10 Reasons to Fall in Love with Barbados

Blue skies, even bluer water, swaying palm trees, white sand beaches and wait for it… cute monkeys! If Barbados is not on your bucket list, go ahead and add it – this place is awesome!

You probably already know Rihanna was born on the island BUT did you know Barbados is also home to Mount Gay Rum – the rum that – wait for it… invented rum AND that the grapefruit originated here? Who knew, right? Another couple of interesting facts… this island was once a British colony, and they drive on the left side of the car and the left side of the road – which may scare the living shit out of you freak you out when you first arrive. Word to the wise, do not rent a car if you’re not used to or comfortable driving like that. I will say though Barbados is full of super polite drivers and don’t get confused when everyone honks at you,  it’s normal and usually a nice gesture, equivalent to the southern wave.

I recently visited Barbados for work, sans Kyle, to learn more about my company’s resort and explore the island. Trust me when I say, this island is truly a Caribbean gem with something for everyone. So, here’s what I loved about Barbados during my five days on the island.

1. ENDLESS ACTIVITIES

I’m very serious when I say there’s something for everyone on this island. Killer beaches? Check! Adorable animals of all kinds? Check! Adventure for days? Oh yeah! If you want to spend your days beachside with a refreshing rum punch in hand (and no one would blame you), you can do that. If you’re looking for thrilling new adventures on land or underwater, there are a plethora of options to choose from.

Not only that, the island has some pretty delicious local dishes (staples in Barbadian culture) that you have to try and striking landmarks you have to see to believe. If you have kids, great news, this island is fun for the whole family (and has plenty of things to do to keep the little ones occupied while you enjoy some peace and quiet) and if you’re kid-less (or leaving them at grandma and grandpa’s for the week) this island is ideal for a romantic vacation for two. It pretty much checks all the boxes for a perfect Caribbean paradise.

2. STELLAR SURFING (FOR ALL SKILL LEVELS)

Okay so going into this, I honestly thought I was going to suck at surfing. While I was once a strong black belt in karate, I am now quite uncoordinated and unbalanced. I’ve never snowboarded and I haven’t gone skiing (water or snow) in at least 15 years. And I KILLED it my first try surfing. So with that knowledge, if you think surfing is not for you, think again!

Barry’s Surf School near Dover Beach will have you shredding waves like a pro (or perhaps a strong amateur) in no time. Open to all skill levels, the Beginner Surfing Lesson I took started off with a quick beachside class on how to properly stand up on the board, about 15-20 minutes tops, and then we were in the water shredding waves trying very hard to stay balanced while standing on a moving board on top of unpredictable water – no sweat right? And while it sounds super difficult, the classed have a stand up success rate of 99%, so you’re bound to discover why the sport is so addictive, and who knows, maybe you’ll be like me and find out you missed your true calling in life!

A few insider tips:

  1. Make sure to bring a GoPro with a hand strap so you can catch your triumph on camera and people will believe you when you get home. If you ask nicely, the instructors will help you catch cool angles by surfing next to you with the camera.
  2. Wear a crapload of sunscreen or face some serious burns. They will provide a long sleeve rash vest that will cover your top but the backs of your legs and lower back are exposed to the sun for about 2 whole hours and you WILL regret not covering those spots with sunscreen – trust me!
  3. Listen to the instructors – I mean really listen. If you follow exactly what they say and truly take their advice to heart, you will 100% stand up on the board.
  4. You will be exhausted after this… and probably during too. After about an hour my arms felt like they were about to fall off and I seriously did not understand how the instructors were paddling back out so damn quickly. TBH, I still don’t understand, but I didn’t give up because I was now obsessed with standing up and they taught me to paddle into my own waves so I felt kind of cool and couldn’t let the others see my weakness. It was definitely worth it though and I think that got in my workout quota for the year, right?

So, have I convinced you to try? You can book your lesson by visiting www.surfing-barbados.com and thank me later!

3. MONKEYS GALORE

They are everywhere, and they are adorable but do not touch them – seriously. They will chase after you to try and attack you and I will laugh hysterically until it decides to leave you alone. Yes, this really happened to a man at the reserve that touched a monkey. They are wild animals after all! (He was fine, by the way!)

Originally brought to the island 350 years ago from West Africa by wealthy families who wanted them as pets (yep), Green Monkeys eventually escaped captivity and multiplied quickly, creating the large population that they are today. They are really fun to watch in their natural habitat, and while you can see them really anywhere on the island, the best place to get a closer look is at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve.

