You almost felt guilty stepping onto the hot tarmac at Grantley Adams International Airport, knowing that you’ve left behind two feet of snow blanketing the eastern United States. But after a few fresh breathes of light breezy air, you quickly forgot what you’ve escaped and started looking forward for what’s to come. Touching down on the beautiful island country of Barbados was just what the January blues needed – and considering the round trip non-stop flight from JFK was under $200… you couldn’t afford NOT to go! With packs on our backs, and shades on, we were ready to explore the tiny 166 sq. miles in search of surf, music, and sun!
With a slight delay leaving New York City, we made it through immigration & customs in a timely fashion (remember you NEED your passport for this trip!), and raced out to collect our compact Suzuki rental car. Its easy to get an automatic, but note that they drive on the LEFT side of the road – so if that’s new to you, just take it slow… and be forewarned, if you’re not in the larger towns, there are barely any road signs so when in doubt – HONK it out! There are mini-buses (vans) zipping all across the island for incredibly cheap ($2 BBD = $1 USD) and their car horns are amusingly musical, make sure to listen for them! After a 15 minute drive to our apartment down near Silver Sands, we checked in with the owner, Stefano (he’s originally from Sardinia, and has been on Barbados for over 20 years now – check out his digs on TripAdvisor), rented some surfboards from him and headed straight to his suggested spot of Freights Bay – less than a five minute drive away. With just about an hour of light left, fun was had by all as surfers and sea turtles bobbed along with the waves. Once back at the flat, we strolled around the corner from our place to the Surfer’s Bay Beach Bar, where we closed off the busy travel day with an assortment of rum drinks plus fresh mahi-mahi & shrimp. Within the first eight hours, Barbados had already won our hearts.
Up early the following morning for another surf, we then made our way into the town of Oistins for food. We refueled with breakfast at an awesome hole in the wall called Surfer’s Café, then stocked up on provisions across the street at a Super Centre market (i.e. juice, bread, fruit, rum, and Bajan BANKS beer). The second day was the perfect opportunity to discover the area down by our humble abode. Walking along the sea towards Freights Bay, we stopped at both the popular South Point surf spot as well as the South Point Lighthouse. After a quick lie on the front porch with rum in hand, we checked out some live music back at Surfer’s Bay Beach Bar, then took off for a night in St. Lawrence Gap (aka “The Gap”). We grabbed dinner (fresh fish AGAIN J) at one of the al fresco stands, then made our way to a happening joint called The Old Jamm Inn – which was 100% jammin’ with more live music! Taxis are all along the main strip, as are fantastic food stalls; definitely make sure to get a greasy cheeseburger and a fresh coconut (different vendors… but it would be nice if they joined forces!).
Day three was our most adventuresome day, as we drove all around the island! First we headed northeast to the iconic beaches of Bathsheba, where’s there’s a popular surf spot called Soup Bowl. We perched up and watched the few guys out there tearing it up. Along the beach there are some amazing rock formations, which includes a tiny abandoned pink shack built up on a ledge. There were a few people about, but overall a much less populated area than the south. A rather hilly drive back around the coast, we continued north along the Atlantic towards one of the island’s highest central points, Farley Hill National Park. A dilapidated mansion stands shaded beneath a grove of mahogany trees, with a lookout that beats no other – highly recommend visiting this little park ($6 BBD to enter the park with a car). From Farley Hill we drove northwest to a secret surf spot we were recommended called Maycocks Bay. Hiking down a steep trail with boards and bags, we eventually opened up to some beautiful waves, a protected beach and absolutely NO PEOPLE! Despite there being a cement factory just south along the beach, this was an ideal oasis for both surf and sun.
Scorched and sandy we started the drive back to Silver Sands, opting to route down the western coast, driving through Speightstown, Holetown, and Bridgetown. A posher vibe on the protected Caribbean side of the island, included high-end shopping, more tourists and resorts. After surviving the capital’s rush hour traffic, one more quick surf was squeezed in before the sun went down. Then all of a sudden, it was FRIDAY NIGHT; and there’s only one place to be on a Friday night in Barbados… the Oistins FISH FRY. A huge market sandwiched between the Main Road and the beach draws thousands of people to indulge in fresh catch, good (cheap) beer and LOADS of dancing! An absolute must do if you’re in town on a Friday – and if you’re keen for some rowdy karaoke, find Hercules Bar across the Main Road from the fry.
Before we knew it, it was already the last day - Saturday. After a morning surf down at Freights Bay, we feasted on a royal breakfast at home, then headed to one of the island’s oldest rum distilleries, the Foursquare Rum Distillery and Heritage Park. Unfortunately closed for the day, we found someone on the grounds that said we were welcome to roam the property and guide ourselves around! Unfortunately there weren’t any tastings or even rum to purchase on site, but we explored the facility and gained some knowledge along the way (from the factory’s info placards!). As the afternoon quickly approached we tried the island’s fast food chain, Chefette, devoured some rotis and mauby, and b-lined it back for a final sunset sesh at Freights. We cheered rum on the bluff overlooking the bay after the sun went down with some friends, and closed out our final evening back at our local watering hole, Surfer’s Bay Bar!
Barbados boasts incredible weather, great surf, but most importantly kind and vibrant people. It’s as if the scenery is a painted landscape, preserving a natural art, and is something we hope you’ve enjoyed in our photos. But there’s no better way to see for yourself, so get online, scour for some cheap flights, and maybe we’ll catch you down there this summer for the island’s Crop Over Festival!