From top restaurants and underground caves, to water sports and boat trips, plan your first visit to Barbados with my handy first timer’s travel guide.
I’ve rounded off 2017 with a trip many would DREAM of, especially after being blasted by icy weather in England! Just a few weeks ago I returned from Barbados in the Caribbean. It was my first time on the island, and while I’ve been to a few of the Caribbean islands, I just love how varied they are. They have their own characters, landscapes and traditions.
Barbados is relatively flat compared to others, as its one of the few without a volcanic origin. It’s also famed for its bright turquoise water, paradise beaches and killer rum punch! I mean, just take a look at this gorgeous view over Crane Beach – isn’t it stunning? If you want to plan a little trip there you can find out more in my review of Crane Beach for Virgin Holidays’ Trending Travel Guide.
A few weeks before visiting, I learned that more Brits travel to the island, than any other nationality. Most visit for the (almost) guaranteed warm weather and fantastic beaches. But being an adventurer and foodie at heart, I wanted to get beyond the beaches and find out what else this island offers. I wanted to taste the food, see the landscapes and feel the heart beat of this independent nation.
Fittingly, our trip was designed to appeal to the five senses. So from tasting the local rum, to seeing the incredible underground caves and even hearing Rihanna herself (yes really!) – it’s time for sensory overload in Barbados! So whether you’re looking for adventure, food, culture or relaxation, I’ve got you covered!
Things To Do In Barbados For Adventure Lovers
Prepare yourself for some serious fun on this island! You’re about to engage all five senses with these adventures…
Snorkelling in Barbados
I’d heard the snorkelling was incredible, with numerous opportunities to spot turtles around the south and west of the island. I love that you don’t need to book onto a tour to spot them. You can just wander out from beaches such as Paynes Bay, Sandy Lane or Folkstone Marine Park and you’re likely to spot a few. For an extra special experience, book onto a catamaran trip and be shown some of the best spots on the island!
Diving in Barbados
My partner plunged deep into the ocean to dive amongst some impressive wrecks. His favourite was the sunken submarine, not far from St Peter’s Bay. Along with plenty of colourful exotic fish (including lion fish), there were a few turtles down there too.
I had no clue what animal flowers were (what comes to your mind?!) but they’re a type of small sea anemone which live in the waters of these caves. Right on the northernmost tip of Barbados, this is the rugged Barbados. As I stood on the cliff edge listening to the crashing waves, took photos of the epic jagged rocks and explored the rough caves carved over hundreds of years – I couldn’t believe this was the same island known for paradise beaches. It’s such a wonderful contrast!
Considering other islands in the Caribbean? Check out these guides to St Kitts, St Martin, Antigua and Cuba.
Paddle Boarding in Barbados
One of my favourite adventures of all was hopping on a paddleboard and cruising the shoreline. It was a way to see the coastline and reflect on the beauty of the island. Most hotels on the west coast have a stack of paddle boards and kayaks, and there’s a lovely feeling of liberation as you glide across the turquoise waters.
Woohoo, well wasn’t this a lot of fun…? Until it rained anyway, but let’s forget that part for now! This is an awesome way to get to know the island. I’d recommend you book this for one of your first days in Barbados, as it gives you an intro to the island’s geography, history and culture, all while showing you some top places to return to later in the week. The guides are super enthusiastic, love sharing their home with visitors and are happy to answer all the questions you’ve been dying to ask. They’re also keen to get you away from the east coast with its cruise ships and resorts, and to show you the rugged east and less-developed centre of the island. Oh and they also ply you with rum punch, which makes the off-road parts even more fun! Check availability and latest prices here.
Delve deep into the core of Barbados with this interactive tour of Harrison’s Cave. After swotting up on the history and geology of the island, it’s time to board a cute little train to drive around the cathedral-like chambers. With underground waterfalls, crystal clear pools, and stalagmites and stalactites formed over thousands of years, it’s somewhere you’re guaranteed to engage all five senses.
Things To Do In Barbados For Foodies
Next up, it’s time to smell and taste your way around the island.
It’s a given that any visit to Barbados is going to involve a fair amount of rum. It’s the drink of the island. At most places, you’ll be welcomed with a rum punch, and you’ll soon that there are good ones, and there are REALLY good ones. People have their own recipes. THE way to truly get into the spirit (!!) is with a trip to Mount Gay. They run tours every hour, which strike just the right balance between informative and fun. And great news, they start with rum punch and end with tastings of three of the distillery’s top sellers.
Your nose will guide you to Agapey – a cute chocolate shop in Bridgetown! This isn’t Willy Wonka style, but they do have a small chocolate factory on site, and it’s certainly worth booking onto a chocolate tour to find out more about the processes and see the machines up and running. The chocolates filled with Mount Gay were my favourites, and a box of those would make a great present.
