Every day on Barbados is a day to be celebrated. To best enjoy the tropical paradise in true Barbadian fashion, slow down and feel the rhythm of the island. Sway to the soothing calypso music. Saunter into one of the island’s 1,500 rum shops and order a flying fish, then wash it down with a rum punch. Head to the coast, settle down on one of the seemingly endless pink-and-white-sand beaches. Be lulled by the mesmerizing blue waters. Contemplate which of the island’s wealth of attractions to explore during another day in paradise.
The island’s best shopping begins in the cruise terminal, where jewelry boutiques are joined by local vendors selling crafts, rum cakes, and handmade candy from pushcarts and signature Bajan chattel houses. Closest to port is a colorful marketplace; the Friday nights at Pelican Centre become a hub of activity with local music, food, dancing, a street parade, live performances, and a night market that runs until midnight. And just minutes away is the Mount Gay Visitor’s Centre, where the world’s oldest rum is created. Outside the terminal, taxis and shuttles wait to take guests into town, where more stores backed by the port shopping guarantee are waiting to be explored. Limegrove Lifestyle Centre in Holetown, about 20 minutes from the port by car, is an open-air center steps away from the beach that beckons with luxury boutiques, restaurants, cinemas, art, a spa, and salon.
The port city is also a paradise for history buffs—Historic Bridgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The British officially established the city in 1628. The island gained independence in 1966, but the effects of more than 300 years of British control still linger: English is the official language, cricket is the national sport, and afternoon tea remains a daily tradition.
Like London, Bridgetown’s most prominent structures are the Gothic-style Parliament Buildings, which were constructed of coral limestone in the early 1870s. Opposite the Parliament Buildings is Heroes Square, the location of Bridgetown’s statue of Lord Nelson. Erected in 1813, this piece predates London’s more famous Nelson’s Column by 27 years.
Nearby, Barbados’ longtime Anglican affiliation is represented at St. Michael’s Cathedral, an English-style church built entirely out of ballast brick from British ships in the 1700s. A young George Washington supposedly worshipped here when he came to the island in 1751. West of St. Michael’s is the Bridgetown Jewish Synagogue, one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.
Barbados’ strategic location as the Caribbean’s easternmost island played a pivotal role in Britain’s occupation during the 18th and 19th centuries, acting as the main military headquarters for all the rest of Britain’s eastern Caribbean colonies. Today, the Garrison District is home to the Barbados Museum & Historical Society. Once a military prison, it boasts an impressive collection of more than 500,000 artifacts.
When it comes to land sports, the locals are as crazy about cricket as the British are about football. As the national sport, it’s ingrained into Bajans from birth—they eat, sleep, and breathe it. At any time of day, a game can be found, whether professional at the Kensington Oval or friendly on the beach. Per capita, there are more world-class cricket players from Barbados than any other country in the world. If golf is more your speed, Sandy Lane has three beautiful courses: The Old Nine, The Country Club, host of the 2006 World Cup, and the championship-style Green Monkey, designed by famed golf-course architect Tom Fazio.
Looking for an unusual adventure? A trip to Harrison’s Cave is a must. Often regarded as the island’s top attraction, the crystallized limestone caverns are a testament to Mother Nature. The complex network of underground caves, streams, and waterfalls is nearly one-and-a-half miles long; its largest cavern, the Great Hall, is some 50 feet tall. Check out all the wonders, including stalactites and stalagmites, by tram and on foot.
Just minutes from Harrison’s Cave is Welchman Hall Gully, a tranquil nature reserve. Rumor has it the first grapefruit was created on the former plantation—the result of the cross-pollination of an orange and a pomelo, a fruit brought over by the Europeans from Asia. Orchid World is another must-see for nature lovers. A meandering path winds between coral, rock gardens, and gullies as hummingbirds and the soothing sound of running water add to the natural beauty of the terrain.
On the northern end of the island, Barbados Wildlife Reserve is set within a mahogany woodland. Visitors mix and mingle with roaming green monkeys, colorful parrots, flamingos, and peacocks as they move through their natural habitat. Bring swimwear and relax in the pool at Animal Flower Cave, then have lunch with a breathtaking view at the restaurant by the cliff. The rum tours at St. Nicholas Abbey, one of only three Jacobean style mansions remaining in the Western Hemisphere, is also recommended.