Charming and sophisticated in equal measure, Barbados has some of the Caribbean’s best beaches and A-list resorts
With its white-sand beaches, luxurious hotels and world-class dining, Barbados has long been a popular escape for those seeking the finer things in life. It’s no wonder that A-listers flock to its platinum shores. The ‘Culinary Capital of the Caribbean’ really delivers, from award-winning restaurants to mouth-watering street food at Oistins’ famous fish fry, and its melting pot of cultures creates a unique vibe – anyone for afternoon tea followed by an evening of dancing to a steel pan band?
And if you venture beyond the beach you’ll discover a host of attractions, from limestone caves and spectacular gardens to submarine tours and championship golf courses. Where else can you swim with turtles, join a cricket match, explore the countryside on a jeep safari, and enjoy tastings at the world’s oldest rum distillery?
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- The fashionable west coast is home to the island’s most iconic resorts and chic hotels
- The livelier south coast has great nightlife, family-friendly resorts and top kitesurfing spots
- Mingle with the locals at the Crop Over Festival – one of the Caribbean’s most vibrant carnivals
- The birthplace of rum – be sure to try a rum cocktail or two
- Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison – Barbados’ UNESCO-listed capital and former British trading and naval port.
Barbados holiday highlights
Where is Barbados?
Barbados sits in the Lesser Antilles and is the most eastern of all the Caribbean islands. This small coral island is just 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, with crashing Atlantic waves on the east coast and the calmer waters of the Caribbean Sea on the west coast. Our best time to visit guide can help you decide when to travel to Barbados.
West & south coasts
Most of the hotels are scattered along the west and south coasts as the rugged east and north shores are pounded by crashing waves. The chic west coast attracts royals, film stars and the world’s leading sports stars to its upscale resorts and swanky restaurants. In Holetown you’ll find calm beaches, the colourful Chattel Village – great for shopping, and some of the island’s top attractions, including Harrison’s Cave and Hunte’s Gardens, nearby.
The lively south coast offers a different experience and is a great spot for family holidays or a holiday with a group of friends. The restaurants, bars, rum shacks and nightclubs of St Lawrence Gap and Oistins, with its famous 'Fish Friday', are the perfect remedy for those seeking more than lazy days on the beach. Thrill-seekers and watersports lovers also flock to the south coast, and in particular Long Beach, Silver Rock and Silver Sands which are regarded as the island’s top wind- and kite-surfing spots.
Along the ruggedly beautiful east coast, small fleets of fishing boats brave the large swells that roll in straight off the vast Atlantic, while daring surfers ride the rolling waves. A drive along the dramatic coastal road, with stops at the coral boulder studded beach of Bathsheba and the surfing mecca of the ‘Soup Bowl’ en route, is a highlight of any trip to Barbados.
Barbados is a duty-free shopping paradise where you can browse for designer fashion brands and jewellery, plus local handicrafts at the markets and artwork at the galleries that dot the island.You can find some great bargains in the capital, Bridgetown, on the south coast while on the west in Holetown you’ll find designer brands such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren at the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre.
Diving & snorkelling
With its pleasant year-round climate, you can dive at any time of year in Barbados but summer, when the water temperatures are the warmest, is particularly popular. Barrier reefs are located between half a mile and two miles from the shore, with healthy coral and abundant marine life. You could spot barracudas, sting rays, sea horses, and hawksbill and leatherback turtles, to name just a few.
Carlisle Bay, off the coast of Bridgetown, is one of the best spots to discover some of Barbados’ ship wrecks – of which there is believed to be 200! Friars Crag is a Dutch freighter with a magnificent reef nearby so there is plenty to explore. The Pamir, which lies of the north coast, has depths of 60 feet so it’s ideal for beginners while Stavronikita, a 365-foot Greek freighter off the west coast, lies at depths of 120 feet so it’s better suited to experienced divers. Snorkelling with sea turtles is a must-do experience in Barbados and a number of hotels offer boat trips.
Food & drink
Bajan cuisine centres around fish and seafood – including lobster, shrimp and red snapper – and Barbadians also eat a lot of the island’s delicious fresh fruit – if they can pick it from the trees before the monkeys get there. Speciality dishes include ‘pepperpot’, a pork and beef stew, and flying fish, lightly fried and served with lime wedges and tartar sauce. Food and parties go hand in hand in Barbados and a festival or street party is a great way to experience the island’s tasty cuisine and warm spirit. At the annual Food & Rum Festival you can meet renowned chefs and rum experts, let your hair down at a late-night party, taste delicious delicacies and see local artists in action. And of course, a trip to Barbados wouldn’t be complete without sampling the island’s famous rum.
As Barbados is a small island, all of the hotels are within easy reach of the airport – generally between 15 minutes and an hour. Taxis are a great way to get around and Barbados’ bus network offers great value and an easy way to explore the island. If you really want a taste of local life then the ‘reggae buses’ – yellow buses that whiz around the island pumping out loud dancehall music – are great fun and very cheap.