Family Vacations to Barbados

Barbados (Digital Vision)

Barbados Highlights

  • Meander through lush tropical gardens.
  • Explore an underground cave.
  • Ride in a submarine.
  • Swim in open water with sea turtles.
  • Dance to Bajan and Caribbean music during the Crop Over festival.

Sophisticated and developed, Barbados offers the best of beaches and posh hotels, in addition to more moderately priced family-friendly accommodations. The island's west coast contains many resorts and the calmest waters in the area. Mullins Beach and Paynes Bay have soft white sands, gentle slopes, and barely-visible waves.

Off-the-beach attractions also abound in Barbados. Young kids especially enjoy the Barbados Wildlife Reserve—dedicated to the conservation of the Barbados green monkey and other animals, this is just one of the island's many hidden treasures. Walk along paths and encounter free roaming animals—green tortoises sunning themselves in the middle of the trail, a brown pelican standing in the shade, and a green monkey swinging through a mahogany tree.

Two spots bloom with beautiful gardens. Ponds and streams contribute to Andromeda Gardens' six acres of plants from around the world. The 50-acre Flower Forest smells of sweetly-scented hibiscus and bougainvillea. Tall palms tower over ferns and scores of ginger lilies, breadfruit trees, and banana plants.

Just a mile away, Harrison's Cave intrigues with its stalactites, stalagmites, and a 40-foot underground waterfall illuminated by colored lights. The cave, closed for renovations until winter 2007, is a popular cruise ship outing. To avoid long waits, don't visit when ships are in port.

Glimpse another kind of underworld with Atlantis Submarine, a recreational sub that descends to depths of up to 150 feet. For non-divers, the submarine literally provides a window into the dazzling world of sea life, as you view schools of rainbow-colored fish and coral from the portholes. Kids must be at least three feet tall to board.

Snorkelers take to the sea at Folkestone Marine Park to follow the underwater snorkeling trail around Dottins Reef. Divers head out to explore the wreck of a Greek freighter. Little kids and those who don't feel comfortable with a mask may take a glass-bottom boat ride. Barbados also offers the chance to swim in the sea with hawksbill and leatherback turtles. Several outfitters offer boat trips to spots frequented by the turtles.

One of the island's most scenic drives is the East Coast Road, with breaking waves and rocky coast. The big boulders on the beach signal Bathsheba, also called the "soup bowl," a favorite spot for accomplished surfers. Watch them, but don't venture into the rough water.

Barbados, a former British colony, shows its "jewel-in-the-crown" style by the punctuality of afternoon tea and the popularity of cricket. During Crop Over (, the island rocks from its Caribbean roots. Your teens will be impressed. The nearly-month-long festival traditionally begins in July and builds toward the music, costume parades, and merriment of the last weekend—a showcase for music and dance. Among the must-see final events: Pic-O-De-Crop, the Calypso singers' final competition, and Cohobblopot. Named for the Bajan expression meaning "a stew made from a variety of ingredients," the performances feature gospel, folk, spouge, and other island sounds.

Tip: Hike through Welchman Hall gully, a scenic mile-long ravine and home to spice trees and island monkeys.
('s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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