21 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Barbados

Written by Lana Law Updated Mar 19, 2024 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Author Lana Law has traveled throughout Barbados, enjoying the beaches, attractions, restaurants, and culture.

This tiny nation in the Lesser Antilles is a jewel in the Caribbean . The soft-sand beaches and turquoise water create postcard-perfect scenes, but the friendly Barbadians are what truly set this island apart.

View over Carlisle Bay

Barbados is English-speaking and has a distinctly British vibe. Cricket, horse racing, polo, high tea, and driving on the left side of the road are all part of the experience.

Top attractions in Barbados, apart from the outstanding beaches , include caves, historic sites, gardens, plantations, a wildlife preserve, and numerous points of interest in the capital city of Bridgetown.

Naturally, some of the most popular things to do involve the sea. Snorkeling, diving, swimming, fishing, and other excursions are readily available.

For ideas on places to visit and how to spend your time, see our list of the attractions and things to do in Barbados.

1. The Beaches of Carlisle Bay

2. hunte's gardens, 3. downtown bridgetown, 4. bathsheba bay, 5. st. nicholas abbey, 6. animal flower cave, 7. friday fish fry at oistins, 8. crane beach, 9. barbados wildlife reserve, 10. george washington house, 11. farley hill national park, 12. st. lawrence gap, 13. harrison's cave, 14. welchman hall gully, 15. bottom bay beach, 16. richard haynes boardwalk, 17. andromeda botanic gardens, 18. barbados museum, 19. sunbury plantation great house, 20. flower forest, 21. folkestone marine park & museum, exploring barbados by car or on a tour, best time to visit barbados.

Pebble Beach on Carlisle Bay

One of the most picturesque destinations in Barbados is Carlisle Bay, on the edge of Bridgetown. Beautiful blond beaches and long stretches of crystal-clear turquoise waters make this one of the most inviting areas to dip your toes in the sea or set up a beach chair.

Pebble Beach is one of the best stretches along the bay, but Brownes Beach and Bayshore Beach are also enticing spots. You can wade or swim in the placid water, rent a stand up paddleboard, or simply relax on the beach.

If you head down to Pebble Beach at dawn, you can see the racehorses getting a morning bath in the ocean and watch the sunrise. Washrooms and showers can be found at the top of the beach.

If you are staying at the Hilton Barbados Resort or the Radisson Aquatica Resort , this beach is just outside your door.

Hunte's Gardens

Hunte's Gardens is the culmination of Anthony Hunte's vision and years of work creating this masterpiece. Set in a gully in the interior of the island, the gardens are laid out on terraced slopes with stairs and winding walkways meandering through the lush grounds.

Shaded areas and open sunlit spaces allow for an assortment of species, ranging from huge palm trees to rare and exotic plants. Birds and animals also frequent the gardens. If you are traveling with your pet, they are welcome as long as they are leashed.

Address: Hwy 3A, Coffee Gully, Saint Joseph


Bridgetown, the nation's capital, is home to a wealth of attractions, but it's also simply a beautiful place to wander around, shop, or grab a meal. The downtown is easy to navigate, and most of the sights are in close proximity and can be visited on foot.

The landmark Parliament Buildings , easily recognizable by the neo-Gothic style architecture and clock tower, and the National Heroes Square are two of the main sites in the city center.

Across the street from the Parliament Buildings is the lovely Chamberlain Bridge , with views over the Constitution River, known more commonly as The Careenage. From the bridge, you can see yachts docked along the waterway and the colorful buildings that line the waterside walkway.

From here, wander inland to find the Nidhe Israel Synagogue , St. Michael's Cathedral , and the 1,000-year-old baobab tree in Queen's Park. Also allow some time to walk around the Garrison Historic Area to see George Washington House and the Garrison Tunnels, the Guard House, and the Barbados Museum .

For a more complete guide to exploring the capital, see our article on the top attractions in Bridgetown .

Bathsheba Bay

Set along the rugged Atlantic coast, Bathsheba Bay offers a dramatic glimpse into the erosive power of the ocean. The beach here, popular with surfers but not a great place for swimming, is dotted with huge rock formations created by the remains of ancient coral reefs undercut by the relentless waves.

The water in the bay is shallow, and the surf creates a white lather, which led to the name Soup Bowl, a term well-known internationally in the surfing community.

