barbados travel guide
Barbados. Where do I begin.
I had been to the Caribbean before; once on a never-to-repeat-again spring break trip to the Bahamas and another on a super fun family vacation to St. Maarten. Barbados, however, was different.
The island beamed with sunshine from sun rise to sun set. The weather forecast called for ‘heavy rain’, which we soon learned meant brief, five-minute showers in 80-degree weather. The island was coated in beautiful pastel buildings (SUPER unique architecture), lush green land, and electric blue water.
My boyfriend Bobby and I stayed at the Bougainvillea Beach Resort. We found the resort listed on almost every travel site we searched on (we booked with Expedia, for those curious). What stuck out the most was the resorts consistent 4.5-star rating and rave customer reviews.
The reviews were right.
Bougainvillea is located on the south coast of Barbados on Maxwell Beach (about twenty minutes from the Bridgetown airport and very close to other popular destinations on the island, particularly Oistins and St. Lawrence Gap). We arrived at the resort early morning on February third (redeyes fo’ life) and were amazed by the resort’s cleanliness, proximity to the ocean, and large pool areas. The resort had that ‘you’re inside but actually outside’ feel which I LOVED. We checked in and went to our room – again impressed. The room was huge, super clean, stocked with amenities, and had a large balcony overlooking the ocean (with two recliner chairs that we spent a LOT of time lounging on).
Bougainvillea has two restaurants onsite: Siam Bar and Restaurant and Calabash Café. We ate at Calabash our first night there and enjoyed a variety of American and Caribbean themed dishes. Both restaurants sat right on the beach along the resorts premise. My boyfriend and I enjoyed both meals but preferred or meal at Siam. We ordered traditional Thai dishes like cashew chicken and shrimp fried rice and made friends with a wandering orange kitty we later named Caramel. And if anyone asks, we weren’t the ones feeding him chicken all night….
Bougainvillea has a sister resort, Sugar Bay, which is located not too far away in the Garrison Historic region. We also had the chance to dine at their two beach front restaurants: Sizzle Steakhouse (which is as it sounds, a steakhouse) and UMI (an Asian- fusion restaurant).
To be frank, our trip to Barbados was perfect. Each day we bounced back and forth between the ocean and the pool, fresh rum punches and diet cokes, and competitive ping pong matches and long beachfront naps. #choices
A piece of the trip I’d like to highlight – because I think you all will find it interesting – was a super cool day trip we took to the western central part of the island. We were graciously invited for cocktails and lunch at the Lancaster Great House in St. James by home owners John and Rain Chandler. The estate is one of the oldest buildings in Barbados, and the Chandler’s converted the space (their home) into a culinary experience offering a ‘plantation buffet’ lunch every Thursday and Sunday as well as dinner parties each Friday evening.
When we arrived, we were brought straight into the garden where we enjoyed craft cocktails (probably a bit too many) and funny talking parrots. Yes – talking parrots (three of them!). They were stubborn, but we eventually got one of them to say hello! Bobby desperately tried to get one of them to repeat the word ‘savage’. As you’d expect, it didn’t work.
After the cocktail hour, we were taken to the most beautiful dining room. The settings were colorful, and the room was decorated from floor to ceiling with fresh flowers…John told me the bundles were picked earlier that morning and would only last the day (he picked them himself, this guy had such an eye for design and elegance).
The buffet was served in four courses: a soup course, fish course, main course, and dessert. We enjoyed many unique, traditional Bajan foods like callaloo soup with fish and crab (I loved this), buljol (a type of fish salad), Caribbean chicken, flying fish, coffee rum cake, and my favorite, Caribbean breadfruit pie.
Are you wondering what the heck breadfruit pie is? I was. It looked a lot like a potato casserole and to be honest, it tasted like one too. After lunch I asked John what it was, and he explained that breadfruit is a starchy fruit found only in tropical trees. He took me to the window and pointed towards the gorgeous, massive tree in his front yard. The breadfruit was picked from his own tree that morning. Talk about farm to table.
All in all our first trip to Barbados was a success and it won’t be our last trip. I’d highly recommend staying at either Bougainvillea (not all inclusive) or Sugar Bay (all inclusive) if you are considering a trip to the island in the near future.
If interested in any of the resorts or restaurants mentioned above, see below for helpful links. I’ve also noted some useful travel tips.
- No need to exchange currency as a lot of the locals take US currency. The Barbados dollar is converted at the rate of around $2.00 BDS to $1.00 US – easy math! There were also ATM’s all over the place that Bobby and I used a few times.
- There is no Uber service on the island (maybe this was obvious to you?) but there is no shortage of cabs waiting at resorts, restaurants, etc.
- For general information on Barbados, visit the Official Tourism Guide website.
- Our resort, Bougainvillea, was not all-inclusive. If you are looking for an all-inclusive within this hotel group, check out Sugar Bay (where we dined for two nights, as noted above).
- Lancaster Great House was a unique dining experience and was well worth the day trip (mainly for beautiful views and delicious authentic cuisine).