Like virtually every country in the Caribbean, Barbados has more than its fair share of beautiful beaches. But for those who want to see more of this former British colony—the most developed island in the region and the third most developed country in the Western Hemisphere—Barbados offers a broad range of intriguing attractions. Whether you're a nature lover, a history buff or simply someone who loves a good party, you'll find Barbados offers numerous options well worth exploring.
Barbados Museum & Historical Society
This impressive museum, located inside a 193-year-old colonial building that once housed the British Military Prison, offers an immersive look back at the Caribbean country's history and growth. Their expansive collection includes a natural history display on the island's coral structure; artifacts from the area's original Amerindian inhabitants; furnishings from an 18th-century plantation home; antique maps of the region; and a children's gallery focused on historical education. As a bonus, you can also enter some of the old prison cells.
Barbados Wildlife Reserve
This 4-acre paradise was originally founded in 1982 to preserve and study Green Monkeys, which were brought to the island in the 17th century. Today the popular primates are just one of many species that roam freely around the reserve, including Red Brockets (a South American deer), Patagonian Maras (a short-eared hare from Argentina), Cuban Rock Iguanas and Red-Footed Tortoises. Your entry fee also grants you admission to the Grenade Hall Forest & Signal Station, an adjoining attraction that affords amazing views of the island's landscape. With the closing of the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary back in 2008, the Barbados Wildlife Reserve has emerged as one of the island's most relaxing natural retreats.
What Mardi Gras is to New Orleans and Carnaval is to Brazil, Crop Over is to Barbados. The traditional harvest festival includes music, dancing and all sorts of Bacchanalian indulgences. One of the most popular features is the competition for the Calypso Monarch Award, in which colorfully costumed calypso bands vie for the public's affection in hopes of being crowned King and Queen of Calypso. The festival stretches from June until the first Monday in August, culminating in the national holiday known as Grand Kadooment, in which pulsating Bajan rhythms fill the streets and fireworks light up the sky.
Recently re-opened after an extensive renovation, Harrison's Cave has emerged as one of Barbados' most popular tourist attractions. The tour begins at the Visitor Reception Centre, and then you have the option of taking two scenic trails or glass-fronted elevators to descend from the cliff top to the valley floor. The Cave Interpretive Centre's interactive exhibits and short video presentation provide a brief overview of the 2.3-km cave's history, preparing you for a 45-minute tram tour through an underground wonderland filled with stalactites, stalagmites and waterfall-like flowstone formations.
Mount Gay Rum Distilleries
Even people who know nothing about Barbados know the name Mount Gay, which is considered the world's oldest rum company. Mount Gay's iconic logo is everywhere on the island, and their rum is in everything. In Barbados there seems to be as many rum shacks as New York has hot dog stands. The Mount Gay Rum tour offers a behind-the-scenes look at their entire production process. You'll learn about everything from the harvesting of the sugarcane to the bottling of the final product, but the best part is the tasting at the end, in which guests sample a half-dozen varieties ranging from top-notch sipping rum to liqueurs flavored with vanilla, mango and passion fruit.
Snorkeling With Sea Turtles
Imagine yourself swimming in warm, aquamarine waters so clear and calm you can see every indention in the sand nearly 40 feet below. Now imagine yourself surrounded by hundreds of yellow and black sergeant majors, brilliant blue Barbadian chubs and surprisingly friendly greenback turtles drawn by scraps of food that the crew has strewn above the wreckage of two barges intentionally sunk to create man-made reefs around 30 years ago. That's one of many highlights of a rejuvenating 5-hour adventure via catamaran with Tall Ships Cruises, which allows you to snorkel in numerous spots off the coast of some of the island's most breathtaking beaches.
Sunbury Plantation House
Built around 1660 by Matthew Chapman, one of the country's first land-owning settlers, this plantation home in the Barbados countryside is a remarkable reminder of the island's colonial history. The home was severely damaged by fire in 1995, but you'd never know it: Sunbury has been lovingly restored to its original glory, and the owners have packed it with authentic antique fixtures and furnishings. The cellars, which were originally used for storing vegetables grown on the plantation, now house an impressive collection of antique carriages, and the lushly landscaped grounds feature old carts and machinery used to cultivate the land in centuries past.
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