Barbados is an independent British Commonwealth nation and an eastern Caribbean island. This island is known for its stunning beaches, relaxed lifestyle, unique culture, and interesting history. While many people are happy to spend their time in Barbados taking advantage of the weather by relaxing on the beach or by the pool, there are many other activities and attractions to enjoy on this island. There are many different areas to explore, and there are attractions that will suit all tastes. To help you plan your Barbados vacation, here are the 20 best things to do in Barbados for first-timers.
20. Eat Barbadian Cuisine
When you visit any new destination, you should sample the local and traditional cuisine. Barbadian cuisine is unique as it is based around the availability of ingredients on the island, and it has been influenced that have traveled to or lived in Barbados throughout history. Although there are some outstanding restaurants, the best way to taste the true flavors of Barbados is from the food stalls or the small cafes along the side streets. If you decide you would prefer a fine-dining experience, then one of the top restaurants on the island is ‘The Cliff’.
19. Go Scuba Diving or Snorkeling
Barbados is surrounded by stunning waters, with the Atlantic Ocean to the East, and the Caribbean Sea to the West. Scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities on both sides of the island. It gives you the chance to immerse yourself in the magical waters of the island. You will see various marine mammals, tropical fish, turtles, and other marine life. There are more than two-dozen diving sites around Barbados, and many of these have shipwrecks or coral reefs to explore. One of the best and most popular diving sites off the coast of Barbados is in Carlisle Bay. At this diving site, there are six shipwrecks to explore. There are also many interesting items to see, such as abandoned anchors, cannons balls, and various other items abandoned by soldiers and sailors in the 18th-century.
18. Hike Around the Island
Although most of Barbados is flat, there are some elevated points. The most notable of these is Mt. Hillaby. This mountain rises 1,100 feet above sea level, so it is the highest point on the island. Therefore, there are places for easy hikes and hiking trails that offer greater challenges. The Barbados National Trust sponsors Hike Barbados, which is a company offering hiking tours on Sundays. All the hikes involve a three-hour loop, although they vary in distance and difficulty. These guided hikes are a fantastic way to see the sights of the island and to enjoy the outdoors and the wonderful climate.
17. Dance to Island Music
Music is an important element of Bajan culture, and you will hear music playing almost everywhere you go on the island. However, there are some parts of Barbados that are especially well known for music and dancing. Two of the best places to enjoy island music are Holetown on the west coast, or St. Lawrence Gap on the south coast. Both locations have plenty of bars and clubs. If you opt to visit St. Lawrence Gap, there is a semi-circular highway called ‘The Gap’ that is where you will find most of the hotels, shops, and restaurants. Two of the tops spots for music are The Old Jamaica Inn and Bubba’s Sports Bar. If you go to Holetown, you will find most of the action on the 1st and 2nd streets. Two of the best bars for music are Duke’s Night Lounge and Red Door Lounge.
16. Party on a Sunset Cruise
There are plenty of boat trip operators offering boat trips along the coast during the day, and this will allow you to enjoy the fresh air and to see the coastline of Barbados from a different perspective. However, many would argue that the sunset cruises offer an even better experience. They set off in daylight, so you can admire the coastline and the water views. You can also see some wildlife along the way. The highlight of the trip is watching the sunset and fill the sky with beautiful colors. Once the sun has set, the boats turn into party vessels with food, drink, and music. An alternative is to board the Jolly Roger, which is a pirate-themed vessel that has fun activities for all the family to enjoy.
15. Swim with the Turtles
According to Fodors, a top activity to enjoy in Barbados is swimming with the turtles. The west coast of the island is the feeding and nesting ground of both hawksbill and leatherback turtles. Both are friendly creatures, and many tour operators offer trips that take you swimming with these wonderful animals.
14. Visit Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill
One of Barbados’ biggest exports is sugar, so there are many sugar plantations across the island. However, there are now very few sugar windmills in the Caribbean, and most of these are incomplete. The largest and only complete sugar windmill in the Caribbean is the Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill. It was a working windmill during the 18th and 19th-centuries. Now, it is run by the Barbados National Trust to show visitors how sugar was once processed.
13. Take a Trip on Atlantis Submarines
If you do not fancy getting wet and exploring the underwater wonders of Barbados by scuba diving, then you should consider booking yourself on an Atlantis Submarines trip. The submarines take you underwater so that you can see the beauty of the marine life without getting wet. Voyages on this 50-foot vessel take you 150-feet below the surface and last for approximately 45 minutes. This is an excellent activity for children who are too young to snorkel or scuba dive.
12. Explore Animal Flower Cave
Although Harrison’s Cave is the most famous and most visited cave in Barbados, you should also explore Animal Flower Cave during your trip as this offers a completely different experience. The cave is called the Animal Flower Cave because it is home to sea anemones. It is the only accessible sea cave on Barbados, and it is situated in St. Lucy parish below the North Point Cliffs. Exploring the caves will take about an hour. Depending on the weather, you can also swim in the rock pools by the cave.
