Our clients are extremely discerning and are always looking for extraordinary experiences when they travel. Since our team of villa and concierge experts spends so much of their time traveling, both inspecting Barbados villas and getting to know every intimate detail of the islands and destinations they represent, we feel we are in an excellent position to give some great insider tips.
Off The Beaten Track: 9 Things To Do In Barbados
We are very excited to present nine things to do in Barbados, the second article in our “Off The Beaten Track” series. These are the things that very few people know about other than the local Bajans or seasoned travelers to the island. These are sites and experiences that are equally as good or as beautiful as the best-known attractions but without hordes of other tourists and visitors vying for the best spots. There will be no queuing for hours, or you won’t need to wait around. There is just plenty of time to enjoy and create some lifelong memories. You can read more about this island in our Essential Barbados Travel Guide.
The island of Barbados is often associated with beautiful beaches, luxurious accommodation, excellent restaurants and a place for ultimate relaxation. Then there are the celebrity visitors such as Simon Cowell, Jemma Kidd, Cliff Richard and Luciano Pavarotti. Plus, a host of high profile weddings and famous home owners in magazines such as Hello. Of course, that image is correct, and all those things are available in spades, but Barbados also offers so much more.
There are parts of the island with an incredible history and culture that are not one bit pretentious. On the gourmet side of things, as well as the fantastic Michelin and Zagat rated restaurants, there are plenty of places to get excellent local food such as a delicious chicken roti or blackened snapper in a local Barbados rum shack.
1. Visit A Local Church
Bajans are quite religious, and Sunday service is an important part of their weekly lives.
If you are driving around the island on a Sunday, you will regularly hear the beautiful sounds of choral singing, tambourines jangling and clapping of hands. Venture inside, and you will inevitably see women in their Sunday best with very colorful clothing and huge hats swaying their hips with joy.
It is a social and spiritual occasion in equal measures.
2. Spend time with the Locals
Bajan people are amongst the friendliest in the Caribbean. Although it is tempting to spend all your time on the breathtaking beaches, it is also worth spending time in engaging with the locals.
Much of the charm of the island lies in the people.
Bajans are often in an upbeat mood and treat life like it is a constant Carnival. They love to dance and will seldom miss an opportunity to jig their hips to the sound of the reggae beat. Once you fully engage with these lovely people, your conversation will be full of banter which might be interspersed with full-on belly laughter.
Following 350 years of British domination, the Bajan people have a great wit together with a Caribbean lethargy that can sometimes be frustrating to visitors, but once you get to relax and become in tune with the pace, all will be well.
3. Try a Local Fish Fry
Of course we absolutely love all the chic ocean side restaurants such as The Cliff, Tides, Lone Star and the Fish Pot but it is also worth visiting one of the islands fish Fry’s which are attached to the fish markets.
The most well known of the Fish Fry’s is Oistins which is situated to the south of the island. Oistins was once a small fishing village located between Dover beach and Miami Beach. The name Oistins derived from a local land owner called Austin who was reputed to be fairly wild and drunken on occasion. But Oistins nowadays comes to life at the weekend. There are many different vendors all selling the freshest of fish which is either grilled or cooked right in front of you. You will also get to listen and dance to live music. This maybe anything from reggae and calypso to old country and western tunes. There is also a local arts and crafts market where you can buy items such as paintings, pottery, wood carvings and local jewellery.
However, when it comes to Fish Fry’s, our personal favourite is in Moon Town which is located on the north of the island in the parish of St Lucy after the resort of Port Ferdinand. This is where you will find many locals. It is much less well known then Oistins and also better value. The location is stunning on the edge of a cliff and you will find an excellent selection of fish such as tuna, mahi mahi and flying fish straight off the boat. The fish is served right off the grill or fried and you can choose from a selection of sides. The service is really slow but once you have some patience the whole experience is extremely enjoyable. Moontown is open every Thursday to Sunday and has a DJ playing every night. Some nights, you might enjoy watching some limbo dancing, karaoke or live music.
