4 Days in Barbados: Where to Stay and What to Do in Barbados
Barbados is a gorgeous Caribbean island with friendly people, delicious food, and a distinct culture. A British colony until 1961, Barbados gained full independence in 1966 and became a republic in 2021. The most eastern country in the Lesser Antilles, Barbados is ideal for a long weekend getaway––think depart on a Thursday and return on Monday. Or, if you can work from anywhere, consider an extended trip to Barbados for several weeks and soak up as much of that Caribbean sun as possible.
While the west or Caribbean side of the island draws the most tourists, the east coast or Atlantic Ocean side is quieter, more remote, rugged, and untouched. The east coast can have rough waters, though, so save any swimming for the west coast’s calmer sea.
I wish I had more time when I traveled there, but I spent just four days in Barbados. Even on a short trip, I managed to see a good bit. Read on for the details!
Where to Stay in Barbados
I chose to not stay in a traditional hotel, but opted for a more local experience on the east coast instead. I booked an apartment at Santosha, a self-catering property in Saint Andrew with sweeping Atlantic Ocean views, especially from the upper floors. A grocery package through the hotel was the way to go, so breakfast and snacks were ready and waiting when I arrived. Santosha is a pin-drop quiet bolthole, truly a place to escape from it all.
If you prefer a small inn, I recommend The Atlantis or Round House on the east side of the island. Both are charming spots and will feel more personal than a large resort.
If you want to stay in resort on the west side where you’ll experience the turquoise waters that the Caribbean is known for, The Crane Resort is a luxurious property and also sits one of the nation’s most pristine stretches of coast. Another is the 5-star Sandy Lane. It’s also quite upscale, so this hotel would be an appropriate choice to splurge for a night or two as the rooms are pricey.
What to Do on a Trip to Barbados
There’s so much to see and do here. Since I had just four days in Barbados, I didn’t get to experience everything, but managed to explore several of the parishes and a few of the nation’s most iconic attractions.
One way to see a lot of the island in a short time, is to book a day-long tour. A tour is an excellent option for experiencing several Barbados attractions in one day, and you’ll have a professional guide to handle it all, rather than trying to navigate yourself.
As far as beaches, you’ll find incredible choices in Barbados. On the west coast, Bathsheba is one of the best and most cinematic with rock formations broken from coral reef. Surfers from all over the world visit the famed “Soup Bowl” at Bathsheba, to surf, of course. As mentioned, these west coast beaches aren’t for swimming due to their rough waters.
On the touristic west coat, Sandy Lane Beach (at the resort but the beach has public access), Mullins Bay, and Paynes Beach are arguably some of the most idyllic on the island, with sugary sand and calm aquamarine waters. These beaches are perfect for swimming, sunning, and coastal activities.
Animal Flower Cave, one of the country’s natural wonders, is another locale featuring breathtaking views. The tour of the cave is short, and if you’ve been inside caves, you might not find it fascinating. Since I had never been inside a cave, I thought it was very cool. I do recommend wearing sneakers when walking in the cave. Bajans wear flip flips without issue, but closed toes might save you a stub or cut. After you trek through the cave, grab a bite at the restaurant, which offers some of the island’s best views.
To witness Barbados’ wildlife in action, the Barbados Wildlife Reserve is a must-see. Set in a mahogany forest, this natural habitat is a relaxing and peaceful place to walk and connect with your surroundings. I saw dozens of turtles, plus peacocks, parrots, deer, green monkeys, chickens, and more.
While in Barbados, you have to visit Bridgetown, the capital, on the southwest coast. This small city is the busiest area of the island, so it’s the only real spot in Barbados where you’ll detect an urban vibe. It’s worth a day to explore the British Colonial architecture and browse some of the duty-free shops near the cruise terminals and have a Caribbean meal while there.
