Barbados Things to do
Bajan Style

Let’s face it – vacations have evolved.  Travelers are thinking outside the box and vacationing is no longer about grabbing a cheap flight for few days of rest and relaxation.  

Travelers are looking for value through experiences, and just to give you an idea of what this encompasses, this can range from bird-watching to culinary vacations to wellness vacations.  Special- interest travel accounts for a large percentage of the leisure travel market.  

So how does a traveler enrich his/her vacation experience?  One surefire way is with a cultural immersion.  There are lots of Barbados things to do for that unique vacation experience.

The island’s rich culture holds the quintessential key to unlocking the traveler’s unique vacation experience.  So where do you start?

Here’s a quick and easy guide on how not to be a tourist in Barbados.  I call it “Operation Blend In”.  

Oistins Weekend Fish Fry 

When: Every Weekend
Where:  Oistins, Barbados South Coast
Admission:  Free

This weekend event takes place in the fishing village of Oistins on Barbados’ south coast on weekend nights, Friday night being the most popular.  Hot music, hot grills, and a busy street scene along the Oistins waterfront create a magnet for Barbadians every weekend.  Over the years, it has gained momentum and has become one of the popular items on the Bajan “to-do” list.  And the visitors follow.  More…

Visitors Checking out Local Arts and Crafts at Oistins, Barbados

Moon Town Fish Fry

When: Every Weekend
Where:  Moon Town (Half Moon Fort), St. Lucy | North of Speightstown and The Fish Pot Restaurant
Admission:  Free

It’s a well known fact that most Barbadians do not travel north of Speightstown unless they live or work there.  With no major hotels or  luxury brands to call their own, it comes as no surprise that this little seaside town called Moon Town doesn’t get the kind of exposure that results in a lot of traffic  compared to, let’s say, Oistins - the fishing village on Barbados’ South Coast known for its well-attended weekend fish fry. 

Nevertheless, the show must go on.  Moon Town’s Fish Fry caters to locals and visitors every weekend.  Weekend Fish Fry starts up around 7:00 pm and runs until approximately 1:00 am.  The crowd is not as big as Oistins but there is entertainment all the same.

* Thursday night is karaoke night with a special on Banks Beer 5 for US $5. 

Food is on!

Oistins Fish Festival

When: March
Where:  Oistins, Barbados South Coast
Admission:  Free

Not to be confused with the weekend fish fry, the Oistins Fish Festival commemorates the signing of the Charter of Barbados* and salutes the men and women who have made contributions to the fishing industry. 

This is not a one-day event but stretches out over the week with several activities and culminates with a weekend street fair, parade, boat races, and competitions like the greasy pole competition.  

Special activities and local entertainment are provided.  Local vendors showcase their arts & crafts and food stalls and drinks are available for purchase.  

The Oistins weekend fish fry merges with the Oistins Fish Festival during the week-long celebration.

*  The Charter of Barbados is a document signed between Commonwealth England and Royalist Barbados at the Mermaid Tavern in Oistins in 1652 outlining the conditions of surrender and “the cessation of hostilities” during the civil war in Barbados.

Crop Over

When:  June - August
Where:  Various Events and Locations
Admission:  Some events are free.  Paid admission depends on location and event

I remember when sugar cane was harvested the old fashioned way – manually.  It was back-breaking work.  Days were spent toiling in the sun, hunched backs gathered and loaded the sugar cane onto the trucks for transportation to the sugar factories. Yes,  in those days the end of the sugar cane harvest called for a celebration. 

Local Women Cutting Sugar Cane


But what started out as an undersized event to celebrate the end of the sugar cane harvest has grown over the years into a celebration that attracts thousands from around the globe.  

Many expatriates, with their families and friends in tow, returned to Barbados to join in the celebration. What happened next was inevitable.  Tourists began to follow, and the Barbados Crop Over Festival earned its position as a globally recognized top-tier event.  

The festival begins with the ceremonial delivery of the last canes and the crowning of the King and Queen of the Crop.  The celebration culminates with the Grand Kadooment Day parade during the first week of August.  

