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Activities, Barbados

There is something for every type of traveller to enjoy when it comes to the diverse pool of activities on offer in Barbados; from shopping in Bridgetown’s independent outlets and major stores to horse riding across the west coast against a backdrop of sunny landscapes. Whether you want to partake in watersports like jet blading on the beach or hop on a traditional Bajan Bus to explore, you can do it all here.

Bajan Bus

The colourful and unique, open-topped, Bajan Bus is the perfect way to see the best of Barbados. Originally used by the locals, the buses took passengers to various destinations around the island, including farmers who were heading to the market with their livestock.

In 1969, two entrepreneurs, Nick Rose and Martin Ince, decided to revive the last remaining old bus and put it back on the road as a tourist attraction. The Bajan Bus tours then quickly became very popular and more vehicles were needed, so Rose and Ince bought a rolling chassis from Simpson Motors, cut off the truck cabin and added a new specially moulded fibreglass front and back. Each bus was equipped with a well-stocked ice bucket bar and a top-of-the-range surround sound system.

Today, a number of these wonderfully multi-coloured Bajan Buses, also known as Reggae Buses, take visitors on various fun-filled excursions around the island.

Boat trips

The Barbados coastline is home to warm, crystal clear azure waters with ideal conditions for sailing, which is why there are so many scenic boat trips available for visitors to enjoy on this gorgeous island. Whether you prefer cruising on a luxury yacht, a sail on a sleek catamaran or a trip on a smaller monohull sailboat, you’re sure to find a boating activity to suit you.

One particularly popular catamaran tour sails from Bridgetown, taking its passengers to the Carlisle Bay area, just minutes away from the island’s friendly sea turtles. Then, sail along the beautiful west coast, passing the magnificent holiday homes of the rich and famous along the way.

Snorkelling tours are also a favourite with holiday-makers, where you’ll be taken out sea to snorkel amongst beautiful reefs and maybe even a small shipwreck if you’re lucky. This activity is truly amazing; you’ll see, feed and swim alongside a myriad of colourful fish, as well as green and hawksbill turtles.

For something a little different, why not take a trip on a Jolly Roger pirate ship? It’s great fun for all the family as you “walk the plank”, or use the rope swing to plunge into the sea. A buffet lunch is usually included on these trips, along with unlimited drinks, making them perfect for parties.

Cooking classes

Bajan dishes have a strong connection with English, Spanish and West African menus, but with a definite Caribbean twist. Local seasonings and spices are added to typically English ingredients, such as onions, potatoes, chicken and fish. So, what better way to learn how to prepare and cook authentic Bajan food than to join a special cookery class?

The national dish of Barbados is couscous and fried flying fish served with gravy, which is quite a simple meal to make and lots of fun with guidance from local chefs. They will give you step by step guidance throughout the lesson to ensure your meal has all the authentic taste of the Caribbean. You can then get to sit back, relax and savour the taste of your very own authentic Bajan dish.

Some classes also include shopping for your meal’s ingredients before the preparation and cooking, so you can venture to the market yourself. Learn how to fillet fish at the Bridgetown Fish Market, before returning to your host’s home to cook a delicious lunch and dessert. You can even learn how to make a genuine Bajan Rum Punch go with your meal – amazing.

Day trips

Many holiday-makers love to spend their entire trip to Barbados relaxing on the beach, but it would be a shame not to get out and take at least one day trip to see what else the island has to offer.

A full-day guided tour of the island gives visitors a chance to see and stop at different places, such as the stalactite and stalagmite-covered Harrison’s Cave, the spectacular Bathsheba Beach, Barbados Wildlife Reserve (with its famous Green Monkeys), the beautiful Hunte’s Gardens, Mount Gay Rum Distillery, Cherry Tree Hill and the magnificent St Nicholas Abbey.

Friendly, informative guides will tell you all about the sights you are seeing and answer any questions you may have about the island’s history. A stop for a delicious traditional lunch is usually included in the tour, too.

There really are so many places to visit, that one day will not be enough to see everything Barbados has to offer. So, why not allow yourself time to take a couple of days away from the beach to explore this glorious island?

Horse riding

A great way to explore Barbados’ neighbourhoods, plantation lands, cane fields and the scenic coastline is on horseback. Local riding centres here offer a variety of trail rides and scenic canters along the beach for both experienced riders and novices.

Most Barbados horse riding centres keep their groups small, enabling you to receive plenty of individual attention, should you need it. The east coast of Barbados is ideal for horse riding and Bath is a particular favourite. In fact, riders can often spot mongoose and green monkeys amongst the lush vegetation as they make their way down to Bath Beach, with its miles of coastline and cooling breeze.

