The island geography is an important part of Barbados tourism. Barbados is split into eleven parishes with four very different but equally enticing coasts. This Barbados tourism visitor’s guide explores the beauty of Barbados as described in the Virgin Atlantic Guide to Barbados . Labeled Los Barbados by the Portuguese and colonized by the UK, Barbados today is a prospering and independent (since 1966) Caribbean tropical island and a global class vacation destination.
Explore Barbados – One of the Friendliest Places on Earth
With the friendliest people, the most beautiful landscapes, and some incredible family-friendly beaches, Barbados really does have it all. This Barbados tourism guide and review of Barbados is just a sample of what this amazing island has to offer.
The Four Coasts of Barbados
Barbados is split into eleven parishes with four very different but equally enticing coasts. Understanding the geography of the island is an important part of Barbados tourism. Virgin Atlantic does a good job of capturing the essence of those four coasts.
Barbados Tourism Hub – The Platinum Coast
The majority of Barbados tourism hotels, resorts, and restaurants are located along the length of the West side of the island, nicknamed ‘the Platinum Coast’. Being the more sheltered side of the island, the beaches there are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. On the West Coast, highlighted by the parish of St James, you’ll find plenty of water-based activities to keep you entertained.
The East Coast Road
The untamed East Coast, or as Bajans refer to it, the East Coast Road, is best enjoyed on dry land. The swells of the Atlantic Ocean have seen the area in the vicinity of Bathsheba turn into a great place for Barbados tourism and the world’s surfing elite. However, you will not find Bajans swimming in the waters off the East Coast Road. Most locals consider the sea on the East Coast Road to be too rough.
Barbados is the most eastern of all the Caribbean islands. While there are several islands to the West, there is nothing to the East of Barbados except the massive Atlantic Ocean. Beyond the Atlantic Ocean is the West Coast of Africa. This geographic location of Barbados is directly linked to its historic role.
The Barbados North, or Scottish, Coast
Also nickname ‘the Scotland Region, the unspoiled north of the island with its somewhat rugged terrain will probably be worth visiting because of its remote coves and bays. The two most prominent of these bays are Archers Bay and River Bay. Archers Bay and River Bay are two historic picnic areas for Bajans.
The scenery is magnificent, offering tourists the opportunity to look out onto the ocean from massive seaside cliffs. However, like the East Coast Road, you will not find many Bajans in the water there because the seas are rough in this northernmost part of Barbados and the ocean currents have a dangerous undertow. The bays on the North Coast of Barbados are integral to Barbados tourism.
With all of the magnificent sea coasts of Barbados, it’s easy to overlook some of this island’s hidden inland gems.
Easy to Get Around Barbados
The island of Barbados offers lots of variety and is small enough to be easily explored from wherever you are staying. There is one constant that you can count on. Where ever on the island you go, it is assured that you will encounter a friendly Bajan welcome. This is why Barbados tourism has remained solid over the years.
Going around Barbados is really as relaxed as the Caribbean lifestyle itself. You can rent a car from one of the local car rental agencies and explore Barbados tourism on your terms. By car, it requires roughly one hour to get from one end of the island to the other. Nonetheless, if you are driving, it is advisable to avoid the most common morning and evening rush hours. Renting a car in Barbados can be fun. However, you should familiarize yourself with driving on the left side of the road in cars equipped with a right-side steering wheel.
Car Rental Barbados
If you don’t want to bother driving, then, like most places, taxis are available to get around. However, the cabs are not metered, so make certain to agree on how much you will pay before starting out on a cab ride. When you consider the frequency and venues you may wish to explore a car rental Barbados as a worthwhile option. Barbados tourism is the main economic pillar of the island. Renting a car in Barbados is a key way to support Barbados tourism.
Knowledgeable Cabbies in Barbados
One advantage which makes cabbies a great untapped reference for the Barbados tourism visitor trade is that your trip will be filled with knowledgeable insights into island life and background. However, do ask for a company card before exiting the taxi, and always call ahead with as much notice as can be.
Get Around Barbados By Bus
Another way to get around Barbados is to travel with the local Bajans and hop on a bus. You are able to either use the timetabled, government-run blue buses or ride the privately managed yellow buses. Both offer an island-wide service and charge the same charge per trip. The buses are cheap and convenient to use, but make sure you have the correct change before jumping on.
Barbados Car Rentals
Vehicle rentals in Barbados is one way to really explore Barbados. And, on a beautiful island paradise this small, getting lost is all part of the fun. Of course, if you’re traveling with a large group, then a Barbados group tour is always an option.
Barbados Tourism Group Tours
Book a group or private island tour and see the wilder North and East coasts. The oldest tour operator in Barbados, Sun Tours, offers a one-stop shop for private hire, group travels, and airport terminal transfers with reliable and friendly motorists. Barbados seashores are regularly voted among the best in the Caribbean. The Barbados tourism industry is packed with island tours. All major hotls either have scheduled tours or can connect you with recommended tour operators.
