Our first visit to the beautiful Caribbean island of Barbados took place last spring. We visited this incredible island with our three teens/pre-teens. I had been wanting to visit Barbados since I was a little girl and my mother and father visited without me. Their photos showed an amazingly lush and beautiful island…and despite the passing of years since their visit, Barbados remains one of the most beautiful islands we’ve ever experienced.
While it would undoubtedly be wonderful to be able to experience and relax in Barbados for a week or longer, the number of Caribbean cruises visiting the island makes it totally possible to enjoy Barbados for just a day. Unlike many other island countries in the Caribbean, the size of Barbados allows visitors to drive around the island in just a few hours allowing for a unique activity in the morning with an afternoon of exploration of the whole island.
Morning Exploration of Barbados by Sea
We recommend that you start your amazing visit with one of our favorite activities on the incredible west coast of Barbados. The west coast rests on the Caribbean Sea and is blessed with beautiful beaches and mostly calm waters. There are many tour operators that offer private or group catamaran tours along the west coast departing from or near to Bridgetown. If arriving by cruise ship, it is an easy transfer from the cruise dock. We recommend that you make an advanced booking for a tour that holds your interest based on the number of guests, activities and meal options offered and price of the excursion. Whichever catamaran company you book, you’re bound to have an incredible experience snorkeling and relaxing in the Bajan sun. Our catamaran excursion was our favorite Barbados tour.
The catamaran company we booked provided snorkels and masks as well as floating noodles which helped those of us that weren’t quite comfortable swimming/snorkeling without assistance. There were also a few people who weren’t comfortable in the water but they still thoroughly enjoyed their excursion while spending the entire time on the catamaran. The group on our catamaran ranged in age from 10 to 60s but if you’d prefer an all-adult experience, there are companies that offer those as well. We traveled with our teens and pre-teens and every member of our family just loved it.
The main attraction on your Barbados catamaran excursion is the opportunity to snorkel with sea turtles. The waters of Barbados are filled with incredible sea life but it’s the majestic sea turtles that keep calling us back. These trusting creatures aren’t the least bit shy. While not in abundance, they swim around making friends with all who visit. Our group was small and we floated with the sea turtles for over a half-hour. They also swam close enough to the catamaran that those that chose not to enter the water also had a chance to see these incredible sea creatures. While snorkeling there’s also a chance to see starfish, stingrays and all kinds of colorful fish. Depending on the catamaran cruise, you may also have a chance to snorkel above mysterious sunken ships. Many sunken ships are actually quite close to shore. Because the waters are relatively shallow, snorkelers can get pretty close to them. It is incredible to get an up-close view of the coral and sea life living in and around these ships. Most of the catamaran excursions will also provide an incredible array of traditional Bajan food including local coffee and breakfast items like banana bread and coconut bread and lunch items including flying fish, macaroni pie or the national dish of Barbados, cou cou (like polenta or grits with okra) and salt fish. All catamarans will also have their own amazing rum punch. The food we had was absolutely delicious! Even our kids enjoyed it.
Afternoon Exploration of the Island
Once you’ve returned to shore, it’s time to explore the island. While it’s fairly easy to drive in Barbados, we recommend hiring a driver/tour guide in advance. It will ensure you don’t get lost and will allow you to enjoy your visit to the max. I’m sure any local guide or taxi driver would be happy to meet you at the catamaran dock. Just make sure to confirm a price before you start exploring.
Your afternoon around the island will allow you to experience local crafts, stunning geology, incredible views, and historic plantations. Everything that makes Barbados such a beautiful island.
Your first stop needs to be Earthworks Pottery. This incredible studio is located less than 10km from Bridgetown. Earthworks Pottery is sold worldwide but a visit will open doors to the creation and design of this beautiful earthenware. The location in Barbados doubles as a workshop and a pottery boutique. The artisans are incredibly sweet and happy to show visitors around the workshop while explaining the different steps involved in creating Earthworks pottery. They brought us through the workshop showing us each step in the creative process from making the molds to painting the beautiful designs. Make sure to shop in the boutique before you leave. You’re sure to find a unique souvenir to remember your visit.
Your next stop is located on Barbados east coast. Resting on the Atlantic Ocean, the small fishing village of Bathsheba experiences wild winds and waves which result in a majestic windswept shore with incredible rock formations. This is one of my favorite locations in all of Barbados. It’s truly a photographer’s paradise! If you enjoy Instagram, it’s one of the most instagrammable locations in Barbados. While this is one of the main stops for tour buses, if you walk even a few yards/meters along the shore you’ll have this beautiful place all to yourself. You’ll find large coral rocks that broke away from nearby coral reefs thousands of years ago. Today, these incredible rock formations almost look unsteady as they balance in the water. Make sure to walk as far as possible along the shore to take in the beauty from all angles. If you look closely, you may even spot some adventurous surfers nearby. But beware, the current is strong and the area is not recommended for swimming.
After exploring Bathsheba, for more incredible views, make your way to Morgan Lewis Mill and Cherry Tree Hill. Morgan Lewis Mill is the only remaining sugar mill in Barbados and the only one of two in all of the Caribbean. The gardens surrounding the mill and the views of the Atlantic are beautiful. From Cherry Tree Hill, a short distance away, you’ll have an incredible view over St. Andrew’s Parish and the Atlantic coast. The spot was named for the cherry trees that used to grow here. Today, the area is filled with beautiful mahogany trees.
Nearby you’ll find St. Nicholas Abbey, a sugar plantation that has operated in Barbados since the 1600s. Visit the Great House and ask for a guided tour. You’ll learn about the previous and present owners as well as details about the incredible local history. Wander around the back of the Great House to find the shop selling locally made St. Nicholas Abbey rum, a cottage industry commenced by the present owners of St. Nicholas Abbey. When we visited a “bartender” took the time to tell us all about the different types of rum produced and available at the shop. As it turns out, this was one of the present owners! We had no idea! Once exploring the types of rum available, continue to wander and explore the local distillery (ask the workers for a piece of sugar cane to try!). St. Nicholas Abbey Rum is the only rum in Barbados produced with sugar cane syrup rather than molasses! Since Cherry Tree Hill is a part of St. Nicholas Abbey (but still accessible to the public without access to St. Nicholas Abbey), the owners have recently installed a mini-train to take visitors around the plantation grounds and to enjoy the views of Cherry Tree Hill. It wasn’t operating when we visited but I’m pretty sure everyone, especially young children, would love to take the one-hour ride on the St. Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway.
Your final stop before finding an incredible restaurant for dinner is Animal Flower Cave. Located on the far north coast of Barbados, Animal Flower Cave is where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet. The views of the nearby cliffs and crashing waves are stupendous. For a small fee, a guide will bring you down a set of stone steps into a series of connected caves, created by crashing waves of the Atlantic. Inside, you’ll find small tidal pools and incredible views out to the Atlantic. As you continue walking carefully into the inner caves, you can even choose to swim in the cool cave waters if you wish!
Barbados as a whole is absolutely beautiful with an amazing history, kind people and stunning views. With only a quick stop in Barbados, you can have a chance to experience a little bit of everything Barbados has to offer. And who knows, it may very well spark plans for a future visit to explore this incredible Caribbean island a little further!