Not only do they have tons of the cutest monkeys you have ever seen doing what they do best – monkeying around (sorry – I had to), but they also have unique species of deer, tortoises, peacocks, snakes, parrots, caimans, iguanas and maras roaming freely throughout the 4-acre forest.

Insider tip: Arrive a little before 2 p.m. so you don’t miss feeding time, where they lay out a smorgasbord of fruits and all of the animals come out of the woodworks (including the turtles) to grub down as one big happy family. It’s enough to make your heart explode with love – that is, if you’re an animal-lover like me!

For more information, visit www.barbadoswildlifereserve.com.

4. LUSH LANDSCAPES

No matter where you look, you’re bound to find abundant greenery, majestic towering trees and vibrant flowers on Barbados, and luckily, there’s no shortage of sanctuaries dedicated to preserving the island’s flora and fauna. To experience the island’s natural beauty take a scenic drive up Cherry Tree Hill or a stop at one of three popular gardens – Flower Forest, Hunte’s Garden or Andromeda Botanic Gardens.

While I didn’t get a chance to stop by the gardens, I did book a full-day island excursion with Glory Tours, which included a ride up Cherry Tree Hill with a quick stop for pictures and to take in the views. For more information on the gardens, visit www.flowerforestbarbados.com, huntesgardensbarbados.com and www.andromedabarbados.com. To uncover even more of the island’s remarkable sights, book a tour with Glory Tours by visiting www.glorytours.org.

5. FOODIE HEAVEN

If you’re a foodie like me and you don’t care about calories or your cholesterol, the Barbados food scene is for you. Flying fish and macaroni & cheese pie are local favorites and so popular that you can find pretty much anywhere. Oddly enough, Barbados is known as “the land of the flying fish” and it’s one of the country’s national symbols. After trying my first flying fish sandwich, I can understand why. It’s usually served battered and fried alone or on a bun/bread, sandwich-style – I prefer the latter.

And if you want to experience a lively night of seafood, entertainment and culture, stop by Oistins Bay Gardens on Friday night for the famed Oistins Fish Fry. The area is open every night of the week, but it really comes alive Friday nights with seafood shops lined up one after another, energetic Caribbean music and a bustling crowd of locals and tourists alike lining up to enjoy authentic Barbadian dishes and the freshest seafood on the island.

Insider Tips:

  1. Be sure to arrive early to avoid long lines and don’t miss out on Pat’s Place & Uncle George’s – the locals swear by them and Pat’s Place has hands down the best macaroni salad I’ve ever had.
  2. Once you’re done gorging yourself with delicious eats, walk some of those calories off by stopping by the cute row of shops selling local arts & crafts, souvenirs and other trinkets.
  3. If you hang around long enough, you might catch a glimpse of Mother Sally. She’s a woman with, well… a large ass. Believed to represent fertility, Mother Sally is honored in Barbadian culture by a performer in costume dancing with a Tuk Band and showcasing movements designed to proudly show off her exaggerated hips and voluptuous curves. It’s hard not to enjoy the fun music and dancing!

6. COOL CAVES

Okay y’all… (yeah – I’m from the south) did you know that Barbados has not one but two major cave systems on the island? For a guided experience, visit one of the island’s most popular attractions, Harrison’s Caves. At a depth of up to 160 ft below ground, this natural wonder features fascinating grottos, dripping stalactite formations that look like glistening chandeliers, huge echoing caverns and underground waterfalls – and you get to see it all when you book a tour.

I took the tram tour, where you ride with a large group on a slow-moving tram that takes you on a winding track through the caves. You even get to step out at a few points to take a closer look and snap a few photos… like the one below, but perhaps without the “look at me mom, I’m in a cave” pose.

OR you can book the Eco-Adventure Tour where you get down and dirty to discover the caves by foot… and sometimes by hand and knee, in the more narrow spots. While I didn’t get a chance to check this tour out, it’s definitely on my bucket list for the next time I visit the island. For more information on both tours, visit www.harrisonscave.com.

The other cave to visit is the Animal Flower Cave on the north side of Barbados, which is the only accessible sea cave on the island, named for its many anemones. Didn’t get a chance to visit but heard great things. For more information, visit https://barbados.org/aniflow.htm.

7. SWIM WITH TURTLES

Okay, so I’ll be honest – I didn’t really swim with turtles… I swam with a (singular) turtle, but even though there was only one in the water on the day of my tour, it was still a super cool experience!

