With some many beautiful Caribbean islands to choose from, how do you choose the perfect one for you? As owner and CEO of Exceptional Villas, the question constantly asked is which is the nicest island? And which is the best Villa? There is no right answer to this question as each of the islands are so different.
But the one island that I feel has it all is Barbados.
The island of Barbados has a wonderful balance of beautiful beaches, sophisticated restaurants, designer shopping, Caribbean culture, history and above all the villas in Barbados are among the best in the world.
Barbados has a great sporting culture too. The most popular local sport is cricket, and you will spot a cricket field in virtually every village. For visitors, there is world class polo, some of the Caribbean’s best golf courses, professional tennis facilities and of course every imaginable water sport.
Above all, the history of Barbados is fascinating.
It was first occupied by Britain in 1627 and remained under British control until the country gained its independence in 1961. Consequently, there are many colonial homes, old sugar plantations and evidence of a time gone by throughout the island. The island also has a lot of wonderful botanical gardens, interesting museums, rum distilleries, churches, cathedrals and pretty chattel houses to visit.
Some fast facts on Barbados; English is the official language in Barbados. They drive on the left side of the road; the currency is Barbados dollars, but US dollars are accepted everywhere.
I am a huge fan of Barbados. As much as I would like to, I cannot get to visit every country we feature every year, but I always make sure I have a least one yearly trip to Barbados.
My most recent trip was a little different as I got to see some of the newest Barbados villa rentals on the island. I also made time to go to some of the new restaurants.
Even though Barbados is small, it throws a huge punch regarding tourism. It is just 34 kilometres or 21 miles in length and 23 kilometres or 14 miles at its widest point. The total island covers 432 square kilometres (167 square miles). Barbados is also the most easterly lying of all the Caribbean islands which means it is by and large outside of the hurricane belt. The easterly location means that if you are planning a bit of sunshine in the off-season between August and November, Barbados is without a doubt the safest of the islands to choose.
3. Barbados Map
The other wonderful thing is that when most islands close for business, you will get the best value Barbados Villas at this time of the year. It’s a win-win because the beaches are quiet, the sun is mostly shining, and the prices on the Barbados Villas Rentals and hotels are at an all-time low.
Which part of Barbados do I visit?
The next thing to consider is which part of the island to visit? Most of our clients looking for luxury Barbados villas opt to go to the West Coast of the island. It is sometimes nicknamed the Platinum coast, and for a good reason. The West Coast is where the waters are the calmest, and the beaches are the most pristine and its where all the best Barbados villas are located.
The best of the villas in Barbados are between Prospect (just north of the capital Bridgetown) to just south of Speightstown. If you are searching for villas, the two best places to look are in the parishes of Saint James and Saint Peter. The west coast is also the most glamorous part of Barbados and often frequented by the jet set. The West Coast is also where you are likely to spot a royal, a supermodel or a film star or two.
In a nutshell, if you like plenty of nightlife, bars and lively restaurants as well as great beaches, the south coast is for you.
If you prefer to have a more paradise island feel, combined with luxury accommodation and excellent restaurants, then the West Coast of Barbados is fo you.
Our Essential Barbados Travel Guide would not be complete without mentioning the East coast. There are very few villas or hotels here, but here you will find the rugged natural beauty that will take your breath away. The landscape is spectacular with huge Atlantic waves that pound over rocks creating foam and mist.
The beaches are equally stunning to the west coast but better for surfing than swimming. One of my favourite beaches in the world is called Crane Beach. If you do wish to stay on the beautiful west coast, the Crane Resort is lovely and has a good selection of vacation rentals and hotel rooms.
How do I get to Barbados?
Grantley Adams International Airport is very close to the most southern tip of the island. All the international flights arrive and depart from here. The good news is that the airport is no more than a 40-minute drive to all of the Barbados villas and often less.
Barbados has direct flights from more international cities than almost every other Caribbean island. Direct flights are available from New York, London, Manchester, Frankfurt, Brussels, Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto, and San Juan.
