Barbados: what to see and do. This tropical island is a lot more than rum punch and beautiful beaches

Why go

If you’re heading to Barbados it’s time to rub shoulders with the world’s A-listers on this paradise island. Barbados has it all: azure waters, powder-white beaches and a tremendous amount of culture and history.

Mullins Beach Way Barbados. 620
Mullins Beach Way, Barbados

The west coast, known as the birthplace of rum and Rihanna, has a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous, with luxury hotels and fantastic restaurants, while the lush interior of the island offers stunning views and a local feel.

It retains a feel of its colonial past (spot the red post boxes, for example), and there’s shopping, spas, watersports and boat charters to keep you occupied all holiday long.

What to do

Barbados. The Jetty at Pebbles Beach. Visit Barbados
White sand and the turquoise Caribbean sea at Pebbles Beach

Head to the upmarket west coast for some of the calmest Caribbean waters. Accra beach is the largest beach in the area and a new boardwalk allows you to walk west for more than 3km to Hastings.

For those interested in seeing more of the island, get a guide to take you around (ask at your hotel) as they’ll know all the best places and you’ll be completely safe.

Book your Barbados trip and other beach holidays on High50 Travel

The island’s capital Bridgetown, with its historic Garrison area, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Check out the Houses of Parliament, Nelson’s Statue and National Heroes Square. Tip: Cave Shepherd, a department store, has great duty-free shopping and the best lamb chops and macaroni pie around.

At Bathsheba on the wilder east coast watch the fearless surfers breaking waves on the Atlantic or explore the wonderful Andromeda Botanic Gardens, teeming with 600 species of tropical flowers. Take a guide or taxi tour around the island to stay safe and see the best sights.

Swim with the turtles. Barbados Tourism Barbados 620
Swim with the turtles on one of the great snorkelling expeditions around the island

Harrison’s Cave and Wildlife Reserve in the centre of the island is a crystallized limestone world of gorges, grottoes, streams and waterfalls, which you can marvel at from an electric tram, then on foot. Walk through lush tropical jungle and meet monkeys that come right up to you.

Head up to Cherry Tree Hill, St Andrew, 850 feet above sea level, for stunning views of the island and Atlantic and explore St Lawrence Gap, a 1.3km strip across the south coast of the island.

Where to eat

Barbados. The Cliff Restaurant
The Cliff is an island highlight and one of the best restaurants in Barbados

Barbados is all about soul food. Head to the famous Fish Fry in Oistins, every Friday night. It’s the place to be. A dazzling array of fish is fried in this open-air market with a fantastic carnival atmosphere. Tourists are generally advised to leave the street party around 10-11pm.

For a special occasion, The Cliff is an island highlight and one of the best restaurants in Barbados, with balconies that overhang the water and a glam vibe. The cocktail menu is mouth-watering and it’s a very special place for romantic dinners.

Where to stay

The west coast has the best beaches and great nightlife and dining. Accommodation includes the five-star Sandy Lane or the popular four-star Colony Club Hotel. There are large and luxury golf course resorts including Royal Westmoreland and Ape’s Hill a short drive away.

The south coast and St Lawrence’s Gap is great for bagging an all-inclusive bargain or a laidback B&B with stunning beachfront views, such as the friendly Coconut Court Beach Hotel.

 

Getting around

Barbados. Foul Bay
Foul Bay is one of the many pretty spots you can access most easily by hiring a car

The Barbados bus service is very efficient (Transportboard) with a wide network of routes that cover the island often with blaring reggae music, giving you a real feel for the island. The fare is a standard fee of two Barbadian dollars (about 60p) for any journey.

Hail-and-stop taxi vans also pick up and drop off anywhere and are used widely by Bajans and tourists. Our top tip is to hire a car (sat nav is advised, though, as it’s easy to get lost).

Browse and book a long-haul holiday on High50 Travel

When to go

The most popular months are generally December, January and February, but January to May are the driest and least humid months. The official hurricane season runs from June to November. Rain can be common in late summer and autumn.

Three things we like

  1. Watching foraging native green monkeys that often appear in the hotel gardens.
  2. If you enjoy golf, you are going to be spoilt for choice with magnificent links courses dotted around the island.
  3. Go to the races at Garrison Savannah. It costs just £3 to get in and is the only place you will see anything gallop on Barbados.

Something we don’t like

Barbados. The Soup Bowl. Visit Barbados
The Soup Bowl is one of the best places to watch the surfers (or join them, if you feel confident!)

The wilder east coast is where the surfers go to ride big waves. It’s great to watch but beware of strong Atlantic currents here. Swimming is not recommended and can be very dangerous.

Don’t miss

Is swimming with turtles on your bucket list? Do not miss a Catamaran Cruise (Cool Runnings are highly recommended).

Sail out to a turtle-feeding spot off the coast, dive in and snorkel among these creatures for up to an hour before heading back to shore with a rum punch in hand as the sun sets.

Travelling with family

Barbados. Royal West Moreland Golf Course
Royal Westmoreland is one of several excellent golf courses on the island

Barbados is a wonderful choice for a family holiday destination with its wide scope of attractions, beaches to visit and areas to explore. But do find out any age limits before heading to an attraction to avoid disappointments.

High 50 insider tips

  • Tune in to the Voice of Barbados on 92.9 FM for great local music, lively phone-ins and local news.
  • While Barbados is one of the safer Caribbean islands, take care when on isolated beaches, unlit streets after dark or wearing highly visible gold jewellery.
  • If you go in July check out Crop Over, Barbados’s fantastic annual carnival, and the Jazz Festival in January.

Need to know

  • Flight time is eight and a half hours from London.
  • Most items on the island are priced in Barbados dollars (BDS$).
  • Time difference is five hours ahead (GMT +5).
  • To call Barbados from the UK dial 001 246 then the seven-digit local number.