Barbados is one of the most visited islands in the Caribbean for good reason.
The newly minted republic is blessed with naturally occurring marvels, a network of architectural and historical attractions, exotic wildlife, a wealth of water sports, and pristine beaches. It’s why favorite daughter Rihanna doesn’t stay away from home for too long and why you’ll keep coming back. Here are the best places to visit in Barbados.
Explore Barbados’ rum history at Mount Gay Distilleries
Barbados’ legacy of sugar cane production and the ideal tropical weather conditions for alcohol maturation converge to produce the perfect rum at Mount Gay Distilleries.
Founded in 1703, the most renowned spirits producer on the island is also the world’s oldest commercial rum distillery. Their signature tasting explores Barbados’ history as the birthplace of rum and offers a sampling of the premium rums the vaunted brand is known for. Cocktail crafting classes are also available along with a Bajan lunch pairing featuring local specialties and an unlimited supply of rum punch.
Experiences start at USD$20 and transportation is free from hotels. The Mount Gay Visitors Center is conveniently located in central Bridgetown, the largest city and country capital.
Hike up Mount Hillaby
Barbados is a relatively flat landmass with very little mountainous terrain. Mount Hillaby is the exception. The peak in St. Andrew parish is the highest point on the island at 1115 ft above sea level. Mount Hillaby it the optimal spot for panoramic views of the surrounding Scotland District and Bathsheba Beach — a popular surfing destination with dramatic rock formations.
Hikers of all skill levels will appreciate the low-intensity trek up Mount Hillaby’s trail. Look out for the white coral stone and volcanic rock. Unlike neighboring islands, Barbados has no volcanoes so this is the only area on the island with this type of rock.
Visit Rihanna Drive
Before Rihanna became a global pop superstar and successful businesswoman, she was known simply as Robyn. The little girl from Charles F. Broome Memorial Primary School who lived in one of the colorful houses along Westbury New Road in St. Michael.
In 2017, on the country’s Independence Day, that stretch of street was renamed Rihanna Drive. Every year, visitors flock to the modest but brightly painted green and orange house on a blue surface to see where Barbados’ biggest star grew up.
There’s a plaque on the street corner but, sometimes, if you’re lucky, a few neighbors might be willing to provide a few tidbits of little Robyn Fenty too.
Go snorkeling at Carlisle Bay
The nearby shipwrecks — some from unfortunate accidents and others specifically to facilitate coral reef growth — make this a snorkeler’s paradise. Visitors will spot various fish species, lobsters and turtles. The one downside is that the Bay is not well shaded so umbrellas and sunscreen are a must. Restaurants, watering holes and restroom facilities are close by.
Stop for something to eat at Animal Flower Cave
Animal Flower Cave is perched on the tip of the northernmost part of Barbados in the St. Lucy parish. Inside you will find reflective pools and several large jagged openings that act as windows looking out over the ocean and offering enough natural light to ward off claustrophobia.
The sea cave has been in the Ward family since 1927. Short, guided, cave tours are available. Above the cave is a cliff-side restaurant bearing the same name and known for its homemade, hand-squeezed, fresh lemonade.
The best time to visit is between February and April when you’re more likely to catch a glimpse of humpback whales from an open-deck viewing area above the restaurant.
Experience the legendary Friday fish fry at Oistins
Fish is a staple throughout the Caribbean and in Barbados, flying fish is king. It’s the most popular catch and makes up one-half of the island’s national dish, flying fish and cou cou (a mixture of cornmeal and okra).
You’ll find heaps of flying fish, as well as tuna, mahi-mahi, swordfish, marlin, lobster and even chicken, at Oistins Fish Fry.
The fishing village of Oistins provides a slice of Bajan life. It’s a relaxed setting, with the old heads breaking into intense dominoes competitions among the diners feasting on freshly caught grilled and fried fish. In the background, calypso or old-school tunes inspire impromptu spurts of dancing.
Seating is plentiful but the food is in high demand so show up early. It starts from 7pm and by 8pm, the lines are extensive. A generous meal with a beer should set you back USD$15 to $20.
Scope out Harrison’s Cave
Harrison’s Cave is one of the natural wonders of the Caribbean. The caves are the product of water eroded limestone rock, with calcium-rich waters forming unique stalactites and stalagmites. A tour is as simple and accessible as sitting in a tram, meaning that the magical caverns and crystallized formations remain virtually undisturbed.
Get a taste of the nightlife at St. Lawrence Gap
The Gap, as it’s known locally, is less than a mile long but the hub for shopping, restaurants and nightlife. It’s just about 20 minutes outside of Bridgetown in the Christ Church parish. The small street comes alive in the nighttime, particularly on the high octane west side where you will find the bulk of the eateries and nightclubs.
Primo Bar & Bistro is an affordable waterside dining option for a casual atmosphere with tasty seafood and pizzas. The east end is populated with residential homes as well as hotels and guesthouses for every price point.
There are a few bars with a noticeably more laid-back vibe. Grab some local street food and coconut water from one of the multiple vendors in the area and head to the short boardwalk to enjoy a front-row seat to a glorious sunset.
Step back in history on a visit to Bridgetown
The Barbados capital makes sightseeing easy, with several major attractions conveniently located within close proximity to each other. The Parliament buildings sit in the city center flanked by the National Heroes Square.
A couple of miles south of the National Heroes Square is the Garrison Historic Area, a collection of sites that make up the largest British military complex constructed in the Caribbean. This includes the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, the George Washington House, The National Army and St. Ann’s Fort, Garrison Savannah, and Pavilion.
Carve out a few hours to truly appreciate this area of historical and architectural significance. The 1,000-year-old Queen’s Park baobab tree, Nidhe Israel Synagogue, and St. Michael’s Cathedral round out some of the must-see monuments.
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