Things to do in Barbados
With 21 Miles long, 14 miles wide with over 70 miles of beautiful golden sandy shores and crystal clear waters. If a relaxing beach holiday is what you’re looking for, then Barbados is the place for you. There is so much to do and see on this beautiful island that there’s something to occupy every member of the family. This incredible island boasts one of the best climates around, with average highs of 32*C; in fact, even in Winter, the highs are still 28*C.
Barbados became an Independent state in 1966, although it is still a member of the British Commonwealth with The Queen as head of state - you’ll still find many traces of British influence across the island and the main language is English, so there are no difficult translations needed here. It really will feel like a home from home. The island is also incredibly easy to reach from the UK, with many direct flights available from those larger airports.
Fantastic Cuisine and Great Beach Bars
Across the island there are many places to eat throughout the day, from The Cliff which is possibly the most fabulous restaurant on the island and worth every penny; to the likes of Surfer’s Cafe an everyman’s venue open all day long. From more traditional local cuisine to seafood with an Asian twist, tapas bars and many other small cafes to visit. The variety of food available is wide and you’ll find something which appeals to you.
You're in a movie. You're schmoozing with celebs. You've passed over into a fantasy world of tiki torches and total luxury. Welcome to The Cliff, probably Barbados' most famous fabulous and fiendishly expensive restaurant. But what the heck – we only come this way once, and you'll always remember the idyllic setting, amazing food and superb service.
Booking ahead is essential, and if you love spotting famous people, come early and settle in for an eyeful of opulent entertainment.
The artfully scripted restaurant sign suggests artistic, original and elegant food – and if you like seafood with a creative Asian influence, then you'll love this heavenly Holetown venue.
The waterfront setting is a joy - though you may have to book ahead if you want the best view - plus you could pick up some neat local art at the bar, which also operates as a funky free-form gallery.
If you're familiar with the celebrated Daphne's restaurant in London, you'll know what to expect at its Bajan sister restaurant right behind Paynes Bay Beach.
Upscale, exquisite and effortlessly elegant, Daphne's is, however, extremely easy-going and relaxed, which makes it particularly popular amongst the cognoscenti of island dining. Make an evening of it and have a couple of superbly mixed cocktails at the bar before you tackle their innovative, inspired cooking – but book ahead first.
For a change, why not get your teeth into a local sandwich? This combined café and deli is a real find – and it's close to Crane Beach, which makes it the perfect stop-off after swimming and soaking up the sun.
Order a made-to-measure cutter (local lingo for a sandwich) washed down with mauby, which is a local drink (though there are different versions throughout the Caribbean) made from the bark of a tree.
If you're staying on the south coast or visiting the area, Champers is a great venue right by the ocean. This close to the salty briny, you can be sure that fish will be on the menu, and expect handsome portions of whatever you order.
Check out the art gallery upstairs as well, for some fine examples of local work that's better than the usual tourist offerings.
An everyman venue which is open all day and evening, it's a coffee bar for the locals in the morning, a lunch stop for the beach crowd, and an evening bar and dining venue for those who love relaxed good times in great company.
Effortlessly groovy, and ideally located in the coastal village of Oistins, it offers freshly cooked fish from the local market and serves up equally good live music.
With a name like 'Brown Sugar', you pretty well know that this place is going to be a relaxed and easy-going eatery (though you are encouraged to dress well) – plus it's one of the most outstanding places on the island to experience local cooking at its best, especially cou-cou, pepperpot stew, the gorgeously indulgent macaroni pie - and one of the best deserts in the Caribbean: bread pudding with a rum sauce that has a kick like a slow mule with a perfect aim.
If you want to browse a whole range of locally themed small dishes – and if you fancy rubbing shoulders with knowledgeable foodie locals – this should be your south coast venue of choice. Right on the boardwalk, and brilliantly combining Bajan food with world influences, you could happily spend hours snacking to your heart's (and stomach's!) delight.
This is a home-based eatery, so expect to dine in comfortable, welcoming domestic surroundings where you'll feel as if you were especially invited to eat with the good folks who live and work here. Lots of locally themed dishes are on offer, many with a delightfully unexpected dash of inspiration from other types of non-island cuisine.
Do book ahead - and try the fabulous Sunday buffet if you get the chance.
