Perched right on the edge of the Caribbean Sea, Barbados is truly one of the most magical islands I have ever had the privilege to visit and one that I am already dreaming about to return to again. It offers so many opportunities to experience, hence making it the perfect destination to explore. It is also known for being the Caribbean island with the most return visitors and this is partly due to the friendliness of the locals.
Planning a trip to Barbados? Here is Andi’s guide to visiting:
How To Get There
We flew direct from Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT) to the capital of Barbados, Bridgetown (BGI). It was around five hours and there is an hour time difference. If you are comfortable flying on the window seat, I highly recommend it, as the views upon landing are breathtaking!
Where To Stay
Barbados is divided into eleven parishes, but for ease of planning your visit I can tell you that we loved being in Oistens, which is in Christ Church parish. We have found that staying in homes make our travels as a family much more enjoyable, thus we decided to rent this villa on AirBnB. We also rented a car through BCR Car Rentals in order to have the freedom to go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted. They provided car seat, so that we did not have to bring our own. Please keep in mind that driving in Barbados is extremely complicated due to the scarcity of street signs, however if you enjoy getting lost and having some adventures then I suggest it.
The villa we rented is an old plantation house situated on an acre of land. There are four large air conditioned bedrooms and a huge kitchen. The home is an excellent family vacation spot with an infinity pool, tropical grounds, and proximity to all that Barbados has to offer. It has the bright, sun-drenched palette of the island and easy nonchalance of Caribbean living. We had our rental car, but if you choose to stay in a centrally located place such as this, you are only a fifteen minute walk to restaurants and beaches. If you have a large budget and want to stay somewhere very luxurious in Barbados, you should check out the The Great House Villa. It is a very nice place to stay.
Where To Eat
One of the most surprising things about Barbados was the culinary scene. If you are a foodie, you need to put the country on your Bucket List now. There are an abundance of restaurants offering every possible cuisine from around the globe and catering for every price range.
Affordable dining choices include the island’s own fast food chain, Chefette, which serves everything from burgers and fried chicken to pizza and rottis. Also, the kids menus are awesome and so are the outdoor playgrounds.
There is an enormous selection of top restaurants on the island. For fine dining, book a table at The Cliff, Cin Cin, and Café Sol Mexican Grill. Without a doubt, our favorite restaurant was Castaways. We celebrated several unforgettable dinners there. Make sure to book a reservation in advance around sunset and ask for a table on the terrace. I promise you the experience will be life changing!
The most popular seafood dinner can be found in Oistins where you will find the “Fish Fry” every Friday night. Open-air stalls fill the long strip between the main road and the waterfront and folks grill right before your eyes.
What To Do
Every beach is publicly owned, which means you are allowed to visit all of them (we tried to not repeat the same beach the 10 days we were there — there are that many). For most, the thought of a Barbados getaway conjures images of idyllic beaches bordered by an azure ocean, swaying palm trees, and luxury resorts. While this picture of paradise definitely can be found, there is so much more to this tiny coral outcrop than one could imagine.
The beaches along the western and southern coasts have the calmest waters, as they border the Caribbean Sea. The best family-friendly beaches on the southern coast are Accra, Dover, Miami, and Maxwell. On the western coast, family-friendly beaches include Batts Rock, Folkestone, Mullins Bay, and Brighton. All of these beaches have public facilities, chair rentals, and restaurants — either on site or close by.
Truly the beaches are as good as you have heard. If we were pushed to choose our absolute favorite, I would say Carlisle Bay for its epic landscape. On a bright sunny day, the water is an insanely bright shade of turquoise that looks photoshopped. My tip while there? Replace the phone in your hand with a refreshing rum punch.
While it is a bit of a drive, you would be remised if you did not visit the eastern side. Its rugged Atlantic coastline and sea winds make this part of the island the perfect place for surfing and even seeing some of the best geology in the Caribbean. There are public parks that make for an excellent picnic setting. Keep your eyes open for the cheeky green monkeys looking for food!
There are a multitude of family-friendly attractions in Barbados to keep kids and parents happy. While we chose to focus on the beaches, the possibilities on dry land are endless. You can take the kids horseback riding along the coast, visit the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, explore the subterranean world of Harrison’s Cave, immerse yourselves in one of the many tropical gardens (Andromeda Botanic Gardens, Flower Forest, and Hunte’s Gardens), or take a hike up Mt. Hillaby.
Where To Shop
There is a lot of shopping to be found in the capital Bridgetown, especially when it comes to souvenirs. Although, I highly recommend visiting the stunningly beautiful Limegrove Mall in Holetown for a more upscale shopping and entertainment experience. You could literally spend the entire day there. My favorite boutique is Always Summer.
Barbados boasts a number of major supermarket chains that stock the majority of items you will find in your stores at home. You should note that almost all food and beverage products are imported making them very expensive.
What To Buy
Barbados is renowned as the birthplace of rum. It was first produced on the island in 1642 and is still widely produced on the island today using traditional local methods. The local rum makes a great souvenir, as does Bajan rum cake. We brought home the latter for our son’s teachers and grandparents and they were incredibly grateful!
My Favorite Experience
Sometimes the most unforgettable experiences are the ones that we do not plan for and that is one of my favorite things about traveling. We were snorkeling in Carlisle Bay and a huge turtle swam next to us for over an hour. Afterwards, we discovered that Hawskbill and leatherback sea turtles feed and nest in the clear, calm waters along the west coast of Barbados. There are a number of tour operators that will take you offshore to swim with these marvelous, friendly creatures if you do not get lucky and happen to encounter one like us.
My favorite experience that was planned for was celebrating New Year’s Eve. Simply put: it was magical. To read all about the experience visit here.
If you have been to Barbados and you have any further suggestions or recommendations to add, please leave a comment below!