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Aerial view of Barbados' Garrison Historic Area (Photo: Barbados Tourism)
The Garrison Historic Area in Barbados (Photo: Barbados Tourism)

9 Best Things to Do in Barbados for Cruisers

Aerial view of Barbados' Garrison Historic Area (Photo: Barbados Tourism)
The Garrison Historic Area in Barbados (Photo: Barbados Tourism)
Marissa Wright

Last updated
Apr 22, 2024

Read time
8 min read

Barbados is a popular port of call on Eastern Caribbean cruise itineraries, and there's no wonder as to why. There are numerous things to do in Barbados which include something for everyone, from history buffs and foodies to naturalists and beachgoers. B'dos, as the locals call it, is brimming with culture, natural beauty, welcoming faces, delectable cuisine and beyond.

Deciding which Barbados excursions to indulge in while there can be a daunting task. Here's our list of the best things to do in Barbados to help you create unforgettable memories on your cruise vacation.

1. Visit Barbados' Historic Bridgetown and Its Garrison

Parliament Building in Bridgetown, Barbados (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Barbados' Parliament Building in Bridgetown (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see for many cruisers. Constructed throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, it’s a sprawling network of 115 buildings that transports visitors back in time.

Historic Bridgetown streets and buildings flow in a grid pattern, and the buildings are a buzzing hive of activity. The district is now home to many businesses like restaurants, banks, malls and other thriving industries, but history buffs can still explore the old parts of the city and soak in its unique history.

When heading to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are a few can’t-miss buildings: Blackwoods Screw Dock, Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum, Barbados Museum and Historical Society, and the Charles Duncan O’Neal Bridge has a great view.

Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison is a short 10-minute taxi ride from the cruise port. Many independent historical walking tours can be booked online and offer pick-up and drop-off at the port. Cruisers can also check with the shore excursions desk to inquire about ship-sponsored walking tours and activities at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Foodies Can Sample Local Caribbean Cuisine in Speightstown

Barbados is well-known for its Caribbean-style cuisine with dishes like cou-cou, flying fish, pudding and souse. While your cruise ship buffet may include some Caribbean classics, we recommend heading straight to the source and sampling it from the island itself.

Head west to Speightstown on the Platinum Coast to get a taste of Barbados' emerging culinary star. Speightstown is the culinary darling of the island. It's a 30-minute drive from the Barbados cruise port and well worth it for foodies. Choose from down-to-earth pubs with standard but delicious meals, or opt for a fancier night out at one of the many gourmet eateries.

Those seeking delicious Caribbean dining closer to the port can head into the capital city of Bridgetown to experience the local cuisine. Bridgetown has a handful of top-rated restaurants to choose from and most possess that relaxed Caribbean vibe.

3. Lounge on White Sand Beaches in Barbados, like Crane Beach or Bottom Bay

Bottom Bay, Barbados (Photo: Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock)
Bottom Bay, Barbados (Photo: Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock)

Beach days are synonymous with the warm tropical locale and are one of the top things to do in Barbados.

Crane Beach has something to offer every traveler and is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in Barbados. Crane Beach is on the island's southeastern coast and has a picturesque backdrop of crystal-clear waters and rugged cliffs. The waters are usually calm so visitors can enjoy water activities like swimming and snorkeling.

Crane Beach is a 40-minute drive from the Barbados cruise port. Be sure to leave room in your schedule to make it back on time for departure.

You’ll find Bottom Bay about a 45-minute drive from the cruise port, another beautiful beach. Bottom Bay has all classic Caribbean beach features like palm trees, soft white sand, turquoise waters and scenic cliffs, along with a more secluded vibe and fewer amenities, as it's more off the beaten path than other popular beaches.

Note that Bottom Bay is only accessible via a staircase that cuts through the cliffs and takes visitors to the beach.

While Crane Beach and Bottom Bay are two of Barbados's most celebrated beaches, some options closer to the cruise port offer similar activities. Brandon’s Beach is a five-minute drive from the port and is the perfect spot to catch the sunset.

A 10-minute taxi ride south of the Barbados cruise port, you’ll find a few beaches right outside Bridgetown that are ideal for water sports. Pebbles Beach and Brownes Beach are great spots for kayaking, paddle boarding or just enjoying your favorite beverage in the sand.

There are many cruise-operated shore excursions that offer transport to stunning beaches around Barbados, and some even include island tours, picnics and more. Check with your cruise line shore excursion desk for more details on their beach excursions.

4. Explore Harrison's Cave and Animal Flower Cave in Barbados

Harrison’s Cave is known as one of the top Barbados attractions due to its crystallized limestone cave and crystal clear pools. There are two ways to explore the eco-adventure park: by tram or the more adventurous option by spelunking (crawling, walking and swimming through the caves).