Atlantic Park, Cattlewash, St Joseph
+1 246 433 9495
Cin Cin by the Sea
Hip and happening, foodie in style, yet locally inspired, the cuisine here is superb, with effortless combinations of world-themed and local dishes. The venue is excellent as well, with a choice of cool air-conditioned indoor dining or on outside terrace overlooking the ocean.
Cin Cin has been open five years now, and has established an excellent reputation – and you can get tasty nibbles and light bites as well as full-on meals.Prospect, St James
+1 246 629 4557 · Cin Cin by the Sea
Named after the eponymous beach on which it's situated, Ju Ju's is on the west coast, and is well known for its delicious locally caught grilled fish and home-made fries. You can rent beach umbrellas and loungers from the bar, and if you fancy indulging in some water sports, ask at Ju Ju's and they'll get you sorted with the water sports people on the beach.
Ju Ju's is a big favourite with the locals, and so it can get mighty crowded in a brilliant the-gang's-all-here-let's-have-an-instant-party sort of way, so expect plenty of good company when you settle down for your sundowner.
Hwy 1B, Mount Standfast
+1 246 268 6093
Carib Beach Bar
'The Carib' overlooks lovely Worthing Beach which, at low tide, reveals a stretch of reef and an amazing natural lagoon – providing the Carib with particularly attractive and changing views at all times of the day. The bar has a salty, sun-bleached feel that can only come from having been around for absolutely ages – and it's a great gathering place for locals, who pride themselves on making visitors welcome.
The restaurant is in the shade of coconut trees, and the food is great, with a big emphasis on local food. Friday night conjures up live music and dancing, and Sunday lunchtimes are particularly popular with families.
2nd Ave, The Stream, BB 15010 Worthing, Christ Church
+1 246 435 8540
Copacabana Beach Bar & Grill
Brownes Beach is on the outskirts of Bridgetown – and Copacabana is a must-visit if you like good times and great music! The resident DJ knows the best calypso, reggae and R&B to loosen you up – and you're cordially invited to submit requests for your favourite tune.
Overlooking Carlisle Bay, it offers great casual dining all day, and is a hot nightspot when the sun goes down, with an amazing two thousand capacity. It's also got beach chairs, umbrellas, kayaks, easy parking, changing facilities and lockers – so you could easily spend most of your island time right here.
Lower Bay Street, Bridgetown
On the beach at Fitts Village, in the parish of St. James, Il Tempio is a bright, colourful and laid-back venue that offers superb beach drinking and dining- plus it's also available for weddings and private functions, should you wish to plan a special event whilst you're in Barbados.
As well as all the usual rums and beers, the cocktail menu is particularly admirable, and the bar has one of the better wine lists on the island.
Fitts Village, St. James, BB00000 Bridgetown
+1 246 417 0057
If you want a truly ethnic, authentic, local no-fuss bar, Fisherman's Pub and Grub is absolutely for you.
Serving straight-down-the-line local food and cold beers in a rum shop-cum-restaurant, the vinyl floral table-cloths, plastic chairs and family atmosphere are a perfect contrast to the more upmarket and pukka eateries you're likely to come across in Barbados – and whilst this is not exactly a beach bar (it's next to the Speightstown fish market on Queen Street) it has all the ambience of the perfect beach venue, so it definitely deserves mention! Insist on trying their very own Rum Punch, made with fresh squeezed limes from the owner's garden, and sprinkled with grated nutmeg.Queen's St, BB26021 Speightstown
+1 246 422 2703
Bleached, weather-tanned and totally relaxed (like all good surfers should be), this sunny, salty pub has an unfussy décor, furnishing and surroundings that bespeak priorities of good food, great drink and memorable times!
Secreted behind Holetown's Post Office and Police Station building (not far from the Holetown monument), Surfside is in poll position on Paynes Bay - and if you're here for the day, enjoy Surfside's big breakfasts from 9am onwards. Lunch and evening meals are equally casual and filling – and if you like sports, you're welcomed to join the locals in front of the big screen for those all-important sporting events.Behind Holetown Post Office, Holetown
+1 246 432 2105
Weisers on the Bay
This heavenly hang-out is at Brandon's Beach, off the Spring Garden Highway in the parish of St. Michael – and it's a top venue for local dishes, with Sunday buffet the big event (from noon to 3pm).