Of all the places I visited on my trip to Barbados, my favorite area was Speightstown, a parish in the northwest. It has a charming downtown dotted with restaurants, bars, and shops. A lot of local people were out and about, hanging out on the street and going about life. There’s also a small beach in Speightstown, great to grab a sunbath before or after perusing the town.
Dining in Barbados
Barbados is a food and drink-focused island, from tiny stops with limited hours to beach bars and more elaborate restaurants serving all types of cuisine.
De Garage Bar & Grill in St. Joseph is an under-the-radar place to experience homestyle Bajan fare and Barbados rum along with Caribbean hospitality. The tiny spot on Tent Bay attracts locals and visitors who can find it. I highly recommend it for a Barbados experience.
In Speightstown, Fisherman’s Pub cooks up fried seafood, macaroni pie, and fish rice, among other local dishes. Big portions and reasonable prices draw crowds to this buffet-style eatery on the main drag. This casual spot is vegetarian and vegan-friendly and caters to gluten-free diners, too.
You’ll find great restaurants in hotels as well. The historic Round House (in its eponymous inn) is ideal for a late lunch with a rum cocktail or a glass of wine. Enjoy your meal outside and watch surfers ride the roaring waves in the distance.
My favorite dining experience was at The Atlantis (also in the hotel by the same name). I dined there on the first night and loved it so much, I returned for dinner on my last night. This upscale yet laid-back restaurant serves fish cakes, flying fish sandwiches, catch of the day, and for meat eaters, grilled sirloin steak. The staff at the Atlantis were warm and welcoming––I made some friends by the time I left. This hotel and restaurant is also located in Bathsheba, which is about a 15-minute drive from Santosha.
Bridgetown, as the capital, is loaded with great places to eat. But as a tourist, it’s impossible to even make a dent in the culinary scene unless you choose to stay in Bridgetown and eat most meals there. I suggest a walking food tour that allow you to taste your way through the city and explore some tried and true Bajan fare in off-the-beaten-path restaurants.
On regret I have is missing Oistins fish fry, a Friday night tradition on the island. The timing didn’t work for me, but on my next trip, I will have to plan to be there on a Friday night to partake in this weekly Bajan event in Christchurch. From what I know, it’s super casual and one big party. Locals grill and fry all types of fish, including tuna, lobster, marlin, and mahi mahi. A bottle of Banks beer–Barbados’ brew–– is the perfect pairing.
Since the island is just 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, a drive from one end or one coast to the other is entirely doable, even during a short stay.
In a few days, you can cover a lot of Barbados. To get around, I recommend renting a car to explore the parishes. Venture from the south to the north and through the heart. Much of the island isn’t developed, so expect unpaved roads and a wildly beautiful landscape.
Use a driver at night as many roads are not well marked or well lit. I don’t recommend trying to navigate on your own after dark. Your hotel can connect you with a taxi service or driver.
What to Know About Visiting Barbados
English is the official language, but some natives speak Bajan––an English-based Creole––which is challenging to understand. But most folks you’ll encounter will speak excellent English, so communicating should be pretty straightforward.
The currency is the Barbadian dollar. One Bajan dollar equals 50 cents in US dollars. You can use US currency all over the island, but you’ll receive change in the local currency.
Barbados is one of the safest Caribbean nations. While I wouldn’t wander around late at night alone, I felt very safe there. I found Bajans to be super friendly and welcoming, and eager to share their food, drink, and culture, and help any way they can.
True story––I lost my phone the first night I was there. Talk about going into panic mode when you are in a foreign country and you realize you don’t have your cell phone. I had left it outside by the pool at Santosha and once I got to the restaurant I realized I didn’t have it. Well everyone knows everyone in Barbados, apparently. The staff at the hotel contacted my driver, Valance (amazing driver, by the way, and such a nice guy), who contacted the security guard at Santosha and he was holding my phone safe and sound. He had found it after I left to for dinner. So I had my phone back later that night.
Barbados is an amazing little nation and I would love to go back and see more.
Have you been to Barbados? I’d love to hear about your experience.