barbados travel guide

Barbados Travel Guide

Isolated in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 miles (161 km) due east of St. Lucia, Barbados stands apart from its neighbors in the Lesser Antilles archipelago, the chain of islands that stretches in a graceful arc from the Virgin Islands to Trinidad.

While it’s justifiably famed for its fantastic beaches, Barbados is an island that has it all. In addition to fine powdery sand and brilliant turquoise bays, you’ll find smashing nightlife, a Unesco World Heritage–listed capital, a beautiful interior dotted with gardens, and wild surf on the lonely east coast, all inhabited by a proud and welcoming populace.

More Brits travel to the island, than any other nationality. Most visit for the (almost) guaranteed warm weather and fantastic beaches. Famous luxury resorts are also a big draw, together with restaurants renowned as some of the best in the Caribbean.

Barbados is relatively flat compared to others, as its one of the few without a volcanic origin. It’s a sophisticated tropical island with a rich history, lodgings to suit every taste and pocketbook, and plenty to pique your interest both day and night.

Most of the nearly 300,000 Bajans (Bay-juns, derived from the British pronunciation of Barbadian) live and work in and around Bridgetown, elsewhere in St. Michael Parish, or along the idyllic west coast or busy south coast. Others reside in tiny villages that dot the interior landscape.

Barbadians (Bajans) are a warm, friendly, and hospitable people who are genuinely proud of their country and culture. Although tourism is the island’s number one industry, the island has a sophisticated business community and stable government; so life here doesn’t skip a beat once passengers return to the ship.

Barbados is the most “British” island in the Caribbean. Afternoon tea is a ritual, and cricket is the national sport. The atmosphere, though, is hardly stuffy. This is still the Caribbean, after all.

Barbados is one of the most developed and popular islands in the Caribbean. Barbados travel definitely won’t disappoint a traveler looking for an adventure or simply a peaceful escape. Our Barbados travel guide will give you the tools for an ideal island experience.

Tourist Information

Language

English

Currency

Barbados dollar; pegged to the U.S. dollar

Climate and Recommended Time to Visit

The best time to travel to Barbados is mid-December through April, although it is peak tourist season as cold weather in North America and Europe pushes crowds to tropical Barbados. Resorts tend to be full but there’s still plenty of sand around.

During the off-season, most business are open but prices tend to be cheaper especially in accommodations. Hotel rates can be half of those required during the busy period. During the high season, too, a few hotels may require you to buy a meal plan, which is usually not required in the low season.

Barbados wet season runs from June through November, and the dry season is December through May.

Hurricanes rarely hit Barbados as it is situated on the periphery of most hurricane paths, but rain and wind can still be a factor during those months.

Top Attractions and Must-See Sights

barbados travel guide

The Beaches of Carlisle Bay

One of the most Instagram-worthy destinations in Barbados is Carlisle Bay on the edge of Bridgetown. Beautiful blond beaches and long stretches of crystal-clear turquoise waters make this one of the most inviting areas to dip your toes in the sea or set up a beach chair.

Pebble Beach is one of the best stretches along the bay, but Brownes Beach and Bayshore Beach are also enticing spots.You can wade or swim in the placid water, rent a stand up paddleboard, or simply relax on the beach. If you head down to Pebble Beach at dawn, you can see the racehorses getting a morning bath in the ocean and watch the sunrise.

Downtown Bridgetown

Bridgetown, the nation’s capital, is home to a wealth of attractions, but it’s also simply a beautiful place to wander around. The landmark Parliament Buildings, easily recognizable by the neo-Gothic style architecture and clock tower, and the National Heroes Square are two of the main sites in the city center.

Across the street from the Parliament Buildings is the lovely Chamberlain Bridge, with views over the Constitution River, known more commonly as The Careenage. From the bridge, you can see yachts docked along the waterway and the colorful buildings that line the waterside walkway.

Bathsheba Bay

Located along the rugged Atlantic coast, Bathsheba Bay offers a dramatic glimpse into the erosive power of the ocean. The beach here, popular with surfers but not a place for swimming, is dotted with huge rock formations created by the remains of ancient coral reefs undercut by the relentless waves. The water in the bay is shallow, and the surf creates a white lather, which led to the name Soup Bowl, a term well-known internationally in the surfing community.

If you are looking for a lunch spot, continue to The Atlantis Hotel and dine in the hotel’s restaurant. Just past the Atlantis, the De Garage restaurant is a more casual option. You can also combine a visit to Bathsheba with stops at the nearby Andromeda Tropical Botanic Gardens and the Flower Forest.

