Barbados Holiday Planning Guide
Plan a vacation on the small Caribbean island of Barbados and experience its rich history and vibrant culture. Affectionately called "Little England," the island retains a noticeable British influence in its lively culture, visible especially in sports, religion, and the charming British style buildings with a Caribbean flair. On a tour of Barbados you can lounge on sandy beaches, participate in world-class surfing, roam the World Heritage-listed capital, or explore the lush island interior. Don't forget to sample the island’s world-famous rum and the signature local dish, the flying fish.
Places to Visit in Barbados
Regions of BarbadosSaint Joseph Parish
: Home to a renowned international surfing competition, the rugged St. Joseph Parish attracts visitors from across the world for its pristine palm-lined beaches and prime botanical gardens.Saint Michael Parish
: Tour World Heritage-listed British colonial fortifications and an old town, or explore beaches and shipwrecks, combining relaxation during your Barbados holiday with shopping in the capital city.Christ Church Parish
: Enjoy white sandy beaches, snorkeling, or diving near shipwrecks in combination with shopping, leisure activities, adventure, and delicious food tours ashore in this southernmost parish of Barbados.
Cities in BarbadosBridgetown
: Bridgetown provides an entry point to visit the rest of the island during your Barbados trip. As the capital and largest city, Bridgetown offers a laid-back lifestyle with an eclectic mix of activities from UNESCO-protected Old
Town areas to modern malls, lush tropical gardens, and nature trips.Speightstown
: Combine your iconic beach holiday with a visit to museums and galleries set in Barbados’ second largest town’s colonial buildings, and explore the history and culture of the island.
Popular Barbados Tourist AttractionsHarrison's Cave
: Take a underground tramway to explore unusual, well-lit limestone formations, such as a figure of a man kneeling before a woman, or a great hall with a 15 m (50 ft) high natural ceiling.Oistin's Friday Night Fish Fry
: Experience fresh Caribbean fish and seafood grilled before you in an active fishing town’s rustic community eatery with live music and dancing.Hunte's Gardens
: A mix of antique statues and exotic plants attract visitors to these private lush gardens for a retreat from a tropical forest where you can take a leisurely stroll, observe hummingbirds and lizards, and get some refreshments.Silver Moon Charters
: Explore the Barbadian coastline with a catamaran cruise and take a dip or snorkel at your leisure before you indulge in a freshly cooked or grilled Caribbean meal.St. Nicholas Abbey
: Soak in the colonial life of a well-preserved 17th-century sugar plantation amid lush gardens, where you can admire the curved Dutch gables of a Jacobean mansion and taste the St. Nicholas Abbey rum made in an active ancient distillery.Carlisle Bay
: A natural harbor and main sea outlet of the capital, Carlisle Bay boasts soft, sandy public beaches with calm waters and snorkelling and diving spots amidst abundant submarine life and shipwrecks.Dover Beach
: Located in the middle of the popular St. Lawrence Gap, Dover Beach offers a combination of various water sports activities and a relaxing and pleasant Barbados vacation with plenty of amenities.Mount Gay Visitor Centre
: Learn about history of rum-making and the oldest existing brand while touring a distillery and a cellar with famous rums made by a company whose first deed dates back to 1703.South Coast Boardwalk
: Take a romantic stroll along the 1.6 km (1 mi) long boardwalk across Hastings Rock, taking advantage of numerous sheltered coves where you can swim and sunbathe.Bathsheba Beach
: Soak in shallow inshore pools on the vast expanse of the rugged Bathsheba Beach, dotted with balancing rocks and boulders backed by lush vegetation in this favorite surfing spot on the island.
Planning a Barbados Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Barbados with Kids
A popular family vacation spot, Barbados offers a plethora of activities for youngest travelers. In addition to kid-friendly beaches with fun in the sun and sand castle-building, places like Harrison's Cave
with many well-lit subterranean galleries make the imagination of youngsters go wild. For fun educational trips, a visit to Barbados Wildlife Reserve
will keep kids entertained with reptiles in glass cages and a variety of tropical animals. There are plenty of places to visit during your Barbados vacation where you can experience fun for the whole family.
Most of the large beaches such as Bathsheba Beach
have kid-oriented sections but Dover Beach
and Bottom Bay
are particularly child-friendly with calm waters, shady trees, sheltered coves, and inland pools.
