Barbados has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. Since I have never traveled there or do not know anyone who has, I would keep procrastinating on it. I think it’s best to research on your own before traveling to any new place so that we have some clarity and familiarity.
What is Barbados famous for? Barbados is an island nation in the Caribbean known for its natural beauty and rich culture. It has some of the most exquisite natural attractions from beaches, to caves, coves, and gardens. The People of Barbados are called Bajans. They are lively and known for their strong affinity for music, festivals, and food. Their colonial history has also had a strong impact on their culture.
Barbados is an ideal holiday destination to satiate our hunt for adventure, history, nature, and culture. In this blog, I share a list of all the items Barbados is famous for and some attractions that are not to be missed.
The Beaches Of Course
Surrounded on all sides by the Atlantic Ocean, Barbados’ major tourist attraction is its diverse, clean and pristine beaches with their aesthetically pleasing coral formations. Barbados has beaches that naturally cater to the kind of experience you’re looking for.
For the adventurous Surfers, the east coast with its strong winds is the ideal place. Swimming here is not recommended because of the strong currents.
Some of the famous beaches on the East coast are:
- Barclays Park
- Crane Beach
The white sandy West coast is more in sync with a laidback lifestyle. Soak up the sun, go for a dip or just have fun on a jet ski or a catamaran.
Some well known west coast beaches are:
- Batts Rock
- Paynes Bay
- Fitts Village
Windsurfing, Kiteboarding, boogie boarding, and many other such water sports are the major attraction on the lively, coral friendly South coast.
Major beaches here are:
- Belair Bay
- Bottom Bay
- Carlisle Bay
- Beachy head Bay
Cliffs formed out of Corals and sandstone dominate the Northern Coast. With Private coves and bays naturally formed by the crashing waves, the rugged north coast is more of a scenic tour.
Popular beaches here are:
- Animal Flower cave
- Cove Bay
- Goat Bay
- Little Bay
Oistins Fish Fry
The most famous Fishing town in Barbados, Oistins gets into party mode, especially on the weekends.
Friday and Saturday nights are particularly famous to sample exceptional local fresh seafood dishes from a variety of Vendors. Just go, grab a seat, order your favorite dish and enjoy it to the sound of Bajan music.
The popularity of Oistins Fish fry makes it one of the hottest attractions in Barbados.
TIP: Don’t forget to shop for local handicrafts, jewelry or artwork for your souvenirs!
A Horticultural marvel, Hunte’s Garden was created by Anthony Hunte in a naturally formed gully. This botanical garden has well-designed walkways through the intricate garden where one can spot different varieties of plants and some rare birds.
The highlights of this usually self-guided tour are the strategically placed benches wherein one can soak in the beauty of the garden to the tune of classical music. The tour is always incomplete without meeting the owner and enjoying his famous rum punch while sitting on his porch.
Located at Castle Grant St in St Joseph area, Hunte’s Gardens are a sensory experience not to be missed.
Rum Especially Mount Gay Rum
The Bajans (people of Barbados) love their rum and Mount Gay Rum is the oldest rum distillery in the world with a 300-year-old history. Mount gay rum is also the highest exported Barbadian rum globally.
The history of rum-making in Barbados is deeply connected to its sugarcane plantations.
The molasses from local sugarcane was the major ingredient of the mount gay rum that lends it its distinctive taste.
The US is the number one market for mount gay rum. Mount gay also sponsors over 100 regatta sailing events and their red regatta sailing hats are highly valued, sometimes costing upwards of hundreds of dollars owing to their brand value.
You haven’t truly visited Barbados if you haven’t had their famous rum punches made with Mount gay rum.
The Bajans are a festive lot and have a lot of festivals happening year-round. Depending on the month of the visit, the festival will vary. The Bajans’ love for food, music, and sports is clearly evident in their festivals. I have listed a few of their famous festivals below
- Holetown Festival – Held in February, it celebrates the first English settlement in Holetown, Barbados. The unusual festival is known for its night concerts, Vintage cars parade, 7k road walk and run and a host of other events like beauty pageants and the Bajan carnival
- Oistin’s fish festival – Celebrating the importance of the Fishing community, the Oistin fish festival held in March/April is all about, well the fish. Events include boat races, sampling local seafood cuisine, fish boning competition, etc.
- Crop over festival – Arguably one of their biggest festivals, the crop over festival started in the 1600 celebrating sugarcane harvest season. Though the sugarcane production is not on the same scale now, the festival has taken a life of its own lasting for six weeks. Street fairs, Beauty pageants, music concerts, local handicraft exhibitions, parties, parades, and a lot more events bring this festival alive each year from June to August.
- Food wine and rum festival – Bajans love their rum so much that they have a festival to celebrate it. Held every October, this Festival is a foodies’ paradise with cooking competitions and exotic dishes on display along with the classic Barbadian fare. Obviously, rum plays a huge part in this festival and this is a great opportunity to understand Barbados’ rich Rum heritage.
When in Barbados, look out for their festivals!
