I was fortunate to visit Barbados frequently during the three years I worked onboard P&O Cruises as Shore Excursions Manager. As Barbados was our turnaround port we used to stay overnight in port once a fortnight in the Caribbean season. Barbados was also a popular choice with my clients when I worked as Caribbean Travel Specialist for Abercrombie & Kent. In this guide to Barbados, I hope to share my knowledge of the island to help you plan your perfect holiday.
Travel Loving Family’s Guide to Barbados
Barbados is one of the most popular and longest-established islands in the Caribbean. It is a food lovers paradise and a perfect choice for families too. Visitors can expect turquoise blue Caribbean sea on the west coast and Atlantic surf on the east coast.
What makes Barbados so special?
Barbados is home to many incredible beaches, manmade and natural attractions. The island hosts a full calendar of sports and music events throughout the year which attracts visitors from far and wide. The locals, known as Bajans, are incredibly warm, friendly and chatty people.
Best attractions & excursions in Barbados
Snorkelling in the crystal clear waters with the green sea turtles is an unforgettable experience. It was my favourite shore excursion in the Caribbean when working at sea. Families with children who are not confident swimmers can experience the marine life without getting wet with a trip on an Atlantis submarine. Keep your eyes peeled when driving around Barbados for you might see the resident green monkeys!
Visitors who prefer staying on land may enjoy hiring a bike to explore the brightly coloured villages on two wheels; visiting Harrison’s Cave to explore the underground caverns and waterfalls or joining a popular rum distillery tour to sample the Mount Gay Rum.
Top tips for a memorable holiday in Barbados
*** If you wish to swim in the sea, (and you would be a fool not too!) stay on the sheltered west coast of Barbados. Location is particularly worth bearing in mind for families who wish for calm waters for their little ones to frolic in.
*** Book a catamaran sailing cruise to make sure you have the best chance possible for swimming with green sea and Hawksbill turtles. Experienced crew will help with novice snorkelers and equipment is provided. Depending on the company you book with you may also get the opportunity to snorkel over a shipwreck.
*** No holiday is complete without trying flying fish, the national dish of Barbados!
*** Teenagers (and big kids!) will enjoy the water sports on offer at The Boatyard, a popular beach bar and restaurant located near the capital, Bridgetown. (Expect to see cruise ship crew/officers here too, as it is a renown meeting spot!)
*** To truly experience the beauty of Barbados and hospitality of the locals you need to drive (or take an organised coach excursion), along the wild east coast to watch the huge waves hitting the shore. Give yourself enough time to visit one of the many plantation houses and churches hidden among the sugar cane fields in the lush interior of the island.
*** Spend an evening in St Lawrence Gap. The Gap, as it is fondly known, is home to many fine restaurants and lively night clubs which offer something to suit all musical tastes. Another popular evening hotspot, where I have many fond memories from my cruise ship days, is Harbour Lights, which now offers a twice weekly dinner show.
*** If you do not wish to get yourself into any unnecessary bother with the local police, cover up! Topless sunbathing is against the law on the island, as is wearing any form of camouflage clothing.
*** Barbados is a golfers paradise. If golf is your passion you will not want to miss the opportunity to play a round on one of the islands famous golf courses.
*** If you are travelling with your loved one, book a romantic sail along Barbados’ scenic west coast onboard a sunset cruise.
Barbados is well-known for its luxurious hotels, resorts and villas. I have only ever stayed onboard a cruise ship when in Barbados, however if I was to visit with my family I would love to stay in a luxury villa.
These villas from Top Villas are ultra stylish and spacious. They would provide my family and I with the space that we like, to spread out and not get under each other’s feet. We would also enjoy the privacy of a private swimming pool so that we could splash around and make as much noise as we like! From having a quick look on their website I have found out that they can organise private chefs, babysitters, excursions and car hire. Sounds like my sort of holiday!
Best time to travel to Barbados
There are three main things to consider when you are booking a holiday to the Barbados – peak travel season, cost and weather. Mid December to late April is peak travel season across the Caribbean and Barbados is no exception. Popular accommodation on the island is booked a year in advance during the Christmas, February and Easter school holidays and you will pay a premium for flights and accommodation. The summer and autumn months are sticky, warm and wet. June – November is the official hurricane season although due to Barbados’ easterly location it has been fortunate in the past to miss the direct hits of the storms.
Taking the three factors above into account, May and the beginning of December are great times to visit Barbados. The weather is often as good as the peak travel season, you will beat the crowds and save yourself some money! May is also the month that the Crop Over festivities kick off. Crop Over is Barbados’ summer festival which takes place over three months and attracts visitors from across the globe. Its origins trace back to the 1780’s, a time when Barbados was the world’s largest producer of sugar.
Most things on the island are priced in Barbados dollars (BDs$) however you will find you can usually pay in US dollars (with your change given in Barbados dollars).
Getting to Barbados
Direct flights to Barbados are only 8.5 hours from London, 8 hours on return.
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook all offer direct flights to Barbados from the UK. British Airways flies from London Gatwick 12 times a week, Virgin Atlantic flies daily from London and once weekly from Manchester. Thomas Cook Airlines fly to Barbados from London Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester.
Twin island holiday options
Barbados is a great island to experience as part of an island-hopping holiday. Direct flights are available from Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados to Antigua, Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Tobago and Trinidad.
Visitors can fly easily, and quite reasonably, between the islands with Liat and Caribbean Airlines. (Please note, Liat has a reputation in the Caribbean for not flying to a particularly reliable schedule. Keep this in mind if you are booking onward international flights and give yourself enough time between flights for any delays).
For more information about Barbados check out the official tourism authority website – www.visitbarbados.org
We hope you have found Travel Loving Family’s guide to Barbados helpful in planning your holiday. Our other Caribbean destination guides can be found here – Antigua, St Lucia, British Virgin Islands and Top Five Family-Friendly Caribbean Islands.
Disclosure – This is a sponsored post. All opinions are, as always, my own.
Copyright – Turtle image courtesy of my good friend Daniel Camenzuli who is still living the dream working onboard P&O Cruises Britannia! Other images courtesy of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and Top Villas.
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