With the weather getting cooler in New York City, I have been reminiscing about my most recent vacation to the sunny and beautiful Caribbean island, Barbados. While September is deemed hurricane season, my friend Katie and I were pretty lucky in that the majority of the eight days we were there, we were bestowed with beautiful weather. Although Barbados isn’t a huge island (New York is almost double the size), there were a lot of activities to do (besides working on our tans and drinking rum punch). Below are the top spots I would recommend visiting.
St Lawrence Gap
The Gap is known to be the best area for nightclubs, and we were right in the middle of it. Upon arrival, we checked out our neighbourhood and found some great treasures. I would recommend the fresh swordfish cutters or flying fish and chips at Sand Dollar Cafe. You can stay or take your meal to go, to eat on Dover Beach.
Tip: Be careful with the Bajan hot sauce. When they say hot, they mean hot.
Around the back of Sand Dollar Cafe is Bright Light Beach House, another food and bev shack that offers freshly seared yellow fin tuna, on Wednesday nights. Nothing spells out relaxation vacation than dining on fresh fish on the beachfront, hanging out with the locals, singing karaoke, and enjoying a mango daiquiri (or five, since they are only BBD$5 each, which is USD$2.50).
Following dinner, walk up the street to where the nightclubs are. The Cove, Sugar, The Old Jam Inn, and Hal’s Carpark are the places to be.
Tip: If you get hungry after all the rum punch, there are many street carts selling jerk chicken and coleslaw burgers.
Carlisle Bay A.K.A Browns Beach
Regardless of the name, Browns Beach, it is far from it. With the water being so clear, this is the best place for turtle-spotting. You can book tickets for group catamaran tours or you can buy tickets to get on board the glass-bottom boat, where you can spot turtles. However, if you prefer to ball on a budget and would rather go swimming with the turtles, here’s a tip:
On Carlisle Bay, there are two lifeguard shacks. From the first shack to the left, swim out about 100 meters. The water is so clear, you’ll be able to see quite deep into the sea, even without snorkels. Don’t wear flippers, as this hinders your movement. Bring a board so you can camp out in the sea, moving gently. Katie and I did this and by chance, we happened to spot a baby turtle. We decided to follow it, and then all of a sudden, a group of four of five turtles appeared out of nowhere. It was the most magical experience. Be warned that although the turtles are harmless, they swim fast, and they swim close.
Across the way from Carlisle Bay is Pebbles Beach, near the Radisson and Hilton resort hotels. Prior to the Radisson resort entrance, there is a small fish shack called Cuzz Cafe. BBD$8 (USD$4) will get you a plain blue marlin burger with lettuce. Add BBD$1 for cheese (I think this is from New Zealand, as the local Trimart nearby sold Anchor cheese from NZ) or a fried egg.
Tip: I would recommend adding the cheese.
My mouth is watering, just thinking about how fresh the fish tasted.
The Boatyard is essentially a waterpark which consists of a sea trampoline, blow-up iceberg challenge, and a rope swing. How this place works is that you pay BBD$40 (USD$20) upon entrance, which is then reflected as 40 “credits”. You can use these credits to purchase food and beverages. A few tips, below:
Tip #1: The food is quite pricey here, so I would recommend getting a fish burger at Cuzz’ beforehand, and spending your credits on rum punch at The Boatyard. The Boatyard also offers chicken strips and fries for BBD$12, which are a good snack.
Tip #2: At certain times of the day, The Boatyard has a few happy hours, so ask the bartender what times those are. During happy hour, they offer 2-for-1 drinks, so your rum punch can cost you as low as USD$1.75.
Tip #3: Wednesday is the best day to go, as this is their Carnival day. Also, the cruise ships dock on Wednesday from 8:30AM – 4:30PM, so there are more people to mix and mingle with.
Oistins Fish Fry Markets
This is the place to be on Friday night. We spent the day at Miami Beach, before heading to Oistins Fish Fry Market at around 6:00PM. While waiting for our friend Simon (who we met at The Boatyard) to arrive, I bought a handcrafted coconut souvenir from a local, at a stall (after thoroughly checking that it would get through U.S customs).
We were told Pat’s Place was a good spot to eat, so we shared blue marlin and seared tuna with macaroni pie (a Bajan favourite) and coleslaw, teaming this with a glass of Mauby, followed by rum punch, of course.
This secluded beach is located on the southeast side of the island of Barbados. It is part of the Crane Resort hotel, and is known for its “pink sand”. Buy a coconut, walk along the beach, and jump off the cliff – if you dare.
Sam Lord’s Castle
Legend has it that Sam Lord, one of the most famous pirates of Barbados, purposely hung lanterns in coconut trees around the coast of his estate, located in the Saint Philip region of the island, so that passing sailors would think it was the Bridgetown port and sail in to the reefs, stranding and wrecking their ships. Buccaneer Sam Lord would then board the wrecked ships and steal from them.
The Castle was ruined by a major fire in 2010, but the exterior stands tall.
We only stopped by to snap a few photos, but this is definitely the place to take postcard images. No. Filter. Needed.
We had seen a few Chefette joints around the island, but only tried it at the airport, before leaving Barbados. It’s a fast-food joint, but not in the way that McDonald’s or Burger King are. It tastes fresh and delicious. Order a roasted chicken sandwich, down it with some sneaky leftover rum, and you’ll be good to go for the flight home.
Last, but not least, here are some additional tips for a fun and safe time in Barbados:
Transport: For those who prefer not to spend copious amount of money on taxis, an alternative is the minivan “ZR bus”. These ZRs are an easy way to get around the island, costing only BBD$2 per ride for an adult, or BBD$1 per ride for a child.
Aloe Vera: Buy some fresh aloe vera, to apply on your body prior to applying sunscreen lotion. It supposedly deters mosquito bites, and is also good to use as an after-sun, to lock in moisture in your skin, keeping it hydrated. Keep it in the fridge with the cap off. Note that the fresh aloe vera may turn pink, due to the change in temperature.
Learn to haggle: Note that a lot of the locals will offer deals for the glass-bottom boat tickets, jet-ski and paddle-boarding hire. The best offer we received for jet-skiing or paddle-boarding was BBD$20 for half an hour.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Rain: During hurricane season, the torrential downpours tend to last about an hour, and then the skies clear. If this happens while you are on the beach, find shelter for a bit – take a book, like we did, or playing cards. Once the rain subsides, you can get back to working on your tan.
Drink Rum out of a Coconut: Enough said, really.
Make Friends with the Locals: Personally, when I travel, I prefer to hang out with the locals to learn how they live. The amazing thing about Barbados is that most people know one another. Upon our arrival, we made friends with the locals at the different food shacks, down at The Gap, that throughout the rest of the trip, it was like visiting our new friends each time we went out for dinner. After our day at The Boatyard, we also made friends with an Australian living in Barbados, who offered to drive us back to our guest house. Later that week, we ran into her and her friends at Oistins, who made a highlight of our trip by showing us around the island, the next day. Shout out to Amelia, Mandy, Ben, Cheria, and Gary!
Being my first “island vacation” where I could unwind, relax, and not need a vacation from my vacation, upon return, Barbados was certainly a wonderful experience. I definitely recommend this Caribbean island to all, and for those that aren’t yet convinced:
- I have a tan that I’m going to try to hold on to all winter;
- I have 2 litres of Mt Gay rum, if anybody wants to reminisce with me and watch Pirates of the Caribbean.