Things to Do in Barbados

Barbados attractions and activities fit the bill for romantic West Indies retreats, family vacations, and everything in between.

Travelers looking to kick back on the beach or by an oceanfront pool are sure to have a good time in Barbados. Divers, snorkelers, and general-purpose ecotourists are also well served by the Barbadian land and seascapes.

Barbados, the easternmost island in the Caribbean Sea, draws visitors to its luxury resorts and villas, world-renowned golf courses, and (of course) stellar beaches and fine dining. The multicultural “Bajan” cuisine and music, shipwreck and reef diving, and a downright legendary rum industry are some of the other top draws.

From historical Bridgetown Barbados tours to marine-park snorkeling, the wide range of Barbados attractions gives this Lesser Antillean island its broad appeal.

The following guide will help you craft the perfect itinerary in the Rum Capital of the World. We’ve compiled the best things you can do in Barbados, from cultural sightseeing and outdoor adventures to surfside R&R.

What to do in Barbados? Top 12 Activities

Best Things to Do in Barbados for Families

Top Romantic Things to Do in Barbados for Couples

Uniquely Barbados Experiences

What to do in Barbados? The Top 12 Activities

There’s plenty to do in Barbados. Read on for a dozen of the best island experiences, above and below the water.

1. Take an Island Safari Excursion: Off-the-Beaten-Path Barbados Adventures

Overview:  Get a broad-range sense of Barbados’s diverse scenery on an adventure excursion with one of the numerous companies offering them, such as Island Safari Barbados. It’s a blast to explore the backroads on 4x4 tour vehicles.

Popular destinations on these sightseeing adventures include Edgecliff and its broad views, Little Bay and its blowholes, and Bathsheba with impressive rock formations and the Joe’s River tropical forest.

Duration:  Few hours to half a day.

Perfect For:  Families, groups, adventurous sightseers.

Why Go:  A sightseeing safari by truck or jeep is a fantastic way to see much of the island in a fairly short time. Having a knowledgeable guide to explain the scenery, history, and ecology along the way can enrich your overall experience of the place. And you can easily arrange private Barbados excursions.

2. Tour Barbados Beaches: Get Some Sand Between Your Toes

Overview:  It wouldn’t be a West Indian getaway without lots of quality time on some white-sand beaches, right? And Barbados has a ton of perfect examples. They’re nicely spread between the serene, mild shores of the Caribbean Sea on the west side and the rougher, wilder, and more rugged eastern shores facing the Atlantic ocean.

Among the numerous world-class beaches are the sands of Carlisle Bay, just a stone’s throw from the heart of Bridgetown, Dover Beach, the secluded and headland-cupped Bottom Bay Beach, the surfing mecca of Bathsheba Bay, and the “Platinum Coast” Caribbean beachfront of Paynes Bay.

Duration:  Half-day to full day. 

Perfect For:  Solo travelers, couples, families.

Why Go: The Caribbean beaches are better for swimming, the Atlantic ones are better for surfing and bodyboarding, though there are exceptions. All are fine for kicking back and enjoying some sand-between-your-toes relaxation, though.

Insider Tip:  There are plenty of more off-the-radar, local’s-favorite beaches in Barbados, including Drill Hall and Shark Hole. You should visit them to get a native taste of the place. 

3. Discover Barbados Wildlife Reserve & Other Parks: Munching Monkeys & More

Overview:  Have a West Indian safari experience at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, a roughly four-acre open-air zoological park within a handsome Saint Peter mahogany woodland.

Many of the reserve’s diverse creatures, from tortoises and iguanas to brocket deer and Barbados green monkeys, are free-roaming. Others, including the pythons and the residents of the walk-through aviary, are viewable in enclosures.

The Barbados Wildlife Reserve is one of several green spaces worth visiting for its natural beauty and tranquil vibe. In St. Joseph, for example, you might also visit the Andromeda Botanic Gardens, established many decades ago from the private collection of noted Barbadian horticulturist Iris Bannochie.

Another strong contender is the Hunte’s Garden—spectacularly lush, gully-set, and lorded over by royal palms—in the same parish.

Duration:  A couple of hours.

Perfect For:  Families, nature enthusiasts.

Why Go:  Both the young and old will delight in the up-close looks at the free-range animals in the Barbados Wildlife Reserve. The reserve isn’t huge, but the menagerie is nonetheless impressively varied.

Insider Tip:  Time your visit for the afternoon (2 PM-ish) to witness the commotion of feeding time. The monkeys are especially fun to watch at that time.

