Sun, sand, and sea. Barbados is the picture perfect Caribbean island that comes to mind when you imagine a holiday in paradise.
This small island has everything you would ever want while on vacation, from beautiful, pristine beaches to outstanding snorkeling in the warm waters. There are beachside cocktail bars, local fish grills to enjoy and turtles to swim with in the waters.
However, Barbados has much more to offer beyond the golden beaches and incredible scenery that are such a hit with visitors from across the world.
On top of the beach life and relaxed Caribbean vibe, Barbados has an intriguing colonial history to explore, with a dynamic mix of cultures and influences that have led to the unique island nation that you find today.
There’s much to do on the island, and to help you plan your getaway, here’s our guide the best things to do in Barbados and more.
Don’t leave home without: Fodor’s In Focus Barbados & St. Lucia (Full-color Travel Guide)
Things to do in Barbados
Barbados has a lot to offer visitors, with beautiful beaches and outstanding natural scenery. Don’t spend all your time on the coast though, visit Bridgetown and learn about the unique culture and history of this diverse island too. Here are the best things to do in Barbados.
Hit the Beaches
Of course, Barbados is all about the beaches. That’s what many of the thousands of tourists visit for and it’s the beaches that make the island such an alluring holiday destination. There are many to choose from across the island and many resorts and hotels face out over golden sands.
Some, of course, are busier than others, with the western coast facing away from the Atlantic being the most popular, because of its sheltered location.
This is where the most pristine, white sand, postcard-perfect beaches are found, with favorites being Oistins Bay and Miami Beach on the south-west coast, and Gibbes Beach and Mullins Beach in the north-west.
The east coast is windier, with big surf that in recent years has become a bit of a surfing haunt overlooking the Atlantic. The beaches on this side are quieter but more remote, with Bath Beach and Crane Beach being highly recommended.
Go Snorkeling and Diving
The west side of Barbados is the best place to hit the water in search of marine life. This is where the water is calmest and clearest and the diverse array of life out there makes for interesting excursions.
There is a large population of turtles off the shores, and it’s possible to swim with these beautiful creatures in the open ocean.
The best spot to really experience Barbados’ water is at the protected Folkestone Marine Park where shipwrecks have created an artificial coral reef.
Cruise the west coast of Barbados for a day on a 60-foot (18-meter) catamaran. You’ll make two or three stops where you can dive in and experience life under the sea at premier snorkeling spots, including a shipwreck. Swim among the tropical fish, vibrant corals and possibly turtles and other marine life.
Try Some Water Sports
Adventurous visitors to Barbados will find that there are great opportunities to try their hand at water sports. The east coast is great for surfing, while the windy shores here are also a great place to try such sports as windsurfing and even paragliding due to the conditions.
Experience something new like jetblading over the waters of Barbados with this exhilarating activity. Arrive on site to meet your certified master instructor and get fitted for a life jacket, then head out into the water to experiment with your jetpack.
Bridgetown is the island’s capital and largest city and anyone visiting Barbados will pass through at some point. More than just a transport hub though, this is the historical center of the nation.
As well as the more well-known duty-free shopping areas catering to cruise ship passengers, there’s also an interesting plethora of museums and churches found amongst the old streets.
The city boasts enough places of interest to warrant being given a place amongst the world’s UNESCO heritage sites.
Visit the Savannah Garrison Race Track
For an equally historic yet more unusual outing in Barbados, head to the Savannah Garrison Race Track, near Bridgetown.
This traditional horse racing venue is more akin to something you’d expect to find in England, but here it is out in the tropics, offering racegoers an entertaining day out, as it has done for centuries.
Tour the Mount Gay Rum Distillery
Barbados is renowned for its quality rum, and this alcoholic beverage is one of the island’s most famous and important exports. Dating back to the early 18th century, Mount Gay Rum is a famous institution.
It is possible to experience the history on a distillery tour to learn more about Barbados and the rum trade and to enjoy a few tastings too.
Wander around the Plantations
Barbados has a long colonial history and much of the current culture was built around the plantations that ran the sugar cane industry here.