As you arrive at Bathsheba Bay, the road descends from a high plateau down to the ocean and runs along the waterfront. You can see the remains of a staircase and structure in the surf and a little farther on is a restaurant and vendors selling goods.

Stop here and walk down to the beach or have lunch. If you are looking for an alternate lunch spot, continue beyond this stretch and up the hill to the Atlantis Historic Inn and dine in the hotel's restaurant. Just past the Atlantis, the De Garage restaurant is a more casual option.

You can also combine a visit to Bathsheba with stops at the nearby Andromeda Tropical Botanic Gardens and the Flower Forest Botanical Gardens.

Location: Saint Joseph

St. Nicholas Abbey

The Jacobean great house at St. Nicholas Abbey was built in 1658, and the tales that have ensued over the years around the abbey are as intriguing as the plantation itself. Despite the name, the abbey was a plantation and never had any religious association.

The property changed hands several times over the centuries but is today owned by Larry and Anna Warren, who purchased the property in 2006. They have restored the estate and operate it as a sugar plantation. Visitors can tour the property to see antiques, learn about the workings, and explore the grounds, which generally takes a couple of hours.

Nearby is Cherry Tree Hill , a popular lookout area with views over the island and out to the ocean on the Atlantic side. If you have time, and especially if you are not visiting places like Farley Hill National Park or Welchman Hall Gully, which have their own beautiful views, it's worth stopping to have a look.

Address: Cherry Tree Hill, St. Peter

Animal Flower Cave

At the northern tip of Barbados, the Animal Flower Cave is one of the top places to visit, not just for the cave, but for the dramatic views from the lookout above.

From February to April, you also have a chance of seeing humpback whales from the cliff-side above the cave. Be sure to take a cave tour; they only take 15 to 20 minutes and are led by a guide.

A short staircase takes you down into this unique cave. Large natural openings offer windows out to the ocean, and pools formed by the spray from waves act as reflecting ponds. These openings also provide plenty of light and remove the claustrophobic feeling often found in dark caves.

On the cliff-side above the cave is a restaurant and a few vendors set up in stalls selling trinkets. Views from the restaurant are incredible. Above a portion of the restaurant is an open-deck viewing area, popular when the whales are frequenting the area.

A lookout area to the right of the cave entrance reveals the drama of the coastline. Huge waves crash against the eroding cliffs and blast spray high into the air.

If you are looking for more of a true caving experience and something more adventurous, Harrison's Cave is the place to go. Here, you can put on your helmet and headlamp and go exploring.

Oistins Fish Fry

If you're wondering what to do in Barbados at night, Oistins' Friday Fish Fry is the answer. Every Friday night, you can try locally caught fish fresh off the grill. Dozens of vendors set up here and offer a full range of fish and side dishes.

Locals and tourists come to enjoy the food and atmosphere. Picnic tables or plastic tables under tents serve as makeshift restaurants. In front, along the ocean-side, vendors sell jewelry and trinkets.

If you are in Barbados on a Friday night, this is something worth experiencing. It's also one of the few free things to do in Barbados. The fish fry starts around 6pm and runs well into the evening.

Location: Oistins, Barbados

Crane Beach

Crane Beach is a beautiful soft-sand beach tucked in a cove on the Atlantic coast, surrounded by high natural walls. The white sand, tinged with a hint of pink, looks out over blue and turquoise waters, while offshore waves break on the reef. The beach was once a boat landing where cargo was unloaded and lifted by a crane set atop the cliff.

Perched like a castle on a cliff above the beach is the luxury Crane Resort . If you are a guest of the resort or stopping in for a meal, you can access the beach from the resort via a lift or a long set of stairs.

Public access and car parking for the beach can be found at the opposite end of the beach around a small headland, off a narrow road. From the roadside parking, you walk down a short set of stairs and then make your way along a rock pathway through the boulder-strewn shoreline to the beach.

Address: Crane Bay, Saint Philip

Barbados Wildlife Reserve

The Barbados Wildlife Reserve is a great place to see and enjoy some of Barbados' most notable creatures, including the island's famous green monkeys. You can often see the monkeys interacting with other wildlife at the reserve, entertaining themselves by pestering tortoises and other inhabitants.

Shaded trails meander through the mahogany forest in this peaceful park. Agoutis, monkeys, deer, tortoises, and iguanas wander about freely within the confines of the facility, providing great opportunities for photography and close-up encounters. Some of the other residents include parrots, caiman, maras, and snakes. Try to time your visit so you are in the park at 2pm, for feeding time.

