East Coast Beach
| ||Maps provided by
Got questions? Cruisers share about Barbados.
Find Caribbean cruise deals
View 844 port reviews of Barbados cruises
Read more about Caribbean cruises
Barbados is occasionally called "Little England," and with good reason. While other Caribbean islands were passed among colonial powers like so many hot potatoes, Barbados flew only one flag -- the Union Jack -- for over 300 years until it gained independence in 1966. Traces of the British invasion remain in Barbados -- in the native tongue, in the cars driving on the left side of the road, in the Anglican churches found in every parish. But perhaps the greatest evidence of the British influence is, well, the British tourists. Barbados is a prime playground for Brits on holiday -- not to mention a healthy proportion of Yanks and other international visitors as well.
Away from the big resorts and tourist hot spots, though, Barbados is a thoroughly Caribbean island, complete with lush tropical foliage, colorful chattel houses (portable houses where plantation workers used to live) and a laid-back, "why hurry?" attitude. Despite heavy development along the western and southern coasts, the rest of the island is full of sweeping natural vistas -- from rippling fields of sugarcane in the interior to the Atlantic surf pounding against the cliffs at the island's northernmost tip. The island rewards independent exploration; rent a car or hire a driver to see its unspoiled side.
Though today the sugarcane fields speak more to the island's past than its present (tourism, not agriculture, now drives the Barbadian economy), visitors can still experience the island's heritage at a number of plantation houses and rum distilleries. If you'd rather skip the history lesson, there are plenty of places to just get away from it all, from Bridgetown's duty-free department stores to the soft white beaches of the south coast.
Print the entire port review.
Other Southern Caribbean Cruise Ports:
Antigua • Aruba • Barbados • Bequia • Bonaire • Curacao • Dominica • Grenada • Guadeloupe • Martinique • Nevis • Port of Spain, Trinidad • San Juan • St. Barts • St. Kitts • St. Lucia • St. Vincent
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the Barbadian dollar, with a conversion rate of about $1.99 Barbadian to $1 U.S. American bills (but not coins) are accepted nearly everywhere, though you may get change in local currency. ATM's are plentiful in Bridgetown, the capital city, and in other smaller towns throughout the island.
Try Barbados-brewed Banks Beer or a shot of Mount Gay Rum.
Where You're Docked
Ships dock at the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal, about a mile west of downtown Bridgetown.
The cruise terminal has the usual duty-free shopping options, complete with jewelry, clothing, souvenirs and crafts. There's also a tourist information desk and a telecommunications center with phone, Internet and postal services.
A few minutes down the road is Pelican Village (Princess Alice Highway, 246-427-5350), housing artisan boutiques and a working cigar factory. It's closed Sundays.
On Foot: The capital city of Bridgetown is a one-mile stroll from the cruise port, and its downtown area is pedestrian-friendly.
By Taxi: Cabs line up outside the port terminal. You can arrange informal driving tours of the island with a cab driver, giving you a local's insight without having to do your own driving. Negotiate the rate before you start and be sure you know which currency is being quoted; expect to pay about $30 U.S. an hour.
Renting a Car: Z&S Car Rentals (246-429-8491) offers free drop-off and pick-up from anywhere on the island when you reserve in advance. Rates start at $50 a day. Adam's Car Rentals (246-427-3883) is another alternative, located a few minutes from the cruise port. Remember that Bajans, like the Brits, drive on the left.
By Bus: Barbados' bus system covers much of the island and is a remarkably cheap way to get around ($1.50 Barbadian per ride, no matter how far you go). The Bridgetown bus terminal is about a 10-minute walk from the cruise port; from there you can hop a bus to Holetown, Bathsheba, St. Lawrence Gap and elsewhere on the island. Note that you must have exact change or purchase tokens from the terminal in advance.
The capital city of Bridgetown feels a bit like a miniature, Caribbean-esque London, especially along Broad Street, the main shopping drag. Prices are duty-free at Cave Shepard and Harrison's, department stores that stock a bewildering variety of goods like spices, made-on-island pottery and clothing. (Note: To get the duty-free prices instead of paying the much higher local prices, show your cruise card or airline ticket.) History buffs should head for St. Michael's Cathedral, the island's "father" church, and the bronze statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square (which has recently been renamed Heroes Square).
Or take the 45-minute Mount Gay Rum Tour at the rum maker's Bridgetown visitor's center (246-425-8757, Monday - Friday 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.).
For lovers of sun, sand, surf and a "scene," check out Holetown, midway up Barbados' "platinum" coast. This western side of the island is lined with one gorgeous resort hotel after another, from the oh-so-exclusive Sandy Lane (Tiger Woods rented the whole property for his wedding in 2004) to the boutique Lone Star. Beaches are public everywhere. There are plenty of artsy-crafty souvenir boutiques; we like the colorful Chattel Village. You can enjoy a waterfront lunch at a number of area restaurants and bars.
