Why visit Barbados?

When you think of Barbados, you may have visions of Simon Cowell riding a jet-ski and Rihanna dancing at the colourful Crop Over Festival. But there’s more to this small island than beautiful beaches, rum-swilling parties and celebrity sightings.

For an island of its size, Barbados is bursting with activity and a dizzying array of opportunities for relaxation, exploration and authentic experiences. Not only does it attract visitors in search of some of the Caribbean’s best beaches, restaurants, nightlife and world-class resorts, it also has more than enough to keep history buffs, culture vultures and nature lovers happy.

At a glance

Best time to go

Barbados is a popular year-round destination. With over 3000 hours of sunshine a year and direct flights from London – in just nine hours you’ll be feeling that welcome blast of warmth on your skin as you step off the plane. The dry season runs from December to June and if you travel in April and May you can sneak in between peak season and low season so you’ll get more for your money, avoid the crowds and still get to enjoy glorious weather.

How long

A week is ideal if you want to combine relaxation with a little exploration, but you’ll need two weeks if you want to pack a lot in but still have time to enjoy the easy-going Bajan pace of life (and plenty of rum punch). If you want to explore other Caribbean destinations, then you could twin Barbados with a contrasting island like Dominica or combine it with New York for the ultimate city and beach holiday.


Getting around

Tempting as it may be to lounge on the beach all day, there is so much to see and do that you’ll be itching to venture out and explore. And it’s easy to get around; you can stroll to shops and restaurants, hire a car – they also drive on the left here, or be chauffeured in an air-conditioned taxi. For a real taste of Bajan culture, hop on one of the renowned yellow reggae buses, which is an experience in itself. Be prepared for a bumpy ride as they whisk you around the island while pumping out dancehall music, and all for just BDS$3-4.

Food and drink

Barbados is one of the culinary capitals of the Caribbean and there’s a real focus on fresh seafood. Don’t be alarmed if you spot dolphin on the menu; you won’t be tucking into an adorable flippered friend but rather what the Bajans call (the slightly less endearing and unsmiling) mahi-mahi. Cou-cou and fried flying fish is the national dish and this tasty mix of polenta-like cornmeal, okra and fish is served with a spicy sauce.

Graze your way through Bridgetown on our Bajan Street Food Tour, accompanied by an expert guide who’ll share the stories behind each delectable dish. The island is famously the home of rum and at the Mount Gay distillery, you can learn how to make rum cocktails and impress your friends with your mixology prowess when you return home.

Bored of full board?

When it comes to dining options, we think Barbados has the edge over some other Caribbean islands. Not only is it unrivalled when it comes to quality dining – from street food to Michelin-star quality restaurants, but as most hotels are close to shops and restaurants, it’s easy to explore local restaurants. And if you enjoy eating out then we recommend room and breakfast instead of full board or all inclusive..

Road-side shacks are a must for fresh crab or fishcakes. Fine dining restaurants on the island are plentiful too. On the west coast, head to The Tides Restaurant for delicious Asian-inspired seafood, or, if you’re pushing the boat out, The Cliff, which has a dramatic clifftop setting and is regarded as one of the world’s top restaurants. Head to the south coast for some of the island’s finest seafood at Champers or for a casual setting and tasty Caribbean bites such as coconut shrimp and Bajan salt cakes, we like Sharkey’s Tropical Café. And on a Friday night don’t miss Oistins’ famous fish fry – locals and tourists mingle at this lively street party and feast on grilled fish washed down with cool Banks beer.

Where to stay

West or south coast?

The popular Platinum Coast on the west of the island is home to Holetown and Speightstown, where you’ll find calm beaches and some of the most luxurious resorts. The super-swanky Sandy Lane is prime celeb-spotting territory, attracting pop royalty, Hollywood stars and sports icons. Since all beaches in Barbados are public, you might catch a glimpse of a few famous faces.

The south coast is home to lively St. Lawrence Gap (known as ‘The Gap’), a vibrant strip of restaurants, bars, and clubs, making it one of the best nightlife hubs on the island. It also has some of the best beaches. Enjoy a sunset stroll along the mile-long Barbados Boardwalk or relax on the sands of Dover Beach, Rockley Beach or Maxwell Beach. The south coast is great for water sports with bigger waves, and some areas are reef-protected for swimming.

O2 Beach Club & Spa by Ocean Hotels

Excellent all-inclusive resorts in this area include Sea Breeze Beach House by Ocean Hotels, perfect for couples and families with its beach-chic style. Another standout is O2 Beach Club & Spa by Ocean Hotels, with its eye-poppingly colourful touches – think tangerine and fuchsia sunbeds and local art throughout. The concept here was to ‘breathe new life’ into Barbados’ five-star all-inclusive scene (hence the name O2) and it combines cool, contemporary vibes with local flavour. Enjoy 'how to' experiences like learning to play the ancient game of ‘Warri’ or kayaking the O2 way.

If all-inclusive resorts aren’t your thing, The Rockley by Ocean Hotels is ideal. This reimagined small and friendly bolthole offers a fresh new look with bold, locally inspired décor, providing a fun and refreshing base after exploring the island. We love the ‘Art of the People’ gallery showcasing local Bajan artists and the ‘Dine & Sign’ programme, which lets you experience popular south coast restaurants and charge the tab to your room.

The Rockley by Ocean Hotels 

What to see and do

On the road

Hiring a car and driver is a great way to enjoy a different perspective of the island. Your driver will whisk you away from the busy west and you’ll drive through tropical rainforest and past pastel-coloured chattel houses which run the spectrum of the rainbow – peppermint, lemon, peach and hot pink – like the swirling colours of a stick of rock. Watch surfers ride the island’s biggest waves at the renowned Soup Bowl in Bathsheba and admire some of the best views across the island.

Caves and gardens

Surprisingly, many of Barbados’ top attractions are found further inland and even underground. In Harrison’s Cave, an electric tram takes you on a subterranean tour of limestone caverns, lakes and waterfalls – wear a hat if you want to avoid the water dripping from the roof. Barbados’ spectacular gardens offer a shady alternative to days on the beach and the chance to spot monkeys, hummingbirds or mongooses – and in Barbados it’s considered good luck if one of these fast-moving weasel-like creatures runs across the road in front of you. Hunte’s Garden is a tropical paradise set in a sinkhole-like gully in the centre of the island and at nearby Welchman Hall Gully, you can watch green monkeys in their natural habitat.

Sea Breeze Beach House by Ocean Hotels

Turtle power

Swimming with turtles tops the list of must-do experiences in Barbados. Depending on where you’re staying you can swim out from the beach or head out on a catamaran cruise to find these majestic creatures. On the west coast, turtles can be seen close to shore on Paynes Bay and Sandy Lane Bay. The south coast of Barbados is home to several nesting sites for Hawksbill, Green, and Leatherback turtles. Ocean Hotels are conveniently located near these sites and actively collaborate with the Sea Turtle Project to protect these endangered creatures. Visit during the summer months for a chance to witness hatchlings making their way to the ocean on Dover Beach.

Island of contrasts

Barbados has so much more to offer than beaches and all-inclusive hotels. One day you could be browsing craft stalls for mahogany carvings, while the next you could be treating yourself to a new Burberry handbag. You could find yourself ‘liming’ – a Bajan term for relaxing and hanging out – with locals at a rum shop one minute and then rubbernecking at celebs on the Green Monkey Golf Course the next. Barbados is the kind of place you can return to again and again and always discover something new.


Discover more about our Barbados holidays, browse our Caribbean brochure online or chat to one of our Barbados experts who’ll share their first-hand experiences and recommendations.

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