I want to start this post off by saying that I am a little biased when it comes to Barbados. We first visited when my children were one and four years old respectively. During their daily naps, I would sit on a porch staring at the ocean, plotting my next career move (that I knew had to involve self employment). Those roughly etched out notes, from those long afternoons, (creatively encouraged by a dose of Bajan rum punch), would eventually become the framework for this site.
It was with great enthusiasm that we returned to Barbados to put together this guide for families. We love the island for its unique character and culture, incredible beaches, caves and gardens, abundance of wildlife and excellent Bajan cuisine. Here is everything we think families traveling with a young kids would enjoy, including some “must know” tips for the island.
Take a quick peek at this 2 minute youtube video or just read on.
A Guide to Barbados for Families
5 Activities for Kids on Barbados
1. Barbados Wildlife Reserve
We liked it so much that we went twice! Barbados Wildlife Reserve allows kids to enjoy a close up encounter with some of the island’s native wildlife including green monkeys, turtles, iguanas and tortoises. The best time to visit is around the 2pm feeding when the monkeys come down from the treetops. Be sure to take the short little stroll up the path to the Signal Station, for beautiful views of Bathsheba on the east coast. Learn more about the Barbados Wildlife Reserve on the Barbados.org website.
2. Swimming with Sea Turtles
There are a variety of ways to see sea turtles when visiting Barbados. We had been told that they tend to hang around out in front of the Lone Star Hotel on Alleynes Bay, so we used the many boats as a cue and just swam out 75 meters from the beach to see them. With little ones, however, you may prefer to book a catamaran tour. Calypso Cruises comes highly recommended by locals for their family run operation, great service and small groups (their boat allows a maximum of 14 people). They receive excellent reviews and are not a party boat like some of the others. See their website BarbadosCatamaran.com for more information and rates.
3. Barbados Beaches
The most gentle beaches for kids are on the west coast of Barbados. Some of our favourites include Mullins Bay, Alleynes Bay and Paynes Bay. The kids also enjoyed doing a little snorkeling at the Folkestone Marine Park (just north of Holetown). In addition to pretty fish near the shore, this nicely shaded area has a playground and playful green monkeys in the trees.
One of the most beautiful beaches on this island is Crane Beach on the south coast (often rated as one of the top beaches in the world). While the waters there a much wilder than on the west coast, my kids love jumping the waves and building sandcastles on this beautiful expanse of sand. Just up the road from this beach is the delicious deli Cutters, with great food and the best rum punch on the island. If you call ahead they will make you a picnic for the beach.
Beach chair and umbrella rentals: All of the beaches listed above have chair and umbrella rentals. The day rate for 2 chairs and an umbrella is about $20-$25 USD.
Sargassum Seaweed Update: Many islands in the Caribbean have been struggling with a bloom of Sargassum seaweed that has been washing up on their beautiful beaches. If you Google this you can see the extent of the problem, especially in some shocking photos from Cancun. On Barbados, only the east and south coast beaches were affected (which is why we chose to stay on the west coast), but at the time of our visit the problem was diminishing. Crane Beach had actually installed some booms to keep the seaweed out and were raking the beach every morning. While there was still a little lying around, my kids didn’t mind – having the odd seaweed fight.
Carved into the limestone that uniquely makes up the island of Barbados (the rest of the Caribbean islands are volcanic), Harrison’s Cave provides a unique look under the surface. Via a 30 minute underground guided train trip, you get to see the crystalized limestone formations and stream system that carved out these incredible caverns. Learn more on the Harrison’s Cave website www.harrisonscave.com .
5.The Swimming Race Horses
If you have an early riser who is also a horse lover, there is a special experience just for them. In the wee morning hours (5:30am – 7am) trainers from the Garrison Savannah Race Track take horses down to Pebbles Beach just south of Bridgetown for a little water therapy. Grab a coffee at the nearby Radisson and sit yourself down in the sand to enjoy this beautiful sight. You are best to sit a ways back as these are race horses after all, and can be a little feisty. Race days are also popular with families (although we missed this experience due to a rain cancellation). See the Garrison Savannah Race Day schedule here. Want to see more? Here is a short youtube video.
Family Friendly Hotels on Barbados
Note: Barbados has quite a number of all-inclusives, but on this website the focus is on smaller boutique hotels. All of the properties listed here are on the west coast of the island because that is where the nicest and calmest beaches are.
