Dreamy, dreamy Barbados
Map of Barbados • Introduction • The districts of Barbados • St. James Parish Church • Speightstown • Bridgetown • Barbados Parliament • Garrison Savannah • St. Nicholas Abbey • Cherry Tree Hill • Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill • Barbados East Coast • St. James Parish Church • Hotels • Restaurants • Shopping • Beaches • Facts
Map of Barbados
Barbados is just so fantastic.
I love the genuine, kind people, the food, the nature, the climate – everything about Barbados makes you want to stay for ever.
Compared to the other Caribbean countries, Barbados has a high standard of living and the Barbadians are well educated.
The official language of the country is English, but, let me put it this way, it takes a while to get used to that Bajan accent….
Walking around all by yourself in Barbados feels safe.
The best way to explore the island is either to rent a car (it is easy to find your way and the roads are in good shape) or, even better, hire a private chauffeur. You will get a private guide who knows everything there is to know about the island and you may freely sip on a rum punch, or two, during lunch.
Tip: The Barbadians don’t want to be photographed and people were actually making remarks about my big Nikon. “Just shoot, never ask” approach will not be appreciated in these hoods.
Where should you stay in Barbados?
There are 11 districts in Barbados. Christ Church on the South Coast has several all inclusive hotels and a busy night life while the West Coast is calmer and more expensive, especially the wealthy St. James district. Both Rihanna and Hans Rausing have a residence on the west coast.
The East Coast is less exploited and you will not find many hotels, nor restaurants, on this side of Barbados. The same goes for the North.
The house where Rihanna grew up. If she visits Barbados today she will stay in her magnificant apartment at the Sandy Lane Hotel.
- Northern Barbados: Unexploited, views with a great wow factor, dramatic. Not so much for swimming.
- Central Barbados: Lots of plantations, beautiful botanical gardens and caves.
- West Coast: Referred to as the Gold or Platinum Coast – turqoise waters and white sand, hotels de luxe, beutiful villas. All the best restaurants and hotels are located here, ecpecially around Holetown.
- East Coast: Atlantic Ocean, small villages, sugar cane plantations, a few hotels, non-touristic.
- South Coast: The South Coast is the most populated and the most touristic district, especially in the district of Christ Church. All inclusive hotels and large hotel complexes stand side by side. St. Lawrence Gap, a c. 1,5 km long street, is known for its night life, restaurants and shopping. Generally speaking, the prices are lower here than in the West Coast. South Coast of Barbados is also full of beautiful beaches.
- Bridgetown: A visit to Bridgetown is a must.
St. James Parish Church is the oldest church on the island dating back to 1628. It is a beautiful small church that has been visited by the former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and the US President Ronald Reagan.
Speightstown, founded in 1653, was an important port and the navel of British trade. Speightstown is the second largest town in Barbados and has an interesting architecture. Historical buildings from the 19th century have been refurbished to their former glory.
Stroll around amidst the old, beautiful buildings from the 17th century, and the more modern ones, stop for a coffee, shop on Broad Street or head to Carlisle Bay for snorkling with sea turtles.
Dont’t miss these sights in Bridgetown
- The Parliament Building
- The port
- The Garrison Savannah.
We had lunch at Waterfront Café which is a cozy restaurant serving Bajan dishes. They also have jazz sessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. If you feel like having a relaxed evening at a restaurant with a cool vibe – this is the place. Both Barbadians and tourists go here.
There are several restaurants in this building, Waterfront Café is on the street level.
This amazing tree is called shak shak, which means Woman’s Tongue for some mysterious reason.
The Barbados Parliament was founded already in 1639. Made of beautiful limestone from the island, the buildings were completed in 1870s.
Visit also the Barbados National Heroes Gallery and Barbados Museum of Parliament if you want to know more.
Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison is a World Heritage Site.
The Garrison was the first garrison in the British colonies and was establishd as the military headquarters in 1780.
The British were intrested in horse racing and eventually even rich Barbadians, the so called plantocracy, were allowed to race their horses on the race track.
