February 22, 2024

How to spend a relaxing weekend in Barbados

With its pristine white sand beaches and slow pace, Barbados is an obvious destination for wellness. But the small island offers so much more than a relaxing beach holiday. Beyond the crystal clear waters lies an island full of tranquil gardens, majestic caves and warm people.

Whether you’re looking for adventure or tranquility, the abundant nature offers it all: from ziplining through the canopy to floating in the tranquil salt waters off the west coast to meditating in the shade of a towering palm tree. While local favorites like macaroni cheesecake and fish cakes feed the soul, you can also find nourishment in the abundance of fresh produce and health products (like sorrel juice) at a local farmers market.

For consistently clear skies, summer is the best season to visit. But as someone who has lived in Barbados during the wet season (July through November), I can confirm that the island is no less fun when it rains. The short rain showers provide relief from the hot sun, but also keep the crowds at bay and provide more opportunities for solitude and reflection.

The following itinerary is intended for a short weekend getaway, but can easily be stretched over a week, so you return home feeling completely refreshed and recharged.


Evening

Check in at The Crane hotel, just a 15-minute drive from the airport. While most hotels are located in the west and southwest of the island, The Crane is located in the southeast corner, making it not only more secluded but also closer to the airport. The hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean, dating back to 1887. It is distinguished by its location on a cliff overlooking Crane Beach.

Whether you’re enjoying breakfast on the clifftop or lying in one of the hotel’s cabanas, it’s hard not to be enchanted by the waves sheltered by the majestic cliffs. Although The Crane has a spa and regular yoga classes, Crane Beach is the main wellness attraction here. If you’re looking for a more relaxing dip, the shared clifftop pools are adorned with regal Doric columns, while the suites come with your own private infinity or plunge pool overlooking the resort.

Morning

Snorkel and surf off the south coast

Re-energize at Crane’s breakfast buffet for a morning of water wellness. Gentle waves and warm temperatures make the south coast of Barbados the ideal place to learn to surf. With a sheltered bay, a long break to the left and minimal current, Freights Bay is perfect for beginner or intermediate surfers. If you’re new to the sport, Boosy’s Surf School offers supportive lessons.

The temperate waters and clear visibility also provide ideal conditions for snorkeling. For colorful coral reefs, go to the west coast. But for those who want to see something different, underwater shipwrecks await in Carlisle Bay. The thrill of swimming next to turtles and rays is an exercise in mindfulness because it forces you to be in the moment.

Afternoon

Forest bathing and adventure

A short drive south you’ll find the island’s most popular fishing shack, Cuz’s Fish Stand, which serves fish cutters (the local term for burgers) of marinated marlin. After lunch, for a change of scenery from the beach, head inland to Hunte’s Gardens. What was once a gully has been transformed into a flower paradise. With classical music projected throughout the garden and plenty of benches in the trees, this is the perfect place to take a break.

There is another botanical collection in the same St. Joseph parish: the Flower Forest. From achiote trees to red begonias to bird’s nest ferns, their impressive collection is a feast for the senses all year round. When you get hungry, The Forest CafĂ© offers light snacks and drinks on the top terrace with garden views.

Less than ten minutes from the Flower Forest lies a heart-pounding forest experience: a ziplining through the canopy at the Eco-Adventure Park at Harrison’s Cave. Once you’ve climbed through the treetops, head underground to explore the park’s limestone caves, filled with stalagmites. To learn more about the native flora, take a leisurely tour of the park’s gardens.

Evening

Dinner and a show

Depending on the day you arrive, you can attend a dinner show at Harbor Lights. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, the beach club turns into a Bajan-style barbecue buffet, accompanied by a lively performance. For a more local nightlife experience, head to Oistins Fish Fry on Fridays. Here you’ll find every piece of fresh fish, from swordfish to marlin to flying fish, served with classic Bajan sides like plantains. If you go early before food opens around 7pm, you can watch the sunset over the pier. But if you prefer to mingle with locals, head to the market after 8 p.m. Either way, you can expect a performance from locals dancing on stage.