The Tamarind Beach Resort by Elegant Hotels
Price: $$$ – $$$$
Class: 4 star
Reviews: 87% of family reviewers rate as very good or excellent on Tripadvisor.
Family Friendly Features: Complimentary daily breakfast, kids’ club, teen lounge, babysitting services (additional fee), games for loan, 3 pools (2 for families, one that is adults only), complimentary motorized and non-motorized beach toys and a water trampoline.
For availability: See website.
Review: See our full review of the Tamarind here.
The Sandy Lane
Class: 5 star
Reviews: 89% of family reviewers rate as very good or excellent on Tripadvisor.
Family Friendly Features: A variety of family accommodation including the ultimate 5 bedroom villa, complimentary daily breakfast, complimentary kids’ club, butler service (pressing and unpacking), complimentary non-alcoholic drinks in room, non-motorized water sports and tennis (also complimentary), golf, and a glamorous spa.
For availability: See website.
Class: 4 star
Reviews: 93% of family reviewers rate as very good or excellent on Tripadvisor.
Family Friendly Features: Interconnecting suites and 2 bedroom suites, baby amenities, beach toys, babysitters for hire, kids stay and eat for free promotion (seasonal – see dates), and special children’s activities during the holidays (special excursions, crafts etc.).
Important to note: from early Jan to early March, Cobbler’s Cove is adults only
For availability: See website.
Little Good Harbour
Class: 3.5 star
Reviews: 95% of family reviewers rate as very good or excellent on Tripadvisor
Family Friendly Features: 1,2 and 3 bedroom suites fully equipped kitchens, baby cots, 2 pools, spa, babysitters for hire, excellent restaurant on site.
For availability: See website.
Note: We stayed here on our first trip to Barbados with a toddler and a baby. We really enjoyed the spacious suites, although I would make sure you do not get one that is close to the road. We also found that the hotel was a little out of the way for our excursions (mostly to the beaches further south). That said, it is still a lovely place to stay and having all the extra room was nice.
Family Friendly Vacation Rentals on Barbados
Alternatively, you can rent a vacation home (Airbnb, HomeAway etc.,) which is what we did for part of our stay. For the best options book way out, read reviews from families carefully and book for a minimum of 5 days (we only had four days and our options were much more limited due to the fact that we did not meet the minimum stay requirements for some great properties). Also keep in mind that you may have to pay for additional things that you wouldn’t have to with a hotel (renting beach chairs or daily cleaning service).
If a unit had been available for our stay dates, we would have chosen to stay in the Merlin Bay Villas complex (Ocean’s Edge or Eden on the Sea) or a condo in the Mullin’s Bay Villa complex (Sugardadeze was highly recommended by a friend). Both complexes are very suitable for families and are near the beach (find these on LuxuryRetreats.com).
Family Friendly Restaurants on Barbados
Barbados has no shortage of family-friendly restaurants, especially the beach bars where kids can play in the sand rather than have to wait at the table.
Best Restaurants on Barbados With Kids
Mullins Bar and Restaurant – Mullins Beach – Caribbean Fusion (kids’ menu)
Scarlet – St. James – Spanish, Tapas
SeaCat – Holetown – Caribbean
The Lone Star – Alleynes Bay – Caribbean Beach Bar (kids’ menu, high chairs and change table)
Ju Ju’s Beach Bar – Alleynes Bay – Caribbean Beach Bar
Bombas – Mullins Beach – Caribbean Beach Bar
Cutters Deli – Crane Beach – Caribbean (kids’ menu, picnic lunches)
Unique Dining Experiences for Kids on Barbados
Oistens Fish Fry
On Friday nights, a large number of islanders turns up for live music and fresh-off-the-docks flying fish at the Oistens Fish Fry. There are many restaurants to choose from, but we decided on Pat’s Place as it had been recommended to us by several locals (white tent – big crowds). Things start to get busy around 7pm, but with kids, you may want to go before sunset to feed the giant sea turtles that hang around the end of the jetty (you can buy some fish scraps from the adjacent fish market). You do not have to go to Oisten’s only on Friday nights, but that is when it is the most lively. We chose instead to go on a Saturday night, which turned out to be “Karaoke Night”. Although at times it was painful, I did get a kick out of hearing a Bajan couple singing Endless Love. See Barbados.org for the full Oistens Fish Fry schedule.
