Last Updated on March 14, 2023
Barbados is a stunning island steeped in colonial history, intriguing UNESCO sites, and gorgeous tropical beaches. Kissed on all sides by the cerulean waters of the Atlantic and blessed with over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, it is one of the brightest jewels in the tiara of the Lesser Antilles.
But Barbados is not only about crystal-clear waters and honeyed sunshine.
Although it is one of the Caribbean islands best known for tropical delights, it is more than what meets the eye.
Visiting Barbados, you will find yourself deeply immersed in a lively and exciting culture, served with extraordinary, but surprisingly delicious dishes, and surrounded on all sides by history and life that has transformed itself again and again over centuries.
Ready to start exploring this promising island? Here are a few things you must do in Barbados.
- St. Nicolas Abbey
- George Washington's House
- Hunte's Gardens
- Harrison's Cave
- View the Waves on Bathsheba Beach
- Snorkel with Sea Turtles
- Scuba Dive to See Natural Reefs and Wrecks
- Sunset Cruising
- Walk the Barbados Boardwalk
- Bajan Cou Cou with Flying Fish
- Barbecued Pig's Tail
- Fast Food at Chefette
- Bajans Hot Fish Cakes
- Bajan Soup
St. Nicolas Abbey
In the early 1600’s, the first English settlers arrived in Barbados with their dreams of sprawling plantations and lucrative trade. In only a few years, Barbados became the leading producer of sugar among the English colonies, exporting 25,000 tons of sugar per year!
Today, only a few of these sugar plantations remain.
One of them is located around St. Nicolas Abbey, a plantation house built by Colonel Benjamin Berringer.
There is nothing as overwhelming and surprisingly calming as walking through a field of sugar cane today. During the height of sugar cane production, however, don’t remember it was brutal slave labor which allowed the English to profit off this toxic crop. Walking through this ocean-like panorama of green, you will see palm groves rising high into the sky.
Step into St. Nicolas Abbey itself and you will be transported into another era, one of stunning Jacobean architecture, magnificent chandeliers, old paintings, and plantation-shuttered windows that look out upon a sprawling vista of soft rolling green landscape.
George Washington’s House
The first president of the United States, George Washington, visited only one other country out of his homeland. Surprisingly, this is the island of Barbados.
In 1751, Washington visited his half-brother who was then suffering from tuberculosis. For around 2 months, they lived in a rented house facing the beautiful Carlisle Bay.
Visitors to Barbados can now enter this significant house-turned-museum. Its two floors showcase what life was like in the 18th century.
On the ground floor, you can see four-poster beds with elaborate mosquito netting, stone jars for filtering water, and bulky chamber pots.
The second floor is dedicated as a fully-fledged museum of 18th century life, full of knick-knacks, ancient medical contraptions, and other bric-a-brac.
For those who want to step back centuries in time and take a peek into the history of Barbados as it relates to the history of America and the world, George Washington’s house is the perfect place to spend a few hours.
For those who want to explore horticultural life in Barbados, there is no finer place to visit than Hunte’s Gardens. Developed by Anthony Hunte, these gardens are luminous and sprawling, filled with majestic ferns, tropical palm trees, and a huge variety of orchids.
You can visit one or more of the lovely gems within the larger latticework of the site, mini-gardens filled with all manner of bright exotic plants. Take winding paths steeped in birdsong and gigantic palms.
You can meet the owner himself, Anthony Hunte, and discuss his adventures with him while sipping cool rum punch or iced tea flavored with freshly-squeezed fruit juice.
When it Barbados, it is important to take some time to go underground. Literally.
One of the most breathtaking sites to see in Barbados is Harrison’s Cave.
Known as one of the island’s greatest wonders, this cave is filled with sand-colored stalagmites and stalactites that form strange and eerie shapes. The sunlight hitting these rock formations creates a soft, honeyed tone, but the deeper you go into the cave, the less light there will be.
It is sure to be an otherworldly experience filled with deep underground silence, pools of water, and now and then a small waterfall.
As has been mentioned before, visiting Barbados is so much more than enjoying golden sunshine, fresh tropical breezes, and gorgeously pristine waters. It also presents an opportunity of steeping yourself in a culture and way of life that has been around for centuries.
One of the best ways to get in touch with what Barbados is at heart is to stroll through Bridgetown, the capital of the island.
Walk along its streets, you will notice colonial buildings reminiscent of Barbados’ time under British rule. The Parliament Buildings are built in the Victorian neo-Gothic style. You can see honorific statues of colonials sitting in the sun.
But also, you can see the present of Bajan life in its fullest. Vendors sell everything from golf ball-sized apples to swimwear on the lively shopping strip on Broad Street. Buy yourself a bottle of Sorum made from the island’s Sorum flowers, enjoying its cold cider-like taste.
You can visit a rum bar that pulses with music and the chatter of fishermen.
Bridgetown is definitely the place where you can get in touch with the heart and soul of Barbados.
