As well as some of the Caribbean’s best beaches and world class dining experiences, Barbados is packed with adventure and culture – check out my top 10 things to do in Barbados and you will see why.
There are more than 700 islands in the Caribbean. Some islands are blessed with the world’s best beaches, some with dramatic landscapes, others have UNESCO world heritage sites and vibrant nightlife. Barbados has them all. Many believe Barbados is a beach holiday destination, but there are many great things to do in Barbados.
I visited Barbados many years ago and loved it. I met people from all walks of life who emigrated here, and it was obvious they were happy with their choice! Barbados has a friendly relaxed vibe, we felt it all over the island – it was infectious.
Most people speak English in Barbados, I always felt at ease and extremely safe. Although more developed than some of its neighbours, Barbados still has a Caribbean feel, with plenty of charm and character to savour.
Barbados is a very small island – it is only 34km in length and 23 km wide, yet it is extremely diverse. We hired a local moke (tiny 2-seater car), and drove around the whole island in a day.
The east coast of Barbados is renowned for its excellent surf, while the south coast has some of the best nightlife in the Caribbean. The west coast is home to Sandy Lane – need I say more? This part of the island is a celebrity hang out, however, there are plenty of affordable hotels there too.
While I was fortunate to visit Barbados on one occasion, fellow travel writer and blogger Aoife Bermingham, AKA Irish Mum on the Run has been to Barbados numerous times, and kindly agreed to write this Barbados travel guide and share her insights on the best things to do in Barbados. Aoife has a passion for all things travel and food, and has listed her favourite places to eat in Barbados too.
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As well as pristine beaches and turquoise Caribbean sea, Barbados has so much more to offer. It caters for everyone – from couples who want a relaxing holiday with a little sightseeing, to those who want action packed days full of adventure and exploration. And as for the food scene…that deserves a post all on its own!
My number one tip to anyone visiting Barbados is to get out and meet the locals – Bajan’s are the nicest and friendliest people in the world, with a sense of humour much like the Irish, and a shared history too. You’ll soon fall in love with this very special place!
I, like Sarah, found Barbados very safe. The crime rate is low, unlike some of the other Caribbean islands. Visitors and tourists mingle easily and you will likely make new local friends. Get around the island and sample the amazing food and restaurants the island has to offer, and you will understand why Barbados has more repeat visitors each year than any other Caribbean Island.
Here are some of my top things to do in Barbados for couples, and my favourite places to eat – I hope you will find them useful when planning your next Barbados holiday.
1. Book a Catamaran Cruise
My number one must do – like don’t leave the island without doing this, is a catamaran cruise along the West Coast of Barbados. I recommend Cool Runnings, but make sure to book in advance as they get booked out very quickly.
You can choose a day cruise or a sunset cruise. You will be picked up from your hotel and brought to Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, to board your catamaran to set sail.
Enjoy the sweet sounds of reggae music and the wind blowing in your hair as you sail Barbados’s West Coast. Over a few hours you can enjoy snorkelling around a shipwreck, swimming with turtles, imbibing rum punch and indulging in sumptuous food served onboard. It is a day not to be missed.
See more options for Barbados cruises here:
2. Snorkel or Scuba dive
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned scuba diver, Barbados has an underwater paradise, and a Mecca for diving. You can chose to go on a simple snorkel experience or a full learn to dive experience – the underwater world of ship wrecks, reefs and colourful fish is waiting to be explored.
I highly recommend GFish Scuba, they’ve been in the business years and as well as being fully accredited, they are also great fun, and will promise you a day you’ll remember forever – this is one of the top things to do in Barbados.
3. Go on an Island Safari
Although beaches and water based pursuits are a huge draw, Barbados has surprisingly many alternative activities available. The West Coast has the picture perfect white sandy beaches and clear seas, but 14 miles away on the East Coast is the Atlantic Ocean, where the landscape is more rugged and the seas are less calm – they are a haven for surfing.
The Island Safari trip takes you around the east coast to Bathsheba Beach, and then into the middle of the Island to the Scottish Hills area. You will pass by sugar cane fields, learn more about the islands flora and fauna, and hear stories about Barbados’ plantations and history as a former salve colony of the British Empire.
You will then be treated to a relaxing lunch in a nearby restaurant, followed by a tour of the north and west coast of the Island. This is a great way to see all the sides of the island in one day, and learn about the history and culture while on an open safari jeep.
4. Take a Rum Tour
One thing you’ll notice immediately when you get to Barbados, is that rum is everywhere! Barbados is the birthplace of rum – rum is to Barbados like Guinness is to Ireland.
There are rum shops all over the island, and similar to our own pub culture, rum shops are part of the social scene in Barbados. Locals sit out on side streets playing dominos, drinking, chatting and laughing – this is one of the top things to do in Barbados, so don’t miss it.
There are many distilleries to visit and tours to do, but I would highly recommend a trip to St Nicholas Abbey. You will visit a former Plantation House, visit a distillery, hear how rum is made and the history behind it, as well as taking a trip on the islands only train – a steam train around the plantation. Note St Nicholas Abbey is closed on Tuesday.
5. Harrisons Cave
Barbados has a system of underground lakes and caves that give the island the most beautiful fresh drinking water. Harrison’s Cave is one of these and is open to visitors. You can see the stunning array of stalactites hanging from the cave ceiling, and stalagmites jutting up front the ground, alongside streams of crystal-clear waterfalls and pools.
The tour is on an electronic tram which brings you inside the underground limestone caves. You can disembark at one point and walk around the waterfalls and pools.
Many tour companies offer tours that include a stop at Harrison’s Cave – they usually include a guided tour of the caves and hotel pick up. If you have rented a car, you can drive to the caves and enter without being part of a group.
