Top 9 thing's to do & places to see in Barbados

Bathsheba beach, Barbados

Bathsheba beach, Barbados

Best affordable thing's to do and see in Barbados

Did you know Barbados is only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide? Yet there’s plenty of things to see and do on this stunning eastern Caribbean island despite sunbathing on the idyllic white powered sand beaches in typical all year round 75-90 °F sunshine.

The coral island is home to botanical gardens, caves and has many organised walking trips off the beaten track so is perfect for those who are at one with nature. There are also 17th-century plantation houses for those who appreciate history and fine architecture. For thrill seekers and sun worshippers, there’s a variety of catamaran cruises, water sports activities and picturesque beaches to enjoy. Whereas foodies can indulge in authentic Caribbean cuisine and chocolate, sugar and rum tours. There are places to suit all budgets. You’ll also find a fantastic designer shopping centre called Limegrove if you're looking for some luxury retail therapy.

In April I had the pleasure of spending four jam-packed days in Barbados as part of a Visit Barbados press trip for the year of culinary experiences. During my stay, I slept in an oceanfront penthouse at the Ocean Two Resort & Residences and spent my days discovering what this tropical paradise has to offer.

Here’s an overview of the things I got to see and do in Barbados during my stay:

1. The Welchman Hall Gully

The Welchman Hall Gully is located in the parish of St.Thomas and legends claim it’s the home of the grapefruit. In this flourishing tropical forest, you’ll find majestic rainforest trees, bamboo, colourful native plants and banana trees, plus a few spikey encounters that you certainly wouldn’t want to get pricked by.

We enjoyed a guided tour through this tropical hideaway and discovered its rich history and vegetation. As we walked along shaded paths we were joined by an entire family of green monkeys who followed us around the gully. I must admit this was one of the ultimate highlights of my Barbados trip because I absolutely love monkeys and before going on the trip I had no idea we were going to be seeing monkeys or that I would be exploring a tropical forest, so I was in my element. However, the tour guide did say we were lucky to have seen so many as they’re usually off monkeying around the surrounding area once they’ve been fed a breakfast of bananas.

During our trek through the forest, we spotted a collapsed cave and when you make your way through the entrance you’ll also find a stairway leading to spectacular views of the east coast.

There’s also plenty of activities to keep children entertained as they have an adventure park and a mini animal park with rabbits and chickens. Plus, if you’ve worked up an appetite there is an onsite café called The Chunky Monkey.

Self-guided tour prices are $12 each for adults and $6 for children aged five to twelve. The majority of Welchman Hall Gully is wheelchair friendly, for wheelchair users, it's $10.

To see more photos of our Welchman Hall Gully visit, see my Facebook post.

2. St.Nicholas Abbey

If you enjoy history, architecture and rum! St Nicholas Abbey is the place to visit. The plantation house was built in 1658 and is now a rum distillery and museum. It has a luxurious dining and living room with all its original features and furniture, including the crapper – most commonly known as the toilet. Although visitors can no longer explore the house upstairs because the stairs can’t take the weight there’s still plenty to see including a walk around the stunning grounds.

Despite the beauty of the house and its grounds, it does have a terribly shocking and sad 350-year history involving love triangles, murder and slavery when it was once an active sugar plantation. Once you’ve had a guided tour of the rooms, you’ll get to sample a variety of rum they have on offer followed by a fifteen-minute movie containing real footage that gives you just a tiny glimpse of slaves working at the plantation and the journey of the original owners making their way from England by ship to Barbados. The video is described as a ‘charming home movie’ despite the fact what went on at the plantation certainly wasn’t charming.

There’s also a beautiful terrace café overlooking the lush gully. Prices are BBD $45 for adults and $20 for children.

To see more photos of St Nicholas Abbey, visit my Facebook post.