Animal Flower Cave

At the northern tip of Barbados, the Animal Flower Cave is one of the top places to visit, not just for the cave, but for the dramatic views from the lookout above.

Cave tours are only 15 to 20 minutes and are led by a guide. A short staircase takes you down into this unique cave. Large natural openings offer windows out to the ocean, and pools formed by the spray from waves act as reflecting ponds. These openings also provide plenty of light and remove the claustrophobic feeling often found in dark caves.

On the cliff-side above the cave is a restaurant and a few vendors set up in stalls selling trinkets. Views from the restaurant are incredible. Above a portion of the restaurant is an open-deck viewing area, popular when the whales are frequenting the area during February to April.

St. Nicholas Abbey

The Jacobean great house at St. Nicholas Abbey was built in 1658, and despite the name, was a plantation and never had any religious association. The property changed hands several times over the centuries but is today owned by Larry and Anna Warren, who purchased the property in 2006. They have restored the estate and operate it as a sugar plantation. Visitors can tour the property to see antiques, learn about the workings, and explore the grounds, which generally takes a couple of hours.

Barbados Wildlife Reserve

The Barbados Wildlife Reserve is a great place to see and enjoy some of Barbados’ most notable creatures, including the island’s famous green monkeys. You can often see the monkeys interacting with other wildlife at the reserve, entertaining themselves by pestering tortoises and other inhabitants.

Agoutis, monkeys, deer, tortoises, and iguanas wander about freely within the confines of the facility, providing great opportunities for photography and close-up encounters. Some of the other residents include parrots, caiman, maras, and snakes. Across the parking lot from the reserve is the Grenade Hall Forest and Signal Station. Admission to the zoo includes entrance to this attraction as well.

Farley Hill National Park

The remains of the great house on Farley Hill are overgrown with trees and vines, creating a scene perhaps more dramatic than when the hall was in its full glory. The house is believed to have been built in 1818 and occupied for many years before falling into a state of decay by the 1940s. It was restored in the mid-1950s to be used as a filming site, but the materials used were inflammable and the great hall was destroyed in a fire.

The government acquired the property and turned it into Farley Hill National Park in 1965. The 17-acre grounds, including the front garden and an area of mahogany trees in behind offer picnic tables in beautiful areas to relax. The hall itself is completely fenced off, but the fence is extremely close to the structure allowing for plenty of opportunity to peer inside and see the interior arches.

Getting Around

Air

You can fly nonstop to Barbados from Atlanta (Delta), Boston (JetBlue), Fort Lauderdale (JetBlue), Miami (American), and New York–JFK (JetBlue). Caribbean Airlines offers connecting service from Miami and New York via Port of Spain, Trinidad, but this adds at least two hours to your flight time even in the best of circumstances and may not be the best option for most.

Barbados is also well connected to other Caribbean islands via LIAT. Mustique Airways and SVG Air connect Barbados to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Many passengers use Barbados as a transit hub, sometimes spending the night each way.

Bus

Bus service is efficient and inexpensive. Public buses are blue with a yellow stripe; yellow buses with a blue stripe are privately owned and operated; and “ZR” vans (so called for their ZR license plate designation) are white with a maroon stripe and also privately owned and operated.

All buses travel frequently along Highway 1 (St. James Road) and Highway 7 (South Coast Main Road), as well as inland routes. Buses run about every 20 minutes.

Bus stops around the island are marked with red-and-white signs printed with the direction in which the bus is heading (‘To City’ or ‘Out of City’). Buses usually have their destinations posted on or above the front windshield.

Bridgetown terminals are at Fairchild Street for buses to the south and east and at Lower Green for buses to Speightstown via the west coast.

Car

Barbados has good roads, but traffic can be heavy on main highways, particularly around Bridgetown. Be sure to keep a map handy, as the road system in the countryside can be very confusing

Drive on the left, British-style. Seat belts are compulsory, and children under five must use a child seat. Use of a cell phone while driving is prohibited. When someone flashes headlights at you at an intersection, it means “after you.” Park only in approved parking lots or in parking spots marked with a P sign.

Barbados doesn’t have many major international rental chains. There are, instead, scores of independent car-rental companies, some so small that they’re based out of private homes. A couple of local companies at the airport do have cooperation agreements with international brands.

Most car-rental agencies require renters to be at least 21; some agencies have an age limit between 70 and 80 without a medical certificate.

Rental cars are marked with an ‘H’ on the license plate. While many car-rental companies don’t have booths at the airport, most will deliver your car there or to your hotel.

Agencies include:

Taxi & Ridesharing

Taxis have a ‘Z’ on the license plate and usually a ‘taxi’ sign on the roof. They’re easy to find and often wait at the side of the road in popular tourist areas.

