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Best Area To Stay In Barbados (& What To Do When You Visit!)

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This blog post is going to cover everything you need to know about visiting Barbados, including the best areas to stay in Barbados. Barbados is a well-known Caribbean island — famous for its natural beauty and for being the home country of the first self-made female billionaire, Rihanna. I just spent a week soaking up the sun here and am going to share everything you need to know about the island and St. Lawrence Gap: the best area to stay in Barbados.

Where is Barbados?

Barbados is a small island country in the southern Caribbean Sea, located very close to the equator. It is also the easternmost island in the Caribbean… there is nothing north of the island until Canada!

Its neighbors include Saint Lucia to the north, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the west, and Trinidad and Tobago to the south.

best place to stay in Barbados

Background Info About Barbados

Barbados was once a British colony, but has been an independent country since June 1966. Its history is rich and understanding the highlights of it will give you more appreciation for this small but mighty country when you visit!

Barbados was first inhabited by Carib Native Americans until it was colonized by the British in the early 17th century. The island was quickly transformed by the rise of plantations, fueled by slavery, and became the world’s number one sugar producer by 1650.

Barbados is the oldest continuing parliamentary democracy outside of England, and eventually gained voting rights in 1943 and full independence in 1966. In June of 1966, Barbados had a constitutional conference with Great Britain and negotiated its independence.

Today, Barbadian culture (also known as Bajan), is a unique cultural blend of West African and European. The locals speak English with a distinct accent, and also use certain “Bajan” words of West African-English decent.

The capital of the island country is Bridgetown, which is comprised of a cruise ship terminal, colonial buildings, and shops. Around the island are beaches, botanical gardens, caves, plantation houses, and farmland. Local traditions include afternoon tea and cricket, the national sport.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Barbados?

Since Barbados is located in the southeastern Caribbean, close to the equator, it is a delightful place to visit year-round. However, the island does experience “seasons” you should be aware of when planning your trip.

The best time to visit Barbados is from December to April: the dry season. During this time of year, the island receives the least amount of rain. Plus, the island is still warm and sunny, as the temperatures between winter and summer only fluctuate by about 5 degrees.

Summer is a popular time to visit Barbados, although the island does experience a rainy season that runs from July through early December. October is known to be the wettest month.

Barbados experiences a high season during the dry season (mid-December through April). During this time, you should expect an increase in prices, especially in the best areas to stay in Barbados.

Best time of year to visit Barbados

Know Before You Go

Let’s Talk Money

As mentioned above, Barbados is an independent country so it has its own currency and government. Barbados dollars are used here, although US dollars and credit cards are also widely accepted… although, as with most Caribbean islands, cash is king!

Pro-tip: Traveling from overseas? Remember to ensure your credit card has no foreign transaction fees or you’ll experience a lot of surcharges with your purchases.

There are service charges included in bills in Barbados, so tipping isn’t customary. You can always add in a few extra dollars as a thank you, but just note it isn’t required or expected. The service charges were usually about 12% on our bills.

We didn’t have an issue with cell coverage during our time in Barbados as most carriers will work here. But, remember— you’ll need an international plan. Most properties and cafes have free WiFi too.

Pro-tip: As someone who travels frequently, I highly recommend T-Mobile’s Magenta plan for international travel. Instead of paying an extra $10 a day for travel, international 5G coverage is included in your monthly phone bill. Of course, it won’t cover a long stay abroad, but for a week or so, it works like a gem! Without extra fees!

Language, Food, & Weather

Bajans widely speak English, although there are local words spoken as well. 

Barbados is known for its seafood! Be sure to take advantage of the fresh mahi mahi (also known as dolphin fish… don’t worry, it’s not actual dolphin) and shrimp. There are some local dishes to try as well, including fish cakes and rotis. Rotis are similar to burritos but have unique fillings such as potatoes and curry chicken.

The drinking age in Barbados is 18 years old. Also, note that Bajans drive on the left side of the road (more on this below).

Since Barbados is located so close to the equator, the sun is STRONG here. The UV and temperatures are high here year-round. Sunscreen will be crucial to enjoy your time on the beach here, and pack your best summer attire when you prepare your suitcase.

Where to stay in Barbados

Is Barbados Worth Visiting?

So, is Barbados worth visiting? YES! Although there are less direct flights to Barbados than other Caribbean islands from the US, it is absolutely worth the visit. Bajans are proud of their culture, history, and the island’s scenery. It is a beautiful place to visit for vacation. Although tourists tend to gather around the best areas to stay in Barbados, I also found the island to be less touristy than other islands!

How Do You Get To Barbados?

Since Barbados is a bit isolated from the other Caribbean islands, you will have to fly to reach it. Whether you’re coming from the US, Canada, the UK, or another Caribbean island, it is recommended to fly into the BGI Grantley Adams International Airport.

Several international airlines service this airport including Copa Air, British Airways, WestJet, JetBlue, and American Airlines. There are limited direct flights to Barbados from the US— just NYC, Boston, Charlotte, and Miami for now.

