I’ve been to Barbados once in my life, Stayed at the best hotel on the island, bumped into a footballer or two, and ate in some of the famous restaurants inches away from where we stayed. A lovely holiday, but I can’t really say I knew much about the locals or the island from that stay.
This time was different. I had my favourite travelling partner with me, the other half, the one who takes me out of my comfort zone and shows me the world from a different perspective, never one to keep to the tourist track, he always ventures down the road less travelled, discovers new places, and makes me want to return to discover more. So read on for my top tips on seeing Barbados the island rather than Barbados the resort.
The journey to an Amber country during Covid pandemic
Tests needed: Fit to fly test to go out there, test when you arrive, then you’re free. Another fit to fly home then tests day 2, 5 (test to release Amber zone) and 8. As I write this, Barbados is now Green so day 5 and 8 tests are no longer necessary but Day 2 testing still stands.
Heathrow airport: it was nice and quiet at 9.30am, Duty Free was almost like a personal shopping experience. Masks were obligatory and everyone was keeping their distance, There wasn’t the mele that I was expecting.
The plane was sparkling clean, think it was a refurbished Boeing 777 with new business class club suites. We travelled there in World Traveller plus with 7 other people in our cabin. There was no one near us and so to be mask free as much as possible, I just kept drinking and eating. A few G&T’s, a roast chicken and a few glasses of wine (and water) later we landed and rolled off the plane.
Barbados airport: We were met with organised chaos, one queue for all, with distancing, for temperature checks, paperwork checks and collection of colour coded wristbands to show your vaccination and testing status. The queue stood still and the relevant people came to you. We needed proof of vaccinations, a negative test result and a completed Barbadian health form. We also had to complete another whilst in the queue. You then got a choice of waiting at the airport for your test or going straight to the hotel and having the test there.
We took the latter and quicker option, as our hotel had a COVID testing centre. Read about where we stayed here. That was the best option if you can take it. The whole process only took about 40 minutes from start to finish and everyone was so happy to be there that the experience was very pleasant! We booked our tests for the return journey at the hotel too, so no stress finding somewhere to have this done either.
What we did
Generally those who stay on the West ‘stay on the West’. My tip………if you stay on the West please don’t actually ‘stay’ on the West for the whole time. Get out and about, the island is only small and from West to East or South to North is no more than a 40/60 minute drive. There is so much more to see on the island rather than the usual haunts we all know.
We found St Lawrence Gap, a lovely long windy road full of buzzing bars and restaurants, and a beautiful view of the Caribbean Sea in most places you eat.
Champers -In Bridgetown/Hastings area. Definitely one of my favourites. Preferred it to the Lone Star. Different atmosphere, different style and different crowd, definitely more locals, and a beautiful restaurant where we had an amazing corner table over the ocean. ££££
Mimosa – Here we had sunset cocktails in my favourite bar, mainly because of its colourful decor and delicious Bruschetta (pronounced Broosketta!).We returned here once more. ££
Cafe Sol – We ate here twice, a relaxed Mexican restaurant, again with delicious food and also a huge cocktail menu. Happy hour was 5-7 and most of the restaurants were busy at this time. They don’t seem to eat too late here which suited us fine!. ££
Baby Doll – Another lovely bar in Bridgetown, right on the Richard Haynes boardwalk so great for people watching. We had scrumptious BBQ ribs and fish tacos here and a delightful glass of Whispering Angel to wash it down. ££
6 Mix: A great sports bar to watch the England/Scotland match (we won’t go there). Screens all around the bar, with 2 matches on at the same time, when necessary. That was confusing! We met Mark, the owner of the best restaurant on the East, Marco Polo, who sorted us out with a view inside, as we hadn’t booked for a Friday afternoon viewing. Be warned. £
Barbados Blue Dive School was down South, right next the the Hilton hotel and the island famous Cuzz’s fish bar. Serving the best fish cutter in town. Basically it’s a grilled fish fillet with lettuce and tomato and a spicy sauce in a bun. £
Diving is good here apparently, as is the snorkelling.
Oistins- Every Friday night in Oistins there’s a fish fry, where locals and tourists gather together to sample the fresh fish from one of the many stalls, and also listen to some great live music and watch the locals battle it out in the latest dominoes championships! Sadly, due to Covid, this wasn’t much of an event the week we had planned to go, but driving through, you could see how good it would be in ‘normal’ times.
This is where most of the high end hotels are. Most of the beaches are still suffering from a seaweed influx, bigger than a morning sweep will resolve, but hopefully this isnt going to be a year round phenomena.
Sea Shed – We had a few Sunday’s at the Sea Shed beach club/restaurant. Booked two sun beds and a table for lunch and placed ourselves there for the day. As we were staying on the East, it was easier for us to arrive here around 11am and stay until 8pm when the sun went down. These were our favourite days, very chilled and great to see how the Bajan parents spend Father’s Day, glass in hand with the kids in the sea! Lovely beach here, no seaweed, quite small and narrow but great lighting effects when the sun goes down. Top tips, take towels, sit and chill, watch the world go by, have some lunch and fall asleep late afternoon. ££££
For our second visit to the Sea Shed, we went to the Folkestone marine park (near the Fairmont Royal Pavilion) beforehand for a bit of snorkelling to see the sea turtles! You can also do this down South with Barbados Blue (see above) as part of an organised turtle and wreck tour, but we preferred to go freelance, I had my own personal guide. My OH, who always holds my hand underwater as we snorkel to make sure I don’t drift off! One day he’ll let go! I’m a qualified scuba diver but hate it now, so snorkelling is the next best thing.
