Barbados Travel Guide
Date Visited: April 2015
In the days when royalty and the rich and famous could fly Concorde to their favourite holiday destination there was just one regularly scheduled destination – Barbados!
The island has always marketed itself as a playground for the rich and famous and as such is not considered a budget destination – but, despite the marketing, you can still have an affordable holiday here.
Barbados (population: 280,000) is 34km in length and up to 23km wide. The island is not part of any other island chain, lying 168 km east of the windward islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and 400 km north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. It is a huge chunk of raised limestone seabed located in the middle of nowhere. Barbados lies outside of the hurricane belt.
The island was originally inhabited by native Kalingo until the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. The British arrived in 1625 and claimed the island.
The British ran the island as a plantation. Most of the population today are descendant from the slaves who were brought to the island from Africa to work on the plantations.
One of the legacies from the slavery era is the Chattel house, these can still be found all over the island. They are small, collapsible wooden houses that can be transported easily and were used by the slaves who would often move between different plantations.
Barbados remained in British hands until independence in 1966. Due to its historical ties to the UK, Barbados today remains more ‘British’ than any other Caribbean island and is often referred to as ‘Little England’.
The capital and largest city (population: 110,000), Bridgetown is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Downtown you will find many fine coral-limestone buildings, one of which houses the Barbados museum. Bridgetown is a busy, bustling city but most sites and can be covered on foot in one day.
The best coffee downtown is available from the cafe on the 1st floor of the Cave Shepherd department store on Broad Street.
The best breakfast and coffee can be found at the cafe at the George Washington House museum. A young George lived here briefly, the only place he resided outside of the United States. Guided tours of the house are available daily.
Around the Island
Mount Gay Rum
Barbados is a rum lover’s paradise. Rum is an integral part of Barbadian culture and with 12,000 rum shops scattered across the island, you are never far from your next drink.
Barbados claims to be the birthplace of rum. It is the home of several brands, including Malibu.
Established in 1703, the Mount Gay company has spent over 300 years perfecting rum. It is the oldest commercial rum distillery in the world. The rum is distilled in the north of the island but the visitor centre is on the northern outskirts of Bridgetown and is open to visitors Monday – Friday.
You have a choice of a standard tour or you can join a cocktail making class, which is a lot of fun.
There is a restaurant onsite offering lunch and of course the rum never stops flowing. My favourite is the XO, which is nice and smooth and should be drunk neat – too good to be wasted in a rum punch.
All details regarding visits are available on the Mount Gay website.
Located in the interior uplands in the parish of St. Thomas, this limestone cave is worth a visit.
Barbados is a raised slab of limestone so there are numerous caves on the island but this is the most impressive.
Unfortunately you are not able to walk through the cave. Visitors are instead shuttled around on solar-powered trams.
Animal Flower Cave
The Animal Flower cave is located in the cliffs at North Point at the northern tip of the island in St. Lucy’s parish.
The cave is accessible via a series of coral steps, which descend through what use to be the blowhole.
‘Animal Flower’ is a local term for a sea anemone, which lives in the salt water pools in the cave.
The cave looks out onto the sea but during high tide the cave is closed as waves come crashing in through the entrance.
Barbados has more than 110km of beaches and being a huge slab of limestone, the beaches are often white powdery sand (from crushed coral) with turquoise waters.
The beaches on the west coast are amazing and it’s here you’ll find most of the hotels and tourist infrastructure. Wherever you are on the west coast the view is of a quintessential Caribbean beach.
Beaches on the east coast are exposed to the rough Atlantic Ocean and are not as ideal for swimming. It is much quieter on this coast.
Parked in a custom-made hangar just off the runway at Grantley Adams International airport is Concorde G-BOAE, which used to fly weekly from London to Barbados until 2003. When BA ended the Concorde program this one was donated to Barbados.
A visit to the museum includes a guided tour inside the plane – the only chance for mere mortals to view the interior of the Concorde and to sit in one of its seats – and dream.
There is a range of accommodation options for all budgets on the island from deluxe resorts to hostels.
High season prices apply from mid-December to mid-April.
I stayed in two different hotels on the island:
- Silver Point Villa hotel, located in Silver Sands, Christ Church parish (18km south of Bridgetown).
- Worthing Court Apartment hotel, located across from a beautiful beach in Worthing (7km south of Bridgetown).
Barbados is a busy island so best to book ahead using an online agent such as booking.com
Like other Anglo-Caribbean islands, Bajan cuisine contains English, Indian and African influence, which has been fused with the local seafood and produce.
In downtown Bridgetown there are many restaurants offering lunch specials to the local office workers. Here you can sample local specialities at local prices.
Some nationalities require visas for Barbados – check your visa requirements prior to arrival.
All flights arrive at Grantley Adams International Airport, which is located 13km south of Bridgetown in the parish of Christ Church.
The airport has direct service to destinations in the Caribbean, United States, Canada, Central America, South America and Europe.
It also serves as the second hub for LIAT (hopefully you are not subjected to the terrible service of this Caribbean monopoly airline too often).
There are no scheduled ferry services connecting Barbados to any other island. The only way to arrive by sea is by private yacht or cruise ship.
Public transport on Barbados is excellent. Frequent buses connect most places of interest. You can check routes on the Barbados transport board website
Hiring a car will allow you to explore the more remote parts of the island. The island can be covered in 2-3 days.