Expert picks for Barbados' best things to do

These are the must-visit attractions and must-do activities on the Caribbean island, according to the experts.

Barbados is renowned for its turquoise-blue waters, refined resorts and, thanks in no small part to locally-raised superstar Rihanna, a vibrant cultural scene. The Caribbean’s easternmost island packs a lot of punch into its 160 square miles, and we’re not just talking about the rum-based concoctions ubiquitous at Barbadian bars. These Experts Choice picks cover a wide variety of options, from lush tropical gardens and postcard beaches to underground caves.

This 17th-century plantation house, set amidst sugar cane fields, tropical gullies and formal gardens, is “one of the Caribbean’s genuine architectural treasures,” according to Frommer’s. Local architect Larry Warren purchased St. Nicholas Abbey, one of only three Jacobean-style mansions in the Western Hemisphere, in the mid 2000s, beginning an ongoing restoration that’s turned it into a world-class destination complete with its own artisanal, steam-press rum distillery.

An uncommon find in the Caribbean, this underground attraction in the central parish of St. Thomas was first explored in 1795, but was virtually forgotten before opening as an attraction in the early ‘80s. A tram provides daytrippers with easy access to a network of limestone caves, which culminate in a spectacular, 40-foot waterfall; Lonely Planet recommends the pricier (and longer) “eco-adventure” tour, which lets more adventurous visitors crawl and swim their way through tunnels and pools.

The late horticulturist Iris Bannochie created Andromeda as a private collection in the 1950s; today these spectacular gardens overlooking Bathsheba, on Barbados’ rugged East Coast, host some 600 plant species. As an added bonus, a visit usually involves a few encounters with the green monkeys that populate this side of the island in large numbers. The grounds also house an outdoor cafe, and a shop selling the works of local artisans.

“One man's vision of a verdant tropical fantasy” is how Lonely Planet describes this stunning 10-acre arboretum, created on the site of an overgrown sinkhole. Anthony Hunte, who lives on site, augments his creation’s natural features with the sounds of classical music and other unexpected touches. He’s also known to invite visitors to join him on his veranda for rum punch, juice and tales of the unique site’s evolution.

Yet another showcase for Barbados’ lush tropical fauna, Flower Forest occupies a former sugar estate in St. Joseph Parish. Heliconias, mature citrus trees and sago palms vie for attention among the 100 or so plant species at this oasis, which Lonely Planet describes as “enchanted.” Make time to savor the view; Flower Forest sits at one of the island’s highest points.

Barbados is lousy with beautiful beaches, so much so that some of its best can feel shockingly deserted. That’s often true of Bottom Bay, the “quintessential Caribbean beach” according to Frommer’s, which sits below a cliff on the island’s South Coast. Photographers love Bottom Bay for its picturesque rows of windswept palms but, while it’s also popular with surfers, all but the strongest swimmers are advised to avoid the strong currents.

A stone’s throw from the lively seafood stalls in Oistins lies this multifaceted beach, which is divided in two parts by a rock breakwater. Commonly called Miami Beach by locals, it features pure white sand and calm, crystal clear water on one side, and slightly more rugged terrain on the other. A converted Mercedes bus serves as a snack bar, while tree canopies offer much-needed shade.

Take a guided or self-guided tour — or just get lost and find zen — at this manicured, fauna-rich natural gully situated atop a collapsed limestone cavern. Legend has it that the breadfruit trees found here are direct descendants of the first seedlings brought to the Caribbean by Captain Bligh (of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame) — making it a significant, albeit obscure, landmark in the region’s culinary history.

You may also enjoy
8 things to do in Soho, London
Your guide to our favorite things to eat, see and do in one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods. Read more
The tastiest street food in Brussels
Some of the best food in the Belgian capital is found in its streets. We've got you covered from caricoles to waffles. Read more
The best attractions in Mexico City’s historic center, according to the experts
From Art Deco architecture to ancient civilizations, there’s something for everyone in Mexico’s bustling historic center Read more