There are also quite a few flights from Europe to Barbados. I was surprised when I realized this, but a lot of tourists visit here from the UK and hang around the best areas to stay in Barbados. There are direct flights from the London and Manchester airports, and you can reach the Caribbean in about 9 hours. 

The Best Area To Stay In Barbados

Most of the action (and therefore, the tourists!) hang around the southwest coast of Barbados. This is by far the best area to stay in Barbados. This is where the capital city, Bridgetown, is located. There is also a port in Bridgetown where all the cruise ships pull into. Located about 25 minutes by car from the city center is the Oistins Beach area. This is another popular area for tourists to stay in hotels and rental properties. Specifically, the St. Lawrence Gap area is where you’ll find resorts like Sandals and a plethora of dining options. If you’re wondering where to stay in Barbados, the St. Lawerence Gap area is the answer!

My family and I opted for a cottage instead of a resort for this trip so we could spread out and also save $$$. We stayed right along Oistins Beach is a sweet little unit called the Maxwell Cottage. The property owner was fantastic (she even helped us from afar when our car broke down… more on that below!), it was walkable to the beach and the famous Oistins Fish Fry, and it was clean and safe. I think you could stay here with or without a car, since we saw dozens of taxis hanging around this area. Plus, a few restaurants and cafes are walkable for meals.

The Oistins Beach area is also right between the airport and Bridgetown, making it the best area to stay in Barbados. Barbados is only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, so even traveling up to the very northern tip takes only about an hour from here. I highly recommend it this area!

How To Get Around Barbados

I can’t overstate this enough: driving in Barbados is extremely dangerous for tourists. My family and I did rent a car so that we could explore the entire island during our week in Barbados, but we did regret this choice after not one but TWO flat tires during our trip.

Also, not to mention— since Barbados was once a British territory, cars drive on the left side of the road here. This means you need to remember to look right when taking left turns and you go around rotaries counter clockwise. These discrepancies can be quite difficult to remember as a tourist.

On top of this, drivers in Barbados are… crazy! They speed like I’ve never seen and since there are often no lines on the roads, they pass each other as they please. 

Lastly, since a lot of Barbados is remote and still under development, the roads aren’t in the best condition. Aside from watching out for the rules of the road and the local drivers, you’ll have to keep a close eye out for potholes. We ran through the biggest one I’d ever seen, which was covered in water and disguised as a small puddle and ended up getting two flats. It took over 2 hours to have a mechanic come help since we were in a remote part of the island.

Use Taxis

Although renting a car will give you the freedom to explore the island on your own time and schedule, I really think it’s an incredibly dangerous place to drive. Plus, if you stay in the Oistins / St. Lawrence Gap region, the best area to stay in Barbados, you will see dozens of taxis. Vans pass up and down the streets and will wave you down, trying to fill their seats with passengers all going to the same place. This is what you should do to get to Bridgetown, for example.

As for accessing the more remote areas of the island, such as the northern coast and the eastern beaches, I recommend booking tours. My family and I used our car to visit the Mount Gay Rum Distillery and the Animal Flower Cave in the north on the same day. Since these two tourist attractions are only a 15 minute drive from one another, there are surely tours that visit both. I would book these from your hotel to avoid navigating the roads yourself!

What To Do In Barbados

 Now for the fun part! Now that you know how to get to Barbados, the best areas to stay in Barbados, and your options for transportation around the island, let’s dive into the must-see activities. There are few highlights that all tourists enjoy here:

Mount Gay Rum Distillery Tour

Mount Gay Distillery is located in the very northern part of Barbados in the Saint Lucy area of the island. The distillery runs tours and tastings, and I highly recommend adding a stop here to your Barbados vacation itinerary. It’s common to tour breweries and vineyards / wineries around the world, but visiting a rum distillery is a unique and local experience everyone should have in the Caribbean.

Mount Gay rum distillery in Barbados

Mount Gay is the oldest, continuously running rum distillery in the world. It was founded in 1703 on the same site and has been producing rum for over 300 years. The process has been the same — refining cane into sugar, fermenting molasses, and mixing in fresh water. During the tour (which costs ~$50 pp and includes a welcome drink!), you can visit the working estate, lands, see the original well, molasses storage house, and distillation house. And of course, end your visit with a tasting in the gift shop area.

For an additional fee, the distillery also offers cocktail making workshops and rum flight tastings.

Mount Gay rum distillery in Barbados

Swim In Animal Flower Cave

Welcome to the Animal Flower Cave, “where the earth meets the sky meets the sea”. This cave is located at the very northern point of Barbados, located only about 15 minutes by car from the distillery. I recommend visiting both in the same day, especially if you’re coming from the south, aka the best area to stay in Barbados.

The Animal Flower Cave is only open from Tuesday – Sunday, 9:30-4 pm. There is also a restaurant here, open from Tuesday – Sunday from 11-3:30 pm. It offers stunning views of the Caribbean Sea and has delicious cuisine. We loved eating lunch here. Try the local roti (similar to a burrito).

Lunch at Animal Flower Cave in Barbados

As for the cave, it’s not required to book a tour ahead of time, but you will need a local Bajan to bring you down into the cave. We were surprised to have a tour, but honestly loved learning about the origins of the cave and the formations within it. Tours are offered continuously without set times, so just show up!