Across the parking lot from the reserve is the Grenade Hall Forest and Signal Station . Admission to the zoo includes entrance to this attraction as well.

Address: Farley Hill, St. Peter

George Washington House

George Washington House is more than just a museum, it's got something for everyone, including historic underground tunnels.

The past president of the United States spend two months here in the late 18th century with his ailing brother in the hopes that the fine Barbadian weather would cure his tuberculosis. Today, the house showcases what life was like back in that timeframe with perfectly preserved rooms and décor.

After a bit of history, head underground for a some adventure. Accidentally discovered in 2011 during site preparations for the café, the tunnels, nine in total, extend beneath the garrison for over two miles. These narrow, hand cut stone walkways are not for those who are claustrophobic, but those with a taste for adventure will love them.

Address: 39JV+Q8J, Bridgetown, Barbados

Farley Hill National Park

Like an undiscovered Mayan ruin in the jungle, the remains of the great house on Farley Hill are overgrown with trees and vines, creating a scene perhaps more dramatic than when the hall was in its full glory.

The house is believed to have been built in 1818 and occupied for many years before falling into a state of decay by the 1940s. It was restored in the mid-1950s to be used as a filming site, but the materials used were highly flammable and the great hall was destroyed in a fire.

The government acquired the property and turned it into Farley Hill National Park in 1965. The 17-acre grounds, including the front garden and an area of mahogany trees in behind offer picnic tables in beautiful areas to relax.

You can often see green monkeys, sometimes with youngsters, lounging in the trees in behind. The hall itself is completely fenced off, but the fence is extremely close to the structure allowing for plenty of opportunity to peer inside and see the interior arches.

Location: St. Peter

A cafe at St. Lawrence Gap

St. Lawrence Gap, about 20 minutes from Bridgetown on the south coast, is a colorful 1.3-kilometer section of street known for its restaurants and shops. Most of the activity here happens in the late afternoon and into the night. As the evening goes on, the area becomes more and more lively.

There's a bit of something for everyone here. At the west end, where the street comes down to an ocean-side walkway, you can dine along the waterfront at places like Primo , with an indoor area and outdoor patio overlooking the ocean. Restaurants and other places in the center of the strip are much more casual, with street-side stools where you can watch the action.

Harrison's Cave

If you've had enough of the heat and brilliant sunshine of Barbados and are craving a cooler, darker place, then head underground to Harrison's Cave . A visit to this cave is accessible to almost all because the most effort you need to expend is getting into a tram car.

The cave is dimly lit, but the major stalagmites and stalactites are highlighted with their own special effect lighting. Some of the highlights include flow stones, silent pools, and flowing streams.

For those craving more adventure and looking to go deeper into the cave, guide-led Eco Tours are available twice daily. If you don't have a car, you can book a Harrisons Cave tour that offers hotel pickup at most resorts and hotels on the island.

Location: Welchman Hall, St. Thomas

Flower at Welchman Hall Gully

The setting for this lush tropical garden and the natural feel are what sets Welchman Hall Gully apart from many of the other gardens on the island. Lying in the remains of a series of collapsed caves, the gardens and trees surround you as you walk along the wide, wheelchair accessible path .

Huge bamboo trees, flowering plants, a lovely pond, and the monkey play area, where you can often see green monkeys in the mornings when food is put out, are some of the most visible highlights. The garden is also home to endangered plants and animals and a couple of species of plants found only in Barbados.

A long set of stairs near the entrance leads to a high-point in the garden, with a beautiful view out over the lush hillside and beyond to the ocean. A covered shelter and benches make this a nice area to rest after sightseeing around the grounds.

Address: Welchman Hall, Saint Thomas

Bottom Bay Beach

Bottom Bay, on the Atlantic side of Barbados, is a secluded golden-sand beach accessed via a long set of stairs and shaded by towering palms.

Cliff walls line the beach on both ends, and the azure-colored water extends out to the reef, with the deep blue sea behind reaching out to the horizon. It's likely you'll have this beautiful spot all to yourself.

Even if you are not interested in spending time enjoying the beach, you can see the cove from the overlook to the south. A flat area offers views over Bottom Bay Beach, the ocean, and another beach in the opposite direction.

Richard Haynes Boardwalk

This 1.6-kilometer boardwalk running along Hastings Rocks links a string of beautiful beaches, including the popular Accra Beach .