Taxis operate 24 hours a day. They aren’t metered but rates are fixed by the government. Taxis carry up to three passengers, and the fare may be shared.

Boat

With its good networks of roads, water taxis are not common in Barbados (unlike some other parts of the Caribbean), although on the west coast there are a couple of operators running between local businesses.

Best Hotels In Barbados

barbados travel guide

Cobblers Cove

Located right on the west coast of Barbados, Cobblers Cove is a haven of grace and tranquility for discerning travelers. The hotel has 40 suites, spacious and charming suites with verandas overlooking the ocean and tropical gardens.The Camelot Restaurant is a destination in itself. 

St Peter’s Bay Luxury Resort and Residencies

The smell of the sea. The sounds of the soft waves lapping the white sandy beach before you. The sight of the crystal Caribbean waters meeting the azure sky at the horizon. These are the senses you want to experience when you step out onto the balcony of your island home. And they’re exactly what you’ll get from your beachfront villa at Saint Peter’s Bay! 

Bougainvillea Barbados

Discover an oceanfront hotel that captures the essence and allure of the Caribbean. Feel the warmth of the sun and the friendliness of Barbados from your home away from home, Bougainvillea Barbados. Escape the norm with endless options and all the comforts of a full-service hotel, ideally suited to couples and families alike. Relax, unwind and fall in love with all that makes Bougainvillea Barbados uniquely unforgettable. 

Tamarind by Elegant Hotels All Inclusive

A mere 35 minutes from the airport, Tamarind is situated on a 750-foot expanse of the famed Platinum West Coast of Barbados. The hotel features gorgeous ocean views and spectacular sunsets with pristine white sand steps away from rooms and public areas. Just minutes to nearby Holetown restaurants, bars and Limegrove Shopping Mall.

Best Restaurants In Barbados

barbados travel guide

Champers Restaurant

Alive and vibrant set in a chic, laid-back Caribbean atmosphere. Champers sits amidst breath-taking views of the water’s edge. The menus are comprehensive and captivating. The dishes are uniquely authentic; international with bold intense Caribbean flavors complimented by a simple presentation with an emphasis on fresh, quality and local ingredients. All kids under fourteen, enjoy meals from our Kids Menu designed specifically for them. 

The Tides

Set in the magical backdrop of what was once a classic seaside Barbadian home built after the 2nd World War with coral stone and mahogany, The Tides Restaurant is now one of the leading restaurants located on the water’s edge of the West coast of Barbados. Bring to life any celebration – big or small- or simply brighten your trip to Barbados through the culinary and service experience provided by The Tides Restaurant and its team!

Nishi Restaurant

Enjoy a diverse menu of English, Caribbean and Asian dishes, served across our three distinctive dining areas. Come and enjoy evenings of live music, selection of specialty cocktails and Sushi prepared by a head chef who boasts 15 years’ experience in restaurants across Miami, New York, and the Shangri-La Hotel in Indonesia. 

Harlequin Restaurant

The bistro-style Harlequin Restaurant has been thriving in the center of the Saint Lawrence Gap for 18 years.

This popular, intimate restaurant offers a varied Menu prepared fresh to order. Dining is outside on the starlit terrace, accompanied by soft strains of jazz music and the crisp Caribbean air. Fresh Seafood, Grilled specialties, Vegetarian delights, scrumptious home-made Desserts and affordable Kids meals are available. An international Wine list and cocktail bar make this dining experience complete. 

How to Stay Safe in Barbados

Barbados is considered to be a very safe destination however you should take reasonable precautions to protect yourself.

Don’t leave valuables in plain sight, in an unlocked car or room, or on the beach. Use your hotel safe if one is available. Lock doors and close windows when leaving your room or car.

Maintain the same level of awareness that you would at home. Report any harassment to a police officer or to your hotel manager.

Make a note of the Barbados emergency numbers: Police 211; Fire 311; Ambulance 511.

If uncertain about a swimming area, check with your hotel first as there may be currents. Stick to beaches with lifeguards on duty if you are not a strong swimmer.

Some beaches are bordered by Manchineel trees. Avoid standing under the trees, or touching the fruit, as the white sap produced by the tree is a skin irritant that can cause blisters. Such trees are typically marked with red spray paint.

As a tropical island Barbados does have some mosquitoes, especially in the wetter summer months. Be sure to apply insect repellent to keep them away.

The wearing of any form of camouflage is illegal in Barbados. Do not dress in, or carry, items made of camouflage material. Also, possession and distribution of illegal drugs/narcotics is strictly prohibited. If convicted of such an offence the crime is punishable by a fine or imprisonment or both.

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