The sun had barely risen when I plunged into the sparkling Caribbean sea, the small waves chilly but refreshing on my skin. Glad to get into the water, if only to escape from the drone filming from above, I swam to the nearby buoy and waited for the starting whistle.
If you’d told me that I’d be visiting Barbados in 2019, I’d never have believed you. Of all the cool things to do in Barbados, I definitely wouldn’t have believed that I’d be up at the crack of dawn to take part in a ‘fun Olympics’ either. But there I was, swimming along in the first event of the day – although I was really just relishing my time in the water.
In the end, the Olympics was one of the high points of my time in Barbados thanks to plenty of rivalry, a traditional Bajan bus tour woven in between events and watching the braver members of our squad take on the Barbados Ninja Throwdown.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Through my job in travel, I was lucky enough to attend British Airways megafam to celebrate 65 years of flying to Barbados – an offer that I couldn’t believe I was receiving when my manager told me a few months earlier!
To be completely honest, visiting the Caribbean wasn’t particularly on my agenda – I always believed it was somewhere that I’d visit once I was older, maybe with kids or as a rich, retired lady of leisure. But the 21 mile island has so much to offer that I came away with a real fondness its beauty, people and culture and I couldn’t resist sharing some of my favourite things to do in Barbados with you now.
Mount Gay Distillery Tour
A morning conference had us up early but a treat was waiting at midday. Discovered by fermenting molasses (a by-product of sugar cane production) into alcohol, Barbados is the home of rum so it’s only right to sample the local delicacies – right?
And while the rum punch was flowing virtually everywhere we went during that five days, the Mount Gay Distillery Tour was a chance to learn a little more about the spirit itself. Although weirdly enough, I found my favourite variety of the drink before we even started the tour: Ponche Kuba is a creamy liqueur that tastes similar to Baileys and as I type this a few months later, I’m still dreaming about it.
We got things off to a cracking start by hearing more about the history of rum from our hilarious tour guide. While the tour was only fairly short – in just two rooms – everything was brilliantly branded and as a bit of a marketing geek, I loved the short film they showed us before we went onto the main event – tasting the rum. Now I’d love to say that I did a great job of sipping every variety on offer but I’m a total weakling and man, they were strong. It’s a good thing we went straight onto lunch because I left feeling a little lightheaded!
Sunset catamaran cruise
Some of my favourite holiday memories involve boat trips: a leisurely few hours floating through Amsterdam’s canals, my entire week on Sail Croatia and now this. Although I didn’t realise it before, the potent combination of gently bobbing in the waves, shades of pink and orange streaking the sky and free-flowing drinks makes for my perfect travel activity.
After a fun but exhausting day cheering each other on at the megafam Olympics, we were treated to the most incredible evening boat trip with Cool Runnings. I’d honestly recommend this to anyone travelling to Barbados – what could be better than snorkelling with turtles at sunset before eating, drinking and dancing under the stars.
While I’d say we kept it fully classy when we parked up outside One Sandy Lane for dinner but truth be told, I couldn’t resist a late-night dip. I can honestly say that the parts of the trip that’ll stay with me for a long time are laughing uncontrollably as we tried to stay afloat with a drink in one hand, eating heaps of macaroni pie – a local delicacy – and dancing to Sandstorm as the wind whipped through our hair.
Without a doubt, the Island Safari is the best way to see the wilder side of Barbados and the weather decided to ramp that up for us. We piled into the back of an open air 4×4 Jeep and set off through Bridgetown towards the north of the island, just as the first huge drops of rain began to fall.
At first, we relished the cool breeze – a welcome break to the oppressive humidity that had surrounded us throughout the start of the trip – but as the rain grew heavier, we rolled down the plastic sides to keep our seats dry and continued. As they say in the Caribbean, liquid sunshine keeps the islands green!
As we drove inland, saying goodbye to the azure coastline for a short time, it became clear how different this side of the island was: sprawling fields and tangled forests met us, although it’s hard to tell whether the lushness we experienced was particularly heightened by the pouring rain.
Island Safari can take you on a few different routes – we were lucky enough to have ours customised by the tourist board – but they’ll virtually all include some exhilarating off-roading! Now I’d never experienced bumping along off-road while trying to balance a drink before but by this point, we were experienced rum punch drinkers so they must have thought we’d rise to the challenge!
In between taking to the forests on a dirt track, we were treated to a stop at one of Barbados’ most iconic landmarks at Bathsheba Park – aptly named Bathsheba Rock. As the park is situated on the islands east coast, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the island, you’ll immediately notice the spectacular waves breaking across the golden beaches. Unsurprisingly this makes it a great spot with surfers (it’s nicknamed the ‘Soup Bowl’).
While I’m not denying that Barbadian beaches are some of the most incredible I’ve ever seen, it was brilliant to see another side to the destination and I’d highly recommend that any first time visitors – or those who tend to stay in-resort – experience Island Safari at least once.
Dinner at Champers
Chic with a heart is the best way I can describe the dining experience at Champers. The refined food and elegant oceanfront location would be almost intimidating, were it not for the art adorning the walls. I later discovered that the restaurant is also home to On The Wall Art Gallery, a well known space that showcases the work of local Caribbean artists. It was such an unexpected combination that adds another layer to your experience, elevating it beyond that of just another upmarket restaurant.
On our evening visit, the dark skies and sound of the waves crashing below us left the restaurant feeling like a private cruise ship. If I ever returned to Barbados, I’d love to try out the lunch menu to see how impressive the restaurant looks in broad daylight.
As always though, the food was the main attraction – when is it not for me? As we were such a large group, the menu had been crafted especially for us but featured many of the delicious options that you’ll find on the main dinner menu online.
I started off with crispy vegetable spring rolls, my absolute favourite starter that I gained a taste for while travelling in South East Asia. While the portion was already generous, I was kindly donated some by my colleague across the table so all in all, I managed to polish off about nine of these delicious rolls. It was only afterwards I remembered there were still two more courses to come – whoops!
As you’d expect the fresh fish offering is impressive here but, as a staunch vegetarian these days, I opted for the ricotta stuffed ravioli, a really tasty pasta dish featuring aubergine and plenty of cheese. By this point, I was pretty full but it would have been rude to refuse dessert – particularly a white chocolate cheesecake. You’d imagine it to be sickly but while it was sweet, it wasn’t overpowering thanks to the delicious biscuit base and refreshing vanilla ice cream.
Sadly, my food photos aren’t the best – my phone’s old and it was pretty dark in the room – so I might just have to leave it to your imagination to picture the amazing food. Alternately, the Champers website represents the dishes way better than my old iPhone could pick up.
So there you have it, just four of the many incredible things to do in Barbados. It wasn’t your conventional trip for sure; we had lots of hotel inspections squeezed into our fabulous itinerary of activities but even these were completely fascinating to me, as someone who could never usually afford a five star hotel in the Caribbean!
If you’d like to hear about the other aspect of my trip, including learning what it’s like to attend a travel agent fam trip, and have a sneak peek into the hotels I visited, just ping me a message and I’ll get another write up on the go. If not though, I’ll be back soon…
*Official photos by Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. This was a work fam hosted by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and British Airways but I’m not under any obligation to create blog content about the trip.