11. Sample the Rum at Mount Gay Visitor Center
The most famous Barbadian export is rum, so it makes sense to learn about its production and sample some rum during your vacation. Mount Gay is the oldest continuously running distillery in Barbados, and visitors can learn about its history on the guided tour. Visitors can also learn about the production of rum and the bottling process, before sampling several kinds of rum produced by the distillery.
10. Go to George Washington House
A top historical attraction to include in your vacation itinerary is a visit to George Washington House. In 1751, George Washington and his sick brother Lawrence used this 18th-century plantation house as their base. Lawrence was suffering from tuberculosis, and the hope was that the tropical climate would cure this condition. Now, the property is a museum with artifacts from the 18th-century. Visitors can watch a short film about the time that George Washington spent at the property. An interesting element of the tour is seeing the secret tunnels that were discovered below the house.
9. Visit Andromeda Botanic Gardens
If you enjoy the outdoors and nature, then a wonderful place to visit is the Andromeda Botanic Gardens. Founded by horticulturist Iris Bannochie in 1954, this attraction consists of six acres of gardens. Now, it is owned by the Barbados National Trust, and it boasts more than 5600 species of plants. There are also streams, water features, ponds, and views across the ocean. Set aside a couple of hours for this attraction so that you have time to fully appreciate all areas of the gardens.
8. Walk the Barbados Boardwalk
You will find the Barbados Boardwalk four miles south of Bridgetown. This coastal walk connects Accra and Camelot. You can enjoy scenic water views and watch the crabs and turtles in their natural habitat. Along the way, you will pass various eateries, so you can stop for a bite to eat.
7. Stroll Around Hunte’s Gardens
US News recommends visiting Hunte’s Gardens. This outdoor attraction is located in St. Joseph parish, around four miles southwest of Bathsheba Beach. It is owned by Anthony Hunte who is a Bajan horticulturist. The enchanting gardens are filled with an array of colorful flowers. The gardens are also visited by hummingbirds and monkeys, which adds to their appeal. This picturesque setting is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic.
6. Enjoy The Concorde Experience
The Concorde Experience is an aviation museum in a hangar next to Grantley Adams International Airport. One of the main permanent exhibits is a G-BOAE British Airways aircraft. You can board the plane and watch a movie about the aircraft. An interesting fact is that Barbados is the only Caribbean destination to which Concorde flew. This is an attraction that people of all ages can enjoy.
5. Have Fun at a Street Party in Oistins
Make sure that you don’t spend all your time in Barbados in Bridgetown, the island’s capital, or at the beach. There are plenty of other fantastic places to visit. One of these is a fishing town called Oistins. If you visit this town on a Friday night, you can enjoy the street parties. These parties are famous for the fish fry, especially from the famous Uncle George’s stand. The fish dinners consist of grilled kingfish, marlin, tuna, or mahi-mahi. These are served with macaroni pie, which is the Barbadian version of mac and cheese. You can also dance in the street to the oud reggae music. Getting involved in the fish fry and the street dancing is a great way to feel part of the local culture.
4. Visit St. Nicholas Abbey
Although its name suggests that it is a religious monument, St. Nicholas Abbey is actually a 1660s Jacobean-style plantation house. It still operates as a rum distillery, but it is also now a museum about colonial life. You can learn about many aspects of the history of Barbados in the museum section of this attraction. You can also admire the architecture and walk through the grounds. Furthermore, you can buy five, 12, or 18-year aged rums.
3. Go to Harrison’s Cave
One of the most popular attractions in Barbados is Harrison’ Cave, which is a 1.5-mile network of coral caves. Many parts of Barbados are coral rock, and you will immerse yourself into these rocks when you head 160-feet underground at Harrison’s Cave. A tour of the cave takes around an hour, and you will see stalagmites, stalactites, underground waterfalls, and several freshwater streams.
2. Try New Watersports
As an island, Barbados is surrounded by waters that are the ideal natural playground for enjoy a diverse range of watersports. If you enjoy getting active, then head to the Atlantic coast on the eastern side of the island. There, the strong winds and the rolling surf provide the perfect conditions for many watersports. Just some of the activities you can enjoy are surfing, kiteboarding, and windsurfing.
1. Spend Time at the Beaches
According to Time Out, the best thing to do in Barbados is to spend time on the beaches. Barbados is famous for its stunning beaches, so you should try to visit several of the beaches during your stay. There are more than 80 stretches of beaches to choose between. For natural beauty, white sands and crystal clear water, you should spend time at one of the Caribbean beaches on the Western side of the island. Some of the best include Mullins, Carlisle, Browne’s, Brandon, and Carlisle Bay beaches. It is important to note that topless and nude sunbathing are illegal in Barbados, so make sure you keep your swimsuit on.