View the Waves on Bathsheba Beach
Bathsheba Beach is located along the eastern coast of the island. Pounded day in and day out by huge Atlantic waves, its shore is ragged with intricate rock formations. Sharp cliffs also rise into an endlessly blue sky.
It is not a good idea to swim in the waters of Bathsheba Beach as the currents are unpredictable and savage. You can, however, sit on the dunes and let your eyes stretch out onto the glorious seascape.
Spend time under palm trees chatting with locals while the salt breeze whips your hair into tangles.
Snorkel with Sea Turtles
The west coast of Barbados is home to magnificent endangered turtles like the Leatherback and Hawksbill. These turtles feed and nest offshore in the sparkling waters of the area.
It is a rare experience to swim with vulnerable and endangered animals, so you shouldn’t miss a snorkeling tour that takes you to drift side-by-side in the water with them. If you book a snorkeling tour, make sure not to forget your underwater camera so you can snap a few pics of these elegant, somber, strikingly beautiful reptiles.
Scuba Dive to See Natural Reefs and Wrecks
Whether or not you are an experienced diver, you should not miss the scuba diving tours in Barbados. There are a number of guided tours that lead you deep underwater, giving you the chance to explore the secret world beneath the surface of the sea.
On the west coast of the island, you can visit a vast marine reserve that is the home of a variety of species of colored fish, large barrel sponges, and glorious sea fans.
Around Carlisle Bay to the south, you can swim among abandoned shipwrecks. These wrecks have also become the home of diverse underwater life, and it is interesting to watch these creatures swimming among rotting anchors, canon balls, and other memorabilia of a bygone era.
After a long day of exploring and adventure, there is nothing as relaxing as sitting back and enjoying a sunset cruise. The sight of the huge red ball diving into the open horizon is something you will remember for a long time.
As darkness falls, shadows gather under the waves and a salt-breeze whips the Barbados flag into the air.
Sip a chilled glass of champagne or a rum punch as you watch the day end.
There are cruise tours that also offer fine dinners and soft, relaxing music that go perfectly with the rise of the stars.
Walk the Barbados Boardwalk
The Barbados Boardwalk stretches over two miles across sandy beaches and breathtaking oceanfront vistas. If you are up for a stroll and want to take in the natural beauty of the Caribbean, this is the place to go.
If you feel hungry along the way, drop into one of the restaurants and bars along the boardwalk.
These are always lively with pulsing nightlife, freshly-cooked meals, and a wide array of cocktails, rum, and delicious drinks to enjoy.
Bajan Cou Cou with Flying Fish
When visiting a new place, it goes without saying that you mustn’t leave without trying its national dish. In Barbados, this dish is Cou Cou with flying fish.
Cou Cou is a very interesting concoction. It has a gelatinous texture and is made out of cornmeal and okra. Mixed with a number of spices, it has a pale yellow color dotted with tiny green flecks.
When you order your bowl of this sumptuous porridge-like dish, it will usually come with a serving of tender flying fish steamed with limes and pepper.
Barbecued Pig’s Tail
The curious thing about this dish is that it actually isn’t made with pig’s tail. Instead, it is composed of the vertebrae of a pig wrapped in sweet, sticky barbecue sauce.
Although the barbecue sauce tastes just as you would expect it (sweet with a tangy and spicy hint), this dish is fun because the vertebrae falls apart in your hands.
You can see the shapes of the pig’s intricate bones. Because teat is located so close to the bone, it has a special marrow-y tang to it.
Fast Food at Chefette
When you want to grab something to eat on the road, you can easily drive through a McDonald’s or KFC, but while in Barbados, why not try the island’s very own fast food chain?
There are numerous Chefette branches all over the island. Its cheerful yellow theme will surely attract your attention.
Getting close to one of its stores, you will notice a buzz of movement and activity.
The menu is also out of the ordinary. It offers “broasted” chicken, roti sandwiches filled with meat and vegetables, and chicken breast sandwiches.
If you have kids with you, they will love the playground most branches offer.
Bajans Hot Fish Cakes
It is not surprising that Bajans love eating seafood. Because of their proximity to the ocean, they have come up with numerous interesting ways to cook fish.
One that stands out is hot fish cakes. These are a crispy street food that can be bought at stands throughout the island.
When you buy some fish cakes, they will come to you steaming in a paper wrapper.
They look amazing, round and golden-brown and extremely hot. Biting into one is like sinking your teeth into a hush puppy, but with an added texture of moistness on the inside and a hint of spice.
Bajan soup is a concoction made out of pumpkin and chicken. Its wholesome taste and texture makes it a nice comfort food after an exhausting day. One thing that makes this soup stand out is the sweet dumplings in it. These dumplings are mixed with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Doused in the slightly salty and creamy pumpkin-and-chicken mix, this is a treat to try for everyone who visits Barbados!
A visit to Barbados is an unforgettable adventure. There certainly is no other place to get as much diversity, beauty, and excitement as you can get on Barbados.
On the island, you will have the perfect mix of calm, serene natural vistas and lively, pulsing culture.