Five days in Barbados | Destination

Heading to Barbados? Of course you’ll hit the beach. But there’s much more to this island of twenty-one by fourteen miles — as this itinerary compiled by Shelly-Ann Inniss makes clear. Get ready for adventures on the hiking trail, underground, on a historic railway — and that’s just to start

  • Photo courtesy Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.
  • Photo by Byvalet/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Photo courtesy Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.
  • Photo by James Boardman/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Photo courtesy St Nicholas Abbey
  • On the wild east coast of Barbados, Atlantic breakers meet limestone cliffs. Photo by Caledonia/Alamy Stock Photo

Forget the reputation for being laid-back: time never seems to stand still in Barbados. Just when you think all the items are checked off your action-packed travel itinerary, another eye-catching adventure appears. This island east of the Caribbean chain is proof that good things come in small packages, with one exciting activity after another invoking happiness at a supersonic rate. And with a bit of planning, you can cram a month of thrills into an action-packed week.

Day one

Start by getting to know the landscapes, wildlife, and overall essence of the island the old-fashioned way: on foot. Long walks on the beach are one thing, but hiking up the steep hills of Barbados’s east coast, or through the rivers and gullies, or along the old train line, is hardcore. The island is predominantly flat, compared to its neighbours, but the right hike can be both challenging and very enjoyable. Hackleton’s Cliff in St Joseph Parish rises to approximately one thousand feet above sea level, and the summit offers luscious views, from Pico Tenerife in the north to Rugged Point in the south-east. Or explore Coco Hill Forest in St Joseph, a fifty-three-acre reserve filled with bamboo, royal palms, fruit trees, and more. Its mission is heritage preservation and food security through permaculture and other forms of farming.

The Barbados National Trust hosts three-hour hikes every Sunday, with grades for each fitness level. There’s Stop ’n Stare (averaging six miles), Slow Medium and Fast Medium (approximately nine miles), and Grin ’n Bear (roughly twelve challenging miles) — with an occasional moonlight hike too, if you’re a night person.

Day two

You’ve experienced the Bajan landscape on foot. Now it’s time to hit the road, or even get off the road, in a go-kart or ATV. Rainy days are perfect for off-roading if you don’t mind getting dirty — water, mud, and good vibes may almost remind you of J’Ouvert celebrations during Crop Over. A tour from Off Road Fury Barbados will take you through miles of mud and dirt tracks, kart roads, hills and inclines, through vegetation thick and thin.

In the kart, drivers and their navigators thunder across thrilling trails. You can take your turn at the wheel as long as you’ve got a valid driver’s license. Some of Barbados’s country roads and canefields aren’t the usual places you see in guidebooks, but when you’re in a go-kart, you can zoom from bush to wonderland with beguiling panoramic views.

Or head for the Bushy Park motor track. Year-round, professional racers and instructors encourage you to hear, feel, and see what a race car can do when thrust to its limits. It’ll completely redefine your idea of driving. Start by riding with the pros, then it’s your turn to take the wheel: you have the opportunity to “fly solo” along the circuit. On your mark!

Day three

Yes, this itinerary obviously includes a trip to the beach. Beach days are every day in Barbados, some would say. And from sunrise to sunset and beyond, there are beach activities ranging from the merely relaxing to the highly invigorating, on the sand or in the water. On the serene side, check out tiny Shark Hole Beach in St Philip. From the roadside, the entrance to the beach is unassuming — navigational apps on mobile phones can’t even detect it. But as you head down the path which gives way to the beach and ruins nearby, you involuntarily give thanks for creation. This naturally funnel-shaped cove unfolds as steep rock cliffs lead to a patch of sand — quiet, breezy, impeccably clean, a picturesque hidden treasure.