Check out dishes like sweet potato pie, vegetable rice, scallop potatoes and flying fish, as perennial favourites on the menu. Friday nights are especially good here, with the atmosphere pumping out pure party-time fun from 6pm - 11pm.Brandons Beach, Spring Garden Highway, St Michael
+1 246 425 6450
Culture, History and Heritage
During the day, you can explore the island’s history by visiting some of the many houses and museums dotted around. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Sunbury Plantation House, which was built in the 1660’s by Irish/English planter Matthew Chapman. This beautiful historic home offers one of the island’s best collections of Antique’s and Antique carriages amongst it’s extensively landscaped grounds, a beautiful sight all year round. There’s also the Arlington House Museum, an interactive three story museum telling the stories of life on the island in the 18th Century which is worth a visit if you’re interested in the culture of the island. Let’s not forget George Washington House too - he visited the island in 1751, the only country he’s ever visited outside colonial America! This house is where he stayed on the island and the ground floor is displayed as it would have appeared at the time of his visit in the 18th Century.
From May to August each year, Barbados flings itself into island-wide celebrations and events, parades and parties that are collectively known as 'Crop Over', with the finale being an amazing, crazy and wild event called 'Grand Kadooment Day'. Check out the event calendar for a month-by-month list of what's going on and where, so that you can plan your visit and choose the events that appeal to you. Crop Over is a great way of meeting the locals, and you'll be made very welcome at all the events you attend.Contact: Crop Over
Welchman Hall Gully
Located in the parish of St. Thomas, this deep and green ravine is nearly a mile long, and contains a fascinating variety of tropical plants and trees, such as nutmeg, bamboo, clove and a variety of different palms. Many eons ago, the gulley was formed when cave roofs collapsed and created the deep cleft that you'll see today – in fact Welchman Hall Gully shares the same geology as Harrison's Caves. If you visit in the mornings, you can see a troop of Green Monkeys being fed – and there are a number of platforms from which you can observe several troops, as they live and feed together in their rich and verdant surroundings.
Welchman Hall, St Thomas
+1 246 438 6671
The Flower Forrest
Hidden away in Barbados' 'Scotland District' is the Flower Forest, which is a 50-acre acre area of tropical trees and flowers in a protected forest located over 750 feet above sea level. Many of the species growing here are unique to the island – and you'll discover global rarities such as fabulous torch ginger lilies. Expert botanists will be more than happy to give you a guided tour of this wonderful botanical sanctuary.
Richmond Rd, Chapman
+1 246 433 8152
Located on the east coast, Bathsheba is totally unlike the more touristy areas of the west coast. Overlooking a turbulent ocean, refreshed by onshore ocean breezes, Bathsheba is a relaxed fishing village with rum shops, local restaurants, and an easy-going atmosphere that seems to be entirely untouched by tourism. This is an area perfect for getting out in the open air for breezy coastal walks and local exploration.
Bathsheba, East Coast
Despite its scary name, Shark's Hole is a most unthreatening and delightful place to visit – an exquisite and tiny beach on the south-east coast of the island, with pink coral sand and crystal-clear water. The bay is enclosed by a natural reef located a short distance from the shore, so inshore waters are calm, and it's a great bay for snorkelling and spotting a wide variety of tropical reef fish.
Long Bay, St Philip
Sunbury Plantation House
First built around 1660 by Matthew Chapman, an Irish/English planter, this beautiful historic home captures the very essence of an elegant, beautifully designed, built and furnished historic plantation house. Located in the parish of St. Philip, Sunbury House now possesses one of the island's best collections of antiques – and the cellars, originally used for storing root vegetables grown on the plantation, now house the largest collection of antique carriages in the Caribbean. In the extensively landscaped grounds are more fine authentic examples of old carts and machinery used in the last century to cultivate the land.
+1 246 423 6270
Arlington House Museum
Located in Speightstown, Arlington House is an interactive three-story museum, telling the story of island life in the 18th century. Interactive displays illustrate the island's past; for example, "Speightstown Memories" describes the lives of the island's first settlers; "Plantation Memories" reveals the process of colonisation, plantations and sugar cane, whilst "Wharf Memories" recalls the importance of Speightstown as a leading port and trade centre.
