Barbados: The Complete Tourist's Guide
Updated: Jul 26
Back in 2013 was the first time I visited the Caribbean island of Barbados and after that, I was hooked. Every year since then I have been back, normally around Christmas time with my family. I met my partner in Barbados so now it has an even more special place in my heart, a real second home.
Read on as we explore the north, east, south & west accompanied with some beautiful photos from over the years!
Barbados is easily accessible with both British Airways and Virgin flying direct from London to Barbados’ main and only airport, Grantley Adams International. Interestingly, back when we could travel via Concorde, Barbados was the only holiday destination in the Northern Hemisphere with a scheduled Concorde service.
One of the retired British Airways concords now resides at Grantley Adams. Barbados has lots of hotels and villas all over the island, we have never stayed in a hotel we have always chosen to stay in a villa so we can fully immerse ourselves in the Bajan culture.
Barbados is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and is a relatively flat island compared to some of the other parts of the Caribbean. It is 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, a very small coral island with a population of around 285,000.
It is famed as the home of Rihanna with bright turquoise waters, white sand paradise beaches, and a killer rum punch, a must for any visitor! Rihanna drive can now be visited by tourists and has become a popular hotspot. The capital city is Bridgetown and the currency is Barbadian Dollars (BBD) although you can also use US Dollars.
The east and west of Barbados are very different.
The West has two main towns; Holetown and Speightstown.
Holetown was the site of the first British landing in Barbados in 1625 and is very much catered for the ‘tourists’ with a large supermarket called Massy. In here you can get everything you need, even Waitrose products!
There is a little shopping area called the Chattel Village, a colourful collection of small shops set in tropical gardens selling a range of things from cigars to meat, to dresses and jewellery. Every February the town hosts the Holetown Festival, a colourful festival of crafts, music and historical parades.
There are two main streets if you want a good party known as First and Second Street. Every Friday and Saturday night these streets come alive with locals and tourists mingling in some of the popular spots such as The Mews, Red Door Lounge, Dukes, and a few others. On Sunday’s One Love Bar host street karaoke which normally brings a good crowd, and some good singers & dancers too!
Across the road from First and Second Street is Limegrove Shopping Centre which if you want a new Gucci handbag or some jewellery from Cartier, this is the place to go!
Alternatively, you can also do some lovely window shopping which is what we do most of the time when we visit at Christmas and take pictures of the gigantic Christmas tree they have up every year!
Speightstown, once one of Barbados busiest ports maintains a lovely colonial charm. Much of the character of Speightstown can be found in its architecture and historical buildings and is much quieter than the ‘touristy’ Holetown. Here you will find many more locals going about their day, collecting fresh fruits and vegetables from the vendors on the esplanade, and fish from the fisherman unloading their catch along the jetty.
There are also two small supermarkets Jordans & Eddies and a few other shops for household essentials. Speightstown has very few daytime restaurants, but if you are visiting you can get some good local food from The Fisherman’s Pub.
Also if you’re looking for good coffee and a light healthy lunch, Speightstown has a lovely place called The Orange Street Grocer, know to locals as OSG. They also sell sustainable goods such as towels, drinkware and locally made beach bags under the brand Starfish Pigeon.
The West of Barbados is known as the ‘platinum coast’ with the crystal clear and calm Caribbean Sea, endless white powdery beaches and homes of the rich and famous.
The west also is where the famous Sandy Lane Hotel is, which is one of the most exclusive hotels. My family and I visited Sandy Lane one Sunday for their famous ‘Bajan Blue Sunday Brunch’. It really was out of this world, if you like sushi, it probably had THE most amazing sushi station I have ever seen! You could get absolutely anything you wanted and the service was impeccable. It wasn’t cheap though, a real luxurious treat at around 300BBD per person, that’s about 120GBP.
My family and I always stay on the West Coast in a villa and that is also where my partner’s family are from so we say "the west is best!"
It is packed with some of the most amazing beaches including what is known as Ju-Ju’s, this is our local hangout spot. In addition to this, the sunsets you see on the west coast are out of this world, and if you are into watersports, this is the place to be! In terms of sunbeds, we highly recommend Rico’s on the Beach!
There is an abundance of restaurants on the west coast which you can visit at a range of price exclusivity too. As we have been going for many years we have a tradition that the day we land we always get dinner from Just Grillin. It’s traditional Bajan food and works a bit like Nandos. You choose your meat/fish and then have 2 sides such as macaroni pie, rice, coleslaw etc. Prices range from 20-40BBD which is less than 15GBP.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit Just Grillin, I recommend the ribs!
There are other mid-priced restaurants such as Zaccios, The Beach House, Lemongrass, and Café Carizma. On the other end of the spectrum, there are more exclusive restaurants such as Tides, Fusion, The Lone Star, The Fish Pot, Nishi, Sea Shed – all of which are amazing!
Another luxurious restaurant is The Cliff. You have two options: a prix-fixe menu will set you back 132USD pp for a two-course meal or 155USD pp for a three-course meal. Despite the hefty price, with the perfect ambience the restaurant has to offer and spectacular service, it is well-worth it!
