Ultimate Barbados Guide for the Conscious Traveller
Located in the Caribbean, Barbados is well-known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Aside from stunning landscapes and crystal-clear waters, there is also rich history, vibrant culture, an incredible culinary scene, and much more to experience.
A trip to Barbados is sure to be a rejuvenating and memorable one; but how can you experience the best the island has to offer while minimizing your carbon footprint and contributing to the well-being of its communities?
This guide dives into the best of Barbados for the conscious traveller and shares tips and recommendations for how you can support local and be kind to the planet during your trip, touching on what to see and do, where to eat and drink, and where to stay. We'll also discuss ways you can give back and contribute to the sustainability of this beautiful destination.
What to see and do
St. Nicholas Abbey
A plantation house, museum, and rum distillery all in one, St. Nicholas Abbey offers visitors a variety of experiences to enjoy while providing the opportunity to learn about pieces of the island's history and local culture.
Located in Saint Peter, Barbados, the great house of St. Nicholas Abbey is one of the island’s oldest surviving plantations. Boasting 350 years of history, it is also one of only three Jacobean style mansions remaining in the Western Hemisphere, providing visitors with a unique look into historical architectural design and 18th-century plantation life.
With the original boundaries still intact, the plantation encompasses over 400 acres of rolling sugarcane fields, tropical gullies, mahogany forests and formal gardens. Visitors can journey through the grounds on a steam locomotive on the St. Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway and step off for a stunning view of Barbados’ east coast shoreline from Cherry Tree Hill.
Be sure to cap off your visit with a tasting from the iconic St. Nicholas Abbey rum distillery. Having been credited with inventing it in the 17th century, rum is an important part of the island’s history and culture. Made from sugarcane grown on the plantation and aged in house, it also makes a perfect souvenir. You can even get your bottle engraved to commemorate the experience!
Walkers Reserve is located on the east coast of Barbados and is the largest mining regeneration project in the Caribbean. The Walkers Institute for Regenerative Research, Education and Design (WIRRED) is a non-profit think tank, research centre, and consultancy dedicated to converting the area to a regenerative landscape, providing education opportunities, and increasing biodiversity in both plants and animals.
Walkers Reserve has over 300 acres of land that is home to an incredibly vibrant ecosystem. Open to the public, visitors can take part in a range of experiences to explore the land and learn about the many inspiring projects the institute is engaged in, including hikes, guided tours, and workshops.
During our visit to Walkers Reserve, we participated in a bee experience with two of their very knowledgable bee keepers. The experience allowed us to get up close and personal with the honeybees at one of their apiaries, providing us with not only an educational experience, but a fun one too!
All experiences and tours can be booked through the WIRRED website.
Brighton Farmers Market
Open every Saturday morning from 6:30am to 10am, the Brighton Farmers Market is locally owned and operated with vendors selling everything from fresh local produce, artisanal bath products and plants, to local art, photography, jewellery and more! This makes it not only a great place to support the local economy but also a unique place to pick up any gifts or souvenirs you might want.
It has been operating for more than 20 years and is a favourite gathering place for both locals and visitors to the island. On our Saturday morning trip, we even came across Barbados' own Prime Minister casually shopping and enjoying her Saturday morning conversing with other market-goers.
Outside of shopping, it's a great place to grab a freshly brewed morning coffee and some breakfast. Picnic tables are available in the shade of surrounding trees, providing a comfortable place to relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
Animal Flower Cave
Located at the most northerly point of the island in the parish of St. Lucy, the Animal Flower Cave is named for the sea anemones, locally referred to as "animal flowers", that can sometimes be found in the pools of the cave. It is the only accessible sea-cave on the island. Accessible by large coral stone steps leading down to the base of the cliffs, you'll encounter beautiful ocean views, unique geological formations, and a natural pool deep enough to swim in on a calm day.
Don't forget to wander over to the lookout point above Animal Flower Bay. There are benches and picnic tables located on site for those looking to relax and take in the scenery. If packing a picnic, please be careful with any wrappers or trash that could be picked up in the wind and be sure to 'leave no trace'.
Catamaran Sailing Cruise
A visit to the island just wouldn't be complete without an afternoon sailing crystal-clear waters on a beautiful catamaran.
A catamaran experience can provide you with not just a relaxing and fun day in the sun, but also the chance to check out a few shipwrecks and witness local marine life in their natural habitat. We cruised with Sail Calabaza and had a wonderful experience in a small and intimate group setting. We were also well taken care of by the crew, who was very welcoming and knowledgable, and provided us with lunch and cold drinks.
While snorkelling on a catamaran experience, you may encounter marine life like sting rays and turtles. Barbados is home to three species of turtles: The Green turtle, the Hawksbill turtle, and the Leatherback turtle. Though it is incredibly exciting to swim with the sea turtles, it's important to remember that they play an important role in protecting the local coral reef ecosystem around the island. You can do your part to be a responsible and respectful visitor by keeping your distance (including not chasing or following the turtles).
Where to stay
ECO Lifestyle + Lodge
Eco Lifestyle + Lodge is an eco-conscious boutique hotel located on the east coast of Barbados.
With only 10 guest rooms, the hotel provides an intimate experience for its guests. All rooms face the Atlantic Ocean and are filled with up-cycled furniture, eco-friendly amenities, artisanal products, and Barbadian artwork. Sustainability doesn't stop in the rooms though; ECO is doing a number of things to reduce the environmental impact of the hotel and its guests, including the use of solar-heated water and organic cleaning products, extensive recycling and composting programs, the elimination of ninety per cent of single-use products onsite and more.
ECO's onsite restaurant further compliments the hotel's dedication to sustainability, offering a delectable menu comprised of locally-sourced ingredients. This will be further discussed in the next section of this blog.
