Travelers seeking an orderly Caribbean holiday with a slight British flavor will like Barbados. So will those whose curiosity is active; Barbados boasts plenty of well-interpreted sites focusing on its rich historic and natural heritage. Barbados offers a startling number of spas, fine restaurants and heritage sites per square mile.
Sights—The stained-glass windows of St. Michael's Cathedral; the mysterious 1,000-year-old baobab tree in Queen's Park; the many historic military buildings at St. Anne's Garrison in Bridgetown; a distillery tour at the Mount Gay Rum refinery in St. Michael Parish; Harrison's Cave, a series of dramatic limestone caverns; Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill in St. Andrew Parish; serenely beautiful Codrington College; the Bathsheba Shoreline; Andromeda Botanical Gardens.
Museums—The island's colorful heritage at the Barbados Museum; vintage cars at the Mallalieu Motor Collection at Pavilion Court; colonial history at Sunbury Plantation House and Museum; the marine life museum within the Folkestone Marine Park; the history of sugar-making in Barbados at the Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Museum; the Nidhe Israel Museum of the island's Jewish heritage; social and political history in the Museum of Parliament and National Heroes Gallery; George Washington House at the Garrison; Arlington House in Speightstown; Springvale Eco-Heritage Museum in the scenic Scotland District; the little museum at St. Nicholas Abbey.
Memorable Meals—Sunday lunch in sea-sprayed Bathsheba at a choice of restaurants; Bajan dishes in a lush garden setting at Brown Sugar; upscale seaside dining at Cin Cin or The Cliff.
Late Night—Two happy hours and nightly music at Sugar Ultra Lounge; beach parties at Harbour Lights on Bay Street; anywhere in Oistins on the weekend.
Walks—Free nature walks with the Barbados National Trust on Sunday; guided hikes along the Arbib Heritage and Nature Trail; exploring the streets and waterfront of historic downtown Bridgetown; tranquil, green Welchman Hall Gully; the South Coast Boardwalk.
Especially for Kids—Feeding green monkeys and other local wildlife at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve; Barbados Concorde Experience next to the airport; playing on the water toys at the Boatyard.
At least 50% of visitors to Barbados now arrive by cruise ship. Ships dock on the southwest corner of the island at the massive Deep Water Harbour, about 1 mi west of the capital, Bridgetown. As many as six to eight cruise ships may dock at one time at one of its 14 berths. Nearly 40 different cruise lines visit, and the Barbados flag is now flown on 76 ships of other nations, making the port the second most active in the Caribbean. When going off the premises, be sure to take along your ID and sailing card so you can get back in.
Barbados Port Inc., the administrative body that governs Barbados' ports, has an excellent website, updated daily, that offers information regarding cruise-ship schedules and other information (http://www.barbadosport.com). Additional information for those arriving by cruise ship is available at
Near the piers is a modern, disabled-friendly terminal. Its interior resembles a colorful island street scene, with storefronts reflecting the designs and colors of the island's colonial past. Inside are duty-free shops, lots of arts-and-crafts booths, souvenir and specialty shops, a business center with internet access, pay phones, a post office and a tourism office. There's an ATM that dispenses local currency as well as free Wi-Fi throughout the terminal. Outside, there's a simple restaurant under shade serving local food (a good place to select a taxi driver based on personality), and a bar with great music to put you in an island mood.
Once you disembark, take a Bds$4 shared shuttle to Bridgetown or spend Bds$6 for a shuttle to Brown's Beach (also known as Carlisle Bay) or Brighton Beach. Taxi drivers prefer to take you farther for a lot more money, and they often group cruise ship arrivals into shared taxis for a discounted rate. A taxi ride from the ship terminal to central Bridgetown will cost about Bds$12 per car. Rates are assigned by the government, but you should confirm them prior to using a cab. Preposted fares to other parts of the island range Bds$20-$70, depending on the distance. The Barbados Tourism Authority booth at the terminal provides good advice and will also assemble ad hoc groups to share the cost of island tours by taxi.
The 10- to 15-minute walk to town is landscaped along busy Princess Alice Highway and offers refreshments, art and crafts at the excellent Pelican Village en route.
