Holetown, Barbados

The oldest settlement in Barbados, founded in 1627, Holetown has history, a prime beachside location, and some of the island’s best dining and shopping

  • Photograph by Stephen R Smith – www.photodynamicsinc.com
  • Photograph by Stephen R Smith – www.photodynamicsinc.com
  • Photograph by courtesy The Tides Restaurant
  • Photograph by Stephen R Smith – www.photodynamicsinc.com
  • Photograph by Stephen R Smith – www.photodynamicsinc.com
  • Photograph by Stephen R Smith – www.photodynamicsinc.com


Barbados’s oldest town wears its history lightly, with a handful of historic structures sprinkled among modern shops and houses, and hotels and holiday apartments along the beach. Glimpses of the blue Caribbean Sea are never far away. When evening falls, First Street and Second Street are Holetown’s nightlife zone, lined with trendy restaurants and bars.


The shops at Chattel Village are similar to ones you’ll find across Barbados, with all manner of crafty souvenirs, colourful t-shirts, and locally produced ceramics and prints. What sets this shopping centre apart is its design: a series of pastel-painted cottages, in traditional Bajan chattel-house style, surrounded by lush gardens.

The nearby Limegrove Lifestyle Centre has a decidedly luxurious air, and if you’re suffering from Louis Vuitton or Ralph Lauren or Michael Kors withdrawal, you’ll find your fix right here.


First Street and Second Street are home to some of Barbados’s most popular upscale restaurants, but you’ll also find options to suit shallower pockets, and culinary styles ranging from Euro-Creole (The Mews) to classic Indian (Sitar) to sushi (Nishi). Patisserie Flindt is renowned across Barbados for its pastries and cakes. Establishments like Cocomos and Sea Cat offer fresh seafood in a laid-back atmosphere. South of the centre of town, The Tides is one of the highest-rated restaurants on the island — and the best tables in the house have amazing sea views.


The original St James Parish Church was built in 1628, of wood, and replaced by a stone structure fifty years later. Having weathered centuries of hurricanes and sea-blast, the church was enlarged in 1874, and meticulously restored in the 1980s. Still an active parish church, the building is a link to the island’s earliest settlers.

During most of the St James Church’s lifespan, sugar was the major industry in Barbados. The Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Machinery Museum, located inland and east of Holetown, houses an ample collection of tools, machines, and other artifacts of the sugarcane fields and sugar factories, some dating back to the eighteenth century. A jar of molasses from the museum shop makes an appropriate memento.


Originally called Jamestown, after King James I of England, the Holetown settlement was eventually renamed after The Hole, a stream which created a small but sheltered landing place for boats where it met the sea. Traces of the town’s original moniker survive in the names of St James Parish and St James Church.

The Holetown Monument is an obelisk-shaped reminder of the first English landing in Barbados, in 1625 — even though the monument itself erroneously lists the event as happening twenty years earlier. The annual Holetown Festival, a weeklong programme of cultural events in February, commemorates the founding of the town. Look out for the costumed street parade, complete with tuk band, and the nighttime police tattoo.


Ready to explore the ridiculously turquoise-tinted waters of the west coast? The Folkstone Park and Marine Reserve just outside Holetown includes an “inshore” reef suitable for beginning snorkelers, while experienced divers can head out to the wreck of the Stavronikita, sunk to create an artificial reef half a mile offshore in 120 feet of clear water. You can also rent kayaks, paddle boards, or go out in a glass-bottomed boat, if you prefer to stay dry while admiring the park’s marine life.

And total landlubbers can still enjoy sea views and sea breezes on the West Coast Boardwalk, which hugs the shoreline along Holetown — and is exactly the right spot for enjoying magnificent sunsets.


Caribbean Airlines operates daily flights to Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados from destinations in the Caribbean and North America