6. Visit Bridgetown
Barbados’ capital Bridgetown is the island’s largest town. The locals call it ‘Town’ but bus stop signs will say ‘into city’ or ‘out of city’. There are state-owned blue buses to bring you to Bridgetown, but a ride one of ZR buses is an experience not to be missed!
ZR’s are white mini vans that beep up and down the coast playing loud reggae music and serve as an independent business to those who drive them. You might be squashed or even have to sit on someone’s knee, but its all part of the experience.
Bridgetown is a vibrant town steeped in culture and history dating back to 1628. In the city you can access duty free shopping, galleries and museums as well as visiting the small market stalls selling food, tropical fruits and local crafts. It is a small town so walking around on foot is the best way to explore it, but if you have time try one of the many food tours available.
7. Don’t miss Oistins Fish Fry
Oistins is practically an institution in Barbados. This small fishing village hosts a local fish market and although it is open every day, it comes alive on Friday night with locals and visitors alike. The main stage has local dancers with loud music and everyone is encouraged to watch, join in, and dance.
There are dozens of food stalls cooking freshly caught fish for you dinner, with plenty of seating and tables available. You can buy drinks from each stall or bring your own.
My top tip is to get there early around 7 / 7.30pm, as the best food stalls have the bigger queues. My personal favourite is Mo’s Grill at the entrance, and if you see a big queue don’t let that put you off. Grab a table or a few seats at a table that might have a few others sitting at it, and make new friends. Not many visitors realise this but you can order your meal via table service, rather than standing in the long queue.
8. Take in a festival
From carnivals to food fares, rum festivals to sporting events – you name it, there is always something happening in Barbados! Crop Over marks the end of the sugar cane crop season and is one of the most famous festivals in Barbados that happens during July and August.
The Celtic festival that takes place in May, is a vibrant music and food festival celebrating the very deep history between Barbados and the Celtic countries of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Barbados Food and Rum Festival is another massive event in Barbados’ festival calendar, but there are many Reggae and sporting festivals on throughout the year.
9. Treat yourself to a meal in the Cliff Restaurant
The Cliff is one of the best known restaurants in Barbados, both for the quality of its food and for the stunning setting. Perched on a cliff edge overlooking a bay where sting rays happily swim by, it is breathtaking.
The torch lit decks add to the drama. Although this Michelin Star restaurant is expensive, it will be one of those moments that you will cherish – it is one of the top things to do in Barbados for honeymooners. Top Tip: Ask for a table at the shore.
10. Don’t miss the street food
You can eat in all the fancy restaurants you want in Barbados, but the street food in my opinion is by far the best! Here are some of my favourite food trucks and street food spots – don’t miss them!
Worthing Square is a really cool outdoor space with various Caribbean and south American food stalls to choose from. Live music and a great vibe. Highly recommended.
The Seafood Shack – Two words – Lobster Rolls. Don’t miss out on them.
Cuzz’s Fish Stand is famous for its amazing fresh fish cutters. Cutters are a Bajan version of a sandwich, but are far more than that – that’s just the easiest way to describe it.
Accra Beach – Look out for Melinda, the woman with the white van in the beach car park from midday. There is always a queue and if there’s no queue that just means she run out of food! This lady’s lunches are one of my favourite meals whenever I go there.
Melinda is there most days and gone by 2pm so get there early. This is a typical local lunch, served in a white box, you eat it on the beach and enjoy the view – Bajan street food from a Bajan Mammy who are the best cooks in the world – FACT!
Best restaurants in Barbados
Barbados is known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and I’d go for just for the food alone, so I have listed some of my favourite restaurants in Barbados including fine dining restaurants, trendy seaside spots, and the best places for brunch.
South Coast Restaurants
Champers is probably one of the most popular restaurants on the South Coast. It is the place to go for a special occasion or to treat yourself to something special on holiday. Book early and request a table by the sea.
Naru is one of my favourite restaurants in Barbados. It is located along the boardwalk with seaside dining. The Sushi is to divine, but don’t worry if you don’t eat fish – they make vegetable, pork and chicken sushi, and serve Japanese main courses too.
Cafe Sol is an Irish owned restaurant in St Lawrence Gap serving your favourite Mexican foods and cocktails. Arrive hungry and you’ll leave full – until the next day!
Blush café is a must visit for breakfast / brunch. This place is super cool and extremely ‘Instagramable’ – the food doesn’t just look picture perfect, it tastes perfect too.
La Cabane is a rustic style beach shack that serves up delicious local food, as well as cocktails served by their in house mixologist. They just opened a second restaurant on the South Coast recently – this place is not to be missed.
West Coast Restaurants
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Cala Roca offers chic by the sea dining with incredible views. This restaurant offers up tapas style sharing plates and the food is phenomenal.
Tides Restaurant boasts fine dining by the sea with live music, fantastic cocktails and super service.
The Fish Pot is a small low-key restaurant that prepares fresh fish of the day in a cottage style seaside setting.
Sea Shed is the place to be seen in Barbados. This trendy hang-out by the sea is beautifully decorated and offers amazing food and ambience.
Fusion Rooftop is situated on the rooftop of Limegrove Lifestyle Centre in Holetown. Trendy yet informal it serves up a delicious menu with various different foods to meet everyone’s taste.
Note some restaurants close one or two days a week so it is worth checking with them to see what days they are open, and where possible book in advance.
When to visit Barbados
The rainy season is from August to October so it is best to avoid travelling at that time if possible, but for the other nine months of the year the weather is very pleasant. The weather from January through to April is less humid and usually the driest.
I hope this post on the top things to do in Barbados will help you to make this most of this magical country. A big thanks to Aoife from Irish Mum on the Run for sharing her valuable insights.
Attractions and restaurant services are correct at the time of issue, but are subject to change. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.