Both Moon Town and Oistins are very casual. Expect paper plates, wood fired coal pots and thudding boom boxes shaking the tropical night air. Dress down!
4. Take a Walk on Cattlewash
Cattlewash is located on the Eastern side of the island, and just north of the better known beach at Bathsheba and south of Morgan Lewis Beach. We found Cattlewash to be both virtually deserted, even in high season, and also one of the most breathtaking spots on the island. It is thought that Cattlewash derived its name from generations of cattle wading into the sea at this spot.
Cattlewash is very unlike the beaches on the West of Barbados in that there are often huge rolling waves and strong currents making it often dangerous to swim. But there are a couple of spots that are protected by some rocks where it is possible to take a dip. It is one of the longest beaches on the island and one of our favourite things to do on Cattlewash is to take long invigorating walks followed by time just sitting and enjoying the amazing views. The scenery all around is simply breathtaking both out to sea or behind you where there is a lovely backdrop of Mellows Hill which is also the highest hill in Barbados.
We highly recommend packing a picnic lunch and sitting in the shade of one of the many casuarina trees. The other option is to head further north to The Sand Dunes Restaurant where you will be able to enjoy a delicious Bajan lunch in casual surroundings.
5. Arlington House Museum
Arlington House Museum is a little unknown but very interesting museum located in the heart of Speightstown. It is situated within an 18th century building and the museum itself is set over 3 floors. You will learn some very interesting information on Barbados’ colonial past as well as a mine of information on the local history of the sugar plantations. There is also quite a lot of information on the importance of Speightstown as a trading hub for the entire Caribbean. It truly is a unique opportunity to learn about a bygone era.
Arlington Museum is quite small and comprises of just four rooms set over three levels. The first floor shows some very early pictures and paintings of Speightstown as well as some videos and interviews with people talking about life in the early days. On the second floor, there is a huge map from roughly 200 years ago which shows the various different parishes and communities. The third floor exhibits some very interesting information on slavery and the slave trade in Barbados with both photos and video coverage. We felt this was the most interesting of the exhibits. This floor also has quite a lot of information on the history of Speightstown as a fishing village.
There is a great interactive and audio visual aspect which illustrates well the way life was on the island for the first settlers. The museum is a great place for both adults and children to visit.
We were very impressed with the museum. It is good value and we spent about 2 hours there. There is also a nice personal touch with a guide coming with us to tell us a bit about each room.
The museum is open Monday to Friday between the hours of 10am and 5pm and on Saturdays between the hours of 10am and 5pm.
6. A Visit to The Forest and Nature Trail
A Visit to The Forest and Nature Trail is a wonderful experience if you like quiet, remote but very beautiful places to visit. It is very likely as you go around that you will have much of the forest to yourself. Forest Hill and Nature Trail is located just beside the Barbados Wildlife Reserve as well as Grenade Hall.
As we walked the paths through the forest there were several places for us to rest on benches and enjoy both the amazing scenery around us as well as the sounds of the rain forest. We found the paths to be lovely and really well maintained and both the adults and children amongst our group liked lifting the various flaps and learning about the flora and fauna around us. We would highly recommend you walk all the way to the cave and as far as the Signal Station. We loved walking through the leafy foliage and mahogany trees and spotting the monkeys overhead. Once you arrive at the Signal Station, the building is not that interesting but you will get to experience some amazing views of the east coast of Barbados and there is an audio commentary which we felt was really well presented. It is only about 5 minutes long but very interesting.
A word of warning, it can be slippery underfoot if it has been raining so make sure you have good footware. If you are a lover of off the beaten track places, the forest and nature trail is well worth a visit.
7. Springvale Eco Heritage Museum
Springvale Eco Heritage Museum is a wonderful and little known treasure located on the East coast of Barbados in area known as the Scotland District. The most wonderful thing about the Springvale museum is that you will feel like you have moved back in time as soon as you go through the main door. It is a total recreation of time gone by.
