Instead of staying at our usual venue of a hotel with amenities, we chose to stay at the New Haven Mansion — a U-shaped collection of Spanish style apartments with lush gardens, overlooking a courtyard with pool. Although the decor was a little bit tired, our very reasonably priced 2-bedroom apartment had a kitchen and very large screened-in living area where we spent a lot of our indoor time.
Our apartment was just a few steps across the street from beautiful Gibbs Beach — a great place for snorkeling with children with shallow water and a reef very close to shore. Adjacent Mullin’s Beach is also very nice and good for snorkeling, as is Payne’s Beach further south.
A refreshing morning hike at scenic Flower Forest provides some great panoramic views, botanical splendor, and photo ops.
In the heat of the afternoon, go underground to cool off at Harrison’s Cave. An electric tram scoots you around, providing places where you can get out to explore and take photos of the stalactites and stalagmites, streams, deep pools, and waterfalls.
For shopping, we liked a quaint little shopping area in Holetown called Chattel Village. Each colorfully painted shop has its own distinct look of a chattel house. It was a fun place to spend a morning and have lunch and there were lots of souvenirs and local artist wares to buy. In a shop called Best of Barbados, I discovered the stunning works of local artist Jill Walker. I purchased her book of watercolor paintings of life in Barbados as well as some of her other pieces.
Do spend at least a day driving along the east Atlantic coast of the island. The roads are in good condition, but there are not a lot of signs, so be prepared to take a few wrong turns. We found the locals very friendly and willing to put us on the right path. One of our most revisited Caribbean stories is recalling asking a Bajan young woman for directions. She said, “Drive ’til you get to da ting dat look like a zebra and take a right.” So we kept our eyes peeled for a zebra, and totally cracked up when we came to a black-and-white striped road-end sign!
On the Atlantic coast you’ll find lots of deserted white sand, palm-lined beaches with sparking aquamarine water. Take caution, especially with children — the Atlantic waves are much rougher than the tranquil east coast of Barbados, and the undertow was too strong even for me. Despite the crashing waves and undertow, my favorite Caribbean beach is on this coast — spectacular, postcard-perfect Bottom Bay. It’s just a short distance from the Crane Beach Hotel, where you can have fantastic brunch then head out to explore Bottom Bay’s beach and caves.
A 1.5 hour horse riding excursion offers a variety of panoramic hilltop views as well as a jaunt along the beach
THINGS TO DO AND SEE:
- Brunch at Crane Beach
- Hike in the Flower Forest
- Harrison’s Cave
- Lunch and a swim at Mullin’s Beach
- Snorkeling at Gibbs Beach &Payne’s Bay
- Souvenirs at Cave Shepherd
- Buy something by local artist Jill Walker
- Photograph gorgeous Bottom Bay Beach
- Snorkel with hawksbill sea turtles
- Jolly Roger Pirate Cruise
- Sunbury Plantation House
- Horseback riding on the beach
- Currency: Barbados dollar (BD$)
- Language: Queen’s English with Bajan lilt
- Time: Atlantic Standard Time
- Water: Safe to drink
- Weather: Avg. 75-85 degrees year-round