On Island Time: 8 Reasons Barbados Should Be Your Next Winter Vacay

 

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Recently dubbed the Caribbean Destination of the Year by Caribbean Journal, Barbados is, without a doubt, the next trip you need to book.

Like, yesterday.

Barbados is known for its white, sandy beaches and being the birthplace of Rihanna.

It’s the place where high-profile people such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Simon Cowell, Elton John and many others jet off to for their holidays in the sun.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking this destination is only for the well-to-do.

That’s far from the truth.

Barbados is the perfect getaway for travelers of any age and (most importantly) any budget.

The reasons for visiting go far beyond expensive resorts and pictures taken in front of Rihanna’s home on the west coast of the island.

1. For The Adventure

Despite being considered one of the “flattest” Caribbean islands, Barbados still has tons of adrenaline-spiking activities for the adventure seekers.

You can zip line through the trees, scuba dive through sunken ships, snorkel with turtles or go for a horseback ride across the sand.

You can swim in pools of water inside the Animal Flower Cave, hike the rugged coastline of St. Lucy or face your fears of the dark and claustrophobia in some of the underground caves and tunnels.


2. For The Ease Of Getting Around

For only $2 in Barbados (or $1 in American), you can hop on any public bus or ZR (vans that hold roughly 12 people, but can squish in upwards of 22) and get anywhere you need to go.

If you hire a car, it doesn’t take much longer than an hour to drive from one end of the island to the other.

Not only is getting around easy in Barbados, but it’s fun as well.

You’ll typically find loud reggae or soca music blasting on many of the buses and ZRs.

Many ZR drivers bling out the inside of their vans with lights, decoration and colors.


3. For The Friendly Nature

Bajans are pretty friendly folk, and they’re are always willing to lend you a hand in getting where you need to be.

They love recommending their favorite spots on the island or inviting you in for a heated game of dominoes.

They want you to enjoy your stay and feel welcome on the island, and they might even go out of their way to make that happen.


4. For the Mangos And The Coconuts

My version of paradise is anywhere you can buy milk jugs of fresh coconut water, cheap produce at the local markets and mangos by the dozen, which you’ll likely want to eat all in one day (0r one sitting).

Barbados has coconut vendors scattered all over the place, typically on the side of the road or near popular beaches.

Here, you can purchase a fresh coconut for the road or an entire jug of freshly poured coconut water.


5. For The Music

Nothing shocked me more than the musical talent on the island.

If you know where to go, you can find live music acts every night of the week.

I guarantee you will love them all.

From reggae to jazz, you’ll hear it all.

You’ll be blown away by the voices that come out of the artists.

It’s no wonder Rihanna got famous, but it is a wonder that many more haven’t been scooped up.


6. For The Nightlife

Barbados comes alive when the sun goes down, and it goes down early.

Whether you want a chill evening at one of the beachside bars or cafes, or you’re searching for the party atmosphere of St. Lawrence Gap, the Bajans know how to have a good time.

If you’re really in the party mood, try out your skills on the dance floor and see if you have what it takes to wine at the same level as the locals.

Jet on over to Barbados to take part in the Cropover celebration.

Different events are held throughout the month, all leading up to the main event: Grand Kadooment.

This parade shows off elaborate costumes, music and dancing through the streets.


7. For The Beaches

The beauty of the turquoise waters and white, sandy beaches of Barbados is undeniable.

The west and south coasts of the island are where you will find the calm waters of the Caribbean sea, which are perfect for water activities, swimming and sunbathing on the beach.

In stark contrast, the north and east coasts are where you will experience the natural beauty of the rugged coastline and the crashing waves of the Atlantic.

Some of the best beaches are, at the same time, the most popular.

These are Crane Beach, Accra and Sandy Lane.

But along the way, you can discover some hidden gems with far fewer people taking up your space.


8. For The Island Time

The number one reason for making Barbados a part of your 2016 is getting to experience what life is like on island time.

Barbados and its people will teach you a lesson or two about what’s truly important, what truly brings happiness into your life and what can create a shift in your perspective.

Time slows down, and so do you.

Your days no longer revolve around the strict North American schedule dictated by time and money.

Instead, they revolve around building friendships, talking to someone a little bit longer on the street and being able to dive into the sea at a moment’s notice.