Things to Do in Barbados with Kids
Wherever you go on your Barbados itinerary, you will find plenty of family-oriented activities. Picnic at a premier surfing spot at Bathsheba Beach
or let your kid dance in the large communal eatery of Oistin's Friday Night Fish Fry
where families gather for fresh Caribbean seafood and socializing. During your trip, you’ll find a number of amusement parks for kids with splash rides and a variety of entertainment options for parents, as well as pirate-themed boat cruises for the entire family.
Several family-friendly resorts offer special children’s activities, such as submarine trips and ziplining through the trees. Go for Atlantis Submarines Barbados
to explore submarine life through glass or take a tramway to venture into Harrison's Cave
Tips for a Family Vacation in Barbados
With temperatures averaging 25-26 C (77-79 F), the water is warm on the Atlantic coast of the island and even warmer on the Caribbean side, making it appropriate even for babies.
If you want to rent a car to explore the island during your tour of Barbados, it might be a good idea to bring a portable inflatable car seat, because renting a baby seat from rental companies can be very expensive. Barbadian streets are stroller-friendly, so you can bring one along, preferably a collapsible one. If you have a baby, bring a baby monitor with you so you can enjoy a peaceful night out on the terrace while still keeping an ear out for your little one.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Barbados
Cuisine of Barbados
A mix of Afro-Caribbean, Indian, and British traditions, Barbadian cuisine typically involves meat or fish spiced with a mixture of herbs and served with a number of side dishes. The famous Barbados specialty is fried flying fish in a spicy gravy served with cou-cou, a polenta-like mixture of cornmeal with okra. Pudding and souse is another Barbadian traditional delicacy, which is made of pickled pork and steamed sweet potatoes. This meal comprises a typical Saturday lunch for local families. Curry beef or mutton with spicy rice and peas are other options, while vegetarians may indulge in a variety of tasty and plentiful pasta salads with a range of locally grown vegetables, or grilled of fried breadfruit, or steamed mixed vegetables. Meat-lovers should try Bajan pepper sauce made of scotty bon peppers, mustard, and vinegar.
For a light snack, there are plenty of joints selling fish cakes or wrap roti--a curry beef, chicken, or saltfish stew folded in a flatbread served with potatoes, spices, and chickpeas.
Spice up your tour of Barbados and go for a communal, socializing meal at Oistin's Friday Night Fish Fry
, where fresh fish will be grilled before your eyes. For lovers of rum, your Barbados holiday would not be complete without a visit to Mount Gay Visitor Centre
, a distillery where the oldest rum brand is made.
Snow cones and mauby, a drink made from the bark of the Mauby tree boiled with cinnamon, orange peel, nutmeg, and cloves, make popular refreshments.
Shopping in Barbados
Most visitors travel to Bridgetown for the duty-free shopping, while Holetown is popular among wealthy boaters. Just outside the capital, a cruise terminal provides a fine duty-free arcade, while the downtown’s Broad Street offers a wide range of shops, as the capital city is the retail center of the island. For unique pottery gifts in Bridgetown, explore Red Clay Pottery
. Jewelry-lovers can visit Little Switzerland
for a range of top-branded jewelry and watches. The capital also offers a few craft centers with traditional handicrafts.
In addition to its trendy shopping village that often attracts celebs, Holetown offers unique gifts at Best of Barbados Gift Shop
. Holetown also has a top fashion brand exchange with a deluxe line of clothing.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Barbados
Interesting Facts About Barbados
● The name Barbados comes from the Portuguese “Los Barbados,” the bearded ones, referring to large amounts of bearded fig trees (ficus citrifolia) which once populated the island.
● Known as the “The Land of the Flying Fish” for a reason, the island offers the opportunity to see some of these magnificent creatures during your Barbados trip.
● Except for the English/British who established the world’s largest sugar production on the island, Barbados has not been invaded by a foreign power since 1629.
● The first slaves that English farmers brought to Barbados in the 17th century were white, either English indentured servants or Irish prisoners of war, called “red legs.”
● The national flower is the peacock flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), referred to locally as the “Pride of Barbados.”
Things You Should NOT Do in Barbados
One of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean, Barbados welcomes tourists from all over the world, but there are few behavior tips you should follow to avoid trouble. Do not wear camouflage or soldier-style clothing, because it is illegal for anyone to dress this way except for members the Defense Forces on the island (and you should not argue with anyone in the army.) While you may think that relaxing under a ripe coconut tree is a good idea, people do get killed by falling coconuts. Also, as lovely as it may look, you should not eat the manchineel fruit. It is toxic.