Garrison Savannah is still in use today and apart from horse racing the annual national parade is held here.
St. Nicholas Abbey
St. Nicholas Abbey is an old Jacobean style sugarcane plantation that was built in the mid-17th century by Colonel Benjamin Berringer, who was subsequently killed in a duel by his neighbour.
Today, St. Nicholas Abbey is a family-owned rum distillery and a beautiful museum. Don’t miss the short film from the turn of the century shown in the tiny movie theater.
If you buy a bottle of rum – which you should – get it engraved.
Cherry Tree Hill
Cherry Tree Hill is located in the outskirts of the property of St. Nicholas Abbey and the road up there is bordered by beautiful cherry trees.
You have a breathtaking view of the East Coast from Cherry Tree Hill.
Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill
A wind-powered sugar mill from the 17th century stands proudly on this photogenic spot.
In order to extract the sweet plant juice from the sugar beets the beets were ground in the mill. To make sugar the juice was boiled until it was cristallized and the remaining inert liquid – the molasses – was used to make rum.
Barbados East Coast
The Barbados East Coast has a completely different character than the West Coast; it is rugged and quiet and the tourists are few. Private villas and occasional rum shop is all there is.
While on the East Coast have lunch at Round House Inn on the Batsheba Beach and order in a Caribbean Winter Salad. It will not disappont you!
St. John’s Parish Church
The original church was built in the 1600s but was completely destroyed in a hurricane in 1831. It was rebuilt in 1836 in Gothic style.
The highlights of the ST. John’s Parish Church are the finely carned pulpit and the Westmacott sculpture depicting Madonna with the child.
But only the cemetary is well worth a visit.
A Thomas Highes is buried here (Who? You might wonder.). What is interesting about him is that he wanted to be buried standing up because he rarely sat at work – meaning, I suppose, that he didn’t want to be perceived as a lazy person even as a corpse.
Cotton is self-pollinating. It takes approximately 6 months for the flower to built fiber around the seed and become cotton.
Hotels in Barbados West Coast
- Sandy Lane 5* is the most famous hotel in the Caribbean, and the most expensive one in Barbados. Sandy Lane has impeccable service, for sure. Marble interiors, 112 rooms, golf course, several restaurants – you get the picture. If you are on a “Mr(s) No Limit”-mood this is the place for you. Rihanna owns a five room apartment at Sandy Lane.
- The Fairmont Royal Pavilion 5* A boutique hotel with 72 rooms, great location, tough crowd.
- Cobbler’s Cove 4* has nice suites and you will book this hotel if you are looking forward to a really quiet vacation.
- The House 4 1/2* at Paynes Bay, an adults only botique hotel. Read our review here.
- Little Good Harbour with interior design by India Hicks is often mentioned in international magazines. The hotel has a great restaurant and the snorkling outside is even better. However, the location is a bit off.
Restaurants in Barbados
Barbados national dish is called cou cou (made from cornflour and okra) and is served with flying fish. Another popular dish you will often see on the menu is dolphin. However, it is not real dolphins the restaurant is serving but a delicious fish also known as maha. And of course, if you love seafood Barbados is the place for you.
- The Cliff is said to be the best restaurant in Barbados, if not in the whole Caribbean. And it most certainly is fabulous and you definitely want to dress up. The Cliff has several levels of dining areas so be sure to ask for a table by the ocean. The food is good but since I thought it would be almost like dining in a Michelin star restaurant, I need to say: it was not even close. Nevertherless, I do recommend the Cliff because it is spectacular and fun and it has a really great vibe. Try also the Cliff Beach Club upstairs.
- The Tides Excellent fish and lobster – this restaurant was one of our favorites.
- L’Acajou at Sandy Lane – dressed up like nothing you have seen. Impeccable service, after all – it is Sandy Lane. The food is really good but the athmesphere is a little dull, at least during the low season – we were there in the end of November.
- Daphne’s. A great Italian restaurant by the hotel House, trendy interior and so is the crowd.
