May 25, 2021
If you’re anything like us, then white-sand beaches, turquoise seas and rum punches have been on your mind (a lot) recently. Well Red chats to Virgin Atlantic’s Hannah Swift, Country Manager – Caribbean, to get the inside info on the best bits of Barbados.
What’s the thing you most love about Barbados?
Absolutely 100% – it’s the people. It still blows me away how warm and genuine everyone is here. Barbadians have so many tales to tell – I could spend all day in a local rum shop listening to the heartwarming and hilarious stories. There’s always stories to be told, and memories to be made in Barbados.
What’s the island like for social distancing at the moment?
Barbados has a lot of great places that are perfect for social distancing. My favourite has to be Huntes Gardens, a private botanical garden set in a natural sinkhole, with soaring palms and amazing tropical plants. The oldest building in the Caribbean, St Nicholas Abbey, is another fantastic place for a wander. This Jacobean house has its own rum distillery, plus a railway and heritage train which takes you up Cherry Tree Hill for sweeping views of the entire east coast.
Barbados has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Which are your favourites?
The majority of luxury hotels are found on the west side of the island, known as the Platinum Coast. Facing the Caribbean sea, the waves are gentle and the beaches long and wide with soft sands. Carlisle Bay has a gorgeous marine park with fascinating shallow-water shipwrecks, fantastic for snorkelling and scuba diving. Carlyle is also one of the best beaches to see turtles. The Atlantic east coast is much more rugged and rocky, and its huge breakers make it a real mecca for professional surfers. The tiny fishing village of Moontown in the north has small but perfectly-formed coves, but my favourite two beaches are on the south coast. Crane Beach is phenomenally stunning and has been consistently voted one of the world’s top 10 beaches. Bottom Bay is another special spot – it’s much wilder and more secluded, with golden sands encircled by rocky cliffs.
And of course, Barbados is famous for food! Where would you go to enjoy the best island flavours?
Barbadian cuisine is fresh and filling – with delicious dishes like macaroni pie, spicy stew, fried plantain and tons of fresh fish – food plays a big part in the island’s culture. Watermelon, avocados (known in Barbados as pears) and mangoes all grow in abundance here – it’s actually mango season at the moment! There are tons of restaurant options, from local eateries to fine dining. Local fast-food chain, Chefette, is found all over the island and is practically an obsession. Oistins is another Barbadian institution – this bustling fish market has a carnival-like atmosphere and is famous for its Friday Night Fish Fry on the beach. Worthing Square is a new outdoor space, with food trucks and live music; great for a drink and a dance. For more upscale dining, try Lone Star, a former petrol station in exclusive St James, or Champers in Bridgetown; both fantastic venues for a luxe lunch.
What’s the one thing you’d say best captures the essence of Barbados?
Nothing beats a rum and coke on the beach. Barbados is the birthplace of rum and Mount Gay is actually the oldest continuously-running rum distillery in the world, dating back to the 1700s. Rum-lovers should definitely make time to go on a rum-tasting tour at one of the four island distilleries to learn how the spirit has shaped Barbados’ culture and history. There are rum-themed events too: Crop Over is the island’s most colourful and marks the end of a successful sugar cane harvest. The Rum and Food Festival (29th October 2021) is a month-long international-standard event, showcasing rum, cocktails and local food, as well as special events and tasting menus. Barbados is, of course, world-famous for its legendary cricket players, and visiting cricket fans will want to plan their trip around Bridgetown’s test matches (January to April).
And how about family holidays?
Barbados is the best place for kids. There’s so much to do, from glass-bottom boat trips and submarine excursions, to turtle spotting and caving. Kids will love visiting Peg Farm and Nature Sanctuary.
What’s the best way to see the whole island?
Hiring a car is an ideal way to access the lush heart of the island, where you’ll find natural wonders like Welchman Hall Gully and Coco Hills Forest. Every sign reads either ‘To’ or ‘From Bridgetown’ and the coasts are so distinctly different you’ll be able to tell if you’re east or west – there’s no need for Google Maps. If you do need WiFi, there are excellent fibre networks and strong signals everywhere, even at the beach – ideal for those keen to share some real-time selfies.
With massive thanks to Hannah (seen here enjoying her Caribbean life above and below the sea) for her incredible tips. We’ll see you at the Friday Night Fish Fry!