Also, there are a lot of inter Caribbean connections which in turn make Barbados a great option for a two-center holiday in the Caribbean. There are direct flights from Antigua, St Lucia, Dominica, St Vincent, Mustique, Canouan, Trinidad, Tobago, Grenada and Martinique. We have a full list of airlines and routes.
When do I visit?
There is no bad time to visit the island of Barbados. Because it is the most westerly located of all the Caribbean islands, it is largely unaffected by hurricanes that pass through the region. Officially the high season starts at the end of November to the middle of April. The low season is from Mid-April to the end of August and the quietest months on the island are September and October. I have often visited in these two off-season months and had fabulous weather. The other good news is that the restaurants, shops, hotels and Barbados villas are open year-round.
How do I get around?
We highly recommend you hire a car if you are the type of travellers who like to explore. There is so much to do and see in Barbados. The concierge team at Exceptional Villas offer all their guests a complimentary and highly professional service and will organise your car for you.
The other options are taxis. They are plentiful, and you never have to wait long for them. If you are staying on the west coast, one of my favourite ways of getting up and down the coast is on the local reggae bus. They are the yellow buses, and it is a great fun way of getting around.
Which restaurant do I choose?
Barbados truly has some of the best restaurants in the world. There are more beach and oceanside restaurants on the west coast of the island than any other island in the Caribbean. The food ranges from traditional Bajan dishes to fine international dining.
The local Bajan food is spicy and full of flavour. The cuisine is a blend of African, Caribbean, European and West Indian. In almost all restaurants with a local flavour, you will get blackened fish and meats with Cajun spices cooked to perfection. Barbados is lucky to have access to an abundance of local fresh fish including tuna, shrimp, lobster, red snapper, grouper and flying fish.
My personal favourite of any restaurant I have ever been to is The Cliff. The setting is incredible, and the food and service match the setting perfectly. As the name suggests, it is built along the cliff and around a private cove. The sea is lit up at night which in turn attracts huge Tarpon(it’s a really, really big fish) to swim right beside where you are eating. It is expensive, but I believe worth it especially for a special occasion.
The Cliff Restaurant opened a more casual and trendy restaurant next door. You get all the advantages of a beautiful location. The layout is great because everyone gets a sea view. It is also a lovely spot for lunch.
Another personal favourite in Barbados is Tides. Tides Restaurant has a location in the centre of Holetown. It has a stunning position overlooking the ocean with equally stunning food. They also have a fabulous art gallery in the restaurant.
The Fusion Rooftop
One of the new restaurants I tried this year is The Fusion Rooftop. It is always such a treat to dine beside the ocean in Barbados that it is sometimes hard to tear yourself away. But our visit to The Fusion Rooftop was worth it. The cocktails at the bar were great. They play wonderful chill-out music, and the food was excellent.
The good thing about a visit to any restaurant in Holetown is it gives you an opportunity to visit First and Second street. The streets are short, but they are choc-a-bloc full of bars and restaurants. Some of them are quite trendy, and others have a great local vibe. We visited Nishi first. Nishi is a lovely Japanese restaurant with excellent food. There is an outdoor courtyard area which is both a bar and restaurant and the night we were there; they had a fabulous live duo singing and playing.
After that, we ended up in 1627 Bar and Lounge. It has a much more local flavour. There was plenty of sexy Caribbean dancing, and we learnt what the phrases “Rocking Up” and “Touching Back” means. You will have to go along to find out!!!!!
The Lone Star
Another firm favourite restaurant in Barbados amongst both our team at Exceptional Villas and our clients is The Lone Star Restaurant. The Lone Star has a location on what I consider to be the best beach on the island; Alleyne’s Bay.
The beach here is pristine and not as busy as some of the other beautiful beaches. The Lone Star also has a stunning villa for rent which is available through Exceptional Villas. Alleyne’s Bay is also coincidentally the location for one of my personal favourite villas: Footprints Villa Barbados.