- Scarlet If you are looking for a casual night out with great music and dito drinks. Scarlet is a small bistro serving innovative food with unexpected flavors.
- The Lobster Pot in Speightstown, right on the beach. Great athmesphere and good Bajan food. Don’t dress up. You will find both locals and tourists in the Lobster pot.
- Fish Pot (Little Good Harbour) for lunch.
- Just Grillin’ Sunset Crest in Holetown. Just Grillin’ serves grilled fish – fast food at its best. There were only locals there when we visited.
- Waterfront Café in Bridgetown – fun, informal, great jazz. For lunch or dinner.
- Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry, attracts lots of people on Friday nights. You either like it or you don’t.
- You can have today’s special cheap in Rum Shops.
Shopping in Barbados
- Bridgetown: Broad Street and Swan Street.
- Holetown: Limegrove Lifestyle Centre has labels like Gucci and Hugo Boss.
- Holetown: Chattel Village, lots of small, cozy portable cottages selling all kinds of stuff; you will find something for the beach or handmade souveniers to bring back home.
Sights in Barbados
- Rum tasting: St. Nicholas Abbey or Mount Gay Rom
- Andromeda Gardens
- The Barbados Garrison, a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. The house where the 19 year old George Washington lived in with his sick stepbrother in 1751 is now a museum.
- Harrison’s Cave
- Farley Hill – The Plantation House: A plantage from the 19th century, now only ruins remain. Not only an amazing place but also perfect for a hike.
- A submarine tour for those who don’t suffer from claustrophobia.
Beaches in Barbados
- Payne’s Bay Beach: Jet skis, water skiing, snorkeling, turtles.
- Mullins Beach: Sunsets, swimming, long walks. One of the most popular beaches in Barbados. The sand is golden and feels great between your toes.
- Gibbes Beach: Non-commercial, bring a picnic.
- Pebbles Beach
- Carlisle Bay: Beautiful beach, perfect snorkeling, shipwrecks.
- Paradise Beach: In the category: One of the best beaches…
- Accra Beach: Extremely popular, great for swimming and surfing.
- Enterprise Beach (Miami Beach): Also a popular beach, especially among Barbadians.
- Southcoast Boardwalk
- Crane Beach: Barbados most stunning beach according to many. Great surfing, boogie boards, buy picnic at Cutters.
- Batsheba: The international championship in surfing is held here but the beach is not safe for swimming because of the rip tides.
Facts about Barbados
- Inhabitants: C. 285 000
- Capital: Bridgetown – founded in 1628, c. 100 000 inhabitants.
- Government: Former British colony, sovereign state within the British Commonwealth 1966.
- Population: Most are descendants of African slaves. The first slaves, however, were white Englishmen and Irish who were deported to Barbados – the enemies to the Crown in the middle of 17th century were “to be Barbadoed”, they said.
- Language: English and Bajan, the latter being more of a local dialect.
- Currency: Barbadian dollar, BBD. USD is also fine. We exchanged 1 000 USD, hit the ATM for BBD and used our credit cards. Just remember: When a Barbadian wants a payment in dollar s/he means BBD. (Might get expensive otherwise. Take my word for it.)
- Visa for Europeans: No.
- Temperature: Even temperature throughout the year, approximately 30 degrees during the day and around 20 degrees at night. The water temperature will be around 28 degrees.
- The official hurrigane season is between June and October, even though the worst tropical storms tend to pass Barbados because it is located a little further to the East. Nevertheless, it usually reigns a lot during this period.
- The tourist season is between December and April. The prices are high so if you don’t want to pay the double for your hotel room come in November or May when the tourist season has not quite started yet.
- Electricity: Europeans will need a converter.
- Tap water is drinkable.
- Rum: It is not possible to talk about Barbados without mentioning the rum; rum is an essential part of the Bajan culture and is served everywhere. The most popular drink in Barbados is Rum Punch. Mt. Gay Rum distillery is the oldest distillery in the world that is still in use. The company was founded in 1703.
- Tipping at restaurants: C. 10 % (+ service fee of 10-15 %).