecture paired with tropical island geography, the two strike a balance that is pleasing to the eye.
Climb aboard the award-winning Atlantis submarine and enjoy a unique and immersive experience that will take you to the depths of the Caribbean Sea. The vessel dives some 150 feet below sea level and sails past thousands of fish as it explores the expanses of the sea floor as if from the point of view of a large sea creature itself. A highlight on this unique experience is getting to visit a shipwreck which lies at the bottom of the sea floor before getting up close to the colourful coral formations. Bringing this tour to life are the knowledgeable and interactive staff that allow you to submerge yourself into this ‘must do’ experience.