9 authentic experiences to have in Barbados

Leave the sun loungers and resorts behind and get out to explore the real Barbados, where local food, festivals, a thick forest, art and creativity take centre stage…

Team Wanderlust
27 September 2022
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Discover Barbados

1. Eat fresh fish at Oistins

Oistins in the parish of Christ Church sparks into life on Friday nights for a fish fry. Held at Bay Gardens near the fish market, it’s a major street party for both Barbadians and visitors and is a lot of fun. Excellent flying fish, as well as tuna, swordfish, barracuda, kingfish, marlin, mahi mahi and lobster grace the menus. For the carnivores, there’s pork chops, ribs and chicken, with sides of coleslaw, crispy green salad, baked macaroni pie and rice and peas. The food is served from 30 or so wooden stalls and eaten at communal benches with lashings of hot sauce and live music performances. 

2. See how rum is made


Barbados is considered the birthplace of rum and can be traced back to the first production of sugar cane. Mount Gay is the oldest, dating back to 1703—making the several varieties of Mount Gay rum the longest continually produced spirit in the world. There are numerous other places around the island to visit a rum distillery for factory tours and tastings such as St Nicolas Abbey and Foursquare. Alternatively visit a rum shop (a Barbados version of a bar). These are an integral part of Bajan culture and are where the community come to socialise. Sit down with a glass and perhaps play dominoes with the other customers. 

3. Take a trip down memory lane

There are a number of historical buildings to visit in Barbados. Built in 1658 and reached via an impressive avenue of mahogany trees, St Nicholas Abbey is one of three Jacobean mansions left in the western hemisphere, with a Chippendale staircase and cedar-panelled rooms containing antique furnishings. It is the third oldest of its kind in all of the Americas and inside, visitors can discover its single barrel rum. Also worth exploring is Gun Hill Station, a hexagonal tower dating back to 1816 which was one of a chain of six military signal stations across the island that were used to communicate news and messages using flags and lantern codes. Bridgetown’s Garrison Historic Area, meanwhile, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 for a number of fine old buildings dating back to the British colonial times.

4. Dance to the music

The largest festival in Barbados is Crop Over which takes place in the last week of July and the first weekend of August. The main carnival celebrations take place on the first weekend of August known as Grand Kadooment with parades, calypso and soca competitions leading up to this finale. The festival originated in the 1790s to celebrate the end of the sugar cane season. Like other Caribbean celebrations, the event is a riot of colourful costumes and starts with a ‘jump up’ parade with marching bands and ends with a big all-night party with food and fireworks. Other festivals include the Barbados Reggae Festival in April, the Celtic Festival in May, and the Jazz Excursion in October.

5. Admire the art

Art produced in Barbados tends to be reflective of the way of life on the island and there are many art galleries. Run by the National Cultural Foundation, Bridgetown’s Queen’s Park Gallery exhibits paintings, sculptures, prints and other work from emerging and established Barbadian artists. Over in Speightstown, the Gallery of Caribbean Art sells contemporary art, sculpture and photography from all around the Caribbean. For an immersive experience, visit Earthworks Pottery in St. Thomas which produces desirable hand-decorated bowls, pots, jugs and tableware and you can watch the potters at work. Bridgetown’s Pelican Craft Centre has 25 shops in replica chattel houses and is a great place to buy gifts.

6. Check out the street food

Barbados has many excellent top-class restaurants, but for an authentic experience, look no further than the informal shops that serve up the likes of flying fish cutters, fishcakes, macaroni pie, breadfruit cou-cou, and other traditional Bajan dishes. There’s arguably no better place to eat these dishes than on the beach. Cuz’s Fish Stand on Pebbles Beach is the best for fried marlin or flying fish in a bread roll with salad. Over at Enterprise Beach, Mr Delicious Snack Bar serves up tasty treats along with rum punch and homemade lemonade from an old yellow bus. And Cutters Bajan Deli on Crane Beach will deliver your lunch right to the sand. Wash it all down with a refreshing coconut water, sold in the shell from barrows and stalls. 

7. Make a splash

There are many ways you can get in the water in Barbados and the popular south and west coasts with their gentler ocean has plenty of options including kayaking, excursions to spot sea turtles, boogie boards, windsurfing and more. The Carlisle Bay Marine Park is a favourite spot for diving and snorkelling with a series of underwater marine trails to see five wrecks, a growing a variety of coral and plenty of fish. With dramatic boulders and pounding Atlantic waves, the wilder east coast at Bathsheba is the top place for surfing.

8. Explore Coco Hill Forest

A privately owned 53-acre forest and originally set up as an organic farming project, Coco Hills in St Joseph is now a wonderful destination for short hikes and picnics. This green oasis features bamboo groves, hundreds of royal palms and primordial tree ferns, and growing in the forest are coconuts, bananas, mangoes, coffee, cocoa, avocados, pineapples and numerous herbs and spices like turmeric and ginger. You can either strike out on your own on the paths or take a two and half hour guided tour. You may well spot green monkeys in the canopy of trees and there are expansive views of the east coast.

9. Enjoy the view

Located near Canefield in the central parish of St. Thomas, Highland sits as the third highest point on the island after Mount Hillaby and Chalky Mount and offers views of the verdant green countryside towards the east coast and the whitecaps of the Atlantic beyond. It’s easy to drive up to and the Highlands Bar offers light snacks and drinks to enjoy on picnic benches as you take in the views. Mountain biking tours go down to the rugged east coast, while hiking tours start and end at Highland’s Adventure Centre, and a visit is easily combined with nearby Welchman Hall Gully and Harrison’s Cave.

Feeling inspired? 

Start planning your dream visit to Barbados now by heading over to the official website. 

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