The eco-adventure park has other fun activities like zip lines, nature trails, a bird aviary, rum-tasting and more. It’s a great way to spend the day with a group or family.

Cruisers can book a shore excursion to Harrison’s Cave through their cruise line, or book directly and arrange your own transportation.

Animal Flower Cave is a less popular but equally fun natural seaside cave with beautiful rock pools and cave exploration. Cruisers can book a local independently-operated tour to safely explore the seaside cave and learn more about the natural formations.

Both caves have restaurants and modern amenities as well.

5. Wander Through Two Botanical Gardens: Andromeda’s Botanic Garden and Hunte’s Gardens

Barbados is home to not one but two diverse gardens. You can stroll around the exotic botanical gardens and appreciate the verdant greenery that is hard to find anywhere else on Earth. Andromeda’s Botanic Garden and Hunte’s Gardens are both beautiful botanical gardens in Barbados and welcome guests year-round (except holidays).

Andromeda’s Botanic Garden, the oldest and largest garden in Barbados, is home to rare plant species and has 20 connected gardens over eight acres. It's located on the opposite side of the island, which is about a 40-minute drive from the Barbados cruise port, so we recommend planning the day and renting a vehicle or booking a taxi.

Hunte’s Gardens is hailed as “the most enchanting place on earth” and allows guests to explore mini-gardens with rare exotic plants and spot unique wildlife. It’s an excellent destination for cruisers seeking tranquility in a beautiful tropical setting. The garden is about a 30-minute drive from the cruise port in Bridgetown.

Shore excursions are available through some cruise lines to visit Andromeda’s Botanic Garden. For visits to Hunte’s Gardens, we recommend booking a local independent tour or creating a DIY excursion.

6. Hike the Welchman Hall Gully in Barbados

P&O Cruises Arvia in Barbados ahead of her naming ceremony (Photo: Christopher Ison)
P&O Cruises Arvia in Barbados ahead of her naming ceremony (Photo: Christopher Ison)

Welchman Hall Gully is a great location on the island for a hike like no other. It’s an almost mile-long cliff path that gives hikers an excellent overview of the verdant jungle. The trail is suitable for most hikers, from amateurs to seasoned pros. About 75 percent of the trail is wheelchair accessible.

Not only is this a hiking spot, but you can also watch monkeys being fed on a specially built platform, allow children to play in the Children's Adventure Park and admire the location where the grapefruit was created.

Welchman Hall Gully is about a 30-minute drive from the Barbados cruise port. There is an admission fee, which varies depending on age, if visitors are locals and other specifics. Some cruise lines like Norwegian offer a Welchman Hall Gully shore excursion that includes a naturalist guide, while other cruise lines recommend booking an independent tour or creating your own excursion.

7. Surf at Soup Bowl and Go Snorkeling or Diving at Folkestone Marine Park in Barbados

Break up the monotony of “normal” shore excursions with surfing in Barbados at the Soup Bowl. The beach has some of the best waves in the Caribbean for skilled surfers with the waves getting up to seven feet tall. Soup Bowl is an excellent spot for experienced surfers and beginners can get their surf on at safer locales like Freights Bay.

If you’re not an experienced surfer, you can still enjoy a free show and watch surfers with serious skill ride the waves.

Many water-based excursions take you out into the water to explore marine life. Some of the top-rated snorkeling and diving experiences are at Folkestone Marine Park. The area is home to flourishing marine life and even has a sunken ship that some tours stop to explore.

8. Enjoy a Rum-Tasting Tour in Barbados

Tidal Rum on P&O Cruises Arvia (Photo by Adam Coulter)
Tidal Rum on P&O Cruises Arvia (Photo by Adam Coulter)

Rum-tasting is a way of life in Barbados and one of the best things to do while you're there. There are many distilleries, but the top two are St. Nicholas Abbey Plantation & Rum Distillery and Mount Gay Rum Distillery.

Visitors can take a full-blown rum-distilling tour, get a look behind the scenes and end with a tasting party to experience the rich flavors of Barbados-distilled rum. We recommend checking the opening times and availability of tours in advance because they are a popular activity.

9. Experience the Crop Over Festival (During the Summer Months)

The Crop Over Festival takes place across the island and is a three-month-long festival in Barbados that transforms a “regular” summer into one filled with Barbadian delights. The festival's roots mark the end of the sugar cane season when the whole island of Barbados celebrates the completion of the sugar cane harvest.

Today, the festival is marked by bright colors, food, concerts, parties, music, performances and more. If the stars align, you might even get to see the main event, the Grand Kadooment. The Grand Kadooment is a massive 10 km parade north of Bridgetown, with up to 15,000 participants singing, dancing and serenading parade-goers.

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