During your Barbados vacation, bear in mind that Barbadians are conservative. Beachwear is not worn in towns, so you should bring lightweight cotton cover-ups for anywhere but the beach. Nudity is prohibited by law, so don’t plan to sunbathe topless. Also, it is illegal to light a fire on the beach, and nesting turtles are protected by law, so you should not touch them. For safety reasons, you should not stroll on the beach at night..
Holidays & Festivals in Barbados
Barbadian public holidays pretty much coincide with those of western Europe and follow the Christian calendar. They add in a few national holidays celebrating National Heroes and a former prime minister during which most of the businesses are closed.
A popular tourist destination, Barbados also has a busy year-round festival schedule. You should enhance your Barbados holiday with at least one of them. The largest, most popular and colorful festival is Crop Over, dating back to 1780s and the traditional harvest festival when Barbados was the world’s largest sugar producer. You can enjoy street calypso, Kadooment bands, and the crowning of queens and kings of the Cohobblopot costume shows during this summer-long celebration of music, food, and local heritage which takes place in a variety of forms from May until August.
Every June in the central highlands, De Heart Uh Barbados festival highlights the natural resources of the island and its people’s rich cultural traditions. Festivities include parades, food, and organized group hikes through forest areas and gullies.
For lovers of music, the Barbados Jazz Festival in January and the Barbados Reggae Festival in April will satisfy a variety of tastes.
In March, Oistins Festival displays local and regional delicacies, arts and crafts, live music, and cultural entertainment. Food and drink lovers will enjoy the Barbados Food and Wine and Rum Festival in November. Finally, for culture vultures, the Barbados International Film Festival takes place in December with a competitive worldwide selection of films.
Useful Barbados Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Barbados
Part of the British tradition, Barbadians prefer a formal approach to greeting and meeting. A handshake between both sexes would suffice, followed by a courteous salutation. Please understand that hugging and kissing is pretty much reserved for friends and family. Also, when you are referring to or introducing a local, use titles and surnames and referring to persons by first names only may be considered improper, unless you are among family and friends.
You should also make an effort to acknowledge every person on the street, as ignoring them is considered rude and impolite. During your Barbados vacation, you may dress informally in the daytime but do make an effort to dress up for the evening. Don’t wear beachwear in town.
Do not get confused with the replacement of the possessive pronoun with the pronoun. Locals say “What is she?” instead of “What is her name?”.
Climate of Barbados
Considered balmy and tropical with constant sea breeze, Barbados’ weather tends to be warm year-round, with an average daytime high of 30 C (86 F) and a low averaging 21 C (70 F). With over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, the weather is generally warm and sunny. The rain typically comes in quick showers but also dries quickly. The month of April has about seven days of rain, while July is the wettest, with some 18 rainy days. The tourist high season runs from mid-December through mid-April; hurricane season, with an occasional tropical storm, runs from June through October.
The temperature of the oceans stands about 28 C (82 F), so it may feel more like a bath than seawater. For your Barbados trip, bring light clothes made of cotton or linen and, for the reef, water shoes or rubber-soled shoes to keep from being cut on the rocks.
Transportation in Barbados
With two airports and two marine ports, Barbados makes a popular yachting and boating destination. The country features reliable and safe transport for residents and visitors alike. It is relatively easy to get around this small island, and the bus network is frequent, comprehensive, and relatively inexpensive. The public transport system is excellent--a flat rate of about $1.50 will get you anywhere on your Barbados tour. There are also characteristic Zed-Rs (ZRs)--privately owned mini-vans which run on predetermined routes.
Barbadians drive on the left-hand side of the road; car rentals are readily available. Taxis provide transport at a predetermined government rate, so ask the driver for the fare before you get in the cab.
Tipping in Barbados
Gratuity in Barbados is at the discretion of the guest and in many establishments a 10-15 percent service charges is automatically included. However, you still may tip if you are pleased with the service. Some restaurants add your tips to other tips given during the day and then divide them among the staff evenly, so tip discreetly if you want to reward an individual. You can add the tip to your credit card or leave cash.
A normal tip usually stands between 10 percent and 17 percent, particularly in restaurants, and is not taxable. In hotels, a service charge of 10-15 percent is typically added to your bill. Any additional tipping is up to you. Porters and bellboys will be happy with $1-2 per bag, and hotels maids will be pleased with $2 per day.
Taxis are not metered, so agree on your fare beforehand. You should give a tip of 10 percent or more if the driver is helpful and informative about recommendations. During your tour of Barbados, tour guides should get a 10 percent tip if you are happy with their service.