Barbados is one of the top beach destinations in the Caribbean and the western side of the island has gated communities, high rise hotel development and beach after glorious beach with windsurfing, scuba diving and swimming. But Barbados does have more to offer outside the resort gates and it is worth turning your back on the surf for a bit and catching some of the everyday life with a drive around the island. It is definitely worth visiting the parks and gardens, checking out the architecture, culture and the history of this vibrant land. Here’s five fun things to do in Barbados away from the beach.
If you are in Barbados between June and August 1 then you are in for a treat. This is the season of carnival. On Barbados the carnival is called the Crop Over Festival and for centuries has marked the end of the sugar cane harvest, a crop which has dominated the island’s economy since colonization in the 1600s. These two months are given over to almost continual partying and calypso competitions culminating in the “Big Commotion” or Kadooment Day on August 1. Local bands compete in multi-level events for the coveted Calypso Monarch Award which is announced and then all the bands take to the streets to perform late into the night. Along with the calypso there are contemporary performances, craft markets and food stalls. Carnival is the celebration of Bajan life.
Another local institution is Ostin’s Fish Fry which takes place every Friday night after 7pm. It all started with a simple food stall on the side of the road and has grown into a huge beach party with thousands of guests and 30 eateries serving local catches of marlin and tuna with Caribbean flavor and flair. There is a pleasing mix of locals and tourists, with the older citizens coming out to dine and dance under the stars. Traditional ballroom dancing is a Bajan favorite but there are also reggae bands as well. You can join the locals who come to play dominos and catch up with their friends.
For a glimpse into Barbados’s past, pay a visit to St Nicholas Abbey. The name is misleading as it has no church connections, rather it is one of the earliest sugar plantations on the island. The Abbey is a mansion built for the plantation’s owner in 1650 and one of the few Jacobean homes left in the world today. It has been occupied continuously and is beautifully maintained with a glorious garden and an avenue of ancient Mahogany trees. There is a working distillery on the grounds and it produces top quality rum from January through March. On a more sobering note there is a record of the ‘sugar and slave’ history which built Barbados, in the museum on site.
Head to the village of Bathsheba where there are two stunning gardens. The first, is Andromeda Gardens which is recognized as having one of the foremost collections of tropical plants in the Caribbean. It started as a private collection by a local woman whose family had occupied the land since 1740. There are 2.4 hectares of beautifully landscaped gardens with 600 different species of tropical plants from around the world. Nearby is the 53.6 hectare reserve of Flower Forest with many indigenous plant species and plenty of walks.
If you enjoy gardens you should also stop by Hunte’s Gardens. Will find this private garden located 20 minutes from Bridgetown. The property is nothing short of spectacular and is well maintained by the owner, Anthony. You will find hundreds of different specifies of plants and if you visit at the right time of year, the garden is full of color and exotic scents.
Finally try to get to Harrison’s Cave in the central uplands of the island. These limestone caves have formed spectacular crystalline stalactites and stalagmites over millennia. You can catch an elevator to these fairyland depths and tram through beautifully lit caves visiting the Great Hall, a cave over 30 meters high filled with limestone formations.
As you can see there are plenty of fun things to do in Barbados away from the beach. But believe me, you will want to get some of that in as well – The beaches are some of the Caribbean’s best!
Do you have any other fun things to do in Barbados away from the beach?