You guys recommended we add this to our itinerary, and we listened! Every Friday, hundreds of tourists and locals gather in the small fishing village of Oistins for a big old knees up. The rum punch flows, the seafood stalls serve up mountains of grilled tuna, flying fish, swordfish and more, and as the night wears on, performers take to the stage to throw some shapes to the DJ’s tunes. It was a highlight of the week and certainly a way to FEEL the island’s beat!
Restaurants In Barbados
There are plenty of top restaurants on the island. For fine dining, book a table at The Cliff, Daphne’s or Cin Cin. For flavoursome cajun shrimp, I loved The Waterfront in Bridgetown. There was a huge menu, the service was friendly and the location was lovely, overlooking the capital’s marina.
Juma’s in Speightstown is another top choice with a tasty menu (the blackened mahi mahi was delicious!) and a great location overlooking the beach. Décor was eclectic with a beach shack roof and lava lamps dotted around the restaurant – it felt fun with that real holiday vibe!
Our meal at The Fishpot was one of our favourites, again right on the beach just a little way north of St Peter’s Bay. The seafood was excellent, and we enjoyed big grilled shrimps, and tasty Asian tuna for mains. Any of these would be great at lunch too, especially with those dreamy beach views.
Things To Do In Barbados For Culture Vultures
Gospel Breakfast At The Crane
Hearing the voices of a group of gospel singers at breakfast time is a special experience. This is how our Sunday morning began at The Crane Resort – the Caribbean’s oldest continually operating hotel. It’s a standard hotel buffet where you pile your plate high with sausages, bacon, eggs and pancakes, but the ambience is anything but standard. During our visit in December, we enjoyed a few festive numbers along with some gospel classics.
Built in 1658, St Nicholas Abbey is a beautifully preserved plantation house. It’s fascinating to see the island’s history through the ages, and walking through the house really is like turning back the clock. One of my favourite parts of my visit was exploring the forest outside, and even if you don’t fancy adventuring into it, you can enjoy lunch on the terrace overlooking the jungle floor.
When you ay Barbados to many people, they think of Rihanna. She’s an international superstar who well and truly flies the Barbados flag around the world. We visited during Independence Day which was extra special in 2017, as Rihanna’s home street was renamed Rihanna Drive. It’s already somewhere tourists love to visit, but now there’s even more reason! It was absolutely amazing to see the community turn up to the event, and to hear Rihanna’s pride for where she grew up.
Things To Do In Barbados For Relaxation Seekers
Many people visit the island for a week of R&R. You want to kick back and relax, with a drink in one hand and a book in the other. That’s fine – we all need down time!
For a treat, book in for a treatment at The Crane, easily one of the most stunning resorts on the island. Located on the south, the cliff top location has incredible views down to Crane Beach with its ferocious waves and soft white sand. The spa is excellent too, and a massage will certainly leave you feeling relaxed.
This luxury catamaran experience was another highlight. Sailing along the west coast at sunset is stunning enough, but with a cocktail in hand it’s even better! The crew pride themselves in delivering incredible high-end service, from the food and drink to the general ambience – it was all top notch and a wonderful way to see more of the island.
Genuinely one of the most relaxing spots in Barbados, Anthony Hunte has created a gorgeous garden up in the lush hills in the middle of the island. Tall palms sit next to colourful orchids while exotic birds fly through the air. As you explore, you stumble across secret seating areas – places perfect to enjoy the views, the sounds and the scents of nature. When you need a refreshment, head to Mr Hunte’s lodge for a rum tasting or a cold drink, and a chance to chat to the nature-lover responsible for the garden.
I’ve mentioned them already, but the beaches are as good as you’ve heard! Top marks for Crane Beach for its epic landscape, Mullins Beach for being lively and St Peter’s Bay for being nice and quiet. On a bright sunny day, the water is an insanely bright shade of turquoise that looks photoshopped!
Where To Stay In Barbados
We stayed at Port Ferdinand in the north west of Barbados. They have a range of 1, 2 and 3-bed apartments, each with stunning terraces, lounges and full kitchens. The enclosed marina has moorings and also offers a water taxi to sister property St Peter’s Bay (perfect as Port Ferdinand isn’t right on the beach). There’s a restaurant/bar area on the ground floor overlooking the boats, and a great floating pool area with a bar which you reach along a jetty. It’s a great place to stay if you’re considering self-catering options and have a car to get around. It’s also about to be even more desirable with the upcoming opening of Nikki Beach, moments away from the property.
For a different look at Barbados, check out An Adventurous World’s post The Ultimate One Week Itinerary For Barbados.
Big thanks to Visit Barbados for inviting us to experience the island through all five senses! We travelled to Barbados with British Airways. British Airways flies from Gatwick to Barbados daily during the summer and 12 times a week during the winter. Return flights start from £571. As always, all opinions are my own.
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