The island of Barbados is one of the top Caribbean travel destinations. Every year over one million visitors come to the tiny island to experience sun, sea, and sand.
With pristine weather throughout the year and a variety of fun activities, it’s no wonder that the island has remained popular with travelers for decades.
Like all top destinations, there is one major and inevitable downside; Aspects of a Barbados vacation have become too touristic, and it becomes difficult to find a truly unique experience.
These Ten Barbados Travel Tips would help you to find that authentic experience. All ten are inspired by real experiences on the island and then fine-tuned with some insight from local experts.
1 – Visit a Rum Distillery
Barbados is unique as a rum destination since it’s the island where the spirit was first created. There is a rum distillery on the island for everyone, whether you’re an enthusiast or you barely even have an interest in rum.
A tour of Saint Nicholas Abbey is focused largely on the local Plantation Legacy so their single estate, hand bottled rum stays a minor part. It’s ideal if you’re not into rum.
If you do actually like rum, a visit to Mount Gay Distilleries Visitors Center might be ideal. As the oldest commercial rum distillery in the world, the tour includes elements of their history, followed by a tasting of several of their products and an optional cocktail workshop.
For rum lovers, a visit to the Foursquare Distillery needs to be on the bucket list. Not only can you sample limited edition rum releases that are considered among the best in the world, you can also see all of the aspects of rum production up close, from fermentation to distillation and ageing.
2 – Drink XO Rum
Across the island, most watering holes favor lighter rums like ESA Fields or Mount Gay Eclipse in cocktails. Asking for XO is a great way to ensure that they use a rich and buttery dark rum instead of the house rum since the bartender would then use either Mount Gay XO, or Doorly’s XO. Both are excellent aged rums that perfectly represent the Barbados style of premium rum. They’re the quintessential Barbados premium rum, and different in style from other islands in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.
3 – Every Beach is Amazing
Certain stretches of coastline in Barbados have received so much international acclaim that they’re often considered among the best beaches in the world. Browne’s Beach and Accra Beach are known for their pristine white sand and blue water, while Bathsheba Beach and Soupbowl are renowned for the intense East Coast character and waves that are perfect for surfing.
The reality is that every single beach in Barbados is beautiful. Don’t chase a beach because of a five star review on Trip Advisor or a feature on the Travel Channel because expectations might lead to disappointment.
4 – Don’t Miss the Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry
Local seafood and spices combined and cooked in unique ways is always fascinating; whether it’s a deep fried shark sandwich on Trinidad’s North Coast, or Dungeness Crab Bisque near the Seattle Harbor.
Oistins is a traditional fishing village where the entire week goes into making this Friday night a success. Larger catches from earlier in the week are kept on ice for Friday, but the deep fried flying fish is the highlight for good reason. A side of fried octopus and XO Rum Punch is the perfect starter while waiting for the main course, served with sides like Macaroni Pie and Fried Plantains.
5 – Ask for a Corn N Oil
The Corn and Oil is a simple Barbadian cocktail that’s almost a tropical take on a Bourbon Old Fashioned; It retains the Angostura Bitters but swaps the simple syrup for a local liqueur called Falernum, and trades the rye whisky for a full bodied Barbadian Rum. The garnish changes from orange zest to a slice of fresh lime.
Outside of the rum enthusiast community, it’s mostly only known among the older Bajan population. This means that you’ll automatically get the nod of approval wherever you’re drinking and you may even get invited to a locals only soirée.
6 – Snorkel with Turtles in Barbados for Free
Many tour operators depart from the beaches east of Bridgetown to take tourists in boat cruises where they could snorkel with seas turtles. The boats stay close to shore and it’s possible for a strong swimmer to paddle out and also swim with the turtles. The boat skipper does the hard work of finding out where these aquatic reptiles are feeding and you get the experience for free.
Spend the time on land before this swim stretching and leave the celebratory 10 Saints Beer for afterwards. Safety first!
7 – Skip the Clubs at Saint Lawrence Gap
They might have been cool once but now they’re just overpriced tourist traps with badly mixed cocktails. There are definitely amazing nightlife events on the island, but they’re happening elsewhere. Crop Over-style “fetes” happen all the time in Barbados and they’re not impossible to find, just follow pages like Crop Over Hub on Instagram.
8 – Drink 10 Saints Beer
In the Caribbean, the mild character of a pale lager perfectly suits the heat and there’s no better beer to drink on the beach. Time spent in a rum barrel smoothens the flavor and also adds a subtle woody nuance, and since rum was invented in Barbados it’s the perfect nod to the island’s history.
9 – Dine at A Chefette Restaurant
The most popular fast food chain in Barbados is like a Jack of All Trades that seems committed to satisfying any food craving regardless of what it is. Where else in the world can you find roti, milkshakes, burgers, pizza, fried chicken and so much more? It’s almost like a Caribbean version of Jollibee with availability limited to a single island.
10 – Take home a bottle of Rare Rum
Barbados probably boasts the widest variety of rare rum bottles in the Caribbean at any given time.
At Saint Nicholas Abbey you can find rum from a single estate, distilled in a single pot still, aged in a single barrel before being bottled by hand.
Mount Gay Distilleries has released cask strength expressions of their iconic Mount Gay XO as well as multiple expressions that highlight their expertise in blending and ageing rum.
Labeled as the Exceptional Cask Series, Foursquare Rum Distillery often releases cask strength expressions from their best barrels, as well as of rum that’s allowed to mature in unconventional barrels like port barrels and cognac casks.
Visiting Barbados was done in collaboration with 10 Saints Beer, a lager beer aged in rum casks that’s perfect for relaxing on the beach on the island where rum was invented.