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Best Things to Do and Eat In Barbados

A T&C guide to planning your Caribbean escape.


By Kaitlin Menza, Town & Country

When most people these days think of the nation of Barbados, one image springs to mind: Not the incredible shimmering blue waters or the sugar-white beaches, but a person, Rihanna.

It might seem silly or even insulting to associate an entire country with just one person, but a visit to Barbados proves just the opposite. The locals are wildly proud of their most famous export. Travel on the west side of the island, anywhere near the pop star's estate, and you’ll hear whispers from the locals or those serving tourists alike: "That's Rihanna’s house over there." To cement the relationship with their native daughter, Robyn Rihanna Fenty was appointed "Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary" by her homeland in September 2018.

Most people don't need an extra excuse to visit the beautiful Caribbean nation. Located in the Lesser Antilles, the furthest east of any island in the West Indies, the nation is comprised of around 284,000 people and measures about 21 miles high and 14 miles across. As a former British colony, it's an independent nation in the commonwealth where Queen Elizabeth II still reigns, which translates to a whole lot of British tourists.

You could spend an entire visit on a Rihanna pilgrimage and be entirely satisfied. But here are some other details while you're there.


When to Go

Thanks to its perch in the Caribbean, Barbados is gorgeous all year round, but the low season tends to be summer, as it can get unpleasantly hot, and early fall, which is hurricane season.

That said, it can be worth planning your entire trip around one of the nation's famous festivals, which typically fall over the summer. The Crop Over Festival is a six-week celebration timed to the end of sugar cane season. It culminates in Grand Kadooment Day in early August, which finds Barbadians parading through the streets in beautiful sequined and feathered costumes; you may recognize it from Rihanna's joyous photos on Instagram.

What to Do

Explore Harrison's Cave

Located dead center on the island, this limestone cave features deep pools, stunning waterfalls, and a tram so visitors can don a hard hat and roll along on a one-tour tour. The truly adventurous can take the longer option, which involves exploring the stalagmites at closer range, with water up to the waist, in knee guards and head lamps. Either way, the cave is surrounded by lush jungle and brilliant neon flowers, grounds worth exploring in their own right.

See a cricket game or take a polo lesson

Again, Barbados was a British colony for over 300 years, and remnants of the culture are everywhere—particularly in the realm of sport. Cricket is easy enough for any American baseball fan to follow, and games are played throughout the year. Polo is trickier: Suiting up to ride a horse while swinging an enormously heavy mallet is a bit more complicated, which is why lessons are offered at spots like Apes Hill Club, Lion Castle Polo Estate, or the Barbados Polo Club.

Get on the water

You can just admire the myriad shades of indigo and turquoise shimmering outside your hotel room, or you can set sail upon them. Many resorts offer some sort of free water sports, from kayaks to paddle boards, but for true luxury you could take a cruise on a catamaran or private boat. Seaduced offers private or semi-private rides for couples or groups, including tours with a picnic lunch or a sunset dinner prepared to your specifications by the on-board chef.

Snap pics in the Animal Flower Cave

On the northern-most tip of the island, the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea and crashes onto this spot. The waves have formed ripples in stunning hues of copper and green, and anemones and coral can be spotted in the shallow pools. Benches, a trail, and a restaurant mean that visitors can actually hang out awhile.

Where to Eat

The Cliff

As the name suggests, this fine-dining establishment clings to a cliff above the water, and the drama is only heightens by the stone walls and black-coral candelabras. But it's not only about the look; the menu of mahi mahi and roast duck breast is renowned around the world.

Daphne's

Chef Michele Blasi updates Italian classics with the region's freshest seafood, as glimpsed in an asparagus soup with red snapper or linguine with Caribbean lobster and chilis. Again it must be said—RiRi once named Daphne’s one of her favorite spots on the island, calling it "a really romantic place."

Oistins Fish Fry

A deeply cultural experience and a fantastic meal all in one spot? Tourists and locals stand shoulder to shoulder in front of the grills on Friday nights in Oistin for the weekly fish fry, then plop down on plastic chairs to eat hot swordfish, marlin, mahi mahi, tuna, and more and wash it down with a cold beer. Live calypso music and stands for paintings, pottery, and other handicrafts round out a perfect evening in Barbados.

The Tides

Many upscale restaurants in the Barbados are plunked right onto the beach for beautiful views, but not many are have multiple trees sprouting through the dining room and into the sky, as experienced at the Tides. The lovely indoor-outdoor atmosphere is improved only by the food, seafood touched with interesting Asian flavors (try the Thai spiced seafood stew, with scallops, calamari, shrimp, blown open by lemongrass, ginger, and lime) by chef and co-owner Guy Beasley.

Where to Stay

The House

Oversized white couches, no formal front desk, and a complimentary "jetlag massage" greet you upon arrival at this boutique hotel by Elegant Hotels, the effect being that you've just arrived at your chicest friend's luxury beach house. Further relaxation is aided by the fact that there are only 34 suites and no children allowed, so guests can quietly enjoy other inclusions like yoga classes, afternoon tea service, and champagne breakfasts every morning. Rooms start at $427 per night.

Tamarind

Also in the Elegant Hotels group (free water taxis are available among the five properties in total) is Tamarind, the family-friendly resort with three on-site eateries. Club Tamarind offers teen and tween programming, like a disco night, while younger kids are entertained by arts and crafts session or a lesson in Bajan culture. Rooms start at $308 per night.

Port Ferdinand Luxury Resort and Residences

Steps away from the island's west coast, Port Ferdinand is actually located on the island's only luxury marina—which boasts 120 large berths and advanced technological features like a wave attenuation system that helps prevent damage from larger waves. Amenities and activities include a golf simulator, wakeboarding, reef fishing, and snorkeling with sea turtles. One to three-bedroom villas are available.
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