+1 246 422 4064
George Washington House
George Washington, later to become the first President of the United States of America, visited Barbados in 1751, which was the only country he ever visited outside colonial America. George Washington House is the place where he stayed while in Barbados, with a ground floor furnished in the manner in which it might have been in the mid-eighteenth century. The second floor is devoted entirely to displays of items typical of life in the mid-eighteenth century, and also displayed are agricultural implements, as well as other items found by archaeologists in digs close to Washington House..
+1246 234 6067.
The Chattel Village
The Chattel Village is a colourful and eclectic collection of shops in the west coast town of Holetown. Surrounded by lush tropical gardens, the whole village is a scenic and sensory delight that's ideal for shopping, browsing and relaxing.
Highway 1, Holetown
+1 246 432 7198
Pelican Village Bridgetown
Just outside Bridgetown, Pelican Village is an attractive and spacious shopping village featuring great local handicrafts, plus it offers you a unique opportunity to see some of the island's best craftsmen at work.
Princess Alice Hwy, Bridgetown
+1 246 622 1683
Alongside these houses and museums, there are many beautiful towns and villages to visit, including The Chattel Village which contains a colourful and eclectic collection of shops in the west coast town of Holetown. Surrounded by lush tropical gardens this is a scenic and sensory delight. Enjoy shopping, browsing and relaxing in the village as the sun shines down. Why not head over to the Flower Forest, hidden away where a 50 acre area of tropical trees and flowers situated over 750 feet above sea level boast many different species of flower and wildlife completely unique to the island.
Fun and Activities
Visit the shores of Bathsheba, located on the East Coast of the island overlooking a turbulent ocean, refreshed by ocean breezes this is a relaxed fishing village with rum shops, local restaurants and an easy going atmosphere, entirely untouched by tourism. Or head over to Sharks Hole, a delightfully unscary place to visit despite its unnerving name. This tiny beach offers tourists pink coral sands, crystal clear waters enclosed by natural reef with inshore waters remaining calm. This is the perfect spot to go snorkelling and spot some beautifully coloured tropical fish.
With all of the beaches on the island you’ll be spoilt for choice and for those more adventurous sorts who aren’t satisfied by sunbathing on the sandy shore, there are many activities which you can take part in, including but not limited to: scuba diving, snorkeling, jet skiing, windsurfing, surfing, boogie boarding, kite surfing and many other exciting activities.
Barbados is surrounded by clear, warm seas (around 80°F) that offer excellent visibility (from 40 to 70 feet) – and when you add the presence of the many reefs that fringe the island, then scuba diving is a serious contender for a top water-sport. The barrier reefs, situated between half a mile and two miles from shore, contain big coral heads that provide an ideal habitat for thousands of colourful fish of all types. In addition, there are plenty of wreck sites, which also make superb marine habitats.
Carlisle Bay is said to have around 200 wrecks, and 'The Stavronikita' at Folkestone Marine Park is a great diving site as well. If you've never tried scuba diving, then you'll need to acquire some qualifications before you can dive in the sea, but plenty of island dive companies provide tuition and so that you can be scuba-diving as soon as possible.
Hastings Main Road, Mowbray, Bridgetown
+1 246 262 1029
Whilst scuba diving provides you with the air that allows you to stay under water for some time, snorkelling is a surface-based activity dependent on only a mask, a snorkel and a pair of flippers – and it's a great way of getting to meet many of the sea creatures that inhabit the shallow waters round the coast. Snorkelling adventures are available to take you well-chosen sites where you can see fish and turtles, stingrays, manta-rays and beautiful underwater landscapes containing an amazing variety of corals such as brain coral, stag-horn and sea-fans.
Jet skis (or 'waverunners') have become one of the most popular and exciting water-sports throughout the world, and you'll find that jet skis are available for hire from most bays and beaches around Barbados. Seating up to three people, they're easy to ride and control, and with rapid acceleration plus impressive turns of speed, they're huge fun and are also very stable. They cost around $50 (US) for half an hour's rental in peak season, and all reputable operators will provide you with proper life vests and full instructions. It's a good idea to wear a waterproof watch when you're riding your jet-ski so that you don't exceed the agreed rental time.
