Did you know that globally music superstar Rihanna is from Barbados? This stunning island in the Easter Caribbean is rightfully very proud of its native daughter. With the island being so beautiful, it’s hard for me to understand how she could ever leave!
As the easternmost island in the Caribbean, Barbados measures 32 km (21 miles) from northwest to southeast and roughly 25 km (14 miles) from east to west. It is further east than Bermuda and is so far east that it is outside of the usual path of hurricanes that plague neighbouring islands. Archaeological findings suggest that the island was settled around 1623 BC. It was originally inhabited by Amer-Indians who paddled over from Venezuela. The Portuguese may have been the first Europeans to arrive in Barbados during the early 16th Century while travelling towards Brazil but no permanent settlement was made.
More than the past is colourful in Bridgetown!
Barbados was mostly an agricultural society until the early 1960s when it declared independence and decided to diversify its economy with tourism. Achieving Commonwealth status and then full independence in 1966, this young country has developed quickly into a fabulous destination. Today, this island of about 280,000 inhabitants welcomes around 700,000 visitors during a normal year.
Here’s a Pro-tip: The currency used in Barbados is the Barbadian Dollar (BBD) which is usually marked as BDs$. 1 British Pound equates to around 3 BDs$.
Barbados is served by the Bridgetown/Grantley Adams International Airport which is located in the southeast of the island, 17 km (10.6 miles) from Bridgetown. Direct flights operate from neighbouring Caribbean islands such as St Lucia, Miami, London, and mainland Europe. Buses operated by the Transport Board connect the airport to Bridgetown and other larger cities. Taxis are set at fixed prices depending on the distance. As a guideline, expect to pay around 24 BDs$ (£8.00) to Oistins and 46 BDs$ (£15.30) to Bridgetown. If your accommodation is more remote, enquire about booking a shuttle with your hotel. For traveling around Barbados, I suggest the ride-share app, “Pick Up Barbados”, if you don’t wish to hire a rental car.
Here’s another Pro-tip: You can visit the island any time of year but the best time is the dry season of mid-December through mid-April. Although Barbados rarely sees a major hurricane, it is within the monsoon tropical region.
During your time in Barbados, you can alternate between relaxing on sandy beaches, enjoying scuba diving and other water sports, and connecting with the culture of the island. Here are my top recommendations for Barbados:
- Bridgetown– this brightly-coloured port city is the capital of Barbados and a hub of activities, dining, and nightlife. Explore the walkable centre to experience its architecture, museums, religious buildings and public squares.
- Rihanna’s Childhood Home – take a stroll down Rihanna Drive to visit the bungalow where the superstar, or the “Diamondof Barbados”, grew up. You can pose for a photo in front of the house and view the monument in honour of the singer.
A turtle-y awesome sight!
- Snorkel with Endangered Sea Turtles– turtles are the very emblem of Barbados and you stand a high chance of spotting one or two whenever you’re in the water. Carlisle Bay Marine Park is one of the best places to snorkel with turtles.
- Mount Gay Rum Distillery – established in 1703, this aromatic rum is one of the island’s proudest exports. You can take a tour of the oldest, continuously running rum distillery in the world in Bridgetown which concludes with a very popular tasting.
- Cricket – Barbadians are united by their zeal for cricket and catching a game will add a twist to your Caribbean holiday. The Kensington Oval in Bridgetown is home to the national team and has hosted the likes of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Check the schedule to see if there are any matches scheduled during your stay. You’ll find the Cricket Legends of Barbados Museum across the road from the oval.
“To Have and Have Yacht!”
- Harrison’s Cave Eco-Adventure Park– when I need to cool down from the Caribbean sunshine, I head underground to explore the stalagmites, stalactites and subterranean streams of this massive cavern. Now, if I could just remember which one points up and which down!
- Water sports – once you clap your eyes on the turquoise water, you won’t be able to resist a dip. Board a scenic boat cruise, charter a yacht, hit the surf at Bathsheba, book a day of scuba diving, or rent a kayak at the beach nearest your hotel.
Here’s another Pro-tip: Rumoured to be the best party cruise in the Caribbean, the Jolly Roger Black Pearl sets sail daily from Bridgetown.
The dining scene in Barbados is diverse, ranging from casual beachside cafes, markets and food stalls, to fine dining establishments. Naturally, seafood is prominent but there are lots of choices for meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Here are three restaurants I enjoy:
- The Fish Pot– located in the small town of Clinketts, this restaurant offers an unparalleled view of the ocean, a wonderful atmosphere and a robust menu of seafood, meats, and vegetarian plates. Choose from sour, sweet, weak, or strong rum punch for a meal with a kick.
- La Cabane – savour everything from lobster to pork belly salad and lamb right on the sand and watch the day turn to dusk at this laid back beachside restaurant.
The Barbados version of a ‘Fry Up’!
- Green Lime Eco-Cafe & Juice Bar– when you need a break from fish, this innovative cafe whips up all kinds of colourful salads, stews, and smoothies. You’ll be sure to find your “Five a Day” here.
Here’s another Pro-tip: Fish fry is a tradition in Barbados and it’s energetically consumed on Friday and Saturday evenings. One of the best places to sample this tradition is at Oistins Fish Market in the southwest of the island. The market offers fresh dorado, barracuda, swordfish and more.
Barbados has a laid back approach to nightlife. If you’re looking to party, then the bar-lined St. Lawrence Gap is the most happening street on the island. Here are my favourites:
- Cocktail Kitchen – you can guess the specialisation of this bar in St Lawrence Gap! The selection is excellent and you can enjoy your tipple with a view from the roof terrace.
- Harbour Lights Barbados – every Wednesday and Friday, this Bridgetown venue springs to life with fire eating, carnival dancers, and stilt walkers. You can choose to add the traditional Bajan style BBQ dinner to your night.
- Red Door Lounge – situated within the Mango Bay Hotel in Holetown, this bar is the place for a glitzy night of cocktails and dancing.
Barbados is swimming in boutique hotels and resorts. The properties I prefer typically feature beach access, phenomenal views, and tropical gardens. Here are three Isabella approved hotels on the island:
This punch packs a punch!
- The Sandpiper – this 5-star hotel provides beachfront stylish accommodation. If you want to splash out you can check into a treetop or beach suite, which come with the addition of freestanding bathtubs, private plunge pools, and sensational views.
- The Atlantis Historic Inn – occupying a rugged stretch of the eastern coastline in Tent Bay (near Bathsheba) this 19th century property is a charming getaway. Spacious rooms feature period touches, there is a pool on site, and the ocean is moments away.
- Little Arches Boutique Hotel – this adults-only hotel comprises a mere 10 rooms which means it offers a cosy stay. The resort features a pool, spa, highly acclaimed rooftop restaurant and the possibility to take yoga classes and hire bicycles.
You’ll love Barbados even if you’re under an umbrella-ella-ella, ay-ay!