There are several historic plantations around the island that can be visited but one of the oldest is St Nicholas Abbey, which dates back to the first days of English colonization.
Adventure in Harrisons Cave
One of the most loved tourist attractions on Barbados is Harrison’s Cave. Found in the jungle-covered highlands of the country, this limestone cave is a beautiful place to explore.
There’s a small tramway that works its way through the extensive cave network, offering visitors a unique perspective in this underground world.
Get Full at the Oistins Fish Fry
Oistins Fish Fry is one of Barbados’ most famous evening eateries. Found in the southern area of Oistins Bay, this street food market serves up fresh fry, especially on a Friday night, when all of Barbados seems to head here to enjoy the evening music and to have a few drinks.
Barbados Travel Planning Guide
Where to Stay in Barbados
Barbados really has a huge and extensive selection of accommodation to choose from. Many people visit on package holidays or stay in beachside resorts, where everything is taken care of for them.
Many of these hotels overlook the beaches and are beautiful locations to spend a holiday.
The west coast is a favorite place to stay amongst tourists and tends to be the more expensive side of the island, although there is a lot going on here.
The east coast is a bit more remote and quieter, there’s a much more peaceful atmosphere and still a wide range of hotels from luxury establishments like The House by Elegant Hotels to more modest hotels like All Seasons Resort Europa you can find a wide range of accommodation styles for every budget.
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Is Barbados Safe to Visit?
With a heavy reliance on tourism across the island, Barbados is generally a very safe place to visit. That said, incidents late at night on darkened streets or empty beaches aren’t unheard of, so always be safe when traveling to the country. Most trips, however, will be trouble free.
Check out this guide if arriving by cruise ship: Lonely Planet Cruise Ports Caribbean (Travel Guide)
How to Travel to Barbados
Barbados is found on the edge of the Caribbean, and geographically, is considered to be an island in the Atlantic Ocean as it is, in fact, the most easterly island in the region.
The culture, history and island vibes though are distinctly Caribbean in nature, and due to its popularity as a holiday destination, it’s an easy place to travel to.
Barbados has perhaps the best flight connections of any Caribbean Island, largely because of the huge popularity of the island. There are regular flights from the country’s large Sir Grantley Adams International Airport.
Due to the country’s long joint history with the United Kingdom, there are many direct flights to UK cities. There are plenty of connections as well to the US and Canada.
Extra international charter flights tend to be put on during the peak season to accommodate the additional number of passengers traveling to the island.
From Barbados there are flights on smaller aircraft across to many of the surrounding Caribbean islands, making it somewhat of an excellent transport hub to visit the rest of the region.
A very popular way to visit Barbados is on one of the many cruise ships that call in during the peak cruising season, on their way around the Caribbean.
Bridgetown, the island capital, has a large deep water port and caters to day trippers who are looking for a taste of Barbadian life. Many yachts and private charters will call in at the port too, as Barbados is a much-loved destination amongst the rich and famous.
Getting Around Barbados
Barbados is a small island and is only 20 miles in length and no more than 15 miles in width. From Bridgetown, the island is well connected with a solid network of paved roads.
Getting from one end of the island to the other however, can still take time, as the landscape means that there are many bends and narrow roads to navigate, while there always seems to be a lot of traffic.
There are many taxi drivers on the island, but most are non-metered, so ensure you bargain a price before traveling. Many tour companies based on the island are able to arrange group or private trips to the country’s major sights too.
Public transport on Barbados can be quite useful as well, especially for traveling between major towns, as there is an extensive array of bus routes crossing the island, offering frequent, low-cost travel, although they can be quite crowded, especially during rush hour.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Caribbean Islands (Travel Guide)
Best Time to Visit Barbados
Barbados experiences a wet and a dry season, like the rest of the Caribbean. The wet and dry season coincides with the low and high seasons for tourists, with most visitors booking their holidays in the cool, drier months that run from December to May.
This is when the island is busiest, because the weather is at its best, and many people travel here from North America and Europe in search of winter sunshine.
The wet season can see intense downpours, however, unlike the rest of the Caribbean, thanks to its easterly position, the country is not as affected by storms and hurricanes as other islands are.
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