4. Go Snorkeling & Scuba Diving: Exploring Barbados’s Reefs & Wrecks

Overview:  With much of its coralline limestone shores encircled by reefs, Barbados is a fine place to slip into a pair of swim fins. Natural barrier, patch, fringing reefs, and numerous shipwrecks—including vessels intentionally sunk to form artificial reefs—come to life with marine life. 

There are many good places to sample the island’s underwater marvels. Two of the distinguished destinations for Barbados snorkeling and diving lie on the west coast.

Carlisle Bay Marine Park, a stone’s throw from Bridgetown, harbors natural and artificial reefs, including several wrecks in nearshore waters. Then there’s the Folkestone Marine Park, especially renowned for the purposely sunk SS  Stavronikita , a magnet for fish and turtles below a 120-foot water column.

Besides snorkeling and diving, both locations offer glass-bottom kayak tours for top-down reef-viewing. Folkestone also has a museum with an aquarium and other interpretive exhibits on local reef ecology.

Duration:  A few hours to half a day or more.

Perfect For:  Families, couples, photographers.

Why Go:  Snorkelers and divers can experience the marine life up close and witness the beauty of sergeant majors, tangs, groupers, scorpionfish, and seahorses as well as the elegance of green and hawksbill turtles.

Insider Tip:  Opportunities for diving and snorkeling in Barbados are year-round. That said, the summer months typically offer the best visibility: upwards of 70 feet or more.

5. Tour Harrison’s Cave: Getting to Know Barbados’s Limestone Underground

Overview:  Barbados’s limestone bedrock includes numerous striking caves, the best-known of which is Harrison’s Cave in Saint Thomas, set in the island’s interior uplands. Opened to the public in 1981, this extensive and ornate cave is accessed via the Boyce Tunnel.

While it’s easily one of the top Barbados attractions, Harrison’s cave isn’t the only island cave worth checking out. On the north coast, for instance, you’ll find a mesmerizing sea cave casting its spell. It’s known as the Animal Flower Cave, named after the sea anemones (“animal flowers”) within its pools.

Duration:  One to three hours.

Perfect For:  Couples, families, photographers.

Why Go:  Some of the most striking scenery on Barbados lies below its surface. Harrison’s Cave offers some eye-popping cave formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone of impressive stature.

An underground stream system, complete with waterfalls and pools, runs through its caverns.

Insider Tip:  You can arrange to be married within Harrison’s Cave—quite the unique wedding venue.

6. Go on a Fishing Charter: Tap the Bounty of Barbadian Waters

Overview:  With several hundred species of fish spread between onshore and offshore waters, Barbados is a fabulous place for saltwater angling. Barbados fishing opportunities encompass everything from laidback surf-casting to offshore deep-sea outings after big pelagics.

Commonly targeted gamefish include dorado, wahoo, bonefish, barracuda, jacks, bonito, tunas, and various billfish (including the legendary blue marlin). You can also find decent opportunities to cast for tarpon if you know where to look.

Speaking of knowing where to look, hiring a local fishing guide is highly recommended. You’ve got loads of choices when it comes to fishing charters, not least out of Bridgetown.

Duration:  Half-day to a full day.

Perfect For:  Angling fanatics, outdoors people, adventurers.

Why Go:  Dyed-in-the-wool anglers will love the chance to try for such sought-after Caribbean fish as wahoo, dorado, and marlin. But even if you’re only casually interested in sport-fishing, joining a charter can be an unforgettable experience: a way to explore the local high seas and experience the thrill of the hunt.

Insider Tip:  While Barbados is a year-round fishing destination, the all-around best window for the sport is January through April. Those months see peak numbers of many of the most coveted species.

7. Have a Picnic on the Beach: Sand-and-Surf Serenity

Overview:  Enjoying an informal  al fresco  meal by the seaside is another classic pastime in Barbados. While many beaches serve admirably as picnic spots, it’s hard to beat the sands of Philips Bay in Saint Philip. This south-shore cove beach is simply gorgeous, with perfect sands and whispering palms.

Duration:  A couple of hours.

Perfect For:  Couples, families.

Why Go:  A beach picnic lets you soak up even more time along those impeccable Barbadian beachfronts. Better yet, the Bottom Bay Beach adds a decent chance of spotting sea turtles just offshore to the mix.

Insider Tip:  If you’re at Bottom Bay for a picnic, don’t miss out on the cave. And unless you’re a very strong swimmer, stick to the beach itself: the surf here can be strong and dangerous.

8. Go Shopping: From Street Vendors to Malls

Overview:  Whether you’re just seeking a souvenir or two or you’re a genuine shopaholic, Barbados delivers. Bridgetown is a natural choice, with its dense spread of duty-free shops, department stores, and malls. And the nearby fishing village of Oistins is famed for its fish market.