Morning

Experience the vibrant world of honey bees in a way that only a handful of honey bees have been exposed to. Learn more about the importance of these insects and why they add so much value to our lives. A professional beekeeper will guide you through one of our apiaries, where you can experience the bee world and get to know these fascinating insects up close.

Beekeeping in Walkers Reserve

Early morning is the best time to get close to the bees, so start your day at Walkers Reserve, an ecotourism park on the island’s east coast. The 277-acre park is home to a research institute working to restore the landscape, and they offer several tours for those who want to learn more about regenerative agriculture. But the standout experience here is the beekeeping tour. If you learn from a professional beekeeper that the bees can sense your energy, the experience is an exercise in mindfulness, as you must remain calm so as not to alert the bees.

Brighton farmers market

After starting your day with the bees, head to Brighton Farmers Market, which takes place every Saturday morning from 6am to 10am. Here, produce vendors sell colorful vegetables and local artists display their creations atop a grassy hill. Food stalls sell everything from quiche to avocado toast. Foodies will love visiting the market with Chef Seth Hasin-Bromley, who can help you select your own produce for him so he can prepare a private dinner for you that evening. After an early breakfast, head back to The Crane to get some beach time before your afternoon adventures begin.

Afternoon

Cave explorations and wildlife encounters

For a short walk along the island’s rugged east coast, head to Coco Hill Forest. The 53-hectare agritourism project is filled with 70 species of tropical fruit trees, herbs and spices. While you can easily explore the trails on your own, a guided tour provides knowledge about the island’s botanical history. Animal lovers will want to head further north to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, to hang out among the mahogany trees with Barbados’ green monkeys, deer and turtles.

Then head to Animal Flower Cave at the northernmost point of the island. Here you can bathe in cave pools, some up to 2.5 meters deep, with beautiful views of the ocean (but be careful, the powerful waves can flood the caves with water). At the top of the cave is a restaurant that serves local favorites such as fish cakes, breadfruit tacos, and salty fish salad.

Evening

St. Lawrence Gorge

When it comes to island nightlife, St. Lawrence Gap (known locally as ‘The Gap’) is the place to be. But for a more wellness-focused trip, you’ll want to head out early before the crowds start to catch the sunset from the narrow beach. Then wander over to Cocktail Kitchen to enjoy happy hour specials as you watch the Gap come to life from your seat on the balcony. For dinner, creative interpretations of Caribbean flavors include fresh catch wrapped in ginger and coconut and braised oxtail with a goat cheese croquette. Their most popular dish is the lobster and saltfish with fire-roasted breadfruit and a Bajan pepper sauce aioli.


Morning and afternoon

Catamaran cruise

No wellness trip to Barbados is complete without a beach day. But instead of lying on the sand, the most relaxing way to experience the sun and sky is on a catamaran cruise. They typically last from 10am to 1 or 2pm and include a buffet lunch. Alternate your time between snorkeling and just lying on the mesh floor; Feeling the cool breeze beneath you as you gently move with the waves, you are sure to be left relaxed throughout the cruise.

Then keep your rest by heading to a yoga class or heading back to the Crane Hotel for a cooling treatment at the Serenity Spa. For stand-up paddleboard yoga, Santosha Yoga is not far from where most catamaran cruises dock. When you’ve had enough of the water and want to feel more grounded, head north to Sunshine Kula Yoga, located on the tranquil west coast, just a few minutes’ drive from your dining spot.

Evening

Calma Beach Club

One of the more modern restaurants on the island, Calma Beach Club is the place to see and be seen. With an all-white aesthetic, live music and tables right on the sand, the club feels cool without seeming too pretentious. The menu matches the atmosphere with innovative takes on Caribbean classics, such as fishcake patties with cucumber sauce and plantain tacos with charred vegetables and feta. While vegetables aren’t the star in most Bajan cuisines, they’re celebrated here in dishes like the watermelon and feta salad, zucchini fritters, and the house-made veggie burger. Don’t miss the coconut plantain bread pudding with roasted chili pineapple and rum cream sauce.

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