The Sandy Lane Hotel
Any visit to Barbados wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the beautiful Sandy Lane Hotel. My favourite time to visit is on The Caribbean Night which takes place every Tuesday.
They have the most incredible buffet piled high with the most delicious food imaginable. After dinner, they provide guests with a live Caribbean show and live music so that you can dance the night away.
Another wonderful restaurant is the stunning Fish Pot. It is located north of Speightstown and has another fabulous waterside location.
It is slightly more casual than its other counterparts, but the food and service are equally good. It is also beside another lovely villa called Little Good Harbour Villa. It is one of the best value oceanfront villas in Barbados.
Oistins Fish Fry
If you would like to try something completely different to the glamorous, west coast fine dining in Barbados, a visit to Oistins Fish Fry which takes place every Friday is a must. Oistins is where you will meet the local Bajan’s liming and partying the night away. Liming is the Barbadian expression for spending time with friends, relaxing, drinking and eating!
As the Fish Fry name suggests, fish is the order of the night, and because it comes straight from the local fishermen, it is as fresh as you can get. You will usually find tuna, marlin, grouper, red snapper, mahi-mahi and flying fish. As well as good food, there is often live music. A night at The Oistins Fish Fry is your opportunity to try some Caribbean dancing to the reggae bands that are often playing. The Oistins Fish Fry is very casual, so a relaxed dress is the order of the night!
Which beach do I visit?
An essential guide to Barbados would not be complete without mentioning the wonderful beaches. For its size, Barbados has an incredible number of gorgeous beaches, and a day on the beach is one of the best things to do in Barbados. There are over 112 kilometres of beaches or a total of 70 miles and many of them could be described as the best beaches in the Caribbean. There are too many to mention, but in general, the beaches on the west and south coast of Barbados which borders the Caribbean ocean are crystal clear with turquoise waters and soft white sands. The beaches on the east coast which borders the Atlantic are wild and ruggedly beautiful and only safe for extremely strong swimmers or surfers.
Sandy Lane Beach
Probably the most famous beach on the Island is The Sandy Lane Beach. It is a picture-perfect crescent-shaped stretch of sandy beach. Sandy Lane is where the very well-known Sandy Lane Hotel is located as well as a couple of beautiful luxury Barbados villas such as Landmark House and Landfall Villa.
8. Sandy Lane Beach
Paynes Bay Beach
Payne’s Bay Beach is another very beautiful and very popular beach on the island. It is where some of our client’s favourite properties are located such as Old Trees, Smugglers and Coral Cove. Directly in front of each of the developments, the beach is reserved for residents so even when it sometimes gets busy, clients of these beautiful properties have their space which is prepared and set up for them each day.
Moving along the coast northwards is Alleynes Bay. Alleynes Bay is one of the least talked about beaches on the west coast but in my opinion, is the most beautiful. It stretches from The Glitter Bay Villas, past the Royal Fairmont, Footprints Villa and the Lone Star Restaurant. The beach is picture-postcard perfect with the clearest turquoise waters and soft white sands.
Mullins Beach is another very well-known beach on the island. It is beautiful and can sometimes be quite busy. One of the best beach bars and restaurants on the island is here called The Mullins Beach Bar. They serve great food and cocktails in a laid-back atmosphere. It is a good spot for sunset cocktails. Many of the villas at the beautiful Royal Westmoreland Resort have complimentary beach club access at Mullins.
Gibbs Beach also on the west coast is connected to Mullins but is much quieter. Even though all beaches in Barbados are public, there is very little access to Gibbs Beach from the road. Therefore, it is only the lucky people who have rented property here have access. Coincidentally some of the best Barbados Villas are located here as well as some of my personal favourites such as Sandalo, Greensleeves and Gardenia.
There are many beaches on the Atlantic East Coast too, but the two that are my personal favourite is The Crane and Bathsheba. The Crane beach is breathtakingly beautiful. The Crane is where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean Sea. I highly recommend a lunch at the L’Azure Restaurant as it has the best view of the beach.
