See the famous lion sculpture by Barbados’ Gun Hill Signal Station. // © 2017 Barbados Tourism Authority
Feature image (above): Snorkeling at Folkestone Marine Park & Museum in Holetown // © 2017 Barbados Tourism Authority
One of the current buzzwords in tourism is “experiential travel,” and with that, an increasing number of travelers to the Caribbean are getting up from their poolside chaise lounges to explore their destination of choice. Those who have picked Barbados will find it especially easy to combine downtime at a resort with excursions to the island’s historic sites and natural attractions.
Barbados’ geographic location in the Caribbean positioned it as the first port of call for ships making the transatlantic crossing, particularly ships from England. This contributed to the island’s rich history, with English colonization dating back to 1627.
The island’s capital city of Bridgetown and its Garrison Historic Area makes a good starting point for history buffs, since it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. First, there’s Barbados Museum & Historical Society, which offers comprehensive exhibits that will give your clients an overview of the island’s history and enrich their sightseeing.
Other important buildings and sites include Independence Square and the neo-Gothic-style Parliament Buildings. An unexpected site is George Washington House in Bridgetown, which has the unique distinction of being the only city outside the United States ever visited by George Washington. In addition, Bridgetown provides plenty of shopping and dining opportunities.
Gun Hill Signal Station was built in 1818 as a defense against marauders, especially bloodthirsty pirates. Today, the station offers superb island and sea views. One of the iconic images of Barbados is a large lion sculpture, which can be viewed by the fort. The lion — painted white and with a red ball in its paw — was carved by a soldier from a single boulder.
Sunbury Plantation House in St. Philip dates back to 1660 and is notable as a museum displaying antique horse drawn carriages as well as a collection of 17th- and 18th-century furnishings.
Harrison’s Cave is possibly the No. 1 not-to-be-missed attraction on the island. The cave extends 1.5 miles underground and can be explored via electric tram. Offering views of stalactites, stalagmites, expansive caverns and underground pools and waterfalls, the cave is an especially good recommendation for families with young kids.
Another good option for families is Barbados Wildlife Reserve in the parish of Saint Peter. Travelers can ramble along nature paths where they’ll encounter brightly-colored birds, iguanas, turtles and — the stars of the reserve — wild green monkeys.
The Flower Forest is on the site of a former sugar plantation, offering the opportunity for a mellow stroll among lush tropical foliage. Meanwhile, a highlight for history buffs is the chance to see Andromeda Tropical Botanic Gardens’ breadfruit trees descended from the original plants brought to the island by the notorious Captain Bligh of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame.
More Things to Do
Mount Gay Rum Distillery, where one of the Caribbean’s most celebrated rums is produced, offers a Mount Gay Rum tour. In addition to learning how rum is made, participants on the tour can knock back samples at the tour’s end.
Folkestone Marine Park & Museum in Holetown has an aquarium as well as an artificial reef where guests can snorkel and scuba dive. An underwater highlight is the wreck of the Stavronikita, a 360-foot Greek freighter (ship).
If your clients are on the island on a Friday night, recommend they head to Oistins Fish Fry. This is when the fishing town of Oistin hosts a weekly fish fry party, complete with delicious food, music and local crafts on sale. This is also a great way to meet locals, who flock to the party.