It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been to the Caribbean, there’s just always something new to explore. After all, what’s not to love? The culture, amazing people, lush vegetation, and majestic landscape from waterfalls to turquoise blue waters make the Caribbean a family travel paradise. My family fell in love with Caribbean islands long ago with recent adventures taking us to St. Martin, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Anguilla. But this past Spring break, we settled on Barbados for its beauty, it’s people and the excursions.
As family travel veterans, we always take advantage of reward miles and finding the perfect place to stay. We scored this amazing Barbados Airbnb and managed to put together 5 plane tickets with our travel reward points to cover our airfare. Here are favorite excursions, beaches and restaurants on the island:
George Washington House
Start your Barbados excursions at George Washington House where the young future president visited. The home was built in 1715 and Washington himself was treated for smallpox by a British doctor on the island. The property earned a spot as a UNESCO protected property in 2011 and draws thousands of visitors every year.
Our kids loved the fast-paced tour, but if the history of the Washingtons on the island doesn’t captivate your kids, they’ll love learning about the property’s underground tunnels. The network of tunnels was thought to be the first of their kind in Barbados and were designed to provide drainage to the area. Oral history also suggests the tunnels were intended to be an escape route for soldiers in case of an invasion on Barbados. Guides can share more about the narrow pathways carved from limestone stretching some 12 to 17 feet underground to satisfy your family’s curiosity.
After exploring what the George Washington House has to offer, pay a stop at the property’s cafe. It ended up serving some of the most amazing food we ate during our time in Barbados. Eat either inside or on the patio where ceiling fans keep visitors cool while overlooking the estate. Not only is the food surprisingly good, but the cafe embraces environmentally-friendly practices like composting.
After visiting George Washington House, head right downhill to the closest family-friendly beach; Pebble Beach. A convenient parking lot sits adjacent to the beach and makes it easy to get in and out with even small kids in tow. Ideal for body surfing, Pebble Beach also offers chair rentals and a variety of water sports to keep the whole family happy. Chair rentals were reasonable for a day’s use, but only accept cash in either U.S. or Barbados currency. In fact, you can use U.S. currency anywhere in Barbados, making it easier to plan. If the kids are restless and want an adventure, stroll down the beach to watch seasoned surfers skilfully tear up the water as the waves roll in.
Despite the unbeatable convenience of Pebble Beach, my family’s favorite sandy spot was Payne’s Bay Beach. A fantastic array of colorful coral and seashells greet visitors. The lapping water was also very calm for young explorers. For an adventure, catch the 2 ½ hour glass bottom boat ride from Payne’s Beach stocked with life jackets and snorkel gear for even the littlest kids. We snorkeled in two different spots and were dazzled by stingrays and sea turtles with plenty of colorful fish darting through their ocean home. It was the perfect first snorkeling experience for the kids to introduce them to a calm and easy dive. But despite the draw of snorkeling, the boat’s built-in slide will probably be the main attraction for kids of all ages.
Another Barbados beach that comes highly recommended is Pirate’s Cove Beach. When we return, we’d like to try a ShoreTrips excursion here which includes a beach day, snorkeling among a shipwreck and a swim with the turtles on the island!
Go Horseback Riding
After getting your fill of snorkeling, try your skills at horseback riding in Barbados. We chose Ride Barbados for our excursion and started on Farley Hill before making our way down to a completely deserted beach. This side of the island proved less developed and wonderfully rugged, and we were rewarded with stunning scenery. The kids felt like Caribbean cowboys as we explored the landscape and saw an old windmill on Morgan Lewis Hill and a goat farm. A stable of island dogs even tagged along during part of our ride and chased the mongoose hiding in the bushes.
For a break from the beach, take a hike to Welchman Hall Gully nature reserve. We stopped and explored local caves and even discovered several nutmeg seeds. If you’re like us, we had no idea what this spice looked like in the wild. But it was the monkeys that made the experience completely whimsical and full of fun. Kids can play at the reserve’s tree fort, hop on the zip line or slack line, and look for local monkeys chattering in the trees.