Ride the electric tram through the otherworldly chambers of Harrison's Cave, a naturally formed phenomenon where you can see bubbling pools, craggy stalactites and streaming waterfalls. Advance reservations are recommended (call 246-438-6640 or reserve online). Note that the cave may soon be closed for upgrades to its facilities, though exact dates have not been set; keep your eye on the cave's Web site for details.
Check out the island's natural beauty at one of its botanic gardens. Orchid World (Highway 3B, St. George Parish, 246-433-0306,daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.) lives up to its name, with thousands of exquisite blooms. Combination admission is available to both Orchid World and Flower Forest (St. Joseph Parish, 246-433-8152, daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.), where you can see a wider variety of flowers (and, if you're lucky, a few monkeys!). A bit further afield (but worth the trip) is Andromeda Botanic Gardens (St. Joseph Parish, 246-433-9384, daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.), showcasing palms, orchids and waterfalls with lovely views of the island's east coast.
Welchman Hall Gully (St. Andrew Parish), a national park, is a nature watcher's paradise, with numerous species of birds and monkeys singing and chattering overhead. Walk the nature trail among groves of bamboo, nutmeg and clove. Daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Tour Francia Plantation House, a traditional 19th-century Barbadian home. Gun Hill, St. George Parish, 246-429-2871. Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Been There, Done That
Cruise shore excursions usually bypass gorgeous North Point because of how far it is from the port, but it's well worth seeing if you rent a car or hire a driver. On the ride up you'll drive through St. Lucy Parish, in the heart of Barbados' agricultural region; grown here, in addition to the ubiquitous sugar cane, are onions, squash, cucumbers, beans and cotton. At North Point, the Animal Flower Cave (named for sea anemones found in its pools) is one attraction; the view is quite another. Waves bash against dramatic 80-foot stone cliffs, sending spumes of water in all directions.
Another choice for the independent traveler in search of Kodak moments is Cherry Tree Hill; after winding through a grove of mahogany trees, you'll come to the second-highest point on the island, overlooking the white-flecked Atlantic surf and a valley nicknamed "Scotland" for its rolling green hills. Then head downhill and continue with a drive along the magnificent Atlantic coastline.
Earthworks Pottery (Edgehill Heights, St. Thomas Parish, 246-425-0223) is located mid-island -- not exactly convenient, but worth a detour. (Note: You can also buy some of its pieces at Cave Shepherd or the cruise terminal's Best of Barbados boutique.) The studio produces one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces such as vases, microwave-safe dishware and decorative items. Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Next door the Potter's House Gallery, located in a blue and white chattel house, showcases Caribbean crafts made out of clay, glass, fabric and metalwork. There's an adjacent cafe.
Take a picnic to Farley Hill (St. Peter Parish), a pleasant national park dominated by the ruins of a manor house that was gutted by fire in the 1960's. It's called the house of 100 windows because its owner wanted to please his wife by building a palace that would capture light from every angle. From a pagoda on a hilltop, there's another great view of the Scotland district and the Atlantic. Daily 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.
For hikers, the Arbib Heritage and Nature Trail (advance reservations required; call 246-426-2421) offers a lush view of Barbados' interior. Guided walks are available; one takes hikers through town, while the other visits both town and gullies. Walks take place on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
If your ship has a late departure, indulge in "high tea" at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion (Porters, St. James Parish, 246-422-5555), served daily between 3:30 and 5 p.m.
Best Beach for a Half-Day Visit: The gently curving Brighton Beach, also known as Weiser's Beach (Weiser is a popular beach bar), is visible from your cruise ship; it fronts the Caribbean.
Best Beach for the Dedicated Beach Bum: At Payne's Beach, there are plenty of beach cafes, bars and places to do anything from renting snorkeling equipment to going parasailing. On the southern part of the east coast, Crane Beach, with its cliffs, dunes and pink sand, has received accolades as one of the Caribbean's prettiest beaches; it's a great place for body-surfing. Rockley Beach is another option; there are plenty of beach games, including pretty serious volleyball competitions.
Best Secluded Beach: Tons! The most romantic beach is actually a collection of them, five miles along, that are strung along the east (Atlantic) coast between Belle Plain and Bathsheba. The surf is too rough for swimming, however. For romance and easy surf, check out the stretch in Holetown between Sandy Lane and Payne's Beach. On the island's south side, Harrismith Beach and Bottom Bay (both in St. Phillip Parish) have beautiful cliff sides, palms and caves; take a picnic. Batts Rock (St. Michael Parish) is also a great secluded beach that doesn't get a lot of traffic.
The Waterfront Cafe (246-427-0093) is Bridgetown's best-known restaurant. On the waterfront at the Careenage, it's open Monday - Saturday from 10 a.m. and serves everything from flying fish to mushroom pasta.
The Tides Restaurant (Balmore House, Holetown, 246-432-8356) offers elegant waterfront dining along Barbados' Platinum Coast. Try the steamed flying fish Creole or the marinated sashimi salmon salad, or surprise yourself with the catch of the day.
