Barbados may only be 166 square miles, but it contains plenty of leisurely and action-packed activities to fill a visitor’s schedule. While known for its miles of green golf courses and cricket pitches, there are other activities in Barbados that will satisfy the non-sporty on vacation. Stroll through botanical gardens, take a deep dive in a submarine—whatever you fancy, there’s no excuse for getting bored. Read on for our list of the six best things to do in Barbados.
Learn to surf from an Olympian
DeAction Beach and Surf Shop on the island’s south coast is the place to go if surfing is on the itinerary, whether it’s the standard kind, kite surfing, or windsurfing (stand-up paddleboarding is also available). Brian Talma, a professional surfer who windsurfed for Barbados in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, founded the shop 25 years ago. He and his skilled team of surfer aficionados have been patiently teaching customers the ways of the waves ever since. You’ll know the surf shop when you see it: Look for the multi-colored tin-roofed houses directly on the deAction beach.
Go on a submarine tour
Popular with families, Atlantis Submarines Barbados plunges guests 150 feet underwater in a 65-foot-long, battery-powered submersible. There, they can see what’s hiding below the waves: shipwrecks, coral reefs, and sea life like parrotfish and turtles. Crew members are on hand to offer narration during the 45-minute tour, and the vessel is fully air-conditioned.
Explore St. Nicholas Abbey, a 17th-century estate
Don’t be confused: Despite its name, St. Nicholas Abbey is not a religious institution. The 400-acre plantation and family home was built in 1660; today, visitors can explore the property’s history with tours of the buildings and grounds. Start with a walk through the 17th-century Jacobean-style Great House, one of three remaining in the Western Hemisphere, then learn about the enslaved people who worked on the estate at the Moore Hill House. Find out how rum is made at the estate’s distillery, which still uses sugarcane farmed on the property. And don’t miss an excursion on the Heritage Railway, a diesel locomotive train completed in 2018 that provides expansive views of the mahogany tree–lined Cherry Tree Hill.
Learn about Barbados history at the Garrison Historic Area
To take in more Barbadian history, head to the Garrison Historic Area in the island’s capital, Bridgetown. Established in 1705, the Garrison was Britain’s first permanent military base in the Caribbean, a destination for transatlantic traders and naval expeditions. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it contains a wealth of attractions, including the Garrison Savannah horse track, St. Ann’s Fort, and George Washington House, where the president and his brother lived for two months in 1751 while the latter was recovering from tuberculosis.
Don’t miss the Barbados Museum and Historical Society: Located in the former military prison, it houses over 500,000 historical artifacts from all over the island, such as antique furniture and historic photographs.
Ride a dune buggy or ATV in the countryside
After lazing on one of Barbados’s 80 pristine, white-sand beaches (we like Crane Beach in the southeast), get your adrenaline pumping with a four-wheel ride full of dirt trails, speed, and loads of fun at Off Road Fury Barbados. Knowledgeable instructors guide you on a dune buggy or ATV tour through sometimes-muddy trails in the island’s southeastern countryside. Expect to see sugarcane fields, and, of course, be ready to get dirty.
Walk around the Andromeda Botanic Gardens
A half-hour away from Bridgetown, Andromeda Botanic Gardens offers visitors the chance to stroll among over 500 different plant species, enveloping them in astounding tropical and subtropical greenery. The eight-acre grounds—founded in 1954 by Iris Bannochie, one of the island’s leading botanists—are home to monarch butterflies at certain times of the year and include orchids, palms, and plant species found only in Barbados.
Joel Randell Joel Randell is a veteran magazine reporter, writer, and editor. His publications include Condé Nast Traveler, Hemispheres, Maxim, InStyle, and Us Weekly.