How to make the most of your time in ‘Bim,’ the small but mighty, sparkling gem in the southern Caribbean.

8 Hours in Barbados

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Whether a homeport or port of call, Barbados has plenty of culture, hospitality and adventure to offer.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

Consider Barbados—the easternmost island in the Caribbean—as the jumping-off point for your next vacation when you set sail on a Royal Caribbean cruise. While you may know the island nation as the birthplace of rum, it also has one of the oldest legislatures in the Western Hemisphere and hosts the popular three-day Crop Over Festival.

Whether you’re spending a few hours in the island’s capital, Bridgetown, before or after your seven- or 14-night cruise or extending your stay for a few days, there is so much to discover on this small but mighty island—just 21 miles from end to end. From seeing Bathsheba’s rocky shores to listening to vibrant live music and trying tasty street food in St. Lawrence Gap, you can make incredible memories in every one of Barbados’ 11 easy-to-navigate parishes.

Pro tip: If you want to speak more like a local, those born in Barbados call themselves Bajans (pronounced Bay-juns), and the island is known as “Bim.”

Now, where do you start? Here’s how to make the most of your time in Barbados with Royal Caribbean.

Be sure to sample traditional Bajan favorites, like grilled flying fish, salad with local produce and a cold bottle of Banks beer.

Credit: iStock

If you want to try a new dish …

Flavors of Barbados & Island Drive

Time it takes: 4 hours

Recommendation: Bring an appetite.

You’ll learn the storied history of Barbados, discover the sweeping views of the island’s east coast and try local dishes and drinks, from cod and jerk chicken to a traditional rum punch.

 

On your own: Treat yourself or have a romantic lunch.

Time it takes: Up to you.

Recommendation: Arrive hungry.

For an upscale, yet old-school, spot, make a reservation at The Cliff Beach Club. The restaurant on the west coast serves up a decadent lunch and cocktails, ocean views and chances for prime celebrity-watching.

 

Head to the capital city of Bridgetown to learn more about the island’s history.

Credit: iStock

If you want to experience Bajan culture …

Barbados Melting Pot

Time it takes: 3.5 hours

Recommendation: Listen and learn.

Discover Barbados’ rich history. In just over three hours, you’ll learn about the third-oldest legislature in the Americas at the Museum of Parliament, visit Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum, one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere; and explore the Garrison Historic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Coast-to-Coast Island Tour

Time it takes: 3.5 hours

Recommendation: Bring a camera (or photo app) with a panoramic lens.

Head farther afield to gain a different perspective of the island nation. From the rugged eastern coastline and St. John’s Church, to quiet villages and sugarcane fields on the northern coast, you’ll enjoy stunning vistas and unspoiled beauty.

 

From spotting green monkeys at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve to snorkeling at Turtle Beach, there’s a wildlife experience for everyone.

Credit: Royal Caribbean

If you’re seeking adventure …

4 x 4 Adventure and Green Monkey Encounter

Time it takes: 3.5 hours

Recommendation: Keep an eye out for elusive animals.

Explore the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, first established in 1982 as the Barbados Primate Research Center for the conservation and study of green monkeys. At the 4-acre nature refuge, nestled in natural mahogany wood across from the Farley Hill National Park, you can observe and interact with “locals” such as peacocks, tortoises and one of the island’s most famous residents, the green monkeys.

 

Swim with Turtles, Shipwrecks, Snorkel and Beach

Time it takes: 3.5 hours

Recommendation: Cross your fingers; you may see a hatchling.

Head to Turtle Bay, a favorite nesting site for sea turtles. You’ll be able to snorkel the natural habitat of the gentle and graceful hawksbill, leatherback and green turtles and see the kaleidoscope of colorful tropical fish bring sunken vessels to life.

 

If you’re staying awhile …

Consider taking the opportunity to add a few more days to your cruise vacation to immerse yourself and see all that “Bim” has to offer.

 

Bring an appetite and sample fresh fried fish at Oistins Fish Market.

Credit: iStock

Take a Road Trip

Time it takes: Up to you.

Recommendation: Scroll the radio and find your jams.

Rent a Mini Moke, the topless and doorless motoring classic, and visit Barbados’ 11 parishes. The driving experience in this perfect beach buggy is like a four-wheeled motorbike but in car form. Listen to radio station SLAM 101.1 for the best island jams while driving to the north side and exploring the rugged beauty of Animal Flower Cave in St. Lucy. Or head east to the “Scotland District” and climb Mount Hillaby or shop for pottery in St. Andrew.

Pro tip: Barbados is divided into 11 parishes, each with its own distinctive charm and local sights. From the beaches on the Platinum Coast in St. James to the lush nature in St. George, each parish is an easy trip from Bridgetown.

 

Hit the Beach

Time it takes: Up to you.

Recommendation: Remember to pack sunscreen and hand wipes.

Order a fish patty, roti and rum punch to go at Mr. Delicious Snack Bar, then hit Miami Beach, near Oistins on the southern coast, for the perfect ‘gram-worthy picnic at the beach.

 

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Time it takes: Up to you.

Recommendation: Stay out late.

Come hungry and stay for the street party. Oistins Fish Fry is the place to be every Friday night to enjoy fresh fried fish (complete with rum drinks and Banks beer) and listen to live calypso and reggae music. The all-ages festival atmosphere can last well into the night.

 

Dance the Night Away

Time it takes: Up to you.

Recommendation: Wear dancing shoes.

After a laidback day at Harbour Lights beach club, book a dinner show (Wednesdays) or dance until you drop (Wednesdays or Fridays) at the open-air beachfront spot. It’s an excellent nightcap after an evening in Oistins.

Ready to experience everything Barbados has to offer before, during or after your cruise? Head here to book your vacation to this island gem and others in the southern Caribbean.