3. Jammin' Catamaran Cruise

If you fancy snorkelling with leatherback turtles while topping up your tan and doing a spot of Bajan dancing, then going on a Jammin’ Catamaran Cruise is a must. On our last full day, we enjoyed a Sun Blast Cruise which runs from 9 am to 2.30pm, (onboard for 5.5hrs). The cruise includes unlimited drinks and a buffet of chicken, rice, pasta, coleslaw and a sweet treat. Plus, there are two stops, so you can get off and swim in the crystal-clear ocean, the first stop is to snorkel with leatherback turtles and the second is to check out a historic shipwreck.

For most of the cruise, its anchored on the west coast looking out to Paradise beach where you’ll find Barbadian born singer Rihanna’s stunning oceanfront mansion. The west coast is one of the most calming beaches, so it makes a perfect spot for a relaxing oasis to sunbathe on board. During the west coast visit, you have the opportunity to go on a jet ski however they’re not associated with the JamminCats so they do warn you to be careful as they can overcharge, so do so with caution.

The Jammin Catamaran Cruise was memorable for me as it was my first time snorkelling, so it was a fantastic experience despite my rubbish attempt at underwater photography to capture the moment. The cruise is family friendly and has a great mini waterslide which the kids and grownups loved.

The Sun Blast Cruise package is $190 BDS for adults and $80 for children and departs from Bridgetown, the price does include round-trip hotel transfers and the fantastic hospitality of the crew who continuously walk around ensuring everyone has a refreshing cold drink, including their own Jammin’ punch!

To see photos of our Jammin’ Catamaran Cruise see my Facebook posts for Snorkelling photos and onboard views.

4. Cheapside Market

Our first full day in Barbados involved a visit to Cheapside market to pick up fresh locally grown ingredients with Barbadian born BBC Masterchef Jason Howard, who later used the ingredients to cook up a beautifully unique five-course meal at his new oceanfront restaurant in Speightstown called The Top Deck.

Cheapside market is located on Cheapside road in Bridgetown. It’s a place you’ll find an array of colourful fruit, vegetables and spices sold by some lovely Bajan characters. The market is popular with both locals and tourists and is in fact named as one of the best markets in the Caribbean for fresh fruit and veg. If you're staying in self-catering accommodation and fancy whipping up some Caribbean cuisine yourself then Cheapside market is the place you’ll need to visit.

A short distance away you’ll also find the fish market, a young lady was kind enough to show us the flying fish which can be found in the warm waters surrounding Barbados, if you’re lucky you can spot them flying over the water up to 200ft and is why the country is known as the land of the flying fish.

To see more photos of Cheapside Market, visit my Facebook post.

5. Rum CRAWL

Barbados is also well known for its sugar and rum and is therefore claimed to be the birthplace of rum which is made using juice from sugar canes. It’s evident that rum plays an important part of the Bajan culture with its colourful traditional Bajan Chattel houses and shops featuring painted on rum branding.

Barbados has rum shops in abundance, so you’ll not have to go far to find one. We went on a rum shop tour one evening and stopped off at Kermitt’s bar in Oistins for a bottle of Mount Gay rum and seafood, followed by some white rum, pasta and fish balls at A&G Sports bar which is tucked away in a little village. To complete the evening, we visited Sand Dollar Café for a rum punch and an incredible salad, its located near Dover beach and is run by a lovely lady, the food and drinks are very reasonably priced too, so I wasn’t surprised to see it full of tourists as well as locals.

To see photos of our rum shop crawl see my Facebook post for Kermitt's Bar, Sand Dollar Cafe and A&G Sports bar.

6. Bridgetown

You can’t visit Barbados without visiting its capital, Bridgetown which was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012, it is also the largest town in Barbados so has many things to see and do. Just like any town, you’ll find affordable and mid-range shops as well as upmarket boutiques on Broad street, and since it’s a port city, you can enjoy duty-free shopping at cruise ship terminals.

The capital is of historical importance and is known for its British colonial architecture. In National Heroes Square you’ll find a statue of Lord Nelson and within a short walking distance, you’ll find Chamberlain Bridge which celebrates the island's independence from England’s colonies. If all that walking gets you feeling peckish next to the bridge you’ll find Waterfront Café overlooking the stunning marina. We enjoyed a delicious two-course meal here which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

A short distance opposite the café and over the bridge sits the site of the 350-year-old Parliament Building which is now a museum and houses a national heroes gallery. Within a few steps of the Parliament Building, you’ll find the Barbados flag on the side of a market shop, I’ve had so many people ask me where it is on Instagram, as it’s the perfect introductory snap to share your Barbados adventures!