The crystal-clear blue waters, relative calm, and balmy temperature — sea temperatures usually linger between twenty-one and twenty-six degrees Celsius throughout the year — of Barbados’s west and south coasts make them ideal for jet ski, kayak, and surf sessions. Needhams Point, Dover Beach, Brandons Beach, and Paynes Bay are all favourite spots for water sports. Kite surfing might become your latest craze at Silver Sands Beach or Long Beach, with the right winds. And have you tried stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), or maybe the exhilarating JetBlade experience? SUP is exactly what the name suggests: standing and paddling on a surf-style board. It’s a cross between surfing and kayaking, and relatively low impact. The hydro flight JetBlade, on the other hand, means adrenaline thrills at electrifying levels. Newbies always have an unforgettable experience as water jet propulsion literally skyrockets them into the air. This extreme water sport gives you a natural high — and chances are you won’t want to come down.

Day four

Back to nature! And this time, go deep. You may have heard of Harrison’s Cave long before you set foot on Barbadian soil. This limestone cave system officially opened to the general public in 1981, after seven years of excavation and building works to accommodate underground trams. The tram tour is the most common way to visit, but if you’d like to go back in time and experience the cave as the early explorers did, gear up with a headlamp and some knee guards for an eco-adventure tour. Harrison’s Cave is more than a walk-through type of cave. Climbing, squeezing, contorting, jumping, and perhaps crab walking are all required.

The Harrison’s Cave system is approximately 2.3 kilometres long, with its largest cavern, the Great Hall, soaring fifteen metres high. This is a very active geological feature, as water continues to flow through the limestone, with stalagmites and stalactites still slowly growing to form amazing columns. The secrets of the Harrison’s Cave await you — but try not to lose a shoe during the taxing but marvellous trek, like one friend of mine.

Day five

All aboard for a history lesson, and a journey through time on the St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway. As the locomotive chugs through plantation fields, mahogany woods, and a limestone quarry, tour guides share historical tidbits to exercise your imagination. For instance, did you know that every familiar landmark for hundreds of acres along the east coast collapsed and disappeared during the Great Landslip of 1901? It left those gorgeous views near Cherry Tree Hill. There’s also a chance to get hands-on by manually turning the train around on the turntable as the tour returns to the abbey. St Nicholas Abbey, built in 1658, is one of only three Jacobean mansions in the Western Hemisphere, and now serves as a museum of eighteenth-century plantation life.

For another slice of Barbados history, head into the capital, Bridgetown. Hiding in plain sight, the Blackwoods Screw Dock in Cavans Lane is another historic gem: this is the only screw dock of its kind remaining in the world. This type of drydock uses powerful screw-lifting mechanisms to raise boats out of the water for repairs and cleaning. The adjoining Historical Maritime Centre features unique and attention-grabbing artefacts, photos, and exhibits of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Barbados.

Further into the city, history, architecture, and art can be found round every corner. A walking food tour is a fascinating way to see off-the-beaten-path parts of the capital, and satisfy the appetite you’re bound to work up. Or pay a visit to UNION at Beckwith, a collective of designers, artisans, and entrepreneurs transforming the Beckwith Mall shopping centre with pop-up galleries, studios, and stores, offering innovative local products, from fashion to food to artworks.

While exploring Barbados, don’t forget your tastebuds. The Barbados Food and Rum Festival, running from 24 to 27 October this year, serves up gastronomic adventures featuring local and international chefs and mixologists, in culture-rich style.

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Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.

Craving excitement while relaxing in the Caribbean? Discover the many non-traditional holiday experiences for fun-seekers available in Barbados. The island appeals to soft adventure lovers in a wide variety of activities. From surfing to horseback riding along the east coast, or even bike riding into the sunset — you’re sure to find something to satisfy your adventure cravings.

Guided tours and hikes will also take you through the trails and hills along our stunning coastal stretches. Sights such as incredible rock formations, the waterfalls at Harrison’s Cave, and our enchanting botanical gullies are all waiting to be explored.

Of course, your holiday to Barbados would not be complete if you didn’t swim or snorkel on one of our amazing catamaran cruises. Whether you’re exploring our rich and local history, relaxing on our breathtaking shorelines, or traversing through our serene coasts, Barbados offers enough soft adventure to last a lifetime. For more information, visit www.visitbarbados.org

Caribbean Airlines operates daily flights to Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados from destinations across the Caribbean, with connections to other destinations in North and South America