This is a pleasant area for a stroll, but you can also stop for a swim or enjoy some fine seaside dining. Along here, you'll find Tapas restaurant and Naru restaurant , two of the best restaurants in Hastings, which both have fabulous positions overlooking the ocean and beach.

Should you fancy something a bit more down market and cheap, stop in at the KFC. The outdoor tables likely have the best view in the world compared to other locations in the chain.

Andromeda Botanic Gardens

Colorful brick walkways, stepping stones, and grass paths wind through the beautiful hillside at Andromeda Botanic Gardens .

Tropical plants from all over the world are laid out in different zones creating small, intimate spaces. Some of the highlights are the palms, the rhododendrons, and an absolutely huge bearded fig. These trees once covered the island and were the inspiration for Portuguese sailors, who named the island "Barbados," meaning "bearded ones."

From the highest level of the garden, you can see out to the ocean. Note that the trails here are uneven and, in some cases steep, making them inaccessible to visitors with mobility issues.

Andromeda Botanical Gardens uses only organic practices and participates in research organized by the University of the West Indies.

Address: Highway 3, Bathsheba

Barbados Museum

Half the fun of a visit to the Barbados Museum is exploring the historical building that houses it. This structure, once a military prison, dates from the 19th century and has been exceptionally well restored.

The museum first started in 1933 and through the effort of many Barbadians, has over the years accumulated an excellent assortment of over 500,000 items detailing the history and development of this island nation. Galleries are housed in rooms throughout the building and good descriptions accompany each display.

Address: Dalkeith Road, Bridgetown

Sunbury Plantation

Sunbury Plantation offers a glimpse into the life of the early settlers. Built in approximately 1660 by Matthew Chapman, the mansion is today a museum featuring period pieces, including beautiful mahogany furniture and a collection of horse-drawn carriages. Visitors are able to tour every room on the guided tour.

The plantation grounds recently underwent extensive renovations bringing them back to their former glory. The walkway and parking area are made of 200-year-old bricks and historical artifacts are sprinkled around the main building.

Address: 6 Cross Road, Saint Philip

Flower Forest

The Flower Forest is an unexpected treat in the hills of central Barbados. Colorful flowering plants and trees line the trails, and shade-covered benches provide places to sit and relax. Something colorful and fragrant is always in bloom in the 53 acres of tropical forest.

From the high points are beautiful vistas over the lush hillside and beyond to the ocean. The road to the Flower Forest is narrow and hilly but it's paved and less daunting than it first appears.

Address: Richmond Plantation, Saint Thomas

Folkestone Marine Park

Located just outside of Holetown, the Folkestone Marine Park & Museum is a multipurpose park where visitors can go snorkeling, diving, or simply enjoy the beach and playground.

The marine park is best known for the Stavronikitia , a purposefully sunk ship resting in 120 feet of water about a half-mile off shore. The ship is a popular dive site with experienced divers , and local dive shops will help arrange trips.

If you aren't a diver, don't worry, just grab your snorkel and paddle around the inshore reef to see local marine life. Since the water here is usually calm, it's also a popular area for paddleboarding and kayaking .

On shore, the park is home to a children's playground, tennis courts, picnic tables, and a waterfront boardwalk. Also on-site is the Folkestone Museum with exhibits and aquariums.

Location: Holetown, St. James Parish

Heywoods Beach

Although Barbados is only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, the roads can be slow, and exploring the island takes time. Some attractions are close to each other and can be visited easily in the same outing. It's best to get a Barbados tourist map showing the sites before you head out.

The Animal Flower Cave is located at the far northern tip of the island. Heading south from here, the first set of attractions you come to are: St. Nicholas Abbey, Cherry Tree Hill, the Barbados Wildlife Refuge, and Farley Hill National Park.

A second cluster of attractions a little farther south are: Bathsheba Bay, Andromeda Botanical Gardens, Hunte's Gardens, Welchman Hall Gully, the Flower Forest, and Harrison's Cave. Heading farther south, on the southeastern shore, you'll find the spectacular Bottom Bay Beach and Crane Beach.

On the west side of the island is the Caribbean coast, with an endless string of picture-perfect beaches and calm waters, ideal for swimming. Along this coast, Holetown is an upscale community where you can stop for shopping or lunch.

