12 adventures to have beyond the beach in Barbados

Sure, you could spend your Barbados holiday on a sun-lounger – or you could tackle wild hiking trails, go rum tasting, mountain biking and snorkelling. We know which we’d prefer…

Team Wanderlust
26 July 2019
Promoted by
Discover Barbados


It’s easy to be dazzled by Barbados’ beaches: those golden sands and sparkling bays are the stuff of Caribbean dreams, after all. But look a little closer and you’ll find an untamed landscape of forests, peaks, sugar plantations and historic monuments – not to mention the Unesco-listed treasures of Bridgetown, the capital. As the island celebrates its Year of Wellness and Soft Adventure, there’s never been a better time to experience its wild side.

Grand Kadooment Day (Visit Barbados)

1. Crop Over Festival

Harrison’s Cave (Visit Barbados)

Best for… A sweet street party

This summertime fiesta harks back to the 1780s, when Barbados was the world’s most prolific producer of sugar: at the end of the season, the whole island would celebrate with parades and parties. Today, the tradition is bigger and brighter than ever – featuring five weeks of street jamborees, craft markets and live music. Grand Kadooment Day, the festival’s grand finale, sees dancers shimmy through Bridgetown in bright sequined costumes and feather headdresses, with music trucks and rum shacks galore.

When to go? June-August 2019
More information: Click here

Barbados Food and Rum Festival (Visit Barbados)

2. Harrison’s Cave

Island safari (Visit Barbados)

Best for… Subterranean adventures

Peering into Harrison’s cave is like looking inside the mouth of a dinosaur: all soaring stalagmites and sharp stalactites – and plenty of spooky dark corners. Freshwater pools glitter at its base, while the forest outside is thick with vines and towering fruit trees: it couldn’t feel further from the beach, yet Sandy Lane Bay is just a 20-minute drive away. The limestone depths can be tackled by tram (the easy option) or on adventurous caving tours – where you’ll explore with helmets and head torches, seeking out the most spectacular natural passageways.

When to go? Anytime 
More information:
Click here

Snorkel alongside green sea turtles (Dreamstime)

3. Food and Rum Festival 

Wind through St Nicholas Abbey by train (Visit Barbados)

Best for… Cultural cuisine

The food in Barbados isn’t just tasty – it’s a history lesson too. With African, Creole, American and British influences, Bajan bites offer a rich introduction to the island’s multicultural roots: from spicy chicken roti, to creamy cornmeal cou-cou and flying fish stew. The annual Food and Rum Festival celebrates this delectable diversity with cooking workshops, gourmet events, street food markets – and lashings of locally-made rum. Whether you’re feasting on fresh fishcakes or fruity rum punch, Caribbean culture has never tasted better.

When to go? 24-27 October 2019
More information:
Click here


Open Water Festival (Visit Barbados)

4. Safari-style tours

Barbados Marathon Weekend (Visit Barbados)

Best for… An inland expedition

Discover the island’s rugged centre on a 4×4 tour – a thrilling ride along dirt tracks and forest trails, taking in wildlife hotspots, lofty lookout points, and far-flung villages. Though most off-road routes are inaccessible to regular cars, hardy Land Rovers (and their experienced drivers) make light work of the gullies and river crossings that lie in wait – putting the likes of Hackleton’s Cliff and the lushly-forested Mount Hillaby within easy reach.

More information: Click here 

Have a go at paddleboarding at beautiful Bathsheba (Visit Barbados)

5. Catamaran cruises

Barbados Ninja Throwdown (Visit Barbados)

Best for… Finding the top snorkel spots

The Bajan coastline has a wild side too: you’ll find natural sea caves on the northernmost tip, and thriving coral reefs in Folkestone Marine Park. The best way to explore is by catamaran: the boats will whisk you to snorkelling sites, pristine bays, and crystal-clear coves that can’t be reached by car – with plenty of time for a beach barbecue and breezy sunbathing on deck. You’ll want to spend at least one full day hopping around the coast.

