I went to Barbados with a friend for spring break about 10 years ago and stayed with another friend who was living there. It’s a fabulous island getaway with its own distinctive Bajan culture and world-class beaches. In addition to my recommendations below, My Guide Barbados also provides a helpful guide to planning a trip to the island.
If you’re just going to Bridgetown and/or a resort, you’ll probably be fine using taxis to get around. But they’re not cheap or always easy to find. For that reason, if you plan to visit more of the island, I recommend renting a car. Driving can be a bit hectic — both due to the narrow roads (in places) and because of the left-side drive custom, owing to its British legacy.
Downtown Bridgetown has a feel of a classic Caribbean town. I enjoyed wandering along the waterfront and taking in the colorful scenery. The Independence Arch marks the city center (more or less) and the nearby Cheapside Market sells produce and other local products. (Prices aren’t really on the cheap side : ) Further from the city center is the old stone St. Michael’s Cathedral, worth a visit. While driving around Bridgetown (and elsewhere in Barbados), you’ll encounter plenty of wooden chattel houses — small, unfixed houses that were designed to be easily moved. For those of you (like me) who just want to prioritize relaxing on the beach, the Pebbles and Brownes beaches are right downtown, featuring white sand and tranquil, blue water.
If you’ve ever wanted to ride inside a submarine, now’s your chance! Atlantis Submarines offers regular trips leaving right from the waterfront. I saw plenty of colorful, schooling fish and generally enjoyed the sub experience. It’s certainly a family-friendly activity.
Given the region’s famous rum scene, we felt obliged to visit the Mount Gay Rum Distillery. When we arrived, a group had just departed for a tour of the distillery– so we were given a choice –wait (and pay) to take the next tour or go (for free) straight to the tasting room. After about one second of deliberation, we chose the tasting room. The rum was delicious — Mount Gay makes some fantastic rums, including some high-end aged special variants.
Pro Tip: While this probably goes without saying, it serves as a good reminder: if you want to buy rum but don’t want to pay to check a bag (with liquids) on your flight home, just wait and get it from the airport duty free shop.
Fish Markets: There are a few good fish markets around Barbados including in Bridgetown and Oistins. While at the fish market, keep an eye out for flying fish, which are famous in Barbados and commonly included in Bajan cooking. If you’re out on a boat, you may see them jumping / fluttering above the water!
Speaking of flying fish, Cuzz’ Fish Stand on the beach in Bridgetown makes a fantastic flying-fish sandwich, topped with an egg and spicy Caribbean sauce. I probably went there three times while in Barbados. (Strong recommendation!)
Just Grillin’ is another good option, outside of downtown Bridgetown and offers some delicious BBQ and seafood options. As the name implies, they do a lot of grillin’.
Elsewhere on the Island
For nightlife, we went to the St. Lawrence Gap (“The Gap”), south of Bridgetown, which has a large collection of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs — many offering happy hour (broadly-defined) specials. It can be a raucous scene if you stay late! it was easy enough to take a cab there and back, but if you plan to take the bus home, just confirm in advance what time it finishes for the night.
I also highly recommend visiting Crane Beach, a world-class white-sand beach on the southeast side of the island. Sunbeds are available for rent and there are some cliffs nearby for those who like cliff-diving. Btw — the nearby Crane Resort makes fabulous pina coladas!
We stopped by the Barbados Wildlife Reserve in the northern part of the island, which offers walking paths through a grove of thick, flowering trees. Several species of local animals roam freely around the park including the green monkey, tortoises, iguanas, small Brocket deer, caiman, and the mara — a large rabbit with long legs. It’s worth a visit!
Driving around the island, we passed through sugar cane fields and stopped to admire the northern shore, with massive waves crashing on the cliffs. We rented a surf board and a body board from a shop in Bridgetown and stopped at a makeshift beach along the road to try them out. I couldn’t get up on the surf board (I need to take lessons one day), but the body board was great fun!
One note of caution — if you’re not at a clearly-designated, sandy beach, watch for coral and sharp rocks — the waves are strong and can push you against them on short notice (I learned that the hard way!)
Something for Next Time: Despite my best intentions, I never made it to the George Washington House — a large mansion south of Bridgetown where Washington stayed when he visited Barbados in 1751.