Bathsheba is further up the East Coast and is the location for the Atlantis Hotel. The Atlantis is another great spot for lunch with great views and very tasty food. A walk on the beach afterwards will help to work off some of the delicious food.
Our clients who are fans of staying on the West Coast of Barbados often forget about the South Coast. But there are some beautiful beaches here too. The beaches tend to be larger with bigger stretches of sand and more populated than the West of the island. The three most popular beaches are Carlisle Bay, Hastings Beach and Dover Beach.
What water sports can I do?
If you can drag yourself away from the sun lounger on one of the many beautiful Barbados Beaches, the conditions are perfect for a variety of water sports. The water sports in Barbados include water-skiing, snorkeling, deep-sea diving, windsurfing, paddleboarding, banana boat rides, sailing, surfing, swimming with turtles and fishing. Many of the larger Barbados villas have complimentary non-motorized water sports available.
What other sports can I do?
Sport plays a big part in the Bajan culture and for sports fans, Barbados is a great destination. Barbados declared 2017 the “Year of Sports” and here a few that you can enjoy.
Barbados is the capital of golf in the Caribbean. There are more top-class golf courses than on any other island. The most famous of the courses is The Green Monkey Course at the Sandy Lane Hotel which was designed by Tom Fazio. But there are lots of more courses worth noting.
If you are a Cricket fan, Barbados is the island for you. The locals are passionate about the sport of cricket and just about every parish and village has a cricket field. If you would like to see some professional matches while on the island, then The Kensington Oval is the place to go.
Polo is another huge sport in Barbados.
The Polo Season takes place each year between January and May, and during this time, many international teams visit. A day at the Polo in Barbados is a great spectacle both regarding watching this great game and people watching. The two main polo grounds are at Apes Hill and Holders Hill. Holders Hill is where some of the beautiful Barbados villas are located such as Shangri-La and Stanford House.
What is the History of Barbados?
There is no doubt in my mind that Barbados has a fascinating heritage. The island has huge links to Colonial Europe and evidence of this time may be seen all around the island in the many immaculately preserved historic buildings.
One of the most popular is St Nicholas Abbey which is a beautiful restored Jacobean mansion. St Nicholas Abbey is one of only three remaining Jacobean mansions in the western hemisphere. Another very interesting place to visit is the George Washington House which gives you a good insight into the role that Barbados played in settlement of America. Arlington Museum in Speightstown is a fascinating interactive museum.
Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados and is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The oldest parliament in the commonwealth is in Bridgetown. Other very interesting pieces of history and areas worth a visit if you are a history buff are the Nidhe Israel Synagogue and the Garrison Area.
If you are a rum lover, there are multiple rum distilleries to visit and rum shacks beyond counting. The most famous of them is probably The Mont Gay Distillery. Mont Gay is the oldest rum distillery in the world. Rum was invented in the Mont Gay Distillery in 1703. With over 300 years of production, they have pretty much perfected the art.
St Nicholas Abbey also has a great rum distillery, and any good tour of the Abbey ends with a little taste!
Is there a culture to experience?
The answer is yes!
Barbados is rich in Caribbean culture primarily due to the friendly and fun nature of the local Bajans. They are charming and warm and love music. Soon after arriving, you will be swept away by the sounds of reggae, calypso, and jazz. The Bajan’s are also great singers. The most famous is Rihanna and Barbados has many talented people. Many of the hotels, restaurants, and bars have live music, especially in the high season.
There are lots of festivals to enjoy throughout the year, but the most famous of all of them is the Crop Over Festival. It takes place in August every year and is a huge party where you will meet just about every local on the island having the time of their lives. We highly recommend it!
What sightseeing can I do?
Everyone knows that Barbados has some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, but not so many know how beautiful the rest of the island is. For nature lovers and explorers there is much to see and do.
Animal Flower Cave
Animal Flower Cave is one of my favourite places to visit in Barbados. The Animal Flower Cave located at the very northern point of the island and the views out to both the Atlantic and Caribbean seas are breathtaking. When you go into the cave, there are rock pools, and some of them are deep enough to swim in. The site of the crashing waves from here is spectacular.
