Dreaming of a self-catering holiday in Barbados? Let us guide you on the many attractions that this island has to offer for villa holidays and apartment stays. Barbados is a small island in the Caribbean which has to be one of the top choices for British holidaymakers. It is also popular with Canadians and Americans too.
With English as the national language, a strong English heritage (Barbados was an English colony and only gained full independence in 1966), beautiful beaches, sunshine and clear, turquoise waters, it’s easy to see what makes Barbados a destination of choice.
The island is also rich in wildlife and it’s possible to see wonderful sea turtles, tropical fish, monkeys and even hummingbirds during a holiday here. Barbados is a great place for a wildlife watching holiday. Staying in a holiday villa or apartment could be an excellent choice with the flexibility that this type of holiday offers.
Barbados is a small island, just 21 miles long and 14 miles, making it easy to get around in a hire car whilst on a self-catering break. Driving in Barbados should be relatively easy for the British as they drive on the same side of the road as us and with the laid back pace of island life, the locals don’t tend to rush around and are quite patient with foreign drivers. Although a small island, the different parts of this isle all have their own unique character, making Barbados an exciting, fascinating place to explore. Hiring a car gives you the most choice and flexibility when it comes to discovering the different flavours of the island.
Most visitors choose to stay on the South Coast or the West Coast, parts of the island known for their sandy beaches and turquoise coloured seas. The South West Coast and West Coast of Barbados are both lapped by the Caribbean Sea with numerous sandy beaches stretching along the coastline. The waters of the South Coast tend to be rougher and wavier than those on the West Coast which are usually calmer. Both the South Coast and the West Coast are nesting ground for the sea turtles which lay their eggs in the soft sands. During your Barbados holiday you may be lucky enough to see a fully grown adult turtle in the sea or a new born making its dash to the Caribbean waters. If you love to snorkel, the West Coast may be for you, where there are a number of reefs not too far from the shore.
Some of the island’s best beaches such as Crane Beach (pictured left) are to be found on the South Coast and have beautiful turquoise waters but are better suited for surfing and body-boarding rather than swimming due to the strength and size of the waves. Similarly, the beaches around St Lawrence Gap on the South of the Island offer some of the widest, sandiest beaches but it is sometimes difficult to swim there due to the waves. Reefs also tend to be far from the shore on the South Coast making it difficult to access these. The waters around the West Coast are usually a good deal calmer.
Although the beaches are all public in Barbados, in practice it can be difficult to access the beaches on a self-catering holiday, particularly along the West Coast where the coast cannot be seen from the road due to the build up of high class hotels. There are shortcuts through to the beaches though if you know where to look.
On the South Coast, one of the best beaches is Dover Beach and one of the best spots with calmer waters can be accessed near St Lawrence Gap by the Sapphire Beach building. You can rent umbrellas and sun-beds by the day here and there are numerous restaurants and cafes where you can buy drinks or grab a bite to eat.
On the South West Coast, particularly if you fancy popping in to Bridgetown, you may want to head for Carlisle Bay which is just outside of the capital. Parking can usually be found in this area, either in the free car parks or the official car parks in the area. What’s more, places like the Boatyard in Carlisle Bay offer all day use of their facilities including sun-beds and umbrellas, showers, rope swing and more provided you pay a set fee on food and drinks. If you are eating out anyway and want a day by the beach, this option can make a lot of sense.
Stay safe on the South Coast and keep a good eye out for jet skis. Unfortunately some of the beaches on the South Coast are popular with jet-skis but don’t have clear borders meaning that snorkelers in particular need to take particular care.
The West Coast, also known as the Platinum Coast due to the big spenders that stay here, as the more exclusive part of the island with the calmest waters, is the most difficult to access if you are not a guest at one of the high end hotels. It can still be done though so no need to spend a fortune, with a hire car and a bit of know how you too can live the high life!
One of the best ways to discover the beautiful West Coast on a self-catering break is to visit the Barbados Marine Park near to Folkestone, which has an area cordoned off with buoys to allow safe snorkelling near to the shore. You can also reach some beautiful sandy beaches of the West Coast from here.
Another one of the best beaches where you can snorkel very near to the shore is Alleynes Bay which is where many of the boat trips also take tourists to see sea turtles. When snorkelling at this Bay you may be lucky enough to spot a sea turtle as well as numerous beautiful fish. There are a few beach bars here where you can buy snacks and drinks. Bring your own shade though as there is not a ready supply here. Park opposite the Lone Star and go there for lunch (not cheap but great beach front location) or simply pop in for a drink and park there. Access to the beach is via a small footpath just a short walk from the Lone Star, ask at the hotel for details. Look carefully for a break in the buildings for the footpath or you will miss it! Older people or those with mobility issues may be able to access the beach via the hotel provided they are customers there. Ask at the hotel before you commit to lunch or drinks.
Whilst on a villa holiday discover the East Coast, popular with surfers where you can watch the waves crash against the shore. Swimming in the sea is not recommended in this part of Barbados due to the strong currents.
Visit Bathsheba and marvel at the fascinating rock formations and appreciate the laid back feeling. Walk along the pebble beach and enjoy looking out for fossilised pebbles where you can find beautiful patterns from the coral and other sea-life imprinted on the stones.
The North Coast of Barbados is also well worth a visit. This little known part of the island is where steep cliffs greet the harsh waves of the Atlantic, crash against the rocks and carve out sea caves. Head to the Animal Flower Cave for some spectacular coastal views.
Barbados has a host of different attractions and although the beaches can be sublime, there is much, much more to see. Go wildlife watching at the monkey park, visit one of the plantation houses such as Sunbury Plantaton House (pictured below) and learn about English settlers and how their wealth was built from the toil of slaves and sugar, visit a rum distillery, a signal station or take a boat trip, there is so much to see and do.
Those looking for something a little more exclusive or unique may opt for a villa holiday in Barbados. If privacy is important to you, this is something that can sometimes be found with a villa stay. Similarly apartment stays may appeal to those looking for the flexibility to cook when they want and eat out as they wish. Some apartments are serviced with security, ask owners for details of any services provided. You may want to find a villa with a pool but it is by no means essential as being an island, Barbados has plenty of sea where you can swim, but the waters are only mainly safe for swimming along the West Coast and at some beaches on the South West Coast.