Typical tours on Barbados include an island bus tour or an off-road Jeep adventure; visits to colonial plantation houses, formal gardens and other historic sites; and sailing out for a swim with the turtles, snorkeling, kayaking or taking a submarine descent to view exotic fish and colorful coral. Try to plan time to fit in a tour of the Andromeda Botanic Gardens and the Barbados Wildlife Reserve.
The beachfront Boatyard caters to cruise passengers with food and drink, sun loungers and umbrellas, and inflated water toys to climb, jump on and slide down. Shopping excursions are very popular as well, and start literally at the terminal, moving next to Pelican Village and then to the main streets of Bridgetown.
Check with your ship's shore-excursion staff or your travel agent for additional information.
Barbados' heritage is displayed throughout the island. Museums, rum distilleries and plantation houses abound. Just as prominent are the island's natural attractions: Caves, gardens or wildlife reserves can be found in several parishes.
Be aware that many smaller sites and venues on the island only accept cash.
Traditional island cooking primarily consists of fish, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cristophene (chayotte), coconut bread, rice and peas, chicken, pork and Bajan black-belly lamb.
We suggest trying some Bajan specialties: flying fish, jug-jug (green peas, meats and corn flour), fish cakes, cou-cou (okra and corn flour), dolphin (the fish, not the mammal—also called dorado), pepper-pot stew, puddin' and souse (pig entrails stuffed with grated sweet potatoes, served alongside lime-pickled pig feet and ears), roti (curried chicken or beef—sometimes with potatoes—or vegetables wrapped in pastry) and conkies (made from cornmeal, raisins, spice, pumpkin and sweet potatoes). If you spot a van parked roadside at lunchtime with people lining up for food, give it a try. You'll get an authentic meal at good value.
Do try some of the local fruit: Barbados cherries, dunks, guavas, shaddock (a huge grapefruit), soursop and ackees (known in other parts of the Caribbean as ginips)—a small, green-skinned fruit with a sour-sweet gelatin inside that surrounds a seed.
Attend a West Indian barbecue if the opportunity arises, and be sure to sample the island's rum punch. A popular local soft drink is the molasses-based Tiger Malt, and mauby is a bittersweet local drink made from tree bark and sugar. If your palate is partial to sizzle, drown everything in the local hot pepper sauce (and take some home for your friends with fireproof mouths). Wash it all down with the local award-winning Banks beer.
Bajans cook with a traditional combination of fresh herbs. To replicate the flavor at home, take back a jar of Bajan seasoning, available in supermarkets and specialty shops.
Visitors should note that breakfast is usually served 7-10 am and lunch noon-3 pm. Dinner is the main meal of the day and is served 6-10 pm.
Dos & Don'ts
Don't drive around corners too quickly in Barbados—you might run over some Bajans playing road tennis. The game is similar to lawn tennis and is played in the streets with homemade wooden paddles.
Do have someone cut you a piece of raw cane if you visit one of the sugar plantations. (Try sucking it—don't chew it.) We can't promise you'll like the taste or the texture (the sweetness depends on how ripe it is), but it's an experience everyone should have.
Do visit a rum shop (bar) in the afternoon, order a bottle of rum (they come in three sizes), a bowl of ice and a mixer. Mix your drink, then join in the local banter.
Don't wear camouflage in Barbados—it's illegal unless you're a member of the military, and you could face a hefty fine.
Do use a bank if you need to change foreign currency. You're likely to get a better rate of exchange than at most stores.
Do try to attend a cricket match to observe the national pastime.
Don't expect to gamble, since there are no casinos. There are slot machines, however.
Do expect to pay a fee to use hotel beach facilities (such as sun loungers and umbrellas) if you're not a guest, although the beaches themselves are all public.
Do be aware that the island's fresh water is not as abundant as it seems, and that electricity generation is fueled by oil, so it is appropriate (and considerate) not to waste them.
Don't go topless on the beach if you're a woman—it's illegal.
Do say good morning, afternoon, evening or night when entering a populated space. This greeting can be addressed generally to all and sundry or to the person whose eyes first meet yours. It's considered basic good manners to do so, and most people speak excellent English.
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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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