If you want to combine a trip to Welchman’s Gully to observe these mischievous monkeys and also explore the crystallized limestone caverns and a 40-foot waterfall, try the incredible cave, monkey & beach tour with ShoreTrips.
There’s also a Chunky Monkey Cafe for a quick bite and a convenient stop to recharge. Although this was not our favorite food on the island.
Tempt Your Tastebuds
A day of exploring and playing in the sun works up an appetite and requires something extra special. Our best Barbados restaurant recommendation came from our friend Tara at Pint Size Pilot, an avid family traveler herself. The Cliff Beach Club treated us to front row seating of the roaring ocean below and a sunset we felt like we could reach out and touch. Valet parking makes it an easy outing for families, and they even made the kid’s mango virgin daiquiris that were out of this world.
Although nothing really beat Cliff Beach Club, we also enjoyed dining at Crane Beach Resort and its local restaurant, Trattoria. The food was quite good, and most importantly, left the kids totally satisfied. Our young brood was craving spaghetti and was eager to dig in. Afterward, grab an ice cream at the resort shop, then leave some time to explore the property.
For something that feels more like an experience than just dinner, Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry delivers on fun. The downside is a very long wait to actually get your food. Our Airbnb host recommended eating at Uncle George’s. There was a wait, but was worth it and came with filling, and delicious, sides. During our wait, we kept ourselves entertained with plenty of people watching including a couple of locals with pet monkeys. While my husband waited in line for our food, I accompanied the kids as we walked through the local market and checked out the booths selling jewelry, artwork, and clothes.
The Best Barbados Airbnb
There are plenty of places to stay around the island, but we absolutely adored our Barbados Airbnb. As the 3rd oldest plantation on the island, the owner Peter escaped the cold of England to live in Barbados full-time.
Peter lives in the main house built in the mid-1700’s and rents out 3 other houses on the 5-acre property. The property is in the middle of the local sugar plantations and is teeming with fresh flowers. Take some time to explore and look for a wild troupe of monkeys that “reveal themselves” to the lucky few who take the time to look. It doesn’t hurt if you leave behind fresh fruit every morning to entice them to come out and say hello. Kids and grown-ups alike are also delighted by Peter’s 7 dogs, with the friendliest of the pack being Wags. Our family still dearly misses Wags, along with new puppies on the property that we got to cuddle daily.
Wags is also a part of daily activities and loves the pool. We quickly learned the game of “Wags ball” involving tossing a milk carton in the air as Wags heroically jumps into the air and tries to grab it. Or, more likely, another dog may jump in and grab it instead. Babies and toddlers who can’t join in on Wags ball enjoy a smaller pool that’s perfect for little travelers.
We were thrilled that M.A.H. Car Rentals delivered our rental car right to our Airbnb, and included a booster seat for our 4-year-old at no extra charge. It helped get around the island from Peter’s Airbnb to area attractions to restaurants and made our trip easy. But if your kids are tired of being out and about, or you’re just not night owls, Peter offers outdoor movies under the stars on Saturday nights. Sundays are reserved for band rehearsal with Peter’s bandmates, and if you play an instrument you can join in! Our middle kiddo plays the guitar and eagerly jumped in to play a few numbers. But don’t worry about bringing your own instrument along for the trip, Peter has quite a guitar collection and is happy to lend them to budding musicians.
Peter’s attention to detail made a big impression on my family. He even cooks up a welcome dinner on your first night and will stock your fridge with starter groceries at cost. We found a friend for life in Peter who even helped build a tree fort out of bamboo with our boys. Of course, if you’re looking for the Ritz, Peter’s Airbnb isn’t the place for you. There’s no AC, and although we were fine with the trade breezes that blow every night, there are island critters like bugs and the occasional mouse. We felt like we were glamping and enjoy rustic island life with modern, and magical, charm.
Although Barbados is big on natural beauty from beaches to caves and rich in history, it was the local flavor and people that really made our trip. We can’t wait to get back to Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean to see what else it has to offer.
Have you been to Barbados? What was your favorite part of your family vacation?