The Cliff Beach Club
This new bar/restaurant is right next to the famous (and very expensive) Cliff Restaurant. Although they do not have a kids’ menu, the kitchen was very happy to make my children a simple pasta meal. The coolest thing about this place is that you are perched right over the water, and at night, the lights from the restaurant attract giant tarpons and stingrays. We went early (6pm) and the manager was kind enough to get some fish scraps from the kitchen to toss at the fish with my kids. It was truly an amazing experience. See reviews of the Cliff Beach Club here.
Dining Without Kids on Barbados
If you hire a babysitter, try one of the following top rated restaurants
Cin Cin by the Sea – St. James – Caribbean
Nishi – Holetown – Sushi
The Tides – Holetown – Caribbean
The Cliff – St. James – French, Caribbean
Note: When our kids were really little, we had a strategy for visiting nicer restaurants (when we did not have a babysitter). The long and short of it is that we would always bring our own portable highchair and we would go right at opening (and be gone by the dinner rush). See our dining out with kids restaurant tips here.
Important Details About Barbados
When to visit Barbados
December to April is the nicest (dry season) but also the most expensive (Barbados is on par with Hawaii, cost-wise). We often choose to visit the Caribbean in late November or very early December (shoulder season), which is much cheaper, and just outside of hurricane season (June-November). In about a dozen trips at this time of year, we have yet to experience bad weather, and pay about half what you would in high season.
Renting a Car in Barbados
To truly experience the best of Barbados, you should either rent a car (or be prepared to spend a small fortune on taxis). From my experience, renting a car anywhere in the Caribbean can be a hit and miss scenario. Having done a lot of research on this subject before our trip, I opted to rent from Stoutes despite the fact that it was more expensive than some of the other car hire options. I am happy to report that everything went seamlessly, from the airport pickup to the drop off, and I would highly recommend them.They will also drop a car off at your hotel if you do not want a car rental for your whole stay. Also highly recommended is Drive-A-Matic.
Driving in Barbados
This really deserves its own section. First of all, they drive on the left in Barbados. Second, the island roads are a little hard to navigate, even with a map (and I pride myself in my navigation skills). Part of this comes from that fact that the names of the roads on the main tourist map do not necessarily match up with the road signs. For example, all over the island you are directed to the main route, the ABC highway, yet there is no ABC highway on the map. After some frustration, I realized that the ABC Highway is actually a trio of interlinking highways (Adams, Barrow and Cummins). This is just one of many examples like this. I strongly recommend using (or renting) a GPS for your time on the island. It is much cheaper than marriage counseling.
Is Barbados a safe place to travel? It is not Canada, but it is statistically (at the time of the writing of this post) a much safer place than Mexico, Puerto Rico or Panama (all places we have traveled with our kids). Like many islands in the Caribbean, you need to exercise caution by not wandering through towns or on the beaches late at night. Don’t flash around the green or your new iWatch – use the safe in your room. Anything left on the beach is considered fair game. During our stay we encountered nothing but warm and helpful islanders proud to share with us the beauty of their island home, but we do exercise caution.
How do you get updated travel warning for a country? Check the travel advisories from the U.S. Department of State , Government of Canada, or the Gov.UK sites. Also worth looking at on the sites is the health sections to see if there are any exceptional warnings (mosquito borne illnesses such as Chikungunya and Dengue are at times quite prevalent in tropical locales). My other go-to resource for health concerns is the CDC website (Center for Disease Control).
Baby Gear and Babysitters
What to Buy
We have a rule in our family that any souvenirs purchased must be local. We bought hand tied bracelets and delicious rum cakes from Chattel Village in Holetown and Bajan rum from Four Square Rum Factory near Crane Beach (has a nice kids playground ). Barbados also has a booming Duty Free business.
Recording Your Memories
While on Barbados we chose to do a family photo shoot on the beach since we hardly have a single photo of our whole family. We booked it via a company called Flytographer and purchased their smallest half hour package for $250 USD. We were very happy with the results and enjoyed working with their Bajan photographer Andrew. If this interests you, make sure to use the coupon code #FLYFAN to save $25 on your first Flytographer package.
We received a media discount from the Tamarind for 3 nights of our one week stay on Barbados (a property that I researched thoroughly before approaching). All other expenses were entirely paid for by us. All opinions in this post are my own and I only work with brands that I would use myself. As always on this site, I encourage you to also read current reviews from other family travelers before making a booking (Tripadvisor, Google etc.).
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