This tiny nation in the Lesser Antilles is an extraordinary jewel in the Caribbean. The soft-sand beaches and turquoise water create postcard-perfect scenes but the friendly Barbadians are what truly set this island apart. Colonized by the British, Barbados is English speaking and has a distinctly British vibe. Cricket, horse racing, polo, high tea, and driving on the left side of the road are all part of the experience. Top attractions in Barbados, apart from the outstanding beaches, include caves, historic sites, gardens, plantations, a wildlife preserve, and numerous points of interest in the capital city of Bridgetown. Some of the most popular things to do involve the sea. Snorkeling, diving, swimming, fishing, and other excursions are readily available. For ideas on how to spend your time, see our list of attractions and things to do in Barbados.
1.The Beaches of Carlisle Bay
4.Animal Flower Cave
5.St. Nicholas Abbey
One of the most Instagram-worthy destinations in Barbados is Carlisle Bay on the edge of Bridgetown. Beautiful blond beaches and long stretches of crystal-clear turquoise waters make this one of the most inviting areas to dip your toes in the sea or set up a beach chair. Pebble Beach is one of the best stretches along the bay, but Brownes Beach and Bayshore Beach are also enticing spots. You can wade or swim in the placid water, rent a stand-up paddleboard, or simply relax on the beach. If you head down to Pebble Beach at dawn, you can see the racehorses getting a morning bath in the ocean and watch the sunrise. Washrooms and showers can be found at the top of the beach.
Bridgetown, the nation’s capital, is home to a wealth of attractions, but it’s also simply a beautiful place to wander around. The landmark Parliament Buildings, easily recognizable by the neo-Gothic style architecture and clock tower, and the National Heroes Square are two of the main sites in the city center. Across the street from the Parliament Buildings is the lovely Chamberlain Bridge, with views over the Constitution River, known more commonly as The Careenage. From the bridge, you can see yachts docked along the waterway and the colorful buildings that line the waterside walkway.
From here, wander inland to find the Nidhe Israel Synagogue, St. Michael’s Cathedral, and the 1,000-year-old baobab tree in Queen’s Park. Also allow some time to walk around the Garrison Historic Area to see George Washington House and the Garrison Tunnels, the Guard House, and the Barbados Museum.
Located along the rugged Atlantic coast, Bathsheba Bay offers a dramatic glimpse into the erosive power of the ocean. The beach here, popular with surfers but not a place for swimming, is dotted with huge rock formations created by the remains of ancient coral reefs undercut by the relentless waves. The water in the bay is shallow, and the surf creates a white lather, which led to the name Soup Bowl, a term well-known internationally in the surfing community.
As you arrive at Bathsheba Bay, the road descends from a high plateau down to the ocean and runs along the waterfront. You can see the remains of a staircase and structure in the surf and a little farther on is a restaurant and vendors selling goods. This is a good place stop and walk down to the beach or have lunch.
At the northern tip of Barbados, the Animal Flower Cave is one of the top places to visit, not just for the cave, but for the dramatic views from the lookout above. From February to April, you also have a chance of seeing humpback whales from the cliff-side above the cave. Cave tours are only 15 to 20 minutes and are led by a guide. A short staircase takes you down into this unique cave. Large natural openings offer windows out to the ocean, and pools formed by the spray from waves act as reflecting ponds. These openings also provide plenty of light and remove the claustrophobic feeling often found in dark caves.
On the cliff-side above the cave is a restaurant and a few vendors set up in stalls selling trinkets. Views from the restaurant are incredible. Above a portion of the restaurant is an open-deck viewing area, popular when the whales are frequenting the area. A lookout area to the right of the cave entrance reveals the drama of the coastline. Huge waves crash against the eroding cliffs and blast spray high into the air.
If you are looking for more of a true caving experience and something more adventurous, Harrison’s Cave is the place to go. Here, you can put on your helmet and headlamp and go exploring.
The Jacobean great house at St. Nicholas Abbey was built in 1658, and the tales that have ensued over the years around the abbey are as intriguing as the plantation itself. Despite the name, the abbey was a plantation and never had any religious association. The property changed hands several times over the centuries but is today owned by Larry and Anna Warren, who purchased the property in 2006. They have restored the estate and operate it as a sugar plantation. Visitors can tour the property to see antiques, learn about the workings, and explore the grounds, which generally takes a couple of hours.
Nearby is Cherry Tree Hill, a popular lookout area with views over the island and out to the ocean on the Atlantic side. If you have time, and especially if you are not visiting places like Farley Hill National Park or Welchman Hall Gully, which have their own beautiful views, it’s worth stopping to have a look.