Lone Star – Of course we couldn’t visit the West without a meal at old classic Lone Star, after a cocktail at the bar, we sat down and enjoyed a very tasty meal, this was one of the most expensive of our meals. You pay for the location and views as well as the food and drink here. The more famous Cliffs restaurant had closed and the more casual Cliffs Bistro/beach club had also closed. It’s been knocked down and is awaiting it’s next fate under new ownership. ££££
Take a drive down to Rhianna Drive, have your photo taken outside the house where she grew up. A narrow street, she lived in a modest house here, which is now a meeting point for tourists and Rhianna fans. Luckily we were alone when we took this photo!
Fusion – A bit difficult to find, but once we did it was a great Saturday night out! Rooftop restaurant, can be covered if necessary, outstanding sushi and thai food, service phenomenal and a definite food baby was born! ££££
This is somewhere we wanted to visit, but during our 10 day trip we couldn’t make the time, but thanks to Boris and our 5 day extension, we took a trip up to the East. Our driver David, (see below) took us out to Bathsheba on the East side. A lovely drive through the villages, down rocky roads that if we’d driven them ourselves would definitely have ended up in a row!! Past various landmarks all with their own stories, we ended up at The Roundhouse for lunch, with amazing views and a gorgeous restaurant. A surfers paradise, not that we are surfers, and thanks Annette for the recommendation of that one!
After a lovely lunch at the Roundhouse, David then drove us up the East Coast Road. Very beautiful, high enough to see wonderful views of the island, through a magnetic field apparently. We stopped the car, put it in neutral, but something pulled us back down the road, a magnetic pull of some sort, weirdly wonderful!
We ended up at the Animal Flower Cave, under the cliffs. It’s six feet above the high water mark, whatever that is, and you take 26 coral steps down into the cave, and wander around barefoot, as it’s very slippery, on the hunt for sea anemones, otherwise known as animal flowers. BB went for a swim, I wasn’t as brave, but it was a wonderful experience nevertheless.
Where we stayed
Have a look here to see my review of The Crane, Barbados
How we got around
We didn’t hire a car, even though nothing on the island is cheap, the cost of car hire for the days we’d used it far outweighed the cost of taxis, and The Crane has their own fleet of drivers on tap anytime you need them, so no need to wait around for taxis.
Our favourite driver was David, a friendly, knowledgeable and amenable man, who takes pride in his transport and his island. He was sure to ask us our favourite music so he could download the tracks and we had a few great karaoke sessions en route to wherever! (video to be uploaded!) He found us the sports bar 6 Mix, introduced us to those in the know, so we could get a table when we hadn’t booked and it was full! He escorted us to some unknown hidden gems, and on the way back from the North we stopped off at what is simply a roadside pub! David, the owner, welcomed us, and after a few beers together, we put the worlds to rights and were back on the road to our final destination for the day. Home, aka The Crane.
He’s known as the only driver with a PPHD, a professional pothole driver, you definitely need one of those, he is also one of the most positive people I have met, (Leslie from our yacht excursion last year round the French Caribbean was another). He calls potholes body massages, rain is liquid sunshine, and rather than get irate when he’s driving, he tells the bikers and motorcyclists to go safe when they pass him rather than shout obscenities at them like we would in the UK!
The Bajans are a very friendly and very polite bunch of people, the island is safe to walk around, and the locals are very grateful and respectful towards tourists.
What was the weather like?
Middle of June is not yet the start of the hurricane season in Barbados, officially being July to November. The wettest month is August and the driest month is February. June sees the days being a combination of clouds, sunshine and maybe a bit of rain during the day, and a few evenings of big storms. We had a freak tropical storm during one night, not expected, scared the hell out of me, the OH snored on, and I jumped under the covers and into his arms for a bit of protection. The forecast said rain rain rain every day, and I stopped looking at it after a while and just looked out the window, where it was the complete opposite!! If I’m honest, the days when the clouds were there were few and far between and without them it was way too hot to sit still. It’s a humid heat and there was a lot of condensation in the rooms on stormy days.
The East side of the island and The Crane are particularly windy. Thank goodness is all I can say! Without the wind, it would have been much harder to chill.
Not sure I’d like to go too much later in this season, but it’s worth a chance if you don’t mind a bit of everything (except hurricanes, although Barbados is a low risk of hurricanes as they usually pass to the North.)
As I’ve been writing my blog, it’s been sunshine all the way, occasionally the afternoons get cloudy, but it’s always warm, and if it’s relaxation you want, come sunshine or rain, this is the place to be. We will definitely return here, and almost certainly stay back at The Crane, once you get to know the wonderful staff and the places you like to go to, it’s a perfect place to return, with no settling in period, you can just get straight down to the rest and relaxation you came for.
Thank you Barbados for being such a wonderful island full of lovely people.