Another great shopping destination is Holetown, known for its emporia, such as the West Coast and Sunset malls and the Chattel House Village.

Duration:  A few hours to a full day.

Perfect For:  Collectors, anyone seeking mementos or gifts.

Why Go:  Streetside stalls and mom-and-pop shops provide not just unique wares, but a taste of local culture.

Insider Tip:  Don’t miss Bridgetown’s Swan Street, packed with street vendors offering jewelry, crafts, and more.

9. Play a Round (or 10) of Golf: Enjoy Some of the Best Courses in the Caribbean

Overview:  Barbados is widely regarded as one of the best golfing destinations, not only in the West Indies but globally. That’s partly because of the year-round golf-friendly weather and the stunning ocean backdrops. But the island also has world-class greens, schemed up by top designers.

Among the island’s acclaimed clubs is the Barbados Golf Club with its Ron Kirby courses and Sandy Lane, host to the famous Green Monkey course. The island is home to the Barbados Open; the island regularly hosts other big-time tournaments, including the Eastern Caribbean Championship. In fact, Sandy Lane was the venue for the World Golf Championships World Cup 2006.

Duration:  Few hours to a full day.

Perfect For:  Golf enthusiasts, business travelers.

Why Go:  A Caribbean island makes a lavish place to tee off, to begin with, and the caliber of Barbados’s courses makes this a bucket-list destination for golfers. But it's an all-inclusive place with fine options for beginner, intermediate, and advanced play.

10. Watch the Sunset on the Beach: Nightly Barbadian Magic

Overview:  If you wanted to distill the magic of the Caribbean into one defining image, it’d likely be a surfside sunset framed by palms. The long, peaceful beachfront of Barbados’s western and southwestern Caribbean shores serves up this dreamy image every night.

Excellent sandy front-row seats for romantic beach sunsets on Barbados include Carlisle, Paynes, and Mahogany bays, as well as Drill Hall, Mullins, and Weston.

Duration : A (sensational) half-hour or so.

Perfect For:  Couples, photographers.

Why Go:  Well, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Watching the sun go down over the Caribbean with sand between your feet—maybe an umbrella drink in hand, too—is sheer bliss. Sunset-viewing is one of the no-brainer things to do in Barbados. And with a loved one by your side, it becomes all the more magical.

Insider Tip:  Up the ante by taking a stand-up paddleboard out from one of the west-side beaches during the magic hour.

11. Take a Rum Factory Tour: Explore the Heritage of Barbados’s Most Famous Export

Overview:  While not an uncontroversial claim in the Caribbean, Barbados is widely touted as the birthplace of rum. Without question, no place is more closely associated with that spirit distilled from fermented sugarcane juice and molasses.

The rum-making tradition dates back to sugarcane’s introduction to the island in the 1630s. Many experts acknowledge the Mount Gay Rum distillery, launched in 1703, as the oldest in the world.

With better than 1,500 rum shops and numerous distilleries scattered across the island, you’ve got plentiful options for exploring Barbados’s rich rum heritage. Several distilleries offer factory tours, well worth doing for anyone interested in the liquor’s backstory.

The Mount Gay Rum Visitors Centre in Bridgetown with its tastings is a good starting point, with tours of the historic Mount Gay distillery also possible.

Duration:  One hour or more.

Perfect For:  Epicureans, history buffs.

Why Go:  Barbadian rum is famed for its smooth, balanced character, and your average Bajan will surely claim it the best on Earth. Besides sampling some of the products in question, a rum factory tour also sheds light on the colonial history of Barbados.

Insider Tip:  Mount Gay may be better-known, but spare some time for St. Nicholas Abbey in Saint Peter. This former plantation is worth seeing for the 17th-century architecture alone but is also a working rum distillery open for tours.

12. Ride the Atlantis Submarine: Take a Deep Dive Out of Bridgetown

Overview:  Among the top attractions in Barbados, Atlantis Submarines gives guests the ability to see underwater sights otherwise available only to experienced scuba divers. From the Bridgetown dock, the double-decker  Ocean Quest  transfers you to the submarine: a 65-foot-long vessel with a capacity for 48 guests.

Eyes glued to the viewing ports, you’ll be taken down as deep as 150 feet. Sights include a shipwreck and sealife-swarmed coral outcrops. The submarine tour is fully narrated to make it all the more fun.

Duration:  About two hours (with 40 to 45 minutes of actual underwater time).

Perfect For:  Singletons to families, non-divers interested in Barbados’s marine realm.

