Barbados is a British island in the eastern Caribbean. It is very popular among European tourists looking to enjoy sun, sand, warm waters, good food and nightlife. The official language is English and US dollars are accepted everywhere.
The name “Barbados” comes from a Portuguese explorer named Pedro Campos in 1536, who originally called the island Los Barbados “The Bearded Ones”, after the appearance of the island’s fig trees, whose long hanging aerial roots resembled beards.
While most visitors who come to Barbados spend their days at all-inclusive resorts, there is much to see around the small island too. Here are my top recommendations for things to do in Barbados:
1. Bridgetown – The capital and a cruise harbor, is dotted with historic buildings, shops, yachts and waterfront cafes. Bridgetown, was originally named “Indian Bridge” for the rude bridge which had been constructed over the river (now known as the Careenage) by the Indians. One can spend an entire day walking through Broad Street passing by the parliament buildings and shopping areas, cathedrals and a Jewish synagogue. Take a photo stop at Chamberlain Bridge and have lunch at The Bridge House. Go through Baxter Road to see a historic Barbados neighborhood. Stop by Pelican craft center for local art and souvenirs.
2. Harrison’s Caves – Located in the central uplands of the island, this breathtakingly beautiful, crystallized limestone cavern is a testament to nature’s mastery. Flowing streams, deep pools of crystal clear water and towering columns characterize this living cave. Gaze in wonder at the white flow stones and in awe at the beauty of the speleothems which adorn the cave. There are walk in, tram and cave adventure tours that kids and adults would enjoy. More at www.harrisonscave.com
3. Oistins – This is the street where locals hang out and east casual food – mostly grilled or fried catch of the day. Every Friday night, there’s a “fish fry” where you can eat, drink and dance with the locals until wee hours in the morning.
4. Crystal Cove Beach – After looking around the island for beaches and hotels, I found Crystal Cove to have the perfect balance of an intimate Bohemian style accommodation, with all the comforts of a large resort. The beach is perfect for laying around sipping cocktails, and the water is calm to swim. There are also tons of complimentary water activities including waterskiing, banana boat rides, tube rides, snorkeling, hobbiecat, and kayaking. The surrounding waters are also famous for diving, fishing and swimming with sea turtles – all of which can be arranged at Crystal Cove.
5. Flower Forest – See panoramic views of the sea coast at this 7 acres wild garden in the Barbados “Scotland District” 750 ft above sea level. There are hundreds of varieties of pants and flowers, blooming throughout the year. You may also be able to see some of the wildlife – monkeys, birds, insects and butterflies. Don’t miss the Forest Cafe at the entrance where you can get some of the best fish cakes on the island. More at www.flowerforestbarbados.com
6. Mount Gay Distillery – Barbados rum is served everywhere, so its nice to learn a little history of the local rum production. Although the actual rum making takes place at the northern part of the island, you can get a good look of the bottling plant here. There is a short video about how Mount Gay got started, a tour of the museum, and then a few tastings. There’s a bar and snack shop to enjoy all sorts of rum cocktails. At the gift shop, you can purchase all of Mount Gay products and souvenirs. See www.mountgayrum.com
7. Animal Flower Cave – Located under the cliffs at the northern shores of Barbados, it is the island’s lone accessible sea cave. There are steep stairs to go down but once inside the cave, you will see some sea anemones which are locally called animal flowers from whence the cave obtained its name. The cave’s coral floor is estimated to be about 400k to 500k years old. You can also swim in the natural pool inside. The sea outside is very rough with tall waves crashing against the rocks.
8. Kensington Oval – Cricket is the national sports of Barbados and its common to find people playing at parks and fields around the country. For competitive matches go to the historic Kensington Oval complex on game day and participate in this favorite West Indies pastime.
9. Rent a car – Driving around the island is the best way to explore its natural and manmade landscapes. You will pass by small villages, upscale condominium complexes, luxurious resorts, historic cathedrals and scenic views. The south point of the island is good for restaurants, clubs and resorts. The west is where some of the best beaches and nice resorts can be found. The north point is where you will see high waves and sea caves. Towards the east is a hilly village, Bathsheba. The waters along the coast here are rough, making it suitable for surfing.
Remember that in Barbados, you drive on the left side of the road, and most vehicles are right hand drive.
10. Eat the local cuisine – Most menus in Barbados would offer a mix of western and Caribbean dishes, catering to the diverse tourists the island receives. Skip over the hamburgers and pasta, and look for fried flying fish served with a sauce made with hot Scotch Bonnet peppers with onions and mustard. Pepperpot is a typical Bajans pork stew; Cutters are sandwiches made using Salt Bread; and Cou cou is the national dish of Barbados. Somewhat similar to polenta or grits, Cou-cou is made with corn meal and okra. Most local dishes can be found at Cuz’s Fish Stand near the Hilton Hotel, Sand Dunes restaurant on the east coast and Lemon Harbor in the St. John countryside.