The simple motto at the historic Hotel Atlantis Restaurant (Bathsheba, 246-433-9445) is ABC -- All Bajan Cuisine -- and it works. Sample local favorites like pumpkin fritters, steamed fish Creole and breadfruit casserole as you watch the Atlantic surf pounding onto the beach below. Sumptuous lunch buffets are offered on Wednesdays and Sundays.
At The Fish Pot (Little Good Harbour, St. Peter Parish, 246-439-3000), a relatively new addition to Barbados' west coast, wobbly-looking pillars extending out into the Caribbean offer the ultimate waterfront seat. Feeling decadent? Treat yourself to the grilled lobster.
Cocomo's (Holetown, 246-432-0134) is a casual beachfront bar and restaurant with a laid-back vibe and great flying fish sandwiches. It's one of the more reasonably priced alternatives in this glitzy area of the island.
Make a pit stop at the John Moore Bar (Weston, St. James Parish, 246-422-2258), where you pull up a stool, order fried fish (if it's a Saturday, try the "pudding and souse" -- comprised of the ears, head and snout of a pig that's boiled and then pickled with cucumber) or just sip a rum and Coke. Then prepare to catch up on local political gossip or religious debate. John Moore is known to attract everyone from the Bajan fishermen that ply these waters to the prime minister to local ministers who stop off to say "hello to the boys."
Big Splurge: Barbados' most luxurious resort is Sandy Lane (St. James Parish, 246-444-2000), on the island's Platinum Coast. A chauffeured limo brings you from the airport to a Palladian-style mansion on the beach, where amenities include multiple golf courses, a world-class spa, and plasma televisions in every room.
Middle of the Road: If you're looking for an all-inclusive experience without the Sandy Lane prices, try one of the island's two Almond resorts. The sprawling Almond Beach Village (Heywoods, St. Peter Parish, 800-4ALMOND), which fronts the Caribbean Sea on Barbados' west coast, offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities (golf, aqua bikes, squash, snorkeling) as well as a Kids Club that will please everyone from infants to teens. Couples looking for a quieter stay should head down the road to the intimate Almond Beach Club & Spa (Vauxhall, St. James Parish, 800-4ALMOND), an adults-only resort with a spa that offers a full complement of treatments from massages to seaweed baths. Guests at either resort can enjoy the facilities at the other for no extra charge.
On a Shoestring: You won't have to pay for any of the fancy extras at Peach and Quiet (Inch Marlow, Christ Church Parish, 246-428-5682) -- just a serene oceanfront location and friendly service from the property's owners and staff. On site are a reasonably priced restaurant and bar.
Staying in Touch
There is Internet service at the port (look for signs to the Telephone Center). You can also try the JAS Internet Cafe (Broad St. Mall, Bridgetown, 246-431-0127).
Best for Families: Get up close and personal with Barbados' friendly sea turtles. Kids will enjoy feeding and snorkeling near these gentle giants. This excursion is often combined with kayaking, swimming or sailing.
Best Package Deal: Sail on a Barbados Black Pearl pirate cruise aboard the Jolly Roger I. This four-hour themed cruise features a sail down the West Coast, snorkeling and swimming with the sea turtles, a BBQ buffet lunch and open bar. You'll even get to "walk the plank" and take a few rope-swing jumps from the ship. Plus, you'll get picked up and dropped off right outside of the cruise port. Tip: Mention Cruise Critic for a 10 percent discount.
Best for Active Travelers: Book a scuba adventure, or take a canopy tour of Barbados, via zip line, for a bit of an adrenaline rush.
Best for Historic Highlights: To learn about Barbados' rich history, consider a highlights tour, which will likely consist of trips to the Parish of St. George, home to more than 20,000 orchids, and Sunbury Plantation House.
Best for Animal Lovers: Visit a wildlife reserve, where you'll encounter monkeys, deer, tortoises and hares, among other native animals.
Best for Foodies: Check out Bridgetown, National Heroes Square and the Houses of Parliament on your way to dine on a four-course, gourmet lunch at Sunbury Plantation. There, you'll learn about the rich history of the 300-year-old sugar estate.
Best for Alcohol Enthusiasts: Learn all about how rum is produced when you visit Mount Gay. Follow that up with a tour of the Banks Brewery, and try some natively brewed beer.
Best for Underwater Adventures: Check out Barbados' underwater life with a 100-foot-deep trip below the surface in a submarine.
Best for Golf Nuts: Play a round on the links at Sandy Lane, one of Barbados' top golf courses. Experience this 6,600-yard, par-72 course with the help of a cart and a caddie.
For More Information
Contact the Barbados Tourism Authority at 800-744-6244
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Barbados
The Independent Traveler: Caribbean Exchange
Updated by Sarah Schlichter, Associate Editor for Cruise Critic's sister site, IndependentTraveler.com.
Photo of North Point appear courtesy of William Gottobrio and Sarah Schlichter. Photos of Bridgetown, green monkey and East Coast beach courtesy of Jim Smith.