Life’s More Than a Beach in Barbados. There are so many places to visit and so little time. Sound like a familiar refrain? So, what’s a motivated, intrepid traveler to do?
Visit Barbados for one thing. At 166 square miles (21 miles long and 14 miles wide) the island offers an array of diverse features and eclectic activities which are close to one another – compelling cultural experiences, beautiful beaches, rugged adventures, haute cuisine, Zagat-rated street food, and luxury retail shopping, to name a few. From historic places to contemporary luxury, the island has a spectrum of things to discover.
Here are 10 reasons why visiting Barbados gratifies visitors.
1. Cultural Heritage
Barbados has a rich cultural heritage as the “brightest jewel in the British crown – the richest colony in the empire,” as it was once heralded. That status included it being one of three major British transshipment points in the 17th and 18th centuries – Boston (MA), Bristol (England) and Bridgetown (Barbados). Its African and Euro-centric heritage and deep history include it being where sugar cultivation was perfected and transplanted across the region, and the architecture and cultural DNA are prevalent throughout the island today.
2. Bajan People
The people of Barbados are some of the friendliest anywhere. The island has a high repeat visitor rate, and the primary reason they return is for the Barbadian people. In Barbados, visitors are welcomed into communities and Barbadian homes, where you can really get into the essence of the destination by eating, living, and traveling like a Bajan.
3. Festival Island
Dance in the sunlight adorned in vibrant feathers, a favorite drink in hand, and become lifelong friends with strangers – that is the Crop Over Festival experience in Barbados. The island has festivals year-round but Crop Over in the summer is the grandmaster. The Holetown Festival is in full bloom during February and for those on the South Coast Oistins Fish Festival is a culinary event to tantalize taste buds. In November, the Barbados Food and Rum Festival continues the celebration of food. Barbados may be small, but it has a lot to celebrate.
4. Harry Bayley Observatory
Planets and stars appear a little closer through the primary 16-inch Meade telescope at the observatory, the only one of its kind in the Eastern Caribbean. The observatory opened in 1963 and received a multi-million-dollar refurbishment in 2013. Barbados’ location gives viewers the opportunity to see the planets, moon, and deep sky objects that are not visible from North America or Europe.
5. Morgan Lewis Windmill
The Morgan Lewis Windmill is the largest and only intact windmill of its venerable kind in the Caribbean. It’s a marvel to behold and illuminates the engineering genius of yesteryear. It also offers a breathtaking view of the Scotland District and the sea. The Grind Artisan Cafe, located next to the windmill, offers scintillating views of the scenic east coast and lush countryside, as well as refreshing drinks and sweet and savory options including sandwiches, quiche, and cakes.
6. Apes Hill
Speaking of the Scotland District, Apes Hill Barbados is a new luxury resort and residential destination that sits upon one of the most remarkable high points in the Caribbean. Environmental and sustainability best practices are core to Apes Hill, which hugs the Scotland District, a rare underwater mountain range above sea. From the elevated perch, views spanning the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea unfurl panoramically. Apes Hill provides enchanting villas, exquisite farm-to-table cuisine, a newly unveiled golf club with 18 holes, a state-of-the-art Golf Performance Centre, padel courts, hiking trails and much more.
7. Newton Slave Burial Ground
The remains of 500 enslaved individuals rest beneath approximately seven acres of sloping ground in Newton, Christ Church – the largest excavated slave burial ground in the Caribbean. At the time the excavations occurred in the early 1970s, the area had not been disturbed for centuries, and archaeologists discovered that the site is the final discovered resting place for the earliest group of the African and Afro-descendant population.
8. Birthplace of Rum and Rum Shops
Barbados was the first country to produce and bottle rum with Mount Gay Rum Distillery dating back to 1703. The uniqueness of Barbadian rum traces back to the quality of molasses (a by-product of sugar used to make rum) which was known as liquid gold due to the quality of the island’s water being of coral limestone formation leading to the cultivation of high-quality sugar cane. There are award-winning rum distilleries on the island that offer tours and boutique rums produced by one old sugar plantation still grinding sugar cane once in season. And there are as many as 1,000 to 12,000 rum shops in Barbados depending on how you define them. They range from village shops which provide a bit of everything including (groceries, breads, provisions, drinks), to those that sell only beverages and food.
9. Nidhe Israel Synagogue
The synagogue in Bridgetown goes far in telling the Barbados story, and it stands as the oldest consecrated Jewish Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, built in 1654. In late 2008, an archaeological dig uncovered what was celebrated as an internationally significant find – and original and fully intact Mikvah (bath). The entire site and its surroundings have been restored and are open to the public.
10. George Washington and Other Fun Facts
Barbados was the only place George Washington ever visited outside of the continental United States, at age 19, on a trip designed to improve his health. Visitors can walk through the house and museum in which he stayed, with rooms set up as they were in 1751. George’s visit to Barbados changed the course of history . . . Pop music star Rihanna was born in Barbados . . . It was the only colony to have founded another colony . . . the Scotland District is the only place where the Barbados Accretionary Prism rises above sea level between Trinidad and Puerto Rico (one of few accretionary prisms to do this in the world).