As soon as you get to the airport, go to the visitors information (very close to the luggage belts) and grab your copy of the Barbados in a Nutshell. It is a quick guide to what to do in Barbados – as the name suggests, short and sweet info, that you can digest in an hour while sunbathing. Make sure you double check opening dates of attractions as apparently they change depending on the season.
Barbados in a Nutshell
The island is quite small, 431km2 (34km in length x 23km in width). It is located just outside the Atlantic hurricane belt (which is always good to know), but it doesn’t mean it is immune to natural disasters. Last hurricane was in 1955 and last tropical storm hit the island in 2010.
It is an ex-British colony and became independent in end of 1966. English is the main language and most people we came across in restaurants and hotels have American accent. The population is simple and the houses are humble, but I didn’t see any homeless people or beggars. Ok, two people asked us for some coins, but it’s nothing like we see elsewhere. I actually felt quite safe there, haven’t seen or heard of pickpockets or anything like that.
There are a few links between Barbados and Brazil (nothing that matters, but Brazilians always like to know that they have links with other places), some of them being the origin of the name Barbados – rumour says that it was given by the Portuguese who stopped that en route to Brazil (this is one of the stories) – and the other is the usage of molasses, (Melaco em Portuguese), made of sugar cane, apparently also introduced in Barbados by the Brazilians. Not sure what the origin of sugar cakes is, but it is very popular in Brazil (coconut + sugar/condensed milk) and from what I could see, also sold in Barbados as a local delight.
In terms of seasons, the hotels use the terms “winter” (December to May), which is also the dry season – and the best time to visit the island, but also when flights and accommodation are more expensive – and “summer” (June to November), or the wet season, when, as the same says, rains more.
Unlike several of the Caribbean island, Barbados wasn’t formed from volcano eruptions. It is a result of two plates (Atlantic and Caribbean) bumping into each other for several years. The result is that Barbados is composed mainly by coral – can be seen in almost every beach. Caves and Gullies are also common in the island.
Driving in Barbados
We had a car at our disposal, which, for us, was very handy. As a ex-British colony, the driver’s seat is on the right and you have to drive on the left of the road. I didn’t even notice that until the 3rd or 4th day driving around.
Most of the roads are very narrow – with exception of one or two highways – and not very well signalised. We got lost several times, even with map and a GPS on the mobile. If you have a child in the car that requires attention and you still have to be the co-pilot reading maps and signs, I would suggest checking the route before leaving and paying extra attention to the tiny signs on the road. I promise, sometimes they are so tiny that you can only read them once you missed them. Also, ask the pilot to drive slowly on crossroads, etc. It helps to read the road signs before it’s too late.
Parking (especially on the West Coast) can be a pain. Several beaches have just a narrow pathway as access and they are not the easiest to figure out. Most of them don’t have parking and you need to find a street opposite the beach and/or park on an empty land.
Being a Caribbean island, the main attraction are the beaches, of course. There is something for everyone – surfers, go to the east cost, families go to the west coast, everyone is welcome in the south coast. But if you have a car, just go everywhere, even if just to have a look and take pictures.
Here are the beaches we visited (as in stopped and stayed for a while) during our stay in Barbados. All of them have chairs and umbrellas to rent and at least one kiosk to buy water or food.
Worthing – we stayed here, so it was the one we visited the most. Not very child friendly and most of the people there were guests at the several hotels, who just wanted to soak in the sun and read a book.
Accra – beach next “door” to us, we could have walked but we went by car. It’s the only one with nice parking (and the one we got asked for money twice). The sea is shallow and wave-free, but there are loads of corals at the bottom, which annoyed me a bit (my feet hurt). Towards the far left of the beach, there is a small natural pool, great for little ones. We also had a drink at the bar in front of it.
Mullins Bay – this was a recommendation from the hotel. It is a tiny strip of beach, very calm, but also very busy. It was empty when we got there (we went to the beach quite early), but there were several boats offering turtle cruises – unfortunately we didn’t go, but the prices asked were 100 Barbados dollars per adult, for a 2 hour trip. Some of the had glass bottoms for those who don’t want to swim with them. Jet skis are also very “popular” around there.
Paynes Bay / Sandy Lane – Also a calm, wave-free beach, but very busy in terms of boats and jet skis. We had to get out of the way a few times so the boats could get closer to the shore, which was annoying. Also, lots of corals and a bit too deep for younger children. But lovely sea and strip of sand. It was very hard to find the entrance to these beaches – according to the guide, it is via Sandy Lane number 1, but we couldn’t find it! It’s a big building (not sure if it’s a private block of flats or a hotel), with a tiny sign on the gate. You can park just opposite it, cross the road and walk to the beaches. To your left is Paynes, to the right is Sandy Lane (with a huge resort by the beach). There is a fresh shower at the end of the path, so you can remove the salty water and sand before going back.
Crane Beach – hubby read somewhere that is considered one of the 10 best beaches in the world. The guide above just says “one of the best beaches in the world”. Although it is really nice, with wide sand strip, great sea, good infra-estructure, I would say that “one of the top 10” is a bit of an exaggeration of the “marketing team”. It is probably the best beach we’ve been to in Barbados. 🙂
At the top of the cliff there is some sort of village – called Crane – with a resort, some restaurants, coffee shops, shops, etc, and can be accessed by a “panoramic” lift or steps. We have lunch at the L’Azure and the view was very nice (a bit windy after some time there, as we were outside but in the shade). We were meant to go to this beach again, but we got lazy. 😛
Gallery with photos of the beaches: