Colors, seductive landscapes and a blue ocean is the first thing that comes to mind when I think back about Barbados. For generations this tropical island has been known as a perfect winter escape and favorite jet-setter’s playground.
The nature is overwhelmingly beautiful the year around, but the best time to plan a visit is during the dry season (January-June), so start packing!
Where to stay…
The über luxurious mansions with an army of staffers on the West coast were outside of our budget, however, it is a favorite choice of Hollywood’s elite and socialites. I found 2000$ per day price tag a bit too steep. On the flight over, I met a couple that rented a villa where, allegedly, Robbie Williams staid before. One evening we were invited over and I could see why… it was spotless, with infinity pools, security guards, top chef and housemaids. I still relive that evening in my head.
To accommodate the ever rising tourist pilgrimage, investors put up spectacular hotel resources overlooking platinum beaches and they seem like a more grounded option.
I longed for a home away from home experience. Place were we could occasionally cook and dine outside with direct access on the beach. Maxwell Beach Villas were the absolute answer! In fact, we liked it so much the first time, that we ended up coming again. Safe, pleasant, with beach views and security guard around…pure perfection.
I have never seen anything half as beautiful! Getting a rental was the best decision we made. It was a sheer stroke of luck that our temporary home was located on one of the best hidden gems of the Island, but driving around made us realize how different one side of the coast can be from the next: Crane Beach on the West coast, Browns Beach, surfers favorite choice Batsheba with big braking waves, the Hastings boardwalk for a lovely evening stroll and our repeated choice Maxwell Beach. The scenery was so fabulous that I was dragged to it like a magnet. Soft rolling waves, heavenly scent of frangipany in the air and warm breeze… I was mesmerized.
Swimming with the turtles
Early in the morning we hopped on the boat waiting for us in front of our place to go swimming with turtles. A few days before we saw a couple of neighbors coming back with the same company and they looked as if they had the best time of their life. The owner arranged a pick up with us and suggested that the best time to go snorkeling is bright and early, since many catamarans full of tourists pass though the bay and turtles retreat after being fed so much. The incredibly friendly couple that worked the boat drove us along the coast line. The island was gorgeous, but seeing it from the water side was completely different experience. A charming place of villas and palm trees and long views across the water…I felt so grateful being able to experience this overwhelming beauty. After a while, the men jumped in the water and started throwing pieces of fresh fish and the turtles showed up for a free meal. Unforgettable…
The hilly center is some what reminiscent of the Highlands with botanical gardens and underground caverns, hence the nickname ‘the Scotland District’.
Hunts Gardens and Nursery
Castle Grant, St. Joseph, Barbados
I was seriously contemplating moving to Barbados after visiting Hunte’s Gardens. It was lovely, perfect. I wanted to live there! A rain forest surrounding a house which the owner turned from an original horse stable. One can wander for hours, occasionally resting on one of the seats scattered through-out the place. At the end of the tour we were offered lemonade on the tray of freshly picked flowers. Smell of lemons lingering in the air, picked from the trees minutes before being pressed, seared in my memory forever. My very own Proustian moment.
Barbados Wildlife Reserve and Orchid World
Any self respecting nature lover and keen photographer, myself including, cannot miss Orchid World and the Wildlife Reserve. I was flipping over the span of 20 000 different kinds of orchids in the most vibrant colors imaginable! AND the cute animals from the Wild Reserve who graciously give all their portrait rights away for just a few peanuts, literally! As a grand finale, the seductive plantation on the exit made me go bananas.
Limegrove Lifestyle Center
Holetown, St. James
Barbados, West Indies
I witnessed tourists swarming off luxury cruise ships and half skipping half trying to compose themselves heading for shopping.
If Mallorca is known for the best pearls, Antwerpen for the best diamonds, than Barbados is known for the best emeralds. The west side of the Island is sort of tropical version of 5th Avenue with the shop names like Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Armani… I figured, since one shops VAT free on the spot, its basically saving money… I bet, its the sort of thing any shopaholic thinks right before the intervention.
Colorful history and and rum plantations…
Coming from the airport, the first thing I noticed was the architecture of the Island. It was an open history book. On the one side, owners of the plantations built magnificent properties that to this day stand the time to testify about wealth as well colonial regime, and on the other side chattels, wooden cottages that were meant to be dismantled and easily transported from one plantation to next. They were owned by poorer society members, but despite humble appearance and size, they add such a charm to the Island. Often painted in bright, lively colors gingerbread house impression comes to mind.
St. Nicholas Abbey
Cherry Tree hill
St. Peter, BB 26007, Barbados
We made a day out of visiting St. Nicholas Abbey- a rum plantation with the great house which is an architectural gemstone. Its one of three Jacobian style mansions remaining in the Western Hemisphere. The owner designed the tour showing an old film footage of the British coming to the Island and settling. Its interesting to see how it all looked in 1658 when the house was built. We picked up few bottles of rum on the way out and they made an effort engraving the bottles.
Tee off at 5 stars golf resort
Sandy Lane St.
I’d never golfed before in my life, but hearing that one of the world’s renowned golf courses was an arm reach away, I had to see what the hoopla was about. Although, the game did not stick with me, it turned out to be much harder that I expected, I was enchanted by the beauty of the terrain and stunning views of the platinum coastline. A helpful caddy took care of the equipment, so I had no excuse just to roam around the grounds and take pictures (which were my plans originally). But, truthfully, if one is a golf enthusiast, than your company will see very little of you after coming here.
Waiting for a mesmerizing sunset
… is well worthy. Watching orangy light slowly slipping on the horizon makes you feel jealous that we, who live on the Continent, never get to experience it like this. I used to drive to a different spot every day and observe it in a different setting, just to avoid feeling sorry to have missed it later.
10528 Oistins Main Road
I wanted to discover more of the local cuisine and typical food locals are queuing for.
The Oistins fish market was the starting point. Overwhelmed by colors, sounds and smells of grilled seafood all around we looked for a small joint called ‘Uncle George’. Supposedly, the best and only open on Friday night. Queues for freshly caught marlin, sword, tuna, mahi-mahi were at times hours long, but well worth it! Their home made tartar sauce is a well kept secret and it has left some serious Francophile’s speechless.
Browns Gap, Rockley
Christ Church, Barbados
Next on the list was Shakers. The menu and the atmosphere reminded of family’s Sunday supper. On a rare occasion a tourist finds this little restaurant, since it’s a little bit off the beaten track. Shrimp in tempura batter served alongside baked potatoes with Bajan spice coating and coleslaw dressed with pineapple juice– was the kind of food I kept going back. Unpretentious, flavor packed, yet so original! It’s a locals hang out. their tables continue growing as the night goes on and the new diners arrive. They stay quite late and share their tales of Islands gossip.
Turtle Bay, Hwy 1B
Bombas is real hidden gem, though… it has a bit odd working hours, but your patience will be rewarded once you try their fish chowder, fresh lobster or my favorite: scallops seared to the perfection with a ginger scallion marmalade… and the fact that the ocean is an arms reach from your table is just the cherry on top!
The Island is known as an exotic wedding destination. The minister will preform the ceremony on your chosen location and as it happens quite often its on the beach at sunset. Golf courses, charming rum plantations and resorts are next in demand. One can not wish for more romantic venue.
Party like a Bajan
First of August is Barbados’s annual carnival. In the past it commemorated the plantation owners custom of allowing a day for celebration after the sugarcane crop was in. In sequins and skin hugging spandex costums paraders dance their way through the streets of Bridgetown. Locals are immensely proud of this carnival and take it very serious with costume preparations, sometimes starting months ahead. It`s one of a kind experience with few thick heads the next day.
2 EdgehilHights, St. Thomas, Barbaos
Weather is a small pottery trinket, a handmade gift, an art work, or a lovely baggy of typical Bajan spices, you can find something unique for anybody on your list at a very reasonable price.
Lemongrass Noodle Bar
Limegove, Holetown Street, Barbados
Delicious Thai and Thai-inspired food to take away or enjoy on the airy balcony. Five starts!
Until next time,