So just after New Year I went off on holi-pops to beautiful Barbados!
I’m lucky enough to have an auntie who travels for her job, and is very generous with sharing the ol’ BA Air-miles, so I only ended up paying the tax on the flight, which can save you about half of the total ticket cost.
Leonie (my auntie) and me have actually been to Barbs twice before, and totally fell in love with it the moment we arrived. I remember the taxi driver from the airport telling us “first time in Barbados? You’ll be back again, people always are!”- and it’s so true. This year we invited my nana and gramps, who retired out to France quite a while ago and who we don’t get to see perhaps as much as we’d like. They’d also never been on a long-haul or tropical holiday, and we really wanted to share the experience with them and show them all our favourite places on the island.
For such a small island (166 square miles), Barbados really packs a lot in, and there’s so much variation between the different areas you might stay in or visit. We’ve always stayed on the West coast, in the Mullins area. You can see our villa here. It was wonderful, SO reasonable, moments from the beach, and Bob and Jill (the owners) were so lovely and have really furnished it with care (the photos don’t do it justice in my opinion). I couldn’t recommend it enough. The West side of the island is surrounded by the Caribbean sea, which is super calm, warm and very clear. There are some awesome reefs to explore if you like snorkelling or diving, and you’ll probably be lucky enough to see turtles (my favourite!) feeding on the coral quite close to the shore. This is the side of the island you’ll probably want to be on if you enjoy lazing on a tranquil, typically Caribbean beach, swimming and water-sports like sailing or jet-skiing.
The East coast of Barbados is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and the landscape and coast is completely different to the West. The sea is rough, with strong currents and sometimes huge waves. There are some areas on the East of the island where you can swim, but make sure you check with the locals, as currents can change quickly, and they’re not always apparent from the beach. The landscape here is dramatic, with sheer cliffs leading down into the water, and it’s often pretty windy! This side of the island is great for stunning, rugged scenery, less tourism and surfing. We’ve never stayed in this area, but I’d really recommend taking a car and driving all the way down the highway from the North point of the island and down the East coast. There are some great photo spots and secret beaches.
The South of the island is somewhere that we haven’t explored too much. To be honest, it’s quite built up, and aimed more towards a package holiday tourist. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very lively, there are some lovely hotels, and loads of restaurants, bars and clubs- that’s just not the kind of thing I’m into. On our first trip, me and Leonie did end up going to St. Lawrence Gap (or ‘da gap’) after a few too many rum punches, beers, shots etc. etc.! It was fun for a night out, but I personally wouldn’t really be fussed about staying in that area my whole holiday.
Call me a closet fat-chick, but my holidays pretty much revolve around food. Seriously, I turn into an animal. Besides the roadside grills, are some of my favourite places to eat on Barbados.
Bombas- West coast by Mullins
Has to be number 1! I love the food here. The Bajan fishcakes are my favourite on the island (and I’ve probably eaten my bodyweight in them). Wayne’s catch of the day is always fantastic- I’d recommend getting it blackened, which is a kind of dark rub of herbs and spices, and his West Indian curry is lovely too. Make sure you ask for a table on the lower level by the sea when booking. The setting is unreal, and if a young Barbadian guy is serving at the bar, definitely get a cocktail or 3! Service here is pretty erratic, and Wayne is a bit of a character, but Bombas is a solid option for a casual dinner if you’re not in a rush to get home.
The Fish Pot- at Little Good Harbour.
This restaurant is lovely for a smart dinner or special occasion. Not overpriced, but feels quite special. I had the cold tomato and basil soup which was full of flavour and really refreshing, and catch of the day with garlic mash. Yum. Ask for a table on the kind of pier area, overlooking the sea. They also do a lovely rose.
Mullins Beach Bar- Mullins!
We practically lived here the first time we came. Really lovely staff that you can have a proper chat with (we ended up going on a night out with them once). The food is really lovely, and reasonably priced. I’d recommend the seafood linguine, Bajan fishcakes (of course!), and a bottle of Munity rose mmm. I also had a very hungover burger there once, and it literally saved me. They have fab live music on a Sunday from a really great band called Moo Town. Everyone gets up and dances and it gets really packed, so make sure you go early if you want a table.
Super yummy French/Bajan/Thai food on the beach. Really friendly staff. I had the Thai read curry which was nice, but a little bit sweet. My gramps had the lamb curry which was excellent. I also saw a roti going passed which looked yum and gave me a bit of food envy. If you have room after, they do delicious homemade banana or coconut cake. If you have lunch with them, you get to use their comfy sun beds all day for free. They have a nice balcony level too.
Ju Ju’s- Alleynes Bay
Crappy service- except for one lady who was actually lovely- but really good food! I don’t want to like this place but it’s so good *sigh*. Very very casual beach bar. Try the red snapper, flying fish cutter, and most of all the shrimp. The ladies here make a mean coconut punch. Make sure you order at least an hour before you’re actually hungry. If you walk a few doors down to Santi, they have the comfiest sun beds and very good iced lattes to sip on the beach.
Lobster Alive- Bridgetown
Oh so touristy (well-heeled, ageing white people with flash watches sipping on champagne with platters of lobster) but so worth a visit to treat yourself! They have a really good jazz band playing for lunch on a Sunday. All the tables are on the beach, and the whole place has a very chilled and dignified vibe. The lobster bisque was amazing, and me and gramps shared a large lobster between us, which was definitely enough. My auntie and nana had the lobster linguini which was fab, and which had a very generous heap of lobster in. The service is lovely- I feel sorry for the ladies having to bend down under those low umbrellas all day though! Pricey but worth it.
Top tips for Barbados:
1) Take sterling cash, and change your money in a bank once you arrive.
With the poor pound taking a hit (boohoo) recently, Barbados isn’t quite as affordable as it was when we first visited. To make the most of my spenderoonies, I changed my English notes for Barbadian Dollars once I arrived to get a better exchange rate. You can also spend US Dollars in most places, and the rate is a pretty fixed 1 US for every 2 BBD.
2) Hire a car.
You’re really missing out on some great road-tripping if you don’t hire a car for at least a few days of your holiday! There’s so much to see on the island, and driving around it is super easy and manageable. You can find some great hidden beaches and beautiful landscapes that you wouldn’t discover otherwise. Just watch out for pot-holes! We used these guys who are a family-run Barbadian business, and very friendly and professional.
3) Eat local
I’m talking rum punch, banks beer, Bajan fishcakes, blackened grilled fish, mac and cheese pie, rice and peas, coconut shrimp…what’s not to love! Barbados has countless high-end restaurants which are obviously lovely, but I personally love the food available from beach shacks, roadside grills and fish-fries.
All beaches on Barbados are public. This means that it’s illegal for any beachfront hotel or restaurant to overtake a beach with their sun beds, close off access to the beach, or stop you from rocking up with your towel and book. I think this is great, as it prevents big corporations privatising whole sections for beach for their guests, and means tourists and locals can all enjoy the beach together.
If you’ve got any questions about my trip, or Barbados in general, let me know and I’ll try and help out 🙂