All Beaches Public in Barbados
Every beach in Barbados is open to the public, so don’t be deterred from accessing even if it appears like a private holiday resort. The superstar haunts of Crane Beach and Sandy Lane, whilst beautiful, are in no way all the island of Barbados provides. Even if you are not staying in one of the more exclusive hotels, the beaches bordering those properties are not off limits to you. This is one of the many attractive features of Barbados tourism.
Barbados Water Sports
The beautiful white sand beaches are one of the most beautiful attractions of Barbados. Therefore, it stands to reason that water sports are a key part of barbados tourism. Take time to look for less filled areas and discover your own deserted paradise. There are many water sport activities offered along the South and western coastline. If you’re seeking to try your hands at conquering the Atlantic waves, then Surfer’s Point in Christ Church is the perfect spot to stop.
Zed’s Surfing Adventures offer daily surfing lessons for those seeking to surf their first wave. They also organize surfing tours for the more advanced surfers. Board rental is provided and for beginners, after a short tutorial on the beach, you’ll be going into the water with experienced trainers there to guide you every step of the way.
Barbados Catamaran Tours
Another fun way to experience the Barbados coastline is to take a Catamaran tour. These tours are a very popular part of the Barbados tourism industry. Climb aboard Cool Runnings for each day of sea, adventure and sun. Departing daily from Bridgetown, cruise along the western coast of the island however you like before anchoring up to take pleasure from the tranquil warm waters of the Caribbean, making a couple of friends on the way. Offering daytime, sunset and private cruises, Cool Runnings understands how to show tourists a great time, Barbados style!
Barbados Natural Wonders
For such a little island there are numerous areas of natural splendor and animals to be found out. Exploring the parish of St Andrew in the north will lead you to one of Barbados’ best-kept natural secrets.
The Animal Flower Cave
The Animal Flower Cave is an amazing sea cave that opens directly into the Atlantic Ocean. A nominal entrance fee grants you access and a tour guide to take you down under the cliffs.
Be sure to bring your swimming gear, as on calm days the larger pool is suitable for bathing, allowing you to swim out and marvel close-up at the power of the Atlantic. Just don’t get too close!
The local folklore has it that as people try to reach the animal flowers, they move further back into the sea. In reality, there are two phenomenon which may actually contribute to this effect. First, the ‘animal flowers’ have tentacles which can sting and paralyze a passing fish. The tentacles then retract, creating the appearance that the flower ‘moved’. Secondly, sometimes the cave fills up with water causing the entrance to become like a blowhole.
Harrison ’s Cave
Harrison ’s Cave in the parish of St Thomas is another natural cavern with crystal clear water streams and crystallised lime formations. Visiting Harrison’s cave is clearly one of the things to do in Barbados.
Barbados has Best Tap Water in the World
While on a Barbados tourism trip, you will travel deep into Harrison’s Cave in a tour-guided tram. On such a visit you will be able to see first-hand exactly why the island has one of the purest tap water supplies in the world.
The water in Barbados is very safe to drink as it filtered naturally through coral limestone rock. Over 85% of Barbados is made up of coral limestone, meaning the water of Barbados is of a very high quality.
Barbados has a rich horticultural history. One of the top attractions on the island is Anthony Hunte’s Garden. Set in a sink hole-like gully, as you explore the pathways of this picturesque establishment, you’ll feel just like you’ve dropped down the rabbit opening and into your very own private wonderland.
Welchman Hall Gully
Close by, Welchman Hall Gully can simply be coupled with a vacation to Hunte’s Garden. Offering stunning viewpoints on the East coastline, it’s one of the only indigenous tropical scenery still accessible on the island. If you’re lucky you may even get the opportunity to see Barbados green monkeys in their natural habitat.
British Influence in Barbados
As the only Caribbean island that continued to be under continuous United Kingdom rule until independence, Barbados has retained much of its English traits. Anglican churches can be found in every parish around the island. The capital of Barbados is Bridgetown, a well-preserved Old Town with many examples of Colonial architecture. For years, one of the nicknames of Barbados was Little England.
George Washington’s Visit to Barbados
Barbados was the only place outside colonial America that George Washington ever visited, and he may well have put to good use what he learnt about the British some years later. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Garrison area of Bridgetown encompasses a variety of historical locations. Bush Hill House can be found here and is where George Washington stayed with his terminally ill brother in 1751.
The Garrison Savannah
The Garrison also includes Charles Fort, the Barbados Museum, and the Garrison Savannah which now operates as a racecourse. The Barbados Garrison Historical Consortium offers a full tour of the area every Thursday, taking in all the previously mentioned sites in addition to providing access to St Ann’s Fort, the working home of the Barbados National Defense Force.
