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When Travel Supermarket challenged me to complete an A to Z of Barbados I was a bit concerned as to whether I’d find enough things for every letter of the alphabet. “It’s an island! How many things can you do on an island?” I thought. Fortunately I managed to do it though! In just five days I managed to find 26 things to do in Barbados and I filmed it all for YouTube. It was exhausting with lots of early starts to the sound of my alarm clock, but I did it!
My best friend Elle and I flew from Manchester UK to Barbados and our home for the week was Sugar Bay Barbados (formerly Amaryllis Beach Resort). We rented a car and spent the next 5 days doing pretty much everything there is to do on the island of Barbados! It was such an action-packed trip and I feel like I’m an expert on the place now, so ask me anything!
Highlights of our Barbados trip included swimming with turtles, joining a karaoke party in the streets of Holetown, tucking into flying fish at Oistins Fish Fry, visiting the surf spots of the rugged East Coast, drinking rum at the Mount Gay Rum distillery and dancing the night away in St. Lawrence Gap. We both had a fantastic time and I didn’t want the trip to end.
So if you’re visiting the Caribbean some time soon, here are the top unique things to do in Barbados while you’re there:
Things to do in Barbados
Animal Flower Cave
Animal Flower Cave is a beautiful cave on the north of the island that looks out onto the rough Atlantic Ocean. It’s a beautiful spot and well worth the trek up there for the views. The cave gets its name from the sea anemones that live inside the rock pools in the cave, and some of them are deep enough to swim in.
Drink a Banks Beer
Banks Beer is the beer of Barbados and it’s nice to crack open a cold one on a hot day at the beach! You see the advertising for Banks beer on buildings all over the island, and you can find it in any bar or restaurant.
Crane Beach is arguably the most beautiful beach in Barbados with white sands and turquoise blue waters. The beach is located next to The Crane hotel and there’s an elevator to get down to it which is quite novel! If you’re not staying at the hotel you can make a reservation for one of the restaurants so you may park in their car park, or alternatively, you can park on the street at the other end of Crane Beach.
From there you can access the beach via a series of stepping stones in the rocks. The beach can be a bit windy so I would recommend you get an umbrella and chairs; guest of the hotel get the blue ones, while non-guests get the green, yellow and red coloured chairs along the rest of the beach. We liked this beach so much we went there twice!
Drive Around the Island
Barbados has a good public transport system with a variety of buses and taxis, but the most convenient way to get around the island is by renting a car. We were a little unlucky with the weather and it seemed to rain about 10 times per day!
The sun would come out for half an hour or so, then a big black cloud would come and there would be a torrential downpour. I can’t imagine walking through the streets to a bus stop in the rain. A car allows you to get to some hard to reach places and beautiful spots, particularly on the East and North coasts.
If you’re from the UK you’ll have no problem at all because they drive on the left in Barbados. The roads can have some potholes and there are roundabouts every 5 seconds, but generally I found it a breeze.
Make sure you get the BajanNav (sat nav) because things aren’t very well signposted and if you don’t have a local SIM card you won’t be able to rely on Google Maps. Drivers in Barbados are a little strange…some of them seem to drive at a snail’s pace in the middle of the road, while others will be beeping their horns and trying to overtake.
The letter E was a public choice and we ended up going with Enterprise Beach, also referred to as Miami Beach by the locals. It was raining on and off throughout the day, but the weather cleared up just in time for us to get an hour on the beach.
It’s a calm and tranquil spot on the South coast of the island and there weren’t many people about. There’s a food truck here called Mr. Delicious if you’re feeling peckish.
Try Flying Fish Cutters
Flying Fish is the island’s national fish, and you can’t leave the island without tasting a Flying Fish cutter. The fish is basically covered with seasoning and sandwiched between two pieces of salt bread, with perhaps a few other ingredients like lettuce, tomato, cheese and egg.
Flying fish cutters are a great, inexpensive snack to eat at the beach, and we loved the ones from Cuz’s fish shack at Pebbles Beach. There is also a well known deli called Cutters located near Crane Beach. These were the best cutters we tasted and you also get a choice of delicious sides with them (try the coleslaw or the macaroni pie!).
George Washington House
Barbados is the only country president George Washington ever visited outside of the United States, and you can take a tour of George Washington House– the place where he stayed. The ground floor of the house is furnished in the manner it might have been when he came to Barbados in 1751.
Located in the centre of the island, Harrison’s Cave is a major tourist attraction in Barbados. A little train will take you through this limestone cavern, past waterfalls, crystal clear pools, stalagmites and stalactites. The entrance fee is BDS $60.
I is for Independence. Barbados was a British Colony until achieving independence on November 30th, 1966. Independence Square is a peaceful little square on the waterfront in Bridgetown, and it’s a nice spot to sit down on a bench and relax.