But don’t expect floats and marching bands.  This is revelry at its finest.  Dozens of party trucks file past with thousands of colorfully costumed followers jumping and wukking up for miles to pulsating Crop Over soca hits.  

If you like to party, this is one of the top things to do in Barbados.

Kadooment Day
Image Credit: Rudy Harding | Flickr

Friendly warning:  The Grand Kadooment parade is not suitable for the timid or party poopers. 

What is "Wukking Up"?  It's a cultural ting..

Video Credit:  Barbados Tourism Authority

Holetown Festival

When:  Mid February
Where: Holetown, Barbados West Coast
Admission: Free

It all began in 1627 when the British settlers arrived with about 80 slaves in the area now known as Holetown on Barbados’ West Coast.   The week-long celebration celebration commemorates that arrival with music, street parade, local arts and crafts, exhibitions, concerts, and much more.

Holetown Festival Parade
Image Credit: Kevin Costain | Flickr

Barbados Reggae Fesival

Barbados Reggae Festival  

When: Month of April
Where: Farley Hill, Barbados West Coast | Garfield Sobers Gymnasium, Barbados South Coast | Kensington Oval, Bridgetown | Party Cruise, Bridgetown
Admission*:  US $30 – 60 | VIP: US $100 - 175

Get your groove on with fellow reggae music lovers from Barbados and across the Caribbean at the Barbados Reggae Festival.  

This annual event showcases local and international talent and is held at various venues around the island.  The Barbados Reggae Festival is hailed as “the biggest international event of its kind outside reggae’s birthplace – Jamaica”.  

The first event was held in Barbados back in 2004 and attracted a crowd of 12,000 spectators.

* Subject to change

Barbados Music Awards

When: January - Dates to be Determined for 2016
Where: Sherbourne Conference Centre, St. Michael
Admission*: US $25 | VIP: US $65 (approximate) 

Head on over to the Barbados for a musical jam session featuring local artists from Barbados, the USA, and Canada.  This is an exciting event with great music and fun loving people.

Photo: Barbados Music Awards.com

* Subject to change

Our Soca Queen, Alison Hinds
Image Credit: Barbados Music Awards

Food & Wine & Rum Festival

When: Varies from late November to Early December 
Where:   To be Determined
Admission:   Will let you know

There is no better way to experience an island’s culinary treasures than by participating in a food festival.

This event draws a large crowd to its cooking demonstrations, not just because of the culinary delights, but also because of the international chefs who participate in this event alongside local, well-known Barbadian chefs.   Not to be missed.

International Chef Marcus Samuelsson at the Food & Wine & Rum Festival

BH3 - Barbados Hash House Harriers - One of the Local Things to do in Barbados

When:  Every Saturday / Most Holidays
Where: Various Locations Throughout the Island
Admission:  Free

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  

The image from the BH3’s recent run was taking control of my computer screen.  But this was no annoyance.  On the contrary.  

What I saw next almost made me choke on my lunch.  Dressed to the nines in red dresses and gowns, the runners were vigorously hitting the pavement.  What’s the big deal, you ask?  

As the tears streamed down my cheeks from laughing, I couldn’t help but stare in disbelief at the images that were unfolding before my eyes. 

They were all men! 

BH3 Red Dress Run
Image Credit:  Barbados Hash House Harriers


What is the Hash House Harriers or H3?

H3 is an international non-competitive running club that combines athletics with entertainment and lots of socializing. The BH3 is the Barbados chapter or division.

The definition of a hasher is “a person who engages in persistent attacks on others or incursions into their land.”  That’s it in a nutshell.

Let the Games Begin!

Fashioned after the sport of hare and hound, the appointed “hare” is given lead time to blaze his trail.  The objective is for the hashers to find the trail and catch the hare before the trail ends.  The trail is identified by dots of flour, toilet paper, or saw dust, and is sometimes interrupted at a “check” where the participants must sniff out where it begins again.  Sometimes this requires making a 360 degree turn.

Members of the BH3 get together every Saturday and on holidays at a predetermined location around the island to participate in “running the hash”.  At the end of the hash, they all meet at a local address for a “cool down” – drinks, food and good conversation.  