Here you can tour the Barbados National Armoury Museum – housing some of the world’s rarest canons before heading to the Officer’s Clutter for a rum punch and a treat.
Arlington House Museum in Speightstown, in the Parish of St. Peter, is a restored 18th Century home which was converted into an interactive museum. There, you will hear stories of the island’s first settlers and discover what life on the plantation really was like.
The Speightstown Mural
Be sure to drop by and view the Speightstown mural over the street before you leave. This mural is the biggest piece of open public artwork in the Caribbean. It took over 3 years to finish. The optimum time to see the mural is the morning hours or sunset.
The Barbados National Trust Sites
In Barbados, there are plenty of Barbados National Trust sites to explore. This is where renting or hiring a car comes in handy, for these sites are all easily accessible if you hire a car. They offer further insight into present and past Bajans as well as stunning photo opportunities. The Barbados National Trust also arranges free, organized hikes throughout the island.
Barbados Flying Fish
Of all the Caribbean islands, Barbados is renowned for impeccable cuisine from high-end restaurants to local street food. Known as the Land of the Flying Fish, the warm surrounding waters provide a healthy supply of seafood all year round.
Bajan Fish Market
For a traditional Bajan scene, head to the pop-up fish market at Six Men’s Bay. Mid-afternoon is the ideal time to see the local fishermen sail in with the day’s catch. You never know, you might even get invited out on their next angling trip! Up the street from Six Men’s is situated the extremely popular Fish Pot, the first on many a foodies list as it pertains to eating in Barbados.
A menu bursting with traditional flavours and the freshest substances, the transformed 18th Century fort can be found directly on the beach. Open up for lunchtime and supper, this north of the island joy is really worth exploring for.
West Coast Water Taxis
Water taxis are available to transport you to and from an array of resorts along the Barbados West Coast. For a stylish, laid-back vibe, head to Lone Star Restaurant. This beachside restaurant is popular both with celebrities and all lovers of good food.
Once dubbed ‘The Ivy of the Caribbean’, this one-time petrol station is currently a buzzing Barbados tourism institution. For a more down-to-earth dish grab yourself a Flying Fish Cutter from Cutter’s Deli near Crane Beach. This traditional Bajan sandwich is the perfect lunchtime snack. If you’re on the beach at Crane, Cutter’s will deliver one straight to you. You’re never far from a rum punch in Barbados and whilst everyone will claim their own as the best, in Cutter’s case it may just be true.
Cutter’s and Crane Beach are only ten minutes away from the airport and it’s been known for departing people to swing by for just one last tipple before hopping on their flight home.
Whilst carnivores and pescetarians are well-catered for, the Good Life on Rockley Beach is flying the flag for vegetarians. Regardless of your culinary choice, the salads and wraps are remarkable and make a good difference from the fish-filled selections elsewhere. In addition, they do the best fruit smoothies on the island.
Wherever you decide to dine, always book in advance. Also, remember that most places don’t serve beyond 9. 30 pm. And if you see dolphin on the menu, don’t get worried, it’s Mahi Mahi, not Flipper.
Oistin’s Fish Market Barbados
The island has a fairly laid-back nighttime vibe, but if you’re seeking to spice it up a little, Oistins on Friday evening has become one of the most popular spots to explore an authentically Bajan seafood cuisine. It is the perfect place to let your hair down.
A bustling seafood market open 7 days per week, Oistins really comes to life on Friday evening when visitors and locals flood the town to enjoy the carnival-like end of the week fish fry or grill. In Oistins, you will find Freshly-caught seafood and a lot of rum. Despite the tourist trap reputation, it’s still a mandatory on your Barbados vacation. And if a stall has a long line of people waiting for food, that’s the line you want to be on. It will surely be worth your wait.
There’s a quieter, more local fish fry in the north at Half Moon Fort. This is quite a similar affair but with less crowds and again, best on weekends. For sundowners, the western world coast has a lot of beach bars to take pleasure from. Drift Ocean Terrace Lounge in Holetown is one of the classiest – ideal for cocktails. Barbados and rum go hand in hand, and it’s on faucet everywhere you go. Rum punch is the usual staple – essentially a strong rum drink mixed with fruit juice and ice, and it’s not authentic without a sprinkling of nutmeg.
Home to some of the world’s biggest brands, the major distilleries all offer trips with the focus on being the free taster session. To get a better understanding of how rum is made, head up to the Scotland Area to St Nicholas Abbey. During the sugar cane season, you can view first-hand the distilling process from beginning to end. There’s a complete plantation and Jacobean house to explore too, not forgetting Cherry Tree Hill using its breathtaking views within the north.