As you move around the house and with a little imagination, you can almost feel the local Bajan people of times gone by going about their daily chores. The museum exhibits a great contrast of how life amongst the Bajan workers such as the laundress, basket weavers, potters, and stone masons contrasts dramatically with the life of the land owners of the time. You can imagine the washer woman up to their elbows in suds and the iron sitting on the coals. And in contrast, you can imagine the plantation owner sitting on his beautifully handmade mahogany chair and surrounded by plush furnishings and artifacts from his worldly travels.
One of the aspects we liked most about Springvale is that the owner still resides there and we were fortunate enough to meet him. His name is Newlands Greenidge and we found him to be an absolute mine of information on Barbados and its history. He is totally fascinating and regaled us with wonderful stories of his childhood. He and his wife Denise are really passionate and it is very obvious to see that the house is an absolute labour of love.
As Springvale is located close to Harrison’s Cave and Welshman’s gully, we highly recommend that it is included on a site seeing tour of the island.
For opening times, you may contact the local number on + 246-438-7011
8. A Walk Around Hunte’s Gardens
Located right in the centre of Barbados in the parish of St Joseph, Hunte’s Gardens are lovingly landscaped tropical gardens which have been designed around a natural arena sized amphitheatre in the centre of the rain forest. Because of the fascinating and unique location of the gardens, they offer a totally multidimensional experience with a whole series of mini gardens all within the main gardens. There are plenty of sunny open spaces with vibrant colors and rare exotic plants as well as mysterious areas located in the heart of the Caribbean jungle which are full of tropical shrubs and interesting specimens found in the rain forest. Keep your eyes open for wildlife as there are a huge range of exotic birds, animals and monkeys to spot.
The gardens which were originally created by Anthony Hunte have lovely seats and areas to relax. We really enjoyed our visit. It was very quiet and we particularly loved the classical music which was being broadcast throughout the gardens as we wandered around. There is a fabulous and very extensive tropical nursery with a variety of plants and flowers from all over the tropics.
When you visit the gardens, look out for Anthony Hunt who is the owner, creator and also the heart and soul of the gardens. He is often seen wondering around the gardens or around his unique house which was originally converted from old stables. Anthony is full of colour and will regale you with fascinating stories over a glass of rum punch or a freshly squeezed juice.
Entering Hunte’s Gardens was like entering into a dream or a fairy tale. They are possibly the most vibrant tropical gardens we have ever seen and the experience was quite spiritual.
Getting to Hunte’s Gardens is easy and takes about a 20 to 30 minute drive from Holetown. Hunte’s Gardens are open daily between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm
9. Barbados Concorde Experience
Because of its location right beside the airport, guests to Barbados tend to overlook the Concorde Experience. For anyone interested in aviation or aviation history, we cannot recommend a visit highly enough. It is an amazing exhibition of Concorde in its heyday.
The Concorde plane was created as a result of collaboration between British Airways and Air France. Never before or since has there been a plane that has operated faster than the speed of sound. Concorde, which operated between the years of 1959 and 2003, was the only passenger aircraft that has ever gone at these speeds. This created a supersonic boom as the aircraft travelled over land. In the era of Concorde, people would often remark “There goes Concorde” as they heard the unique sound which was almost like thunder.
At it’s height Concorde was regularly frequented by the rich and famous. It took just four hours to travel from London to Bridgetown and the fact that Concorde chose Barbados as one of its destinations, helped create the island as one of the chicest and most sought after vacations destinations in the world. Many film stars and royalty travelled on Concorde including the present Queen Elizabeth who flew to Barbados in 1977.
Very sadly, Concorde was retired in 2003 after the tragic Air France crash. The flight was destined for John F Kennedy airport in New York. Investigations following the crash discovered the plane ran into debris on takeoff which punctured a tyre and in turn set the engine on fire. All the passengers and crew died during the tragedy.
Barbados is one of the few places in the world where you can view the original Concorde aircraft. The museum is located directly beside Grantley Adams International Airport in the parish of Christ Church. It opened in April of 2007 and if you find you are enjoying the beach and all the other wonderful things in Barbados so much during your vacation; it is worth getting to the airport 45 minutes early for your flight and popping in.