So you’re taking the kids on a Caribbean cruise and have just one day in each port. What are you going to do with your short time? Cruising With Kids is a series of posts that provides family-friendly recommendations for various stops on the Caribbean cruise circuit that will give all ages a fun taste of each island without straying too far from the docks.
A popular stop on the Southern Caribbean cruise junket, Barbados is blend of British colonial sophistication and West Indian traditions. It’s small enough that you can pretty much venture to any corner of the island and make it back to port in good time (beware of rush hour traffic, though!). You can’t do it all in a day, but here are a variety of options on how you can spend your limited time in Barbados, depending on your family’s collective moods, interests and energies.
Most cruise ships will steer you towards the touristy Boatyard in Carlisle Bay. It’s a short drive (3-5 minutes) or walk (25 minutes) from the cruise terminal and has an ocean trampoline, iceberg climber, rope swing, banana boat and other beach activities along with showers and a restaurant ($15 entry fee included a beach chair and a drink – splurge an extra $2 for an umbrella). They’ll even shuttle you back to the cruise terminal at the end of your stay. There are certainly prettier beaches in Barbados, but if your family is looking for one of those action-filled beach club days not too far from the ship, this is the place to go.
If you don’t mind a 10-20 minute taxi ride away from port, Accra Beach – aka Rockley Beach – is a good choice for families who want a few amenities nearby (bathrooms, showers, beach chairs, food and craft stalls, nearby restaurants etc.) The south corner has a reef that makes for a calm shallow pool for younger children while the main strip is good for older kids who want a little wave action. There’s a new boardwalk at the north end of the beach where you can take a pleasant half hour stroll along the coast.
Is nature calling?
Find a driver for the day and head to the north and east coasts to see the best views in Barbados, a world away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy south and west coasts. Take a taxi take to Animal Flower Cave at the north tip of the island. Descend a stone staircase into a stunning cave system that opens up like a window to the rugged Atlantic Ocean. You and the kids might even want to take a dip in the cave pools. Backtrack to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, a small free-range zoo where you can wander the jungle paths along with the tortoises, iguanas, green monkeys, deer and other assorted animals. Carry on to Cherry Tree Hill for a panoramic vista of the east coast, then drive down to Cattlewash or Bathsheba for a stroll along the enormous beach (too rough for swimming, but there are occasional tide pools to explore). Take a nature walk through Andromeda Botanic Gardens before heading back inland towards the port.
Craving a little adventure?
Would your family rather be up in the trees like Tarzan or deep under water like Captain Nemo? Aerial Trek Zipline Adventure offers a ziplining tour (ages 12 and over) through a lush gully in the heart of the island. Atlantis Adventures Submarine (must be over 3ft tall) takes you 150ft under the sea to gawk at shipwrecks and sea creatures. You might want to book these adventures in advance as space is limited (as is your time).
Want to check out a local attraction?
Ocean Park, a 30–40 minute drive from port, is a fun way to spend a few hours with the kids while learning a bit about Caribbean marine life. Their displays include a ray pool, a shark tank, a hands-on touch pool and various aquariums of tropical fish and sea creatures. There’s also splash pad for the kids to cool off in (bring swim suits), a mini-golf course, a playground and a restaurant. Rumor has it they’re building a “dolphinarium” in the coming months.
Harrison’s Cave is one of Barbados’ main attractions. Being the only coral island in an otherwise volcanic chain, you don’t find world class caves like this on any other island in the region. About a half hour drive from the docks, you tour these impressive underground caverns by tram, with a few photo-stops to stretch your legs along the way. Funky formations, underground waterfalls and the sheer size of the cathedrals-like chambers make this a “wow” for kids and grownups alike.
Kids aren’t generally known for their adventurous palates, but part of the fun of traveling is sampling new and different flavors around the world. Here is some yummy Barbadian food that might appeal to even the pickiest little eaters.
Flying fish: This mild white fish is the national dish of Barbados.
Cou cou: The other national dish of Barbados, it’s a thick porridge of corn meal and okra, kind of like polenta. The name alone will give the kids a giggle.
Cutters: The local word for various kinds of sandwiches on salt bread (try a flying fish cutter).
Macaroni pie: The island version of mac and cheese only with long tube noodles and some mild spices to jazz it up. Much better than a box of KD.
Guava cheese: Tastes a lot better than it sounds, it’s like a tart, fruity Turkish delight.
Barbados is the gem of the Caribbean… I’ll only add to your British colonial sophistication, West African cultural traditions blended to create a unique West Indian heritage.
You’ll also find The Greame Hall Nature Sanctuary on the South coast… And an exhilarating swim with the sea turtles on the island fabulous west coast.
Oh! Before I forget, delicacies like tamarind balls, sugar cakes, coconut sweet bread, fish cakes and snow cones are all delightful treats the kids will love…
Sad to report that the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary has closed to the public as of a few months to go. Swimming with sea turtles is a great recommendation – Paynes Bay and Folkstone are good places to see them or catch a quick boat tour.
Thanks for the additional food suggestions – they’re all delicious (and not just for kids)!