Additionally, drink as an islander at one of the numerous rum shacks. It’s a great way of studying island life from those who know it best. In the improbable event you are desperate for a shack, choose a spire or church tower – wherever there’s a chapel, there’s a rum shack close by! From the fine sand and sea, shopaholics will get places to get their fix. Duty-free jewelry shopping is available in Bridgetown’s Broad Street while shopping in Holetown is a far more fashionable and upmarket affair.
There are great 3rd party shopping areas like the quirky and quaint Chattel Village. There’s a genuine artisan feel as you wander around the original homes and the town is minutes from the beach so you’ll be back again lying down on the fine sand very quickly. For a far more tasteful take on souvenirs and gifts, venture to Chalky Mount for some beautiful pottery, handmade by the local legend John Springer. Personally sourcing his clay from the nearby area, John can often be seen at work in his studio and is more than happy to give a demonstration.
For home-grown mahogany crafts, head for Reggie Medford’s Craft World. As with the pottery, it’s not all about the end product and watching Reggie work won’t fail to impress or inspire. Bajan craftwork at its best. With spaces in Bridgetown and Speightstown, The Frangipani Gallery hosts a variety of work by local, Marilda Weatherhead, as well as some choice selections from other artists. All walks of life can be found and whether it’s a sculpture or painting, Marilda is readily available to provide advice. The Farmer’s Marketplaces in Barbados are as much about artwork and crafts as fresh produce.
1 of 2 of the greatest markets on the island, Brighton Market is held on Saturdays and it is ideal for catching some local music with an espresso and a waffle. The market is at its best from 7 to 9 in the morning. On Sundays, it’s all about Holders Market. Set in the grounds of historic Holder House, the place is bustling from 9 to 2.
Both markets are a great opportunity to support local farmers and artisans. The main currency of the island is the Barbadian dollar which is two to one on the US dollar. With the exception of the buses, US dollars are accepted island-wide, including the markets. All prices, unless otherwise stated, will be in Barbadian dollars.
Barbados was made for outdoor pursuits and, alongside water sports, there are plenty of activities to enjoy while remaining on the island. Bajan’s are interested in their especially cricket, sport, polo and equine race. The main cricket ground is Kensington Oval whilst all the main horse racing fixtures take place at the previous colonial outpost, Garrison Savannah. Browse the competition calendar to see what’s planned throughout your stay.
Barbados Golf Courses
If you miss a gathering, you can still capture the racehorses bathing around Carlisle Bay before each morning hours. The Caribbean houses some of the best possible golf courses on earth and Barbados is no exception. Apes Hill is the most recent addition to the golfing scene. Located on a previous sugar plantation, its thin air offers the most magnificent panoramic views. Phone ahead to reserve a tee time as the cool morning hours slots fill fast. Barbados has every type of accommodation from high-end resorts and secluded boutique hideaways to quaint guesthouses and beach side retreats.
The Caribbean is known for its exclusivity and there is nowhere better than The Coral Reef Club, a five-star resort that oozes West Indian elegance in a close setting. Set amongst 12 acres of luscious garden, the family-run Coral Reef has impeccable service, fine dining, and spacious rooms. Also within the resort, is the spa. Open to non-guests, the spa offers all the classic treatments in a salubrious setting.
Another colonial-inspired gem is The Fairmont Royal Pavilion. Feeling looked after from the moment you arrive, every aspect of your stay is taken care of in this tropical panorama. The Royal Pavilion is a great place to get married if you’re looking for a destination wedding.
Little Good Harbour is the ultimate Caribbean hideaway. By day, it is the perfect spot to enjoy the many water sports on offer. At night time, it is an idyllic setting to fall asleep in. it is a cluster of charming self-catering cottages collection amongst a tranquil panorama and only moments away from the beach. The Australian owners have created a serene setting and their equally impressive restaurant, Fish Pot, is right on the doorstep. It’s the perfect base from which to explore the north of the island.
Little Good Harbour offers the comfort and security of a family-run hotel with all the current perks of an exclusive villa rental. For an island with such a distinguished reputation, you may still find some good value options.
Minutes from Mullins Beach on the West Coast is Bayfield Visitor House, a homely bed and breakfast set in a transformed 1930’s plantation-style house. Bayfield is family run by couple Trevor and Pam. They come with an abundance of knowledge and a whole heap of recommendations of things you can do and see throughout your visit. Bayfield has a seductive and welcoming stay – a refreshing contrast to the formalities of a hotel.
Likewise, Sea-U Guesthouse is a B&B on the less-developed east side of the island. This location is especially well located for those on a surfing or hiking holiday.
Whilst a great place for lying on the beach and simply doing nothing, there are plenty of other things to see and do on this incredible island. So, tear yourself away from that sun lounger. Consider renting a car in Barbados, and get ready to discover Barbados, the true gem of the Caribbean.
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