Other places that we sadly never got time to visit in Bridgetown but were highly recommended to us were the Mount Gay Visitor Centre, St. Michael’s Cathedral, the Jewish Synagogue, Harrison’s Point Lighthouse and Agapey Chocolate Factory.

To see more photos of my time in Bridgetown visit my Facebook page.

7. Bathsheba beach

Bathsheba is a village in the Parish of Saint Joseph on the east coastline of Barbados. Here you’ll find an idyllic beach spot with a naturally rugged landscape. This had to be my favourite scenic view of the trip, especially as I enjoyed a delicious vegan lunch at The Atlantic Hotel overlooking this spectacular view during the last few hours we had on the island.

Although Bathsheba beach is not a place to go swimming because of its rough sea and being lined with seaweed, I did enjoy just sitting watching the ocean smashing against the rocks and the palm trees blowing in the wind, I found it ever so relaxing and refreshing.

Despite the red flags to warn swimmers, this spot is known to be a surfer’s paradise and I certainly see its attraction. The rough sea has washed away rock formations from an ancient coral reef giving this beach spot plenty of character.

To see more photos of Bathsheba beach and our visit to the Atlantis Hotel restaurant, visit my Facebook post.

8. Speightstown

Speightstown is the second largest town in Barbados and is home to a popular bakery called PRC bakery, across the road from there is where you’ll find Jason Howards new restaurant and bar The Top Deck which has stunning oceanfront views. Also, nearby is the Fisherman’s pub, owned by a friendly gentleman who kindly chatted to us for a while. The pub offers affordable buffet food, live entertainment and overlooks the crystalline waters.

If architecture is your thing, here you’ll find rustic colourful buildings with lots of character.

To see photos of our meal at Fisherman’s pub and the surrounding area of Speightstown visit my Facebook post or check out my photos of Jason Howards oceanfront bar.

9. Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill

After our visit to St Nicholas Abbey, we stopped off at the 17th century Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill which is a short drive away and is located within St. Andrew’s parish in the Scotland District. The windmill has beautiful scenic views of the island which do resemble parts of Scotland.

Best places to watch a sunrise and sunset in Barbados

You can’t visit the Caribbean without experiencing a sunset or sunrise. So to ensure you catch one,  be ready and waiting around 5:31 am and at 6.21pm to watch it set. Barbados is near the equator which is why it goes dark early. According to sources, the best places to watch a sunset in Barbados is in Christ Church at The Gap, The Broadwalk and Maxwell Beach and in St.James at Folkestone Park and Freshwater Bay.

Whereas the best sunrise can be found at Bathsheba in St.Joseph, Cattlewash Beach and Cherry Tree Hill in St.Andrew and Bottom Bay and The Crane Beach in St.Philip.

Best way to get around Barbados

Getting the bus in Barbados is the cheapest way to get around at just $2 every time you get on. Although we saw plenty of stops we didn’t spot many buses. So, check with your hotel for more info and get hold of a map to find out which routes the bus take.

If you have day trips planned some offer transfers included in the price, so you’ll find out when you book.

Alternatively, you can book a tour bus through your hotel or directly with the tour company.

Just like the UK, Barbados drive on the left-hand side of the road so you may want to consider renting a car or even a bike to get a proper self-guided tour of the island without the inconvenience of waiting around for buses.

There’s also an island safari tour which takes you off the beaten track to reach the islands hidden gems. Or you can book a taxi through your hotel or if you fancy pushing the boat out arrange a limousine service!

So, there you go, my list of the best places to visit and things to do in Barbados based on my personal experience. Stay tuned to find out my recommended places to eat in Barbados and if you're looking for somewhere to stay, check out my review of Ocean Two Resort & Residences.

Disclaimer: Press trip. As a guest of Visit Barbados, my experiences were complimentary. All photos and words are my own.