How to experience the real Barbados

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While we're huge fans of the beaches and rum distilleries in Barbados, we're taking time to highlight its lesser-known attractions, all of which offer a fantastic insight into this beautiful Caribbean island.

How to discover the real Barbados © Ben Ramirez - Flickr Creative Commons
How to discover the real Barbados © Ben Ramirez - Flickr Creative Commons

Take a punt at the Savannah

Barbados's famous racetrack can be found at the UNESCO-listed Garrison Savannah, where races have been held since 1845, originally organised by British Army officers stationed on the island.

We recommend heading down to the track on a Saturday for the family-friendly race meetings held by the Barbados Turf Club. Tickets will set you back around £8, and you can spend your winnings on a cold beer or the delicious local cuisine served up at the various food stalls.

If you fancy channelling your inner jockey, you're in luck - Barbados has a huge number of horse-riding stables offering excursions for all ability levels. Ocean Echo Stables in St John is one of the best.

Learn the lingo

Cafuffled (confused) by Bajan slang? Mastering the basics will earn you kudos from islanders and make it easier to work out what they mean when they inform you that you're "doin' Dixie" (translation: you're the life of the party) or warn you that the person next to you at the bar is a "gully boar" (someone with no class).

Other common slang words include pompasetting, which means to show off, rumbustuous (lively) and our favourite, "wukkin' up", which describes a twerking-like dance style.

Check out a fish fry

Fish fries aren't just a fantastic opportunity to chow down on some tasty local seafood. For Bajans, they're an opportunity to chew the fat, catch up with neighbours and basically put the world to rights - which is precisely why attending one is a great way to get a feel for the island.

Fish Fry Night in Oistins, Barbados © Guy Harrop - Alamy Stock Photo
Fish Fry Night in Oistins, Barbados © Guy Harrop - Alamy Stock Photo

Some of the best fish fries are the ones held in the small town of Oistins, on the southern coast. Head to Oistins Bay Gardens on a Friday night and you'll pay around £10 for a huge plate of fish (choose from tuna, swordfish, marlin, mahi-mahi or flying fish) and an ice-cold beer.

Take a hike

Bajans love to explore their island on foot. Join them by signing up for one of the weekly free, three-hour guided hikes organised by the Barbados National Trust.

There are morning (6.00am) and afternoon (3.30pm) hikes, although it's hard to beat the moonlit walks, which start at 5.30pm. You'll wander through quaint fishing villages, past forest-like fields of sugar cane and across spectacular valleys, all while learning about Barbados's diverse landscape and enjoying a good old chinwag with islanders.

Eat cheese

Everybody knows about Barbados's rum. But there's only so many mojitos you can drink (and we mean that literally, especially if you're unfamiliar with the island's particularly potent version of the spirit).

Our advice? If you're keen to sample some local cuisine, do as the locals do and stock up on the island's favourite cheese brand instead. Hatchman's Cheese is a local artisan brand sold throughout Barbados, including at the many farmers' markets. Don't miss the Drunken Cheddar - a hard cheese soaked in beer.

Hit the beach on a Sunday

Sundays are when Bajans head to the beach, which makes it the best time for you to do so, too. You'll see how locals make the most of their time off (and might just pick up some dance moves) and by striking up a conversation with your fellow sunbathers you'll get the low-down on the island's lesser-known sights.

Hit the beach on a Sunday © Loozrboy - Flickr Creative Commons
Hit the beach on a Sunday © Loozrboy - Flickr Creative Commons

Samantha Browne from Ocean Echo Stables recommends heading to the beaches of the east coast: "A great spot for mingling with the locals is the fishing community of Martin's Bay," says Samantha. "You'll also find some fantastic little watering holes like the Bay Tavern and the Old Brigand rum shop, too."

Eat local

Although there's a growing number of (albeit fantastic) fine dining restaurants offering international cuisine, don't miss the opportunity to sample some local dishes.

We've already mentioned the Oistins fish fries, but we're equally smitten with the delicious curries served up at the Fish Pot, part of the Little Good Harbour Hotel on the northwest coast.

Chicken's almost a food group of its own in Barbados, which is why we also recommend the legendary five-spice chicken breast at Cariba restaurant in the community of St James.

The must-try dish for every visitor? "Flying fish," says Peter Grannum, owner of West Side Scuba, one of Barbados's top dive schools. "It's a typically Barbadian dish which you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner." If you insist...

Shop like a local

When it comes to shopping, you'll find the best bargains by shopping where the locals shop. One of our favourite places is the Chalky Mount Potteries in the parish of St Andrew, where you can watch local potters produce beautiful works of art.

Their skills have been passed down through the generations, and their gorgeous work, which includes everything from tiny bowls to water jugs, is regarded as a must-have by locals, as well as tourists in the know. Suddenly that "I love Barbados" t-shirt looks a little naff.

If you're planning a trip, see what the weather in Barbados is like, plus when we think is the very best time to go.

Keen to experience the real Barbados?Fly direct from London Heathrow or Manchester with Virgin Atlantic - check out the latest deals on fares to Barbados today.

More about Barbados

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  • Barbados weather overview
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Tamara Hinson

Tamara Hinson
Posted on Monday 9th July 2018 in: Caribbean Excursions Virgin Atlantic Winter sun

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