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Barbados on a Budget

Barbados is known for its white sandy beaches and being the birthplace of Rihanna. What it’s not known for is it’s affordability. The Caribbean isn’t a popular place for those on a backpacker budget, as many are drawn to the extreme budget prices seen in Southeast Asia or South America, but the Caribbean is home to some of the most beautiful islands in the world and shouldn’t be missed just because it seems a little pricy. Here are some traveler tips to make the most of your time in Barbados without breaking the bank:

1. Shop Local

Food prices in the supermarkets can be extremely expensive. It’s best to shop locally as much as possible. Cheapside Market in Bridgetown is where I have found the most affordable local produce. Be sure to ask around about prices, as they will vary vendor to vendor. You’ll soon learn who sells at the cheapest price. You can also pick up cartons of fresh coconut water for $12 BBD, roughly $6 US. Saturday morning is the best time to go, with all the vendors out and piles and piled of produce for you to choose from.

2. Rent a House

All-inclusive resort prices in Barbados can be nearly double what you would pay for a week vacation in Mexico. Get the most for your money (and stay a little longer!) by renting a private residence with a couple of friends for a month. This can easily be done for $400 per person, making your stay just over $12 a night. Your place might even have a pool, gazebo, and mango trees! If you don’t have a month to stay, there are some hostels and budget guesthouses on the island, mostly on the South Coast and starting from $18US per night.

3. Barbados National Trust Hikes
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There’s plenty of over priced tours in Barbados, but not everything costs money! Barbados National Trust takes locals and tourists alike out to different parts of the island every Sunday. The hike is free of charge, although small donations are accepted. They say that if you go on the hike every Sunday for a year, you will have hiked the whole island. Barbados National Trust holds three hikes every Sunday, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. Hikes last about 3 hours with an average of 7 – 10 miles covered.

4. Hit the Beach!

Barbados is full of beautiful beaches that stretch around the island. The West and South coast beaches are most popular due to the calm, swim friendly waters of the Caribbean Sea. Head to the North and East coast for the rugged beauty of the crashing waves of the Atlantic. Every beach in Barbados is public, free of charge, even if it backs off of the fancy hotels. Brownes Beach, Pebbles Beach, Accra, Batts Rock, Paynes Bay, Sandy Lane, Dover, the options are endless. You can find everything from nearly empty beaches with nothing but sand to beaches filled with people, sunbeds, umbrellas, etc.
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5. Take the Public Transportation

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If you plan to take a taxi everywhere, good luck. You can get anywhere on the island for as little as $2 BBD. You have three options when it comes to public transportation: the big, blue, government-regulated buses, the privately owned yellow bus, or the ZR vans. Each one is $2 one way, no matter how far of a ride you have ahead of you, so don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Each option is an extremely different experience, with my personal favorite being the ZR. In a van that sits about 12 comfortably, the drivers will often squish in at least 18, with the most I’ve seen being 22 people, crammed in for a speedy ride with loud music. If personal space is your thing, this might not be the option for you, but it’s definitely an experience that should be had. And here’s a fun game for you: can you find the #3 ZR with the handcuffs and condoms hanging from the rear view mirror?

6. Drink Local

Forget the fancy drinks, Barbados is all about the rum, with the local rum being Mount Gay. Rum shacks can be spotted all over the island, with many selling rum by the shot or the glass for cheap prices. If you’re out on St. Lawrence Gap, the Old Jamm Inn offers 2-for-1 rums for $8 BDD. If you’re looking for something else, the local Banks beer can often be found for 4 for $10 BDD.

7. Eat out at Oistins Fish Fry

A Friday night at Oistins is a must for travelers experiencing the island. You can get a huge meal with a meat or seafood and two sides of your choice (often macaroni pie, rice and beans, breadfruit, salad, etc.). Loud music, good company and Bajan food makes for a good evening out that won’t leave your wallet hurting in the morning… unless you get carried away with the rum punch.

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Take a Stroll Through Batts Rock

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the
imagination and brings eternal
joy to the soul.”
– Wyland

Just a short stroll away from my dorm is a white, sandy beach with turquoise waters kissing the sand. It’s a popular place for snorkeling and picnics but is never too crowded and it’s quickly becoming my go-to spot to relax after a hard day at work. I don’t believe I can do it justice through my words, so put on your flip-flops and take a walk along the sand for yourself.