With hammocks on every balcony, private pools, and stunning ocean views, it's also an idyllic setting to relax and enjoy laidback island living.
Where to eat and drink
Upon experiencing it for myself, it's easy to see why Barbados is known for its incredible culinary scene. With over eighty-five per cent of Barbados' produce being imported, an easy way you can reduce your environmental impact and support local during your time in Barbados is to eat at restaurants that are focused on providing sustainable farm and sea-to-table options. Here are the ones you should be sure to check out!
The ECO Restaurant
Part of the previously mentioned ECO Lifestyle + Lodge boutique hotel, the ECO Restaurant is an island favourite, with people coming from all areas of Barbados to enjoy its intimate setting and mouth-watering menu. Further supporting ECO's mission to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, the restaurant offers a primarily plant-based and organic menu.
Their meals use fresh and locally sourced ingredients, including organic fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Cage-free eggs are sourced from neighbouring farms, seafood is caught fresh from nearby waters, and nourishing greens are foraged directly on the island.
This restaurant is a wonderful option not just for its delicious and healthy options, but also because of its role in supporting local farmers and fishermen in the community.
The ECO Restaurant is simply a 'must' for foodies and all travellers looking to experience fresh and local Bajan cuisine.
Oistins Fish Fry
An active fishing town on the south coast, be sure to schedule Oistins in for your Friday night plans!
A hub for locals and tourists to gather for live entertainment, music, dancing, and fresh fish, the fish fry at Oistins Bay Gardens is the place to be on a Friday night.
Cooked right on the spot, this is an excellent place to try a variety of local, fresh fish, including tuna, swordfish, marlin, mahi-mahi, flying fish and much more! Choose whether you'd like your fish grilled or fried and take in the sights and sounds in the informal, but very friendly setting.
Be sure to include a locally brewed, ice cold Banks beer with your meal for a well-rounded experience.
Sand Dunes is a roadside café located on the east coast of the island. A budget-friendly option, this restaurant is popular within the local community and is a great place to stop for a traditional Bajan lunch.
The restaurant has both indoor dining and an outdoor patio, with takeout options available.
The menu at Sand Dunes offers Bajan staples like fish and chips, cheesy macaroni pie, rice and peas, breadfruit and more. We tried a variety of these recommended staples and enjoyed every bite!
Local & Co.
Local & Co. is another fabulous farm-to-table restaurant, located in Speightstown, Barbados. Actively supporting regenerative food systems, organic famers, and the building of biodiversity, Local & Co. places significant importance on sourcing and foraging local, wild foods to include in their menu. When meat is used, it is sourced from local butchers with strict animal welfare practices in place. Local & Co. also avoids purchasing only prime cuts, committing to the whole animal where possible to reduce waste.
The menu changes regularly, reflecting seasonal ingredients and the chef's mood, with most dishes being created on the day. Food is cooked using traditional cooking methods and without the use of chemicals.
Sustainability doesn't stop with the ingredients on your plate, however. This restaurant is equipped with solar panelling on its roof to offset its carbon footprint and does not use any single-use plastic items, with all disposables being either compostable or biodegradable.
In addition to its fabulous menu, Local & Co. has a beautiful patio overlooking the ocean and a refreshing cocktail menu.
Located in St. Lawrence Gap, one of the most thriving night life areas of Barbados, is Cocktail Kitchen.
Named 'Chef of the Year' and known as a Top Chef in the Caribbean, Damian Leach is well-known for his preparation of local favourites, including Roast Breadfruit & Lobster and the Catch of the Moment.
The atmosphere is cool, cozy and casual -- perfect for an evening dinner by candlelight or signature cocktails on the patio by moonlight. As Barbados is the birth place of rum, this is a great place to experiment with both unique and classic Rum Cocktails.
Tip: Keep your eyes open around the island for Eco Sky Water -- the World's first truly sustainable bottled water. Based in Barbados, Eco Sky Water is sustainably producing water and bottling it in 100% zero waste, backyard compostable bottles (including the cap). Their bottles can be found across the island in hotels, restaurants, gas stations and more.
Ways you can give back
Outside of making more sustainable choices during your trip that reduce your carbon footprint, support local, and help you to gain an appreciation of the local culture and history of the island, Barbados also offers some great opportunities for visitors to give back to the community during their stay.
National Conservation Commission of Barbados
The National Conservation Commission (NCC) of Barbados works to maintain, develop, conserve, preserve, and enhance Barbados’ natural and man-made green spaces and beaches, among other things.
The NCC also helps to facilitate opportunities for individuals to work on a number of community projects, including:
Beach and sea clean-ups
Anyone can get involved with their projects and contribute to the conservation and beautification of Barbados by reaching out to the National Conservation Commission or visiting mindfultravelbarbados.com.
The NCC also works with the Barbados Sea Turtle Project. The Barbados Sea Turtle Project works to restore local marine turtle populations through a number of conservation measures including monitoring programs, and the development and implementation of training, education, and awareness building activities. They also have a team of specialized staff available 24-hours to rescue, relocate, and rehabilitate turtles and their nests as necessary.
Long-stay visitors are welcome to volunteer with its programs while short-term visitors are welcome to participate in nest counts (taking place between April and June).
To help contribute to the well-being of the turtles, you can also:
Engage in responsible tourism and support eco-friendly, local tour operators
Contact the Sea Turtle Hotline with information on turtle nesting, the hatching of eggs, or if you spot a lost or injured turtle
Donate to the Barbados Sea Turtle Project
What do you think? Are you ready to visit Barbados in a way that's better for people and planet?
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Disclaimer: Our trip to Barbados was sponsored by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. The content of this blog is generated for entertainment and informative purposes. All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.