With spectacular white sand beaches and sparkling turquoise surf, a vibrant local culture and chill island vibe, Barbados is simply delightful. From its many rum shacks to fresh fish markets, lush, green mountains and wild, deserted coastline, this diverse tropical destination is pretty hard to beat. Here’s everything you need to know before you go!
Beaches For All
It’s not every Caribbean island that offers find beaches for every traveler, but Barbados has all the bases covered. Along the ritzy West Coast, the water is typically clear, shallow and calm. Protected from the wind, these shores are ideal for families with small children and those who like to swim in tranquil conditions. On the South Coast, the ocean is a bit wilder and more wavy, perfect for diving into and jumping around or for those just learning how to surf.
On the East Coast, the Atlantic ocean is rougher, the currents are stronger and the wind comes right off the sea, so it’s not the ideal place to swim if you don’t know the area. If you’re going to surf here, talk to the locals first. The Bathsheba pools, on the other hand, are shallow natural pools only a couple feet deep and very close to the shore. Carved out of the inshore coral you can sit in them to cool off while the surf splashes around you like a small, natural whirlpool.
Eat Your Heart Out
The food scene in Barbados is a cut above. With a strong local food culture as well as a thriving European influence, there are options for all tastes and budgets. Local favorites include Chefette (for the best rotis around) and the famous flying fish sandwiches at Cutters, but there is also amazing Indian food at Aspara Samudra, incredible Italian at Cin Cin’s, and the ultimate fusion of Caribbean and European cuisines at the very chic Lone Star. For a very special evening, The Cliff is one of the top dining destinations in the world, with spectacular views to match.
To experience a beloved local tradition in action, join the Friday night crowds heading to Oistins, a fishing village on the South Coast, for their informal weekly celebration of food, music and drinks—the Oistins Fish Fry. With lots of food vendors to choose from, just look for the ones that have the most crowds and take your pick of what was caught fresh that day. Top off your grilled or fried fish with a local Banks beer; island life doesn’t get much better than this.
Rum Tastings Galore
Another fundamental part of Bajan culture is rum, the drink of choice for many islanders. But this isn’t the clear white liquid you typically mix with Coca-Cola (although you certainly can). Drinking rum here is more like savoring a good scotch—it’s generally served straight up with some ice on the side. Deep, flavourful, caramel colored and complex, if you weren’t a rum fan when you arrived, you will be by the time you leave. If this doesn’t sound like your style, try some of the island’s famous rum punch instead, but watch out: although it may not taste like it, this island drink is very strong and just a couple will knock you off your feet. If you want to learn more about rum, you can also take a tour—and a taste—at the Mount Gay rum distillery.
With some of the best championship courses in the Caribbean, Barbados not only offers visitors some of the most exclusive clubs around at which to hit the links but the views from the fairways are enough to make you skip the cart and take the time to walk. From the Green Monkey course at Sandy Lane Golf Club (Tiger Woods liked it so much he got married here) to Apes Hill and Rockley Golf and Country Club, there is no shortage of glorious greens on which to practice that swing.
The Flower Forest
For a break from the beaches, take a trip to the island’s shaded, breathtaking botanical garden. The Flower Forest has been around since 1985 and is now run by David Spieler of Earthworks pottery (also worth checking out if you like handmade ceramics!). There are over 50 acres reserved for only green, botanical ventures and 7 acres of garden with winding paths and incredible landscape for visitors to admire. With panoramic views of Chalky Mount and the East Coast, this scenic, peaceful garden surrounded by flowers all year round is definitely a quiet little piece of Barbados worth checking out.
Where to Stay
There’s no better way to experience Barbados than from the comfort of your own private villa, with the freedom to explore the island at your leisure. Our Sandy Lane villas offer an unparalleled vacation, with homes surrounding the shores of the beautiful West coast and just steps from the beach. Here are our top picks:
Located within the impeccable Sandy Lane Estate, Bohemia (pictured below) is the perfect luxury escape for those traveling with a large family or a group (or those who just want privacy and space). With five generous bedrooms (all equipped with en-suite bathrooms) this sprawling estate has everything you need, including a 50-foot infinity pool, media room, multiple seating and lounging areas, pool table and even baby grand piano. Guests also have access to the estate’s beach facilities and loungers, making your island stay totally hassle-free.
For a place right on the water, Landmark House is a perfect choice. Literally steps from the ocean, the villa is directly on Sandy Lane beach and offers the ideal indoor/outdoor Caribbean lifestyle. With room to sleep up to 12 guests, this villa is not only charming, but it also boasts a treehouse-like ambiance that’s great for families with kids. Another beachside option is Bluff House, a hidden gem with private access to Sandy Lane beach a 2-minute walk away. Newly renovated and the epitome of Barbados style and modern luxury, this property can accommodate up to 12 guests and has its own private pool, al fresco dining area, and plenty of space to sprawl and relax.