If your Barbados vacation calls for perfect beach scenes, duty-free shopping, cultural festivals, and tropical weather , then a visit here can deliver that almost any time of the year. While there is a high season and low season for tourists, the island has consistent temperatures year-round .

There is a rainy season in Barbados from June to November, but as the most eastern Caribbean island, it does not have much of a hurricane season compared to other islands, making it a more appealing option for visitors. The last major hurricane to make landfall on the island was 1955.

While the weather conditions do not fluctuate much in Barbados throughout the year, the prices and availability of resorts and hotels do, so the best timing for your vacation may come down to targeting the optimal sunshine, rates, and the events and festivals that you want to experience.

The best time of year to visit Barbados is between mid-December and mid-April . This is the dry season, with temperatures averaging 86 degrees Fahrenheit during these months. The warm, dry temperatures make for perfect beach weather. These months are when the island sees the most tourists, and hotels can double in cost. It is also a time of great cultural festivals and lots of activity on the beaches.

Due to the influx of tourists during the high season, you should book flights several months in advance. The same goes for island tours to attractions like Harrison's Cave or snorkeling trips that book up quickly. This time of year, resorts will have peak entertainment and the water sports opportunities are in full operation.

Another great time to visit Barbados is in the shoulder months of September, October, and November when you will find great value for your time and money. The weather is still ideal for beach days and excursions, and the tourist crowds have died down a bit. Flight availability is better these times of the year, too. You will start to see price reductions for hotels and resorts. The shoulder season is ideal because you can get all of the perks of the high season for less money.

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Planning Your Trip to Barbados: Since this is a destination about relaxing and enjoying the sea, it makes sense to consider a stay at one of the top beach resorts in Barbados. Another consideration when it comes to booking your vacation is weather and time of year. And of course, plan on spending at least some time seeing the sights of Bridgetown .


Exploring the Caribbean: Barbados lies just to the east of a string of popular Caribbean islands. To learn more about these islands, check out our articles on Trinidad & Tobago , Grenada , St. Lucia , Dominica , and Montserrat . These islands, along with Antigua & Barbuda , north of Barbados, are home to some of the best beaches in the Caribbean as well as some of the top luxury all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.

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tourist attraction for barbados

17 Best Things to Do in Barbados

With plenty of golf courses, historic homes and sporting events, Barbados is an ideal vacation spot for active travelers. Even more specifically, the island is known for its water activities and white sand beaches. Avid surfers flock to the crystal

  • All Things To Do

tourist attraction for barbados

Carlisle Bay Carlisle Bay free

U.S. News Insider Tip: Barbados is one of the only places you can see hawksbill and leatherback turtles, and plenty of finned residents like parrotfish, rays and seahorses call the area home. – Tonya Russell

Located on the southwestern coast of Barbados, Carlisle Bay's beaches offer calm waters, making this an ideal place to swim. The bay's six shipwrecks also make this area a great spot for snorkeling, and submarines and glass bottom boat tours run quite frequently. Marine animals you may see while exploring these gentle waters include rock lobsters, turtles and fish. 

tourist attraction for barbados

Hunte's Gardens Hunte's Gardens

Situated about 4 miles southwest of Bathsheba Beach in St. Joseph parish, Hunte's Gardens offers an array of plants within a gully. The garden is owned by Bajan horticulturist Anthony Hunte, who is known locally for his colorful personality.

While past travelers appreciated the garden's variety of plants and Hunte's wealth of knowledge, visitors said watching animals like hummingbirds, monkeys and the owner's dog made this garden even more enchanting. To make the most of the garden's picturesque setting, some visitors recommend packing a picnic lunch to eat on the property's grounds.

tourist attraction for barbados

Bathsheba Beach Bathsheba Beach free

Bathsheba Beach, which sits on Barbados' east coast, is a photographer's and surfer's paradise. For photographers, Bathsheba offers dramatic rock formations. And for surfers, there's the beach's famous Soup Bowl, where top-notch waves can be found. Named after the area's foamy water, the Soup Bowl is so well-known that international surfing competitions are regularly held here. Do not, however, plan on swimming at Bathsheba. Because of the region's rough waters and rock formations, it is not safe to swim there, though there are safe cave pools. 