Why Go:  Riding on a submarine is novelty enough for many visitors. Then there’s the experience of seeing a deep wreck, tropical fish, and coral gardens without the need to don scuba gear. There’s even a night submarine tour available that delivers a truly unforgettable experience.

Insider Tip:  For a double-hitter underwater/underground sightseeing experience, take advantage of the company’s combo package: a submarine ride  and  a Harrison’s Cave tour.

Best Things to Do in Barbados for Families

Chock full of kid-friendly attractions, Barbados is a great Caribbean island for family getaways. Here are our top picks for some of the most fun things to do in Barbados with youngsters in tow.

Water Activities & Sports

There are many fabulous ways to get out on the water in Barbados, and the calm Caribbean-side shores are especially family-friendly. Top-draw options include glass-bottom kayak tours and the surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, and paddleboarding lessons offered by Bodie’s School of Surf in Oistins.

Have Fun on the Beach

From sand-castle-making to swimming, a day at the beach is the premier family activity on Barbados, bar none. Among the beachfronts especially fine for the younger crowd are Accra Beach, Miami Beach, Barbados (aka Enterprise), and Surfers Point.

Discover Caribbean Marine Life on the Atlantis Submarine

Kids are sure to love the Atlantis Submarine voyage no matter what. The fact that they can see tropical fish and other marine life through the viewing ports is the icing on the cake.

Visit the Agapey Chocolate Factory

Ah, chocolate: an all-ages kind of crowd-pleaser. At the Agapey Chocolate Factory in Bridgetown, young and old alike will delight in the dark chocolates rendered with Barbados sugar and Caribbean cocoa.

Critter Encounters at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve

From caimans and pythons to flamingos and those spunky green monkeys, children will love the up-close animal sightings a Barbados Wildlife Reserve walk-through delivers.

Top Romantic Things to Do in Barbados for Couples

The sweet-smelling trade winds, smoldering sunsets, and palm-cupped beaches make Barbados a natural for romantic escapes. Quiet shared moments by the seaside are the main appeal, but there are plenty of options for out-and-about adventuring together.

Here are some of the best things to do in Barbados with your main squeeze.

Go on a Sunset Sailing Cruise

A Barbadian sunset oozes romance wherever it’s appreciated. But taking advantage of one of the numerous sunset sailing cruises takes things up a notch, given your out-on-the-water vantage.

Seek Out Beautiful & Secluded Beaches

It’s easy to stoke some romantic fire when experiencing Barbados’s sublime beaches. Good choices for couples beach-going include Carlisle Bay, Dover Beach, and Worthing Beach.

Dining Out & Nightlife

Barbados boasts an enticingly diverse dining scene, with numerous eateries ideal for romantic meals. Consider Naniki, for example, with its swoony views, or The Beach House, popular for candlelit dinners.

Take a Snorkeling Tour

Experience the beauty of Barbadian reefs on a snorkeling date. You can even combine two of the romantic activities on this list courtesy of the sunset snorkeling tours multiple companies offer.

Uniquely Barbados Experiences

It’s fine and dandy to indulge in a “standard” Caribbean R&R getaway on Barbados, with the perfect beaches and all. But what can you do in Barbados that’ll let you burrow into the heart of the island’s distinctive character?

The following rank among genuine Barbados must-see attractions and must-do activities.

Rum & Chocolate Factory Tours

Both rum and chocolate have deep roots in Barbados. Touring a rum distillery or a chocolate factory—and, ideally, both—shed light on the island’s history while delighting the taste buds.

Exploring Barbadian Natural History

There’s much more to Barbados than the exotic beachfront resorts and golf courses. Exploring the island’s native ecosystems helps instill a more profound sense of place. Hike through the verdant Joe’s River tropical forest with its native palms and West Indian mahoganies, for instance.

Snorkelers and divers can see a myriad of Caribbean marine creatures—including multiple sea turtle species—amid Barbadian corals and seagrasses.

Take a Ride on the Atlantis Submarine

If you aren’t an advanced diver, getting down to 150 feet deep in Caribbean waters can be challenging. But with Atlantis Submarines, you’ve got a ready-made means of doing so. A ride on the 65-foot submarine definitely ranks among the unique things to do in Barbados.

Discover Harrison’s Cave

The magnificent chambers and limestone sculptures of Harrison’s Cave make arguably Barbados’s signature piece of topside scenery.

Visit St. Nicholas Abbey

Tour one of a mere three Jacobean-era mansions in the Western Hemisphere—a plantation home built in 1603–at St. Nicholas Abbey in Saint Peter. Besides the lavish house, you can also admire the gardened estate grounds and learn about rum-making in the on-site distillery.

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