Harrison’s Cave is one of the best-known sites. It is located right in the centre of the island and is full of dramatic stalagmites and stalactites. A little train brings you around the caves and children especially love it.
Barbados is also a great island if you are avid horticulturists. Hunte’s Garden is located in the centre of the island and is very accessible from the west coast. It is just 20 minutes from Holetown, and the gardens are beautiful and full of tropical plants flowers and shrubs. It is right in the centre of the rain forest, and there is a sinkhole like a gully which adds an interesting dimension to it.
Close to Hunte’s Gardens is The Flower Forest which is another tropical paradise. It is full of majestic palms, tropical shrubs and sweet-smelling flowers. The Flower Forest is on a hilltop, and there is an incredible view of the Eastern Atlantic coast of Barbados.
Last but not least is Orchid World which is also located in the heart of the island. Orchid World has some spectacular species of orchids housed in five different buildings and set over 6 acres. Orchard world is at an elevation of 810 feet and has some vantage points with incredible views of the coastline.
Barbados Wildlife Reserve
Barbados wildlife reserve is another great place to visit for nature enthusiasts. It is close to St Nicholas Abbey, so it is a good place to combine with a visit there. The reserve is full of green monkeys, reptiles, snakes and brocket deer. Also, there is a great variety of birds such as colourful parrots, flamingoes, peacocks and pelicans. A visit to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve is a great opportunity to watch the animals at close range.
Where is the best shopping?
Barbados is a haven for shopping and second only to St Barths when it comes to a bit of retail therapy. There is a great selection of both designer shops, unique boutiques and local craft shops. Also, many of the shops are duty-free which means you get tax free prices. All you have to do is bring your passport and let the shop assistant know which flight you are departing on to avail of the special prices.
For designer shopping, the best place to head is the beautiful Lime Grove Shopping Center. It is located right in the centre of Holetown and features some of the world’s most loved brands such as Cartier, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Breitling, Longchamp, Hugo Boss, Montblanc and Hublot to name a few.
Close to the Lime Grove Shopping Centre are the chattel shops. They are beautifully designed to look like an old chattel village. There are some gorgeous and unique boutiques selling swimwear and ladies fashion as well as some more traditional arts and crafts shops.
Many of the hotels in Barbados also have some lovely boutiques, and if you are in Barbados and like fashion, they are well worth a visit.
Bridgetown which is the capital is good for duty-free shopping. Several large department stores are offering duty-free prices. On the outskirts of Bridgetown is The Pelican Village which is the best place to go if you are interested in buying local arts and crafts.
Barbados Travel Guide
Barbados is a stunning tropical island that is very vibrant, full of glamour and sophistication which is balanced beautifully with the authentic Caribbean down to earth and friendly culture. It is the one island in the Caribbean which has it all. A perfect blend of beautiful beaches, luxury villas, gourmet restaurants, authentic local eateries, designer shopping, unique, fabulous spas, boutiques, history, golf, water sports of all kinds and above all some of the warmest and friendliest people on the planet. It is no wonder that so many of our clients visit year after year.
We would love to hear from you, so please do leave a comment and let us know about your Barbados experience.
About Alexandra Baradi
Alexandra Baradi is the founder and owner of Exceptional Villas. She started the company 1992. Alex is a hotel manager by background and has travelled around the world in search of the best villas.
Her personal passion for travel and her entrepreneurial flair for making guest feel very special from the moment they enquire to the moment they arrive home, has enabled Exceptional Villas to become the world’s leader in luxury villas.
She believes anything is possible when you travel with Exceptional Villas and ensures you will be pampered every step of the way.
Alexandra and her team all have one thing in common; to provide their guests with an unmatched holiday experience and to go beyond expectations.
Each of the team members specialise in just one destination rather than in multiple destinations allowing them to become total experts in their fields.
Both Alexandra and her team spend much of their time travelling to all the destinations inspecting new villas and re-inspecting already featured villas.