Looking for your next relaxing beach vacation? Try Barbados, a Caribbean island made up mainly of coral. Known for its rum and love of surfing, the former British colony is the perfect spot to find adventure or kick back on the beach. This tiny island’s (only 164 square miles) west coast boasts the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea while the eastern side’s known for its choppier waves from the Atlantic Ocean (most of the island’s hotels are located on the Caribbean side).
And while they might drive on the wrong side of the road, Barbadians are nothing but friendly. Here’s are some basic things you should know:
- The dollar is widely accepted. Don’t worry about the exchange rate, either. $2 USD equals $1 BBD.
- You can book a nonstop flight to Grantley Adams International Airport out of JFK. Direct flights from JFK are 4 ½ hours in duration. Newark offers some direct flights, but most of your flight options will require a connecting flight.
- The best time to visit is between December and early April. Pack plenty of sunscreen because the average temperature ranges from the low 70s to the mid 80°F.
- The national language is English.
WHAT TO DO WITH THE KIDS
Barbados is a small island, but there’s no shortage of activity. Here are some of our island musts:
CWTS Complex, Lower Estate
Prices vary by activity
If you want to see the heart of Barbados, Island Safari is the way to go. You’ll travel from the east to west coast, drive through crop fields, small towns, landmarks and more in an open-air 4×4 Jeep. If you go on the Land & Sea safari like we did, you’ll catch breathtaking views of the countryside, including the people, animals and crops, while a guide teaches you some island history. Make sure to keep your eyes open for monkeys hidden in the trees. The safari will make a few stops at places like Bathsheba, known for its giant rock, and for hosting the Soup Bowl, an international surfing competition, St. John’s Parish Church for incredible top-side views of the island sprawled below (and the amazing coast!) and Edgecliff, where a beautiful coastal garden makes for one-of-a-kind family photos.
After scoping out the island, you’ll head to a Catamaran sail and buffet lunch (we loved the macaroni pie) and open bar before laying out on the ship’s bow. Out in the Carribean Sea, you’ll have a chance to snorkel, see a variety of fish and turtles (turtles aren’t guaranteed, but we did see two hugging our ship’s anchor). Island Safari also offers a land-only Adventure Safari, Powerboat Snorkel & Adventure and custom safaris.
Orchid World & Tropical Flower Garden
Sweet Vale, Barbados
Call for cost
At this botanical oasis, you can catch a glimpse of hummingbirds and other pollinators nestled between the petals and branches of more than 1,000 orchids situated on a six-acre property. This dreamy spot boasts thousands of other plants and flowers native to the Caribbean, all growing around a waterfall, coral grotto and five orchid houses—that might even impress the kids. Take a self-guided tour, and make sure to snap lots of pics!
$25-200/adults, $15-30/kids BBD, depending on tour, $20 BBD for junior explorer’s tour
Harrison’s Cave is home to a giant stream cave system more than a mile long. Don hard hats for an hour-long tram tour, where an expert guide will explain the sights and sounds of the cave’s streams and waterfalls. If your kids want a closer look at the cave formations, the hour-long walk-in cave tour is the way to go. You’ll explore on foot with an adventure tour interpreter, or try the scenic gully tour for your chance to see native birds (and maybe even a green monkey). If the kids want to test their Indiana Jones mettle, sign them up for the 45-minute junior explorer’s tour where they’ll strap on nature packs, explorer hats and flashlights before embarking on an exploratory mission into the caves to learn about animals, rocks and water conservation. If your hotel has a babysitting service that can watch your children (read on for more about that), try one of the eco-adventure tours (adults only) which require helmets, head lamps and knee guards, as you descend into the earth for an up-close-and-personal look at tropical flora and fauna.
WHERE TO EAT
Shiso Asian Fusion
Asian fusion meets calm waters at this mod restaurant, where sashimi, sushi and noodle rice bowls are abundant and the atmosphere breathes serenity (we’re talking about the adjacent spa pool at Waves Hotel & Spa). Shiso’s tranquility is elevated by its dining options, like chicken and vegetable tempura (we love the sweet soya sauce), teriyaki pork and the chef’s signature five spice Asian ice cream. If the kids are picky eaters, there’s a kids menu that’ll satisfy their stomachs (hello, noodles).
Oistins Fish Fry
It seems like everyone on the island of Barbados travels to Oistins every Friday night for its infamous fish fry, where residents and tourists congregate at the marketplace. Inside the market you’ll find burning fires from a multitude of booths offering all kinds of bajan meat, macaroni pie, rice and spirits (we asked locals which place offered best fish—Pat’s Place—and were not disappointed one bit), plus a stage, where the kids can show off their dance moves. You can sit wherever you want, too. On the outskirts of the picnic tables and barbeques are shops offering everything from shoes to jewelry to flags and baubles. There’s no better way to immerse your family in the food, culture and people of the island.
WHERE TO STAY
Crystal Cove by Elegant Hotels
Rooms start at $402/night (prices vary by season and view) and include meals, beverages, motorized water sports and kids club
This tropical all-inclusive oasis has three freshwater swimming lagoons (one with a swim up cave bar), two restaurants and a wine and coffee bar, free water sports and more (the Dine Around program does allow you to eat at restaurants at Elegant Hotels’ other six properties). Start the day at Reflections for a breakfast buffet that overlooks the cave bar and has a killer view of the ocean, before either laying out around the lagoons or nestling in a covered chair along the white sandy beach. When that aquamarine water calls, try one of the included water sports—think tubing, water skiing, kayaking, boogie boarding, snorkeling, paddle boarding, windsurfing or hopping on a banana boat—or swim out toward the coral formations (you can see straight to the bottom). You’ll definitely want to check out their Kids Stay Free in 2019 deal, where kids ages 5 and under won’t cost you (there are blackout dates).
If you want some quiet beach time, the Flying Fish Kids Club (included, ages 3-12, 9:30 am-4:30 pm, 5:30-9 pm) has activities to keep the kids amused. From arts and crafts to karaoke to video games to reading to billiards to foosball to cricket on the beach, there’s plenty to keep them entertained (and they can also grab lunch). Parents can’t leave the property while their children are in the Kids Club. The hotel also offers babysitting services, too, at an extra charge. And when you have some time to yourself, hit the tennis court, fitness center or Drifters Beach Bar. There’s plenty of activities too, like beach volleyball for the family, steel pan classes, a beach walk, sunset champagne hour and more.
You can take a water taxi to visit one of the other Elegant Hotels properties, like the Tamarind, where the kids can play on a water trampoline and you can try even more dining options (some resorts, like the Tamarind, aren’t all-inclusive, so you’ll have to pay out of pocket for food and drinks). In addition to the water taxi, Crystal Cove also offers shuttles to Harrison’s Cave and Oistins, plus tours of St. Nicholas Abbey and Bridgetown, a glass bottom boat trip and more for a nominal fee.
With only 88 rooms, you’ll never have to set your alarm at 8 am to snag a chair on the beach, and though all beaches in Barbados are public, you don’t have to worry about overcrowding or any interruption of your beachside nap (and we definitely recommend taking a walk down the beach).