Editor’s note: For years I’ve been debating whether or not to start a travel blog. I’ve always loved to travel and typically visit at least two new places each year. Last year I was fortunate enough to travel to 10 different countries, and with that came a wealth of travel information, interesting and unique experiences and of course, tons of photos, so I figured it was about time I share my travel experiences with you! But rather than launching a separate blog, which was my original plan, I’ll share right here with you on What’s Haute!
My first visit to Barbados was 17 years ago, when I lived/worked there one summer, doing Public Health field research. I lived with three other women (co-workers who quickly became lifelong friends) in a house on the beach in Christ Church parish, where we worked half of the day, went out into the field the rest of the day and partied at night. We got to experience Bajan food and lifestyle, beautiful beaches, snorkeling, parks, lots of clubs, Cohobblopot, Crop Over, Grand Kadooment Day, and so much more! It was a great summer and I always vowed to return.
Return I did, last summer, when my husband and I decided to visit Barbados to celebrate our anniversary, and the country was even better than I remembered it! When I lived there, there literally was one lonely traffic light on our side of the island! The roads and neighborhoods were pretty underdeveloped. And since our job required us to visit homes throughout these underdeveloped neighborhoods, I had to create maps for our team so we could remember which ones we visited and needed to revisit. I remember visiting a government office for maps and they asked if they could keep the maps I created for several neighborhoods, which I thought was pretty hilarious and incredulous, at the time!
Fast forward 17 years and Barbados is super developed now. Of course, Rihanna‘s success probably had a little something to do with that. Her celebrity had to have helped increase tourism to the country, as well as revenue. The island has cleaned up a lot! But, I’m happy to say the country didn’t lose its character and all of the things that made it great in the first place!
Where to Stay
We stayed in St. Lawrence Gap. Our hotel, Infinity on the Beach, was in a central location on ‘The Gap’. It was a pretty nice hotel, located on the beach, as the name implies, and offered free wifi. Meals were not included but breakfast was pretty affordable and good. There are plenty of hotels to choose from along St. Lawrence road but we were pleased with this one.
Transportation around the island is easy – you can take one of the public transportation vans, which I did so much when I lived there that my roommates and I became friends with the drivers! There are also buses and taxis, which is the best option if you’re out late at night when the buses and vans stop running. This time around, my husband and I rented a car so we could drive coast to coast and discover hidden spots here and there.
St. Lawrence Gap is the place to be if you’re looking for great nightlife. It is full of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and live music venues if you’re looking for a fun but slightly chill place to hang out. Some of the popular spots in The Gap include Sugar Ultra Lounge and Reggae Lounge.
Friday nights in Barbados should always be reserved for Oistins Fish Fry, where you can get an amazing authentic and cheap meal and drinks, plus live music and dancing. I used to go every Friday night when I lived there previously. When my hubby and I went, there was a live calypso band performing on stage with a ton of people dancing up there with them, as well as in the crowd. It was crazy packed and a lot of fun!
Another spot that my friends and I used to frequent on a weekly basis, that I revisited, is the nightclub, Harbour Lights. It draws a slightly younger crowd but the music is great. The club is on the beach so half covered, half open but it’s pretty much always hot in B’dos so you’ll be grateful for the AC/fresh air combo.
The Boatyard is another place I used to frequent but this time around when we stopped by on a Saturday night, it was closed for some reason. But it’s also a great club on the beach and worth checking out if you can.
If you’re in Barbados from July to August, make sure you check out Crop Over related events. Crop Over is a festival that celebrates the end of the sugar cane harvest. It is the most popular festival in Barbados – so popular that Rihanna goes for the Carnival/Kadooment Parade every year! If you love calypso music, colorful costumes and live entertainment, you don’t want to miss it!
Where to Eat
Chefette is Barbados’ top fast food spot and there’s one everywhere if you want to grab something quick to eat. I recommend the Chicken and Potato Roti, but you can also just grab a burger and fries or chicken sandwich if you want something a little more classic.