Pro-tip: Be sure to bring your bathing suit when you visit to swim. Inside the last cave chamber is a natural rock pool that is around 8 feet deep. It’s very tranquil (although a little dark), so definitely take a dip! Swimming is sometimes not possible on certain days depending on the height and strength of the waves.

It costs about $20 USD per adult to visit the cave and about $10 for children under 12.

Swimming in Animal Flower Cave in Barbados

Go Snorkeling In Carlisle Bay

Snorkeling in Carlisle Bay is a MUST when visiting Barbados! This bay, located right outside of Bridgetown, is famous for its shipwrecks and sea turtle population. Both of which can be spotted on a snorkeling tour. I collaborated with GetYourGuide for this portion of our vacation to bring my family out on a snorkeling tour.

I highly recommend these Carlisle Bay tours in Barbados:

The boat tours tend to be fairly short since the shipwrecks are located just off the beach. I think we sailed for 10-15 minutes before anchoring. We saw 4 turtles in the first spot and an entire coral reef ecosystem at the shipwreck in the second snorkel location… all within like 2 hours! Plus, Carlisle Bay is located right near the best area to stay in Barbados so it’s easy to visit.

Snorkeling in Carlisle Bay in Barbados

Chill At Rockley Beach

Another beach area I recommend hanging out at, located adjacent to Carlisle Bay, is the Rocky Beach area. This beach had the softest sand and was great for swimming. There were also umbrellas and chairs for rent, a parking lot, bathrooms, and concession stands selling both food and drinks. The best part? There were even waiters to take your drink order right from your lounge chair. We loved spending an afternoon here and I recommend you do the same.

Fun fact: All beaches in Barbados are public beaches. Most have parking lots, bathrooms, and concession stands — especially in the southwest area, so they are easy to visit for tourists!

Eat + Drink In St. Lawrence Gap

Saint Lawrence Gap, Christ Church is one of the best-known neighborhoods in the country of Barbados. Sometimes just called “the Gap”, Saint Lawrence Gap is located on the southern coast of Barbados along the island’s Highway 7. St. Lawrence Gap is the main tourist strip of the island and is definitely the best area to stay in Barbados.

Aside from the plethora of hotels and resorts located here, the area is also home to several fun bars and fantastic dining options. We ate here twice during our vacation in Barbados… I recommend Castaways (pictured below) and Cocktail Kitchen.

Dinner in St. Lawerence Gap, Barbados

Attend The Oistins Beach Fish Fry

This is definitely my number #1 recommendation for Barbados. Oistins is an active fishing town on the southwest coast of Barbados, about 20 minutes from the airport. It is tiny but really comes alive on the weekends!

Pro-tip: If you choose to stay at the Airbnb I linked above, you can walk to the Oistins Fish Fry!

Every Friday night at around 7 pm, the Oistins Bay Gardens transforms into the fish fry. The food is the main draw, as you can find everything from fish cakes to grilled mahi mahi to coconut shrimp. Each stand offers the option to have your fish fried or grilled. The best part? It’s all cooked on the spot in front of you and is extremely affordable. A plate of fish with sides and a beer will cost you about Bds$30 – $35 (US$ 15 – 17.50).

There are plenty of plastic chairs and picnic tables to eat at, and tons of vendors. Aside from food and drinks you can also find art and craft items on sale, including jewelry and pottery. There were dancers, a DJ, and live music on the main stage when we visited as well. This spot is frequented by visitors and locals and is the perfect night out for people of all ages, even children!

Walk Around Bridgetown

As mentioned above, Bridgetown is the lively capital city of the country and is also where the cruise ship terminal is located. Whether you’re visiting for just a day on a cruise or for a week on your own, I recommend carving out a few hours of the day to visit Bridgetown. The main historic part of the port city is quite small and walkable. Also, if you’re a fan of Rihanna, you can drive to see her childhood home!

During your self-guided walking tour, be sure to visit the following sites:

  • The George Washington House: A preserved, historic home visited by the first president in the 1750s.
  • Cheapside Market: Peruse this lively bazaar like local to uncover the island’s best plantains, breadfruits, and greens.
  • St. Michael’s Cathedral: The tallest church in the city surrounded by tropical gardens (with monkeys!) and a cemetery.
  • National Heroes Square and Parliament: Located in the heart of Bridgetown and worth learning about.

Walk Through A Botanical Garden

Strolling through a botanical garden is a must in Barbados, since it’s so lush and green compared to other islands. There are quite a few located here, but we visited the Flower Forest. It’s home to flowering plants and tropical trees from all around the world. The 50-acre property used to be a sugar plantation.

best place to stay in Barbados

Pro-tip: While you’re in this area, head to Earthworks Pottery! This studio and shop is located on a breezy hillside and is the perfect place to support a local business and bring home a meaningful souvenir.

best place to stay in Barbados

best place to stay in Barbados

That brings us to the end of this Barbados guide. I hope it answers any questions you had about the best area to stay in Barbados and what to do there!

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