You can take a moment to admire the Independence Arch and stop to buy a snack from one of the street vendors on the bridge. During the month of Independence (November), the square is lit up in the national colours of blue and gold, and at Christmas it is adorned with Christmas trees.
J was also one of the letters chosen by the people of Twitter and Jammin Catamaran was definitely the best thing we did on our trip to Barbados. We can’t put into words how much fun it was! The day started out in a chilled manner with some sunbathing, chatting and a couple of complimentary rum punches on deck.
On the way to our first stop, the lovely crew members served us a light snack of a little muffin, a pancake and a mini burger to stop our tummies rumbling. Next we popped our snorkels on and hopped in the water to swim with turtles, and we got to see one giant sea turtle swimming around beneath us.
Our second snorkeling stop of the day was a shipwreck, then the party really got started. We floated around on lilos in the water, we drank copious amounts of rum punch, some of us drank shots from the bar and we tucked into a buffet lunch of chicken, fish and macaroni pie.
There were people of all ages on board including children, and everyone seemed to have a good time. We had so much fun dancing around on the boat on the way back, that nobody wanted to get off!
Established in 1882, Kensington Oval is Barbados’ oldest cricket ground. It is the main sporting ground on the island and is generally used for cricket, and has hosted some important cricket games between local, regional and international teams.
For info on tours and cricket matches, visit http://kensingtonoval.org/
Limegrove Lifestyle Centre
Limegrove Lifestyle centre is a modern shopping complex in Holetown, on the west coast. It has a cinema, restaurants, gourmet foods, cafes and lots of designer brands including Louis Vuitton, Dior and Michael Kors. We visited Limegrove a couple of times to go to Lime Bar, which is a trendy outdoor cocktail bar in the middle of the courtyard.
Mount Gay Rum Distillery
Mmmm…rum. Everywhere you go in Barbados you’ll be offered rum punch and there’s a saying for the recipe; “One of Sour, Two of Sweet, Three of Strong and Four of Weak.” At the Mount Gay Rum distillery you get to learn all about how their world famous rum is made, but really it’s an opportunity to taste lots and lots of rum.
Our guide led us through various rooms explaining the entire process, then we were led to a small movie theatre where we watched a film about the Mount Gay brand. Then to the good bit…the tasting session. We enjoyed several generous tastings of various ages of Mount Gay Rum; I was definitely feeling a bit light headed afterwards!
Once the tasting is over you can continue your boozy afternoon by ordering cocktails from their expert bartender, or you can purchase a bottle to take home from the shop.
Try the National Dish, Cou-Cou
The national dish of Barbados is Cou-Cou! I had a taste of it at Brown Sugar restaurant, located just outside of Bridgetown. Cou Cou consists of cornmeal and okra, topped with Flying Fish (the national fish of Barbados) and an aromatic tomato based-sauce.
Oistins Fish Fry
You simply cannot leave Barbados without visiting the famous Oistins fish fry! Oistins is buzzing with both locals and tourists on a Friday night and it’s one big shoulder-to-shoulder party!
There are basically lots of different inexpensive restaurants with plastic tables and chairs and I’m sure all of them are good… we ate at Mo’s, which is just right of the main stage. Fish is the main thing on the menu, including dolphin fish, king fish, snapper, swordfish and tuna. I received a huge portion of fish served in a takeaway box, along with macaroni pie, coleslaw and salad- it was delicious but I was so full!
Early on in the evening the music was quite mainstream with a mixture of locals, tourists and kids dancing on the stage, but as the night wore on it became a bit more hardcore. The place was absolutely packed and the party went on till late. A plate of food will set you back about BBD $30 and a Banks beer BBD $10, which is cheap for Barbados prices.
St. Nicholas Abbey Plantation
Built in 1658, St. Nicholas Abbey is one of the island’s oldest surviving plantations and is set amongst 400 acres of rolling sugar cane fields, tropical gullies, mahogany forests and formal gardens.
We took a tour around the Jacobean mansion, tasted some of St. Nicholas’ special aged rum, met ‘Lance’ and ‘Baby’- the resident Salmon Crested Cockatoos- and enjoyed a pot of tea and homemade molasses cookies served on traditional English china.
The rum makes a perfect gift to take home, as it is hand-bottled into an elegant decanter etched with an image of the great house.
To plan your visit, see http://www.stnicholasabbey.com/
Queen’s Park is a large green space in Bridgetown and it’s a nice place to go for a stroll. There’s a baobab tree that’s over a thousand years old, a bandstand and a fountain. Apparently at Christmas it is tradition to stroll through Queen’s Park wearing one’s finest clothes, but since it was January I didn’t get to see this spectacle!