Cou Cou And Flying Fish
Barbados is known as the land of the flying fish. The flying fish is even one of their national symbols and the Bajans have mastered the art of filleting and deboning this fish.
There are many different ways of preparing this fish but the celebrated one and as such their national dish is Cou Cou and Flying fish. Stewed in tomato, onion, garlic, pepper and various other local spices and herbs the fish is served on a bed of cou cou which is a dish made of cornmeal and okras.
Traditionally this dish is served every Friday across the country. Easily available in local restaurants the best taste though, would always be if one is lucky enough to be served by the local homeowners.
St. Nicholas Abbey
Barbados is known for its sugarcane plantations. St Nicholas Abbey was one of the oldest plantation houses with Jacobian era Manor house design.
Located in the Parish of St. Peter and currently, a museum recreating the Colonial era plantation history lifestyle and also, a rum distillery, St Nicholas Abbey can take one down the pages of Barbados’ colonial history.
The beautiful terrain of the island nation along with its exquisite flora, fauna and scenic beaches make it a great place for some hiking adventures. Barbados is filled with many hiking trails to explore the natural beauty.
Barbados national trust conducts weekly hikes via “Hike Barbados”. Because of its unique geography just like its beaches, Barbados offers diverse hiking options too.
Beach trails, Hill treks, cross country, Forest expeditions – The options are endless varying upon one’s taste. One can choose either a morning hike (6:30 am), afternoon hike (3:30 pm) or a moonlight hike (5:30 pm).
There was a time when Barbados had one of the largest number of sugarcane plantations in the world. Sugar was called white gold turned the fortunes of many plantation owners.
Barbados led the way in cane research by creating pest and climate-resistant strains of cane. Collecting seeds from cane arrows was first discovered in Barbados.
At the height of its glory, Barbados was the foremost sugar producer in the world.
Sugarcane production was also a boon for the island with its root structure helping preserve topsoil.
Currently, the sugarcane yield in Barbados is much below average, yet there are 1500 small farms producing 60,000 tons of sugar yearly in the island nation.
Cricket runs in the veins of the Bajans. The colonial influence is shown in their strong affinity for the sport which is considered to be the national sport of Barbados.
Barbados is one of the island nations contributing many players to the West Indies Multi national cricket team. Kensington Oval is one of the most famous cricket stadiums in the country and part of the country’s rich cricket heritage being the first stadium to hold a test match in the West Indies.
Barbados has gifted some of the finest cricketers to the sport from Gordon Greenidge, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Walcott, and many others to ‘one of the greatest’ who we discuss in detail in the next section.
The Bajans’ love for cricket can be seen in their deep-rooted analysis of the game by the common folk.
The Cricket legend of Barbados museum is a heritage center dedicated to the glory days of West Indies cricket. The museum is a must-visit for any sports fan to realize how revered the sport is in Barbados.
Sir Garfield Sobers
One of the greatest gifts of Barbados to the game of cricket has been Sir Garfield Sobers or as he is popularly known, Gary Sobers. Cricket’s greatest ever all-rounder, Sir Gary Sobers played 93 international test matches for the West Indies with an inimitable track record of 8032 runs (57.78 average ) and 235 test wickets (34.03 average).
An ICC (International Cricket Council) Hall of Famer, he held the record of the highest individual test score in cricket (365*) for 36 years until it was broken by fellow West Indian Brian Lara.
He is also one of the ten national heroes of Barbados. Sir Gary sobers was knighted in 1975 for his service to cricket by Queen Elizabeth II.
The ICC player of the year award is named after Sir Gary Sobers. He is also listed among the five Wisden cricketers of the century in 2000.
FUN FACT: Sir Gary Sobers was born with 2 extra fingers, one in each hand which he removed himself as a kid with a knife!
Chattel houses date back to the colonial history of Barbados. It’s a Barbadian term for a ‘moveable house’.
During colonial times, homeowners were not the owners of the land their homes were built on. The land belonged to the plantation owners and workers would need to constantly relocate with their entire family
This led to the invention of Chattel houses which were moveable houses built with blocks of wood without any nails so that the entire could be easily disassembled and moved to a new location.
Over time Chattel houses have become a Barbadian icon and a throwback to Barbadian heritage. The design of Chattel houses has a very distinctive Barbadian style to it.
The Chattel houses are now very less in number and some are preserved for the history they represent. Chattel houses are a testament to Barbadian ingenuity.
One of Barbados’ star attractions is Harrison’s cave in St. Thomas Parish. It is a natural cave formed by erosion on limestone rocks resulting in natural crystallized formations that decorate the caverns.
Tram rides within the cave go past beautiful waterfalls and streams and are very popular. One can also choose to go for walk-in tours or hikes through the caves which are for the more adventure-oriented traveler.
Stalactites from the top and stalagmites from the bottom of the cave formed over centuries have joined together in many places to form exquisite natural pillars.
The Cave is also a quirky option as a wedding venue!
The potential of the cave was first recognized by speleologist Ole Sorenson who pioneered the landscaping and developing work on the cave working together with Barbados National trust in the 1970s.