Apart from Hawaii, Barbados is probably one of the best windsurfing locations in the world, with frequent high winds and waves that are perfect for jumping and riding, especially when those sideshore winds blow. The south coast is where the action is, and it's a great spot for windsurfers of every skill-level, from beginners up to professionals. The best time of year for windsurfing in Barbados is when the trade winds blow, from mid-November to the end of June – though the rest of the year still produces excellent conditions. The most popular sails for Bajan waters are 5.0 - 5.5 m2 – and waves can reach mast-high and above. Compared to Hawaiian rollers, Bajan waves are slower and not as powerful, but are plenty good enough to turn some spectacular tricks if you know what you're doing – and for beginners and top riders, check out Silver Sands, which is a hugely varied and forgiving windsurfing spot.
Given the location of Barbados, in the midst of a deep ocean, the big waves of the open sea constantly make landfall here, raised up by shallow waters and reefs, and thus creating a perfect surf-location that lures surfers from all over the world. Swells roll in from all points of the compass, so in Barbados, you can always be sure that surf's up somewhere, especially on the east and south coasts – in fact the east coast's 'Soup Bowl' is internationally recognised as one of the best spots in the surfing world.
If you're into lie-down short-board boogie-boarding, Barbados does the business – especially at Inchcape, where you'll be sharing the same shore-break with stand-up surfers. In addition, Silver Rock, Long Beach, Foul Bay, Crane Beach and Sam Lord's castle all attract the boogie-board community.
Once again, Barbados is a winner for this relatively recent, but now hugely popular sport. Constant trade winds make for reliable conditions – and given the variety of locations available for kite-surfing, you could spend virtually every day of your holiday riding the winds and waves in a different spot.
Round Rock, Bridgetown
+1 246 251 7190
Going underground is not something you'd expect to do on the sunshine island of Barbados, but when you visit Harrison's Caves, you'll discover a whole world of wonders beneath your feet. Harrison's Cave is an amazing natural gallery of delights, with stalactites tens of thousands of years old hanging from the roof of the cave, and stalagmites stretching upwards from the cave floor – and sometimes the two meet to create floor-to-roof pillars. There are also crystal-clear streams running through the cave, as well as waterfalls and deep pools. It's well worth arriving early in the morning to appreciate the unearthly beauty of this place when it's peaceful and quiet.
+1 246 417 3700
St. Lawrence Gap Nightlife
Known locally as 'The Gap', this lively corner of the island offers a choice of nightclubs, each with its own distinctive brand of music and clubbing. The Cove ranges effortlessly from reggae and calypso to Rhythm & Blues, whilst the Old Jamm Inn combines live music with hot tunes from around the Caribbean and from neighbouring South America; and with a name like Monkey Nutts, you can imagine that there's more than a hint of craziness at this tropical-vibe club.
St Lawrence Gap
Oistins Fish Fry
Friday night is Fish Fry night in Oistins, where all sorts of freshly prepared goodies are on sale to eat and drink in a party atmosphere. Drawing both visitors and residents, this is a perfect place to mingle and meet with locals who love to celebrate the end of the working week at this regular event. The food market is set up at Oistins Bay Gardens, where you'll find a whole range of freshly cooked fish on sale, such as mahi-mahi, swordfish, tuna, marlin, and flying fish. Lobster and chicken are also served, and whatever you choose, you can have it freshly grilled or fried right in front of your eyes, depending on which vendor you choose from.
There's plenty of informal seating, and it's great simply to sit, eat and watch the world go by, though there are also art and craft items on sale, including leather goods, wood carvings, clothing, jewellery and ceramics. There's music as well, and the evening often ends up as a great outdoor party.
The beautiful sunny skies of Barbados are waiting for you and there’s so many things to enjoy.
If you’re falling for Barbados already, why not take a look at some of the exquisite luxury villas we have to offer?
Key holiday facts
- Climate - one of the best in the world - average highs of 32ºC. Even in winter, averages are 28ºC, sporadic tropical rain occurs and clears the air.
- Beaches surround the island, a few are private, the vast majority are free for everybody to enjoy.
- Language - English is the official language - no phrase book required!
- Nightlife - warm evenings make Barbados perfect for enjoying its beachside bars, lounges and even a few nightclubs.
- Wildlife is fantastic with a chance to see or swim with more than one type of turtle, while tropical and migrant birds are in abundance.