One of Barbados’ many scenic golf courses (Shutterstock)

6. St. Nicholas Abbey 

Barbados sailing week (Visit Barbados)

Best for… History, with a dash of rum

This 350-year-old sugar plantation has witnessed some of the island’s most notable moments, such as the rise of the tobacco trade in the 1600s, and the abolition of slavery in 1807. Remarkably, the original Great House is still standing, and the plantation still produces sugar cane – which is then crushed in the 19th-century steam mill, distilled, and aged into artisan-quality rum. The old stables visitor centre offers a fascinating insight into the estate’s origins, while the small railway (new for 2019) weaves through the plantation fields, mahogany woodlands, and up to Cherry Tree Hill – for panoramic coastal views.

More information: Click here 

7. Barbados Open Water Festival 

Best for… A beach day with a difference

Barbados is a swimmer’s delight – whether you’re dipping a toe in the shallows or snorkelling with turtles on the western reefs. And, every November, beautiful Carlisle Bay hosts the Open Water Festival: a fun and friendly swimming race that attracts competitors from all over the world. Take your pick from 1.5k, 5k and 10k races – with plenty of beach parties and social events too. Unesco-listed Carlisle was once a vital sea port, where the likes of Lord Nelson and George Washington docked, though these days it’s a protected marine park. With its clear waters and demerara-soft sand, it certainly beats doing laps of your local lido.

When to go: 6-9 November 2019
More information: Click here 

8. Run Barbados Marathon Weekend

Best for… Running off those rum cocktails

Travelling in December? Pack your trainers: it’s the season of fun runs, mid-level races, and the most scenic marathon course you’ll ever set eyes on. You don’t have to be speedy to join in: there are short-distance courses for beginners, fancy dress sprints, and a walking event for non-runners. The more challenging courses include 5k and 10k runs – and the Barbados Marathon, which loops around Bridgetown’s boardwalk and historic Unesco-listed landmarks. In a setting as spectacular as this, you’ll want to savour those 26.2 miles.

When to go: 6-8 December 2019
More information:
Click here 

9. Barbados Pro-AM Paddleboarding

The APP World Tour sees professional paddleboarders take to the waves in a series of international events – and this year’s third round will be held in Barbados, at the famous east-coast ‘Soup Bowl’ surf spot. New for 2019, the event will feature races and slaloms on the Atlantic swell – alongside beach parties, SUP taster sessions, and family-friendly events in the nearby town of Bathsheba.

When to go: 9-17 November 2019
More information: 
Click here 


10. Barbados Ninja Throwdown 

Best for… Kick-starting your gym routine

You need strength, fitness and technical know-how to tackle this obstacle race – so put down that rum cocktail and get training. Based on the American Ninja Warrior television show, the course features extreme monkey bars, high ropes, rolling barrels, and a vertical wall as its gruelling finale: it’s like Tough Mudder, but with sunny skies instead of slippery dirt. While agility and stamina are essential, it’s the event’s great atmosphere and camaraderie that’ll help you smash the finish line.

When to go? 2020 dates TBC
More information: Click here 


11. Hit the greens

Best for… Golf in a glorious setting

Barbados boasts golf opportunities aplenty – from 18-hole courses overlooking the ocean, to family-friendly mini golf in Bridgetown. There are five courses on the island that meet Professional Golfers’ Association standards: Sandy Lane Country Club, Sandy Lane Green Monkey, Barbados Golf Club, Apes Hill and Royal Westmoreland. Rockley Country Club offers nine (surprisingly challenging) holes too.

When to go: The annual calendar of events and tournaments includes the Sir Garry Sobers Festival of Golf (May) and the charity fundraiser Barbados Jazz & Golf Tournament (October).
More information: Click here

12. Barbados sailing week 

Best for… parties on and off the boats 

This annual event – the Caribbean race season’s opening regatta – attracts sailors from far and wide. Sailors will compete in a number of races, from sailing the 60-mile coast of Barbados to racing up to Antigua. During the week, if any of the 20 records are broken, that team will win (alongside a prestigious trophy) their skipper’s weight in rum – a great excuse for the skipper to fatten up during the race preparations. Even if you’re not interested in sailing, the week brings the island to life, with comradery, night-long parties, and lots of rum.

When to go? Around Jan 21st 2020
More information: Click here 

For more information on the island’s adventure and wellness activities, see visitbarbados.org

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