Round House Restaurant
The Round House restaurant is perched on a cliff overlooking the rolling waves of Bathsheba. It was recommended to me by a follower on Twitter, and I’m so glad he told me about it because this is the perfect lunch spot on the East Coast. Built in the 1800’s, the Round House offers commanding views over the coastline and is just a stone’s throw from the beach. We enjoyed a pot of tea and tucked into their delicious breadfruit chips, but it’s also a fantastic spot for an ice cold beer after a day of surfing.
The Soup Bowl is a famous surf spot on the east coast of the island and is named after the foamy surf in these parts. This side of Barbados is battered by the Atlantic ocean, so surfers flock here to take advantage of the swells.
We drove to Bathsheba where we had a bite to eat at the Round House, then drove along the coast stopping for a beer in one of the local rum shops. The scenery was breathtaking and this was definitely one of the most beautiful road trips I’ve taken.
Swimming with Turtles
Elle and I got to see a turtle up close on the Jammin catamaran, but we wanted some more one on one time with these incredible sea creatures, so we signed up for a boat trip with local legend MC Turtleman. He really is a character and he knows where the turtles are at!
We got to drive the speedboat along the coastline and he cut up some squid to feed to the turtles. We saw not one, but two sea turtles and jumped in the water with them. I’d say we swam around with them for a good 30 minutes. He ain’t called MC Turtleman for nothing!
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bridgetown
Historic Bridgetown and its garrison together make up a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is considered to be an outstanding example of British colonial architecture and gets its name from the bridge that was constructed by the original Amerindian settlers.
Since colonial powers such as Holland, France, England and Spain were often at war over the Caribbean Islands, the garrison fortification was built along the west coast of Barbados to protect the British colony…In fact it was the largest in the British colonies in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Vacation and Relax!
While there are lots of things to do in Barbados…what the island is really about, is taking a well-needed vacation. A travel blogger needs to relax now and again, so on my last day I parked myself on a sun lounger, ordered myself a fresh coconut, and stayed there all day. Bliss!
Welchman Hall Gully
If you’re a plant and nature enthusiast, then you’ll like Welchman Hall Gully. The gully is home to all sorts of flora and fauna and there are markers to help you discover the names of each plant with the help of the printed guidebook. The Green Monkeys that frequent the forest are fed daily here, so try to make your trip coincide with their feeding time.
X Marks the Spot: The Jolly Roger Pirate Ship
I was really having to dig around to find something beginning with the letter X. Apart from xylophone and X-ray, there are hardly ANY words beginning with the letter X. So I had to think laterally…hence X marks the spot.
Barbados is known for having two pirates of the Caribbean- Sam Lord and Stede Bonnet- and you can have your own pirate adventure by walking the plank on the Jolly Roger pirate ship, exploring the sunken shipwrecks just off the coast of Barbados, or taking a day trip to the island of Dominica, where much of the filming took place for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
Barbados Yacht Club
The members-only Barbados Yacht Club was founded in 1924 to promote sailing on the island, and can be found on the beautiful white sands of Carlisle Bay, which is blessed with steady trade winds and calm waters. If you’re lucky enough to have a yacht in Barbados, the club boasts a number of sailing and recreational facilities including a bar and restaurant, boat shed and tennis courts.
Ride in a ZR Van
The ZR vans (pronounced Zed-R) are privately-owned white minivans with a maroon stripe down the side and you see them all the time on the roads. They typically run on shorter routes in the more populated areas in Barbados, and they are a good choice if you need to get somewhere on the west or south coast of the island.
You’ll be charged a fixed rate of BBD $2 per person one way and it can be quite the experience; they move quickly and stop frequently to pick up the maximum number of passengers, so they can be quite loud and cramped.
Best Time to Visit Barbados
The driest months in Barbados are from December to June, while the wettest months are during the hurricane season July through November. Barbados doesn’t really experience many hurricanes though, so if you want to get some cheaper hotel deals, low season might be the time to go. Barbados has a warm, tropical climate all year round, so you should be able to get some sunshine no matter what time of year you visit.
For some extra fun times, try to time your trip with one of the island’s famous festivals, such as Crop Over Festival, Barbados Reggae Festival or Barbados Food & Rum Festival.
A Final Word…
As you can see from this list there are a lot of things to do in Barbados, so if you don’t want to just lay on the beach all day, there are plenty of activities to try. I’d highly recommend renting a car so you can drive all over the island and see these places for yourself! For more information to help you plan your trip to Barbados, check out my handy Barbados travel guide.
It takes around three hours to drive around Barbados, so while it’s not a tiny island, it’s also not huge either. Those coming from England will appreciate that they drive on the left hand side of the road in Barbados, although for U.S and European travelers (or people from any country that drives on the right hand side) it might take some getting used to.