I count myself among one of the luckiest people I know, in that, I have the incredible opportunity to travel to beautiful places as part of my job. My travels have been taken me around the world and yet I treat each one as a unique experience. In your role as a travel journalist, it can often feel like you are comparing and contrasting one place to another which ultimately is a bit unfair since that is never the intent. Keeping that in mind, I have finally visited the island nation of Barbados and I can say unequivocally this is one of the most beautiful places I have been. No shade to my other previous beautiful destinations.
Barbados perfectly represents what I would daydream about during the winter. You know what I mean. Those blustery, frigid days when all you can do to make it through the day is to envision yourself laying on a beach with pink sand and emerald waters. Well I turned those daydreams into a reality and added some sweet coconut water and rum punch to the picture. I finally made it! I saw, I stayed – and I never wanted to leave – Barbados.
I can honestly say I soaked up as much of Barbados as I could. The beaches, its natural sites, and its warm culture were my backdrop for days and the time went by too quickly. As much as I am tempted to keep it all to myself, I have to share my experiences in this Caribbean paradise. Take a look below and try to hear the soca music and the slapping of dominoes as I let you know what you must do and see should you hit the island.
My first stop in Barbados was Harrison’s Cave, one of the greatest natural wonders of the island. Located in the central uplands, this breathtaking crystalised limestone cave is an example of nature’s mystery and mastery. Situated at 700ft above sea level, visitors can travel through the caves via a tramway and explore flowing streams, deep pools, and towering columns of stalagmites and stalactites. Some of the tram stops include The Great Hall, a 50ft height cavern and The Village where formations have joined together creating columns after thousands of years. Barbados is known for its above ground sites, the sun, the beach and the water, but Harrison’s Cave manages to rival all of those. It truly has to be seen to be believed.
Welchman Hall Gully is a three quarter mile long gully which hosts tropical plants and trees, and a multitude of local flora including nutmeg, clove, bamboo and palms. If you look closely (and keep your devices on vibrate) you might also catch a look at the green monkeys that inhabit the gully. Welchman Hall Gully preserves the natural and uncontaminated landscape of Barbados before the first settlers came. The gully was formed by a collapsed roof of caves and is still geologically connected to Harrison’s Cave.
A visit to the centre of Bridgetown is necessary if you want to get a sense of the local flavor on a daily basis. The town is pretty small and that makes it easy to walk around. The main sites are the Parliament buildings, a few churches, the harbor and the local market shopping for fruits and vegetables. Bridgetown is a collection of sights and sounds. The older, colorful houses that line the street take on different hues as the day and the sunlight shift. There is a real energy to the many vendors selling fruit and fish cakes as you move through the crowds. The old timers gather outside the Parliament building, playing dominoes and drinking the local Banks beer. Wade into the crowd if you dare but take it from me if you don’t know how to slap them dominoes you won’t last long.
Oistins is the only destination that matters on Friday night. It is an open air market on the South coast of Barbados that becomes the centre of the island excitement and buzz. Here you can taste the most authentic Bajan food. Heaping plates of flying fish, dolphin and shark sandwich are served with rice & peas and macaroni pie. All the while the rhythm never stops and soca music is played deep into the night. Oistins is not a spectator sport, you are there to participate. Loosen your mind, and your hips and join the musical frenzy and “wine up” till the sun rises.
Brownes Beach has been “the happy place” of my trip. Even though there are beaches in Barbados such as Crane Beach or Dover beach that get more attention, my favorite beach award goes to Brownes beach. Situated on the west side of the island, this beach is frequented mostly by a few locals which makes it feel like it’s your own private oasis. The vastness of the coral sand shore gives it an intimate feel. The water is shallow and crystal clear making it a good option for swimming, snorkeling and other water activities such as scuba diving or jet-skiing. Sunbeds and umbrellas for daily rental are readily available. Directly across the street you can find quaint bars and restaurants in case you fancy a drink or a snack. I spent hours on Brownes Beach and couldn’t get enough of it. You arrive in the morning to quiet waves crashing the beach and leave in the evening to a beautiful sunset. You can’t go wrong with Brownes Beach.
One of the best ways to explore the island is by the sea. I opted for a catamaran cruise in the afternoon with Tiami. It was the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure that allowed me to experience Barbados in an unique and fun way. The vibe on board is definitely festive: music, drinks and food are served over the length of your cruise. While gliding over the Caribbean waters you can opt to relax on the deck or jump into the sea and swim with sea turtles. The sea turtles have to be seen to be believed. I would recommend taking a swim with them and having your own Finding Nemo moment. We also stopped at the exclusive Sandy Lane beach for more swimming and sunbathing. Tiami is top notch and professional and offer an unbeatable day out on the water.
I hope my travel diary in Barbados has inspired you to visit the island. It is truly heaven on earth. Follow these tips and you’re guaranteed to have a smooth time in this island paradise.
🚗 Barbados is not a big island but you will need a car to move around. If you don’t feel comfortable to drive on the English side of the road you can rent a car or a scooter. You can also make arrangements with a taxi or a tour company. Some of them like Terry’s Paradise Tour will plan according to your specific needs around the island and make your ride special fueled with drinks and colorful anecdotes about the island.
⚠ In case you are planning to drive, make sure you carry with you an updated map as signs on the roads are scarce.
🚐 If you’re ready to get around like a local, you can ride one of the mini vans that cover multiple routes around the island. The system is based on trust so you will pay two bajan dollars once you get off.
👖 Make sure you don’t wear anything that resembles the camouflage motif as in Barbados it is illegal unless you belong to the military forces.
🌞 Barbados is sunny all year long, but if you visit between June-October days will be relatively shorter and the sun will set around 6.30pm.
🍹 If you buy any bottle of rum that is duty free, you will have to pick it up at the duty free zone at the airport.
👙Carry with you high sunscreen lotion and mosquito repellent.
💰 In Barbados the currency is Bajan dollars but English Pounds and American Dollars will be accepted everywhere.