 

Errol Barrow Day at Accra Beach

Everybody loves a good reason to have a day off. For Bajan’s one of those days lands on January 21, or what is more commonly known as Errol Barrow Day. Everybody seems to know of and speak highly of Errol Barrow, Barbados’ former prime minister. A man who, from what I’ve been told, was not only a fair leader of this island but also a devoted activist who led Barbados to independence and contributed to many great things for Barbados. To commemorate his memory, January 21 has been declared a national holiday in his name and the majority of Bajan’s on the island are free from work and school..

Eager to make the most of this day off classes, we made our way down to a beach on the South coast of the island; Accra. Accra is a hub of activity, near to popular resorts and hotels, restaurants and of course, the beautiful beach. Soft, white sand meets the turquoise sea, making it a great spot to rent a sunbed and umbrella or, like us, lay out some new towels. Some of us only brought one towel with us to the island and had been using one towel as a sort of all-purpose towel for both beach and shower activities, which we couldn’t handle for a single day more.

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As soon as our towels were down, we laid back to soak in some sunshine. The sun rays here are so hot, it takes only seconds of laying directly in the sun before feeling like your skin is slowly starting to burn, despite copious amounts of SPF 70. We lasted as long as we could before overheating and having to take a dip in the sea, having fun playing mermaids in the waves! Diving under waves and being crashed down on by others, all the while in big fits of laughter, we stayed out until our eyes and throats were burning from the salt water.

With night approaching, we took ourselves to the nearby boardwalk for a romantic sunset stroll.

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The boardwalk was a popular place for tourists and locals alike, with families spending quality time with one another and some people taking a quiet moment in their day.

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My First Taste of the United States.

Six months ago in September of 2011 I crossed the borders and found myself in San Francisco. Twenty years old, I had never been to the USA, even though it’s only a few short hours away from my hometown in Canada. September in Canada means that it’s starting to get a bit chilly, so it was with delight that I stepped out of the San Francisco International Airport into a warm, humid temperature. On this mini getaway, something was different. I wasn’t traveling solo this time, but with my auntie. Together we had planned a fun-filled, four day weekend in San Francisco.

For the first time in two years, I stayed in a hotel near the Fisherman’s Wharf rather than a hostel, dined in seaside restaurants instead of cooking in the hostel kitchen, splurged on red wine instead of cheap beer, and shopped to my heart’s desire in Union Square. After having a tourist day of seeing the painted ladies, the brightly colored Victorian townhouses, and driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, we boarded a cruise ship at dusk that evening that took us around the island of Alcatraz, underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and around the harbour.

We both had big hopes to do a tour of Alcatraz, a prison made famous for it’s imprisonment of notorious criminals but, unfortunately, we were too late in getting tickets and the tours were booked days in advance. To make our last day the best day, we hopped a local bus to take us to Ocean Beach. This was not just any ordinary day on the bus, let me tell you. It was a Sunday morning and a bluegrass festival was being held in Golden Gate Park. My auntie and I had hit rush hour on the bus it seemed. Every stop loaded on more passengers until it surely couldn’t fit anymore. But somehow it did, again and again for multiple stops until bodies were squished uncomfortably close to one another and the light smell of sweat lingered in the enclosed space. While this kind of public transport isn’t new to me, as I have had numerous experiences in overpacked local buses in hot weather, my auntie was not impressed. A woman who goes nowhere without her hand sanitizer, I was certain she would have a heart attack by this unsanitary situation.

The sticky bus ride was absolutely worth it once we reached Ocean Beach. This afternoon epitomized what I have imagined California to be since I was young. The soft sand, crashing waves being mastered by surfers and mountains in the distance, peeking over the low clouds. It was such a beautiful sight that we walked up and down the shoreline, picked a spot in the sand and sat staring at the waves for the entire afternoon. I have seen a number of oceans and beaches on my travels, but I have never seen one like this. I’ve never really watched the ocean’s roughness as it’s waves crashed continuously into the sand. Often times, the water is simply still and transparent. We found ourselves mesmerized.

I was extremely happy that San Francisco was my first destination in the United States. Four days flew by and were simply not enough. I found so many things that I wanted to do and see. After a brilliant weekend spent with family, sunshine, beaches and shopping, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself there again. I tend to judge a destination by whether or not I could see myself living there and I have to admit, San Francisco passed the test. How could a city that contains such diversity not pass the test?