Recent travelers praised Bathsheba Beach's picturesque setting and phenomenal surf. Though many said the beach's rock formations more than justify a visit, Bathsheba Beach is a great spot to fly kites and enjoy a beach picnic as well. Keep in mind, though, that public transportation is limited in this area, so a rental car or taxi is recommended.

tourist attraction for barbados

Popular Tours

Barbados Catamaran Turtle and Shipwreck Snorkeling Cruise

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Cave & Monkey Zipline Experience at Harrison's Cave by Chukka

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tourist attraction for barbados

Harrison’s Cave Eco-Adventure Park Harrison’s Cave Eco-Adventure Park

One of Barbados' most popular attractions is Harrison's Cave Eco-Adventure Park. This limestone cavern features several streams (the stream system is estimated to be at least 1.5 miles long), as well as stalactites, stalagmites and other kinds of calcite deposits. Though it wasn't opened to the public until 1981, historians believe the cave was first discovered at the end of the 18th century. The cave sits in the middle of the country about 5 miles from Holetown and Bathsheba Beach .

The cave is just one attraction within the eco-adventure park, which is operated by Chukka Caribbean Adventures. In addition to a tram tour of the cave, the property also offers a zip line, a challenge course, a “Mount Gay Rum Experience” and shop, rum tastings, an educational film, a nature trail and aviary, and a bar and grill. If you’d like access to all of the park’s activities, opt for the adventure pass, which costs $179 for adults and $125 for kids ages 6 to 12. If you’re only interested in seeing the cave, purchase the signature park pass, which costs $57 for adults and $39 for kids ages 3 to 12. The park also offers passes that combine two or three of the activities (such as the zip line or the challenge course) with the tram tour.

tourist attraction for barbados

Mount Gay Visitor Centre Mount Gay Visitor Centre

The oldest, continuously run rum distillery on the island, Mount Gay Rum offers tours of its visitor center, where tourists can enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at how Mount Gay Rum is produced. After touring the company's bottling facility, travelers have the chance to sample several kinds of rum. 

Recent travelers say the tour is fun and informative thanks to the engaging guides. To make the most of the experience, consider booking the lunch tour, which also includes transportation to and from your hotel along with a lunch prepared by the property’s chef. However, don't expect to see the company's distillery during any of the visitor center's tours since Mount Gay Rum is produced at a separate facility in the St. Lucy parish.

tourist attraction for barbados

St. Nicholas Abbey St. Nicholas Abbey

U.S. News Insider Tip:  Be sure not to skip the rum cake from the on-site Terrace Cafe. – Tonya Russell

Though larger rum distilleries like Mount Gay Rum and West Indies Rum can be found on the island, few offer the historic charm of St. Nicholas Abbey. Unlike other Bajan distilleries, St. Nicholas Abbey distills its rum in traditional small batches. In addition to its rum, the attraction also features a 350-year-old plantation home – one of just three Jacobean mansions remaining in the Western Hemisphere. The house displays various antiques that date to the 1800s and several decorated rooms open to visitors. Multiple gardens and orchards are also located throughout the property, and from January through May, sugar cane is ground in-house at the steam-operated syrup factory.

tourist attraction for barbados

Animal Flower Cave Animal Flower Cave

U.S. News Insider Tip: Visitors are likely to see humpback whales early in the morning during the winter months. – Tonya Russell 

Named for its sea anemones, Animal Flower Cave is the island's only accessible sea cave, located under the North Point cliffs in Saint Lucy parish. Although it's not as popular as Harrison's Cave , it's worth making the jaunt from your hotel area to spend at least an hour exploring the caves and enjoying the view. Wear a bathing suit and bring a towel so that you can enjoy the rock pools. 

tourist attraction for barbados

The Boatyard Barbados The Boatyard Barbados

The Boatyard in Bridgetown is one of the best places for a beach day with children or even solo. It is located on Carlisle Bay on Browne’s Beach – a prime spot for water activities and snorkeling thanks to calm waters and sea turtle sightings. The beach bar offers food and beverages, and for a $35 entry fee for people 12 and older ($30 for ages 4 to 11), you get access to a beach chair and umbrella, snorkeling equipment, and an hourlong snorkeling boat ride (which is available on a first-come, first-served basis). The admission cost also includes use of the inflatable slides and trampolines on the water. 

According to reviewers, the fee also gets you credit for food and drinks. Past travelers warn that the club can get quite crowded at times; it is located a little more than a mile from the cruise port, and with a $5 taxi ride, people flock to the club for the day. Reviewers also praise the friendly, attentive staff and say this activity offers a great value for the cost