The west coast offers more tranquil beaches, which are handily-close to the cruise terminal. So, for equestrian lovers, this is the perfect chance to enjoy a pleasant horse ride if you’re visiting the island for the day as part of a Caribbean cruise.

Alternatively, why not take the opportunity to ride through the Barbados countryside, explore the tropical beauty of the island or embark on a safari tour?

Island safari

A 4×4 jeep safari is one of the most exciting (and extremely popular) ways of exploring the beautiful island of Barbados, which you can experience on an Island Safari. Comfortable, specially-adapted Land Rover’s offer visitors the chance to see some of the more unique sights that other excursions are unable to visit due to their location.

Joining a convoy of other jeeps, each with its own driver and guide, passengers will set off to explore this spectacular island. You will travel across off-road terrains while being entertained by the guides with their humorous anecdotes and extensive knowledge of the history and culture of Barbados.

Visiting spots like Bathsheba, Edge Cliff and Joe’s River Forest, you will have plenty of photo opportunities before stopping for a traditional Bajan buffet lunch. Refreshments and snacks will also be served during your island safari, including the famous Jungle Juice (rum punch), beers, fruit juices and sodas. Most tours also include a beach stop to allow their passengers to take a refreshing dip in the sea before making the return journey.

Jetblading

Jetblading is a relatively new sport to Barbados, becoming more and more popular each year. If you love trying new things and are a bit of an adrenaline junkie, then this is definitely something you should try during your trip. So, why not visit one of the island’s jet blading schools and have a go at this exhilarating extreme sport for yourself?

Before taking to the air, you will be taught how to control this revolutionary flying machine. All flights take place under the safe supervision of trained instructors and everyone must wear a life jacket. Don’t worry if you’ve never learned to swim, it’s still perfectly safe to have a go – if you’re feeling brave.

You will be strapped into a hydro-powered jetpack, which creates a propulsion force, sending you soaring up to 15-feet above the sea. The instructors will then teach you how to control your flying trajectory with subtle dips and twists. Plus, you will have an amazing bird’s-eye view of Barbados from being so high up in the air; providing a truly amazing experience.

Shopping

Barbados’ capital, Bridgetown, is one of the island’s main shopping areas, with both local and international shops selling, clothes, shoes, crystal, jewellery and hand-crafted souvenirs. There are also pharmacies, banks, cafes, bars, restaurants and duty-free shops in abundance, so you are sure to find whatever you are looking for.

Image source: Flickr. Copyright Loozrboy.

Holetown – on the west coast, is home to some of the best high-end shopping on the island, thanks to its array of duty-free shops, designer boutiques and famous jewellery stores (such as Diamonds International and Little Switzerland). However, the west coast is also filled with local markets and quaint shops selling local arts and crafts, souvenirs and fresh produce.

If you are looking for a traditional memento to take home, one of the best places to visit is the Best of Barbados Gift Shops. This family-run business, with five shops on the island, stock many distinctive, Bajan-made souvenirs as well as jewellery, artwork, books and toys. The staff here are extremely friendly while the prices are reasonable, so be sure to pop along and see if you can pick up a bargain.

Submarine Adventure

For something a little bit different on your holiday to Barbados, why not take a trip in a submarine? One of the most unique and highly-recommended attractions in Barbados is the Atlantis Submarine adventure, based in Bridgetown. This amazing, family-friendly underwater experience is definitely not to be missed.

To start your adventure, take the 15-minute ferry trip to the dive site, where you will see the submarine surfacing ready for your voyage. Once aboard the submarine, you will be seated in spacious, air-conditioned comfort as you dive 17 metres into the ocean, amidst groups of colourful fish and sea turtles. Then, you will descend another 17-20 metres to view an amazing coral reef formation amongst a sunken shipwreck.

This 40-minute underwater experience is further enhanced by the cheerful chatter of the tour guides as they provide informative and colourful descriptions of the marine life and submarine itself.

Surfing

Famous for its holiday resorts, beautiful clear blue water and soft white sandy beaches, Barbados is also a perfect destination avid surfers. Whichever part of the island you are holidaying on, Barbados is guaranteed to have surf somewhere along its idyllic shores.

The east coast of the island, with its strong constant trade winds (especially Bathsheba and its famous ‘Soup Bowl’), is ideal for more experienced surfers. Whereas, the west and south coast offer great conditions for beginners or less experienced surfers. Surfer’s Point in Bridgetown has easy left-hand walls which break over the sand; making it a particularly popular beach for novice surfers, and the same goes for Long Beach in Inch Marlow and Freights Bay in Oistins.

Duppies, on the north-western tip of the island, has consistent waves and is ideal for intermediate surfers. Whereas, Tropicana, located on the west coast of Barbados is perfect for those seeking more of a thrill and a challenge. Whatever your ability, you are sure to enjoy riding the aqua-blue waves on one of the island’s tropical beaches.