In the North of Barbados is the parish of Saint Lucy and this is where under the cliffs at North Point you can find the famous Animal Flower Cave, the islands only sea cave. We have visited the cave a few times over the years and is one of my favourite places on the island. You can buy tickets to go down into the cave with a guide which is a great experience. Within the cave, there is a swimming pool which you can go in as long as the water is not too rough and lots of cave openings over the Atlantic ocean.
We were told on one visit that the water can completely fill the cave which is quite a scary thought! Inside the cave, you can also find sea anemones in the small rock pools which are locally called ‘animal flowers’ hence the name of the cave.
Once back out at the top, there are various viewpoints over the wild but wonderful Atlantic ocean, sitting and watching the water is something I find very soothing no matter how many times I have done it.
Just south of the north point, in the parish of Saint Peter, you will find St Nicolas Abbey and Cherry Tree Hill. St Nicholas Abbey is an old sugarcane plantation house that stopped functioning in 1947, now St Nicholas Abbey rum is produced at the on-site rum distillery in addition to the well-preserved museum which shows a 1930s film of life on a sugar plantation.
In the last few years, the St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway has been built which takes you on a journey through the plantation grounds ending at Cherry Tree Hill. Cherry Tree Hill offers an excellent viewing spot over the parish of Saint Andrew and breathtaking views 850ft above sea level of the rugged east coast.
The east coast of Barbados is culturally rich and a lot less expensive. It is rugged, dramatic and altogether different with unpredictable Atlantic seas. Most of the East coast is protected so there is less development than in the West and much more land and unspoilt beauty.
The East has staggering rock formations, limestone cliffs and high waves. There are few hotels and few villas however the most famous hotel on that side of the island is the Atlantis Hotel and Restaurant.
On the East, you will find the famous Bathsheba and some of the most incredible mushroom-like rock formations shorn from ancient coral reefs. Although the big surf and rip tides make it unsafe to swim, “The soup bowl” is the surfing hotspot and where the local surfing competitions take place. Bathsheba is also the home of the Andromeda Botanical Gardens founded in 1954.
Twenty-minute drive inland from Bathsheba towards the centre of the island is Harrison’s Cave, one of the islands more popular tourist attractions. It is a huge underground cave around 2km long full of stalagmites, stalactites, waterfalls with the largest cavern known as The Great Hall measuring 15m high. The tram tour is the most popular although you can also do a walking tour.
The rest of the east coast heading down towards the parish of Saint Phillip is filled with beaches such as Bath Beach, Bottom Bay, Shark Hole, Crane Beach & Foul Bay.
There are also various places to stop off and do some sightseeing such as Sam Lord’s Castle which was once a beautiful Georgian mansion and run as an exquisite top-end hotel for many years. This was sadly consumed by a fire in 2010 however it is still great to visit and there is an amazing secluded beach here too with squeaky sand!
In addition, right by the entrance to Sam Lord’s Castle is a lovely little spot for drinks and some traditional Bajan food called Dis Ole House.
Moving around from Saint Phillip is Christchurch.
Christchurch is where the famous Barbados Oistins Fish Fry is held. This is a must-do when in Barbados on a Friday night! Food is served in an extremely informal setting with many vendors to choose from, it is freshly cooked in front of you and grilled or fried depending on how you like it.
The one I would recommend is ‘Pats Place’ but make sure you get there early as they are one of the most popular vendors! There is music, singing and a good way to meet and mix with the locals and even some celebrities!
Also in Christchurch is St Lawrence Gap, the party centre of the south!
Nicknamed as ‘The Gap’ by locals. It is a small street filled with bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. If you like a party Harbour Lights is great fun, also located on the south coast, an open-air, beachfront club with two dancefloors. They host a nightclub every Wednesday and Friday and you pay 35USD entry and all your drinks are FREE all night!
As well as Christchurch’s nightlife it also has some lovely beaches such as Cotton Bay, Rockley Beach and Miami Beach for some beach time.
There are also an abundance of restaurants and a bit like the west coast, they range from low end to high end. A couple of our favourites on the south coast are Champers and Tapas. If you like chicken pasta, Tapas is the place to go!
A point of interest in Christchurch is The Garrison, a historic horse racing venue with an oval grass track. The grandstand and surrounds are packed to capacity on Gold Cup Day which occurs the first Saturday in March every year and also during the festive period normally around boxing day. The gold cup has a large international following and spectators come from all over the world.
Just down from the Garrison is Needham’s Point and the home of Barbados Blue Watersports. This owner Andre is very knowledgeable and my sister Darby has visited and completed many dives with Barbados Blue, including a night dive.
Bridgetown is the capital and is the ‘hustle bustle’ part of Barbados with lots of shops, banks, and people! Bridgetown is a mix of Bajan culture and the modern world with vibrant street vendors and commercial complexes. Browne’s Beach, Pebbles Beach and the famous Carlisle Bay are some of the glorious beaches of Bridgetown.
Having been to Barbados many times now I highly recommend hiring a car. Every time we have been we have hired a car and because they drive on the same side of the road as us in the UK.
Alternatively, you can catch what is locally known as ‘reggae reggae buses’ they are bright yellow, have loud music and are 3BBD to go anywhere on the island, pretty good deal if you ask me, they are an experience and a must-do even if you only go a short distance!
Written by Yazmin