One annual event is the Red Dress Run when everyone, and I do mean everyone, must wear red. 

Then there is the AGPU – The Annual General Piss Up where members vote for new volunteers to replace the “Mismanagement”.  Here are some of the members:

  •  the “Booze Master” - responsible for organizing the drinks for participants at the end each run
  • Hash Scribe – responsible for supervising the hounds to ensure they document each run
  • Hare Liner – responsible for keeping the schedule of all upcoming runs 
  • Hash Woodman – primarily responsible for transporting and lighting the BBQ 

Caked in mud and grime, nothing can stop the BH3.  The best reward is at the end of the hash when they all get together for beer and alcohol.  That reminds me – the BH3 have asked me to tell you to bring your own cup or mug.

This is a fun and unique way to see Barbados from the inside out as you cross cane fields, gullies, small streams and beaches, scale walls, move through restricted areas and locals’ back yards all in the name of good fun.     

Visitors are encouraged to participate.  You can make arrangements with your local hotel for transportation to the hash.  

Drink tickets are available for purchase – 7 tickets for US $10 or 3 tickets for S $5. One drink per ticket. Includes mixed drinks, beer, soda. 

*  There is no cover charge or admittance fee.  Just show up and chase the hare. 

Cricket

When: To be Announced
Where: Kensington Oval, Bridgetown
Admission:  Various

Cricket is the national sport of Barbados, so it’s no small wonder that Barbadians are avid cricket fans.   It is the one sport that ties this tiny island to its English roots. Catch a game at Kensington Oval, the official venue of Barbados test match cricket where the Barbados team comes up against  international teams from Australia, England, and Pakistan. 

Cricket Match at Kensington Oval

Motorsports

When:  To be Announced
Where: Bushy Park, St. Philip – Southeast Coast

This is for all of the motoring enthusiasts out there.  One of the top local things to do in Barbados is to attend a motor sports event.  It is exciting and exhilarating!

Barbados motor sports has evolved to the point where it has reached international recognition.  The island has one main motor sports race track – Bushy Park that is used for events like car racing, drag racing, “Mud Dogs” 4x4 racing. 

Here’s something you probably did not know – the island hosts most of the Caribbean’s biggest motor sports events.  

Sol Rally Barbados is a 2-day action packed tarmac rally, and the registrants for 2015 are already at an impressive 95 crews with several international racers and female competitors participating.

Hiking

When:  Every Sunday
Where:  Various locations
Contact: Phone:  246-426-2421 | 246-436-9033 | email: natrust@caribsurf.com

Hike Barbados is run by the Barbados National Trust, an organization dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of historic places of interest – architectural and archaeological - and natural plant, marine, and animal habitats.  

The Trust offers free hikes to locals and visitors. This is a great opportunity to really see Barbados’ beautiful landscape from the inside out.  There are 4 grades of hikes:

  1. “Stop n Stare” – about 6 miles
  2.  Medium Hike – 9 miles
  3. Fast Medium Hike – about 9 miles
  4. “Grin and Bear” – about 12 miles 

All hikes last about three hours and start around 6:00am and 3:30pm every Sunday.  Moonlight hikes are also available every Sunday and start at 5:30pm.  

The “Great Train Hike” takes place once annually and follows the old train route from Independence Square in Bridgetown to Bathsheba on Barbados’ East Coast.  The hike was pioneered by Dr. Colin Hudson, an active environmentalist and scientist who educated Barbadians and visitors on the local culture and environment.

The Barbados National Trust does not provide transportation to the hike locations as all hikes are free.  You can make special arrangements through your hotel. 

Horseracing

When:  Every Other Saturday
Where: Garrison Savannah, Historic District, Greater Bridgetown Area

There is no question about it - Bajans are avid horse racing fans.  Every other Saturday, spectators of all ages gather at the Garrison Savannah on Barbados’ South Coast to cheer on their favorite racing team.  

Head on over to the Garrison and be a part of this colorful event.  The Sandy Lane Gold Cup is held on the first Saturday in March.  The Garrison Savannah is just 1.5 miles from the heart of Bridgetown.

Horse Racing at the Garrison Savannah

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