Third Oldest Parliament In The Commonwealth
Established on 26 June 1639, The Barbados parliament is the 3rd oldest parliament in the commonwealth and the Americas.
The parliament of Barbados is structured after the Parliament of England and the functioning, procedures, etc are pretty similar owing to Barbados’ Colonial history. A structure of Governance in Barbados was first established by Governor Henry Hawley with the first meeting of the assembly in 1639 itself.
Initially, the Barbados assembly met at various locations over the years, even in taverns until the current parliament building was set up in the 1870s. The building has a neo-gothic architecture.
Gun Hill Signal Station
Gun hill signal station in St George Parish was built in 1818 and provides a panoramic view from east to west via the south. It was built initially for military purposes as one of a series of 6 signal stations to sight ships approaching Barbados.
Maintained by the National Barbados trust, the signal station now has an impressive military memorabilia collection.
A white Lion statue at the foot of the signal is carved out of a single rock!
Landscaped gardens adorn the path to the station at the top of the hill. The north view is blocked by tree cover and climbing the signal tower can give a 360-degree view of the whole town.
Gun hill is a symbol of the country’s military history and offers breathtaking views. Open from Monday to Saturday, the station also has a cozy little restaurant to savor delicious snacks while enjoying the view!
Bridgetown Garrison – World UNESCO Heritage site
The capital of Barbados, Historic Bridgetown and its garrison became part of the UNESCO world heritage list in 2011.
A classic example of Colonial British Architecture with its serpentine city layout and heritage-rich historic buildings of the garrison, the entire area has a significant universal value.
Bridgetown was a major port for transatlantic trade and also strategically advantageous for military reasons protecting British interests against the Spanish and French aggressors during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The port has played a huge role in advancing trade as well as spreading culture and ideas across the Atlantic.
Today Bridgetown is Barbados’ major commercial hub with its shopping malls, duty-free shops, and various other modern amenities. This modernity blended with its old historic architecture dating back to its military history is a true representation of Barbados.
The Lucky Mongoose
Barbados has a strong mongoose population. These furry little creatures are land mammals and found mainly in grasslands or woodlands.
Rat infestation was a huge problem in Barbados’ sugar plantations in the 1870s and mongoose were brought over from India to tackle this threat. Since rats were nocturnal and mongoose were day creatures, the plan backfired.
The mongoose population though caused the eradication of grass snakes on the island. The reduced snake numbers potentially increased the rat numbers.
Mongoose have become such a huge part of the Bajan culture that it is believed that seeing a mongoose cross the road in front of you is considered to be very lucky. Keep an eye out for these lucky charms!
The Bajans also believe that a mongoose never crosses the road unless someone is watching. Try to not to pet a mongoose if you chance upon one, they can be quite aggressive if they feel threatened.
Pride Of Barbados
Pride of Barbados is the name of the National flower of Barbados. Commonly red and yellow in color, these bright flowers look like rays of the sun and bloom year-round
They also have orange and pink color variants. The branches can be very prickly.
In the olden days, the leaves and flowers of the plant were used to make a herbal concoction to help babies sleep at night. Many times this was also used as a substitute for milk at night for the babies.
The plant has many medicinal values and the juice of the leaves and the flowers are said to protect against fever, cough, sores, etc. The leaves are also said to have medicinal qualities to fight bronchitis and malaria!
The pride of Barbados does not only have a cosmetic value but also, medicinal. No wonder it is the “Pride of Barbados”
Pride And Industry
The National motto of Barbados is Pride and Industry. It is inscribed on a scroll at the bottom of their coat of arms.
The Bajans have a strong emotional connection to their motto and it can be seen on banners especially during their festivals.
The motto represents the idea that people have the power to make a difference and contribute to society.
Shopper’s Paradise – Bridgetown
Bridgetown is the one-stop destination for serious shoppers. From Sprawling malls to duty-free shops to local vendors, Bridgetown offers a huge variety of options at much more affordable rates compared to other countries.
Broad Street is literally the headquarters of the shopping scene. Electronic goods, Designer wear, Jewellery, clothing, local arts and crafts, leather goods, and many more such items are available at discounted prices here. Did I mention jewelry?
Remember that most electronic items come here from the US, so they need not necessarily be compatible with your home country.
Another famous Barbadian gift to the world is the famous R&B singer, actress, businesswoman, and fashionista Rihanna. Rihanna was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in St Michael, Barbados on 20 Feb 1988.
Rihanna is one of the best selling music artists in the world. Having been named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine twice (2012, 2018) she has also been one of the highest-paid celebrities as per Forbes magazine (2012,2014).
With 9 Grammy, 12 Billboard music, 13 American music awards and 6 Guinness world records she is one of the biggest names in the music industry.
Well known for her philanthropy and entrepreneurship she was appointed as an ambassador by the government of Barbados in 2018. Westbury new road in Barbados where she grew up has been renamed Rihanna drive in her honor.
Rihanna tries to attend the crop over festival when she can, especially on Kadooment day. Barbados loves Riri so much that the Government has announced February 22 as Rihanna day and is also planning a museum honoring her!