There’s plenty of tour options if you want to dive into an underwater world where turtles, fish and colorful sea creatures abound, and my tour was with Tiami Catamaran Cruises. We boarded Tiami’s 60-ft catamaran bright and early in the morning to spend the day snorkeling and swimming side-by-side with turtles (or in my case, turtle) and a variety of exotic fish.

It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see these creatures in their natural habitat. I also saw a huge fish that somewhat resembled a shark and totally kept my cool freaked the F out until I found out it was just a harmless a tarpon fish. We were given pieces of fish to feed to the gathering fish. A bit barbaric, but hey – who am I to question a fish’s cravings?

Our tour stopped at two locations – one where the turtles swim and the other by a beach and close to a reef teeming with fish. We had ample time to explore both locations and I never felt rushed at any point. If you’re feeling adventurous, jump off the edge of the boat! Back on board, there was lively music playing, a fully stocked bar with never-ending rum punch (careful friends), delicious snacks and a pretty tasty lunch served up by a really awesome, upbeat crew. All in all, this was a really cool way to see the turtles up close and personal and discover parts of the island you wouldn’t normally see otherwise.

Oddly enough though, the most hilarious part of the tour was the bus ride back to the resort, which was full of the most hilarious Brits, who may or may not had a few drinks on the tours. They commandeered the bus driver’s mic and sang all sorts of songs and had cheeky commentary along the way. We all couldn’t help but join in the fun, singing along and cheering them on. Let’s just say, it was a good time!

For more information on Tiami Catamaran Cruises, visit tiamicatamarancruises.com.

8. HARBOUR LIGHTS BARBADOS

Think dinner and a movie, but even better! Everyone I spoke to on the island told me I had to go to Harbour Lights Barbados’ Beach Extravaganza and Dinner show, so I took their advice and had an amazing time!

The show happens weekly on Monday and Wednesday nights, and it’s pretty much a mini version of the carnival with colorful cultural entertainment from bands, dancers, stilt walkers, acrobats and even a fire performer. Plus as an added bonus, there was also an appearance from Mother Sally, in all her bountiful glory!

The music was hype and pretty much everyone was on their feet dancing and singing along. Included in your ticket are endless amounts of drinks and a traditional Bajan style BBQ buffet, which was really quite delicious. Heads up – you choose which type of meat you want for dinner (steak, fish, shrimp or chicken) when you first arrive at the show, so have an idea of what you want ahead of time so you don’t hold up the line. Oh, and make sure to let them know if you’re celebrating a special occasion!

For more details, visit www.harbourlightsbarbados.com.

9. ST. NICHOLAS ABBEY

What do you get when you mix history with rum? The St. Nicholas Abbey. No, it’s not an actual abbey, but it is filled with 350 years of history and some of Barbados’ finest aged rum, just waiting to be sipped – and YES they let you sample the rum. This beautiful property was originally a sugarcane plantation, and is now a museum, working rum distillery and plantation home with a cafe, vibrant gardens, mahogany forests, tropical gullies, a steam mill, a courtyard and even a few tropical birds, all on its 400-acre property.

When you arrive, you receive a ticket for a free rum punch (sensing a trend here?) and you’re free to explore the property. Plan to spend quite a bit of time here as there’s plenty to see, and if you’re hungry, there’s even an adorable little outdoor cafe overlooking the tropical forest. And of course, you can’t miss the old bathrooms they’ve preserved, complete with the antique chandelier. Before you leave, don’t forget to try your free samples of the rum and you’ll be feeling great for the ride home.

For more details, visit www.stnicholasabbey.com.

10. BEAUTIFUL BEACHES

Warm sand, blue water and sunny skies abound on Barbados! Of course, you probably knew that. But did you know that Barbados has more than 70 miles of both pink and white sand beaches? Yep! My favorite beach was in Bathsheba, cute a fishing village on the east coast of the island. Bathsheba Beach is full of the coolest rock formations that seem to teeter on a small point underwater. It’s really not the best spot for swimming, as the water is quite rough, but it is a nice stop for a picnic lunch and to snap a few photos.

Another beach the locals love is Browne’s Beach. While I didn’t have enough time to visit this beach, I heard it’s is the best spot on the island to snorkel with tons of sea turtles and colorful fish. Don’t forget your goggles, some food to feed the fish and an underwater camera to capture it all.

And finally, located in the famous St. Lawrence Gap, is lovely Dover Beach, a nice spot for relaxing on the under the shade of beautiful palm trees and watching sunsets, which are usually quite spectacular on the island. You’ll enjoy white sand and calm waves, and when you’re done roasting in the sun, you can go shopping or grab a bite to eat at the many nearby restaurants.

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