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Experience the island’s natural charms by visiting the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, or spend some time tax free shopping on Broad Street in the capital city of Bridgetown, where elegant boutiques and department stores line both sides of the avenue.
Pick your perfect coast
Barbados is the easternmost island in the Lesser Antilles, and its geographical location creates unique and varied beach experiences depending upon which coast you’re on.
The eastern and northern coasts project a rugged beauty with Atlantic Ocean waves crashing against the landscape — perfect for sightseeing. The north coast features stunning caves and dramatic cliffs to explore, while the east coast has stretches of sand made for strolling amid the strong breaking waves. There are some natural pools for swimming along the east coast, and the active waves create havens for the most experienced surfers.
Along the south and west coasts, the waters are calmer and suited for swimming and any number of water sports. The west coast, also known as Barbados’ Gold Coast (or even Platinum Coast more recently), faces the Caribbean Sea and boasts the calm, clear, and warm waters that immediately spring to mind when you think of the quintessential Caribbean getaway. The beaches along this coast are ideal for families and swimming. The south coast offers the perfect mix between the gentle west and the rugged east, with waters that are calm enough for swimming and snorkeling, but lively enough to make this coast a must for fans of surfing, windsurfing, and motorized water sports.
Spectacular diving locations abound in Barbados — there are more than two dozen ringing the island's coasts, full of healthy sponges, thriving corals and plant life, and a kaleidoscope of colorful fish. There is also an excellent collection of shipwrecks, with over 200 reported in Carlisle Bay alone! Most of the popular sites are found along the west and southwest coasts.
Our favorite beaches
A designated public beach area on the calm west coast, just minutes from Barbados’ capital city, Bridgetown, Batts Beach is a family-friendly zone with picnic benches, showers, changing facilities, and a small children's playground. A calm sea makes for excellent swimming and snorkeling.
A surfing mecca, but only the experienced need apply. Breathtakingly beautiful Bathsheba, set on the east coast, combines wide, white-sand beaches with striking rock formations. The impressive waves and rollers make it the site of international surfing events. A small fishing village with restaurants and rum shops is nearby.
The northeast coast of Barbados is home to this haven of natural swimming holes, gorgeous scenery, powerful waves, and magnificent blowholes. Climb atop the rugged cliffs and get bird's-eye views of the bay and beyond.
Much like the south coast on which it sits, Crane Beach offers the best of all worlds for beach-goers. Its natural coral reef creates inviting waters for swimmers, but the waves are strong enough to make this spot a must for surfers and bodyboarders. If that’s not enough, Crane Beach’s natural beauty invites you to marvel at its amazing views and catch a gorgeous sunset. Originally a harbor, white-sand Crane Beach has been rated "One of the Top 10 Best Beaches in the World" by Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
Caribbean culture with an English flair
Care for a spot of tea with your coral beaches and cerulean waters? In addition to perfect climate and unparalleled natural beauty, Barbados boasts a rich culture with strong ties to its English heritage. Think sun hats and polo matches, crisp tennis whites, British accents, and afternoon cricket games. Barbados even has a district of rolling green hills called Scotland!
But Barbados also weaves West African influences into its English roots, and dashes in some originality with its unique Bajan dialect of the official English language.
The small but bustling city of Bridgetown is one of the oldest capitals in the Caribbean, teeming with historic sites such as Heroes Square — with its statue of Lord Nelson — opposite the restored Parliament Buildings, one of the hemisphere's oldest synagogues, and the 18th-century St. Michael's Cathedral. Along with the shops on Swan Street, Roebuck Street, and Tudor Street, there is also a cruise ship terminal sporting 30 duty-free shops.
Photographers and history enthusiasts love the island's rich collection of great houses, from plantations to pirate dens and the quaint chattel (movable) houses made of board and shingle. The owners of some of the island's most historic and beautiful private estates welcome visitors into their homes one day each year.
The birthplace of rum
You can’t discuss the history of Barbados without getting into the subject of rum. Barbados is, after all, the “birthplace of rum,” and its brand of the iconic drink has been so popular throughout history that even George Washington requested a barrel of Barbados rum at his inauguration.
Of course, the history of deriving a strong drink from sugarcane juice dates back to ancient times, but what we’ve come to know as rum was made famous in the Caribbean, with Barbados playing a central role. The island is home to the world’s oldest distillery, Mount Gay Rum, which opened in 1703, and you can tour the distillery and museum there (and, most importantly, visit the Mount Gay bar for a tasting).
Barbados also features its famous Rum Punch beverage — a delicious and refreshing drink that should be enjoyed responsibly as it can sneak up on you! Rum Punch, also known as Bajan Rum Punch, is so well known it even has its own rhyme, which begins: “One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, and four of weak.” The rhyme represents the drink’s recipe: a measure of lime juice, two measures of simple syrup, three measures of rum, and four measures of water.
- Barbados is 21 miles longs and 14 miles wide.
- Barbadians drive on the left side of the road — the opposite of what we’re used to in the U.S. (naturally, given Barbados’ English roots!). Be aware, as it takes some getting used to, not only behind the wheel of a car, but when checking for traffic while crossing the roads!
- Pop culture icons from Barbados include recording artists Rihanna, Shontelle, Doug E. Fresh, and Grandmaster Flash.
- There is no daylight savings time on Barbados
- Leave the camouflage at home, Rambo. It is not allowed in Barbados and is reserved exclusively for the Barbados military.
- While you can’t wear camouflage, you have to wear something. Nude bathing is illegal, and in general it is customary and in good taste to confine beachwear to the beaches and pools.
Things to see and do
View the underground world through a mile-long limestone cave. One of Barbados’ most popular tourist attractions takes you aboard an electric tram and trailer into the cave to observe the shimmering walls and stalactites, plus an amazing 40-foot underground waterfall.
Barbados Wildlife Reserve
This reserve is set in a mahogany forest maintained by the Barbados Primate Research Center. Stroll through grounds that primarily house a monkey sanctuary and an arboretum.
St. Lawrence Gap
Simply called The Gap and situated on the south coast, this “hip strip” has long had a reputation as the place for late-night entertainment, thanks to 40 bars, pubs, clubs, and restaurants.