Flying fish is common to Barbados and you can (and should) get it when you go to the Oistins Fish Fry on Friday nights. My favorite meal at Oistins consists of fried flying fish, macaroni pie (TO-DIE-FOR – seriously, I’ve been dreaming about it for the past 17 years!), breadfruit salad and rice with peas.
Another spot that I absolutely recommend is Bubba’s Sports Bar. I ate there a few days before I left Barbados the first time when I lived there and was seriously mad that I never checked it out before all summer. Why? Because the dolphin (mahi mahi) fingers was the best thing I’ve ever eaten! SERIOUSLY! When I revisited, I couldn’t remember the name but I knew where the place was and hunted it down like a madwoman. My husband thought I was joking until he had the food too and he could see why I had been raving about it for years. Between the two of us we had the dolphin fingers, Bajan fish cakes, burger and surf and turf. All of it was amazing!
Beaches, Watersports & Other Touristy stuff
Barbados has some of the best beaches in the world so naturally we hit them up. When visiting the beaches, you’ll want to stay on the Caribbean Sea side of the island – the waves off the Atlantic Ocean are incredibly rough and it’s too dangerous.
Carlisle Bay is a gorgeous beach on the West Coast of Barbados, where the Caribbean Sea is at its most beautiful and most peaceful. So that makes it a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming and all sorts of watersports including scuba diving, jet skiing and snorkeling. We first did some jet skiing and then went out on a boat for about half an hour where our tour guide pointed out houses along the way, owned by Rihanna and Oprah. Then we stopped to snorkel and came across some large turtles and schools of fish! There are shipwrecks along Carlisle Bay, so you’re guaranteed to see plenty of tropical fish, turtles, stingrays, sea horses, octopi, and eels.
You can also head to Bridgetown (B’Town), the historic capital and largest city, to take a boat/catamaran cruise. We took one my first time on the island and it was great! They take you out for some snorkeling and swimming with turtles for an hour or so, then treat you to a meal, rum punch and a relaxing sunset cruise afterwards. If you’re looking for something that’s a little more energetic, the Jolly Roger is a popular party cruise where you can also drink rum punch, as well as swing from a rope off the side of the ship and ‘walk the plank’ too! I never got to check it out but it always looked like everyone on board was having a lot of fun.
If you head up north to St. Lucy, visit the Animal Flower Cave. It’s a rocky, open cave off of the Atlantic Ocean filled with sea anemones in the pools of the cave and openings looking out to sea. The views inside the cave and atop the cliffs are amazing but make sure you wear closed toe shoes with a good grip. I was unprepared and had on open sandals. Inside the cave it’s quite slippery and can be dangerous! Be prepared!
Depending on what you’re looking for, there are many places to shop in Barbados. In St. Lawrence Gap, visit Chattel Shopping Village for souvenirs and local finds. Head to Bridgetown if you want to buy some fine jewelry from stores like Colombian Emeralds or Diamonds International. There are also plenty of local shops in B’Town selling goods from local designers, artists, musicians, etc. Back in the day, we were able to get our hands on a lot of calypso mix CDs in B’Town, as well as clothing/costumes for the festivals. For luxury shopping, you can visit the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre in Holetown, St. James. There you’ll find stores like Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Chopard, and Cartier.
Random Travel Tip
When I lived in B’dos, our team ventured to a park one day to celebrate several of our birthdays. I was wearing a ‘trendy’ camo print top. In the park, I was approached by a local policeman who told me it was illegal for anyone except Bajan military to wear camouflage and that I could be arrested if I did not change. I was terrified. I didn’t get arrested but of course, never wore that top there again. I didn’t bring any camo clothing on this trip either! I’m not sure if that rule still stands but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you’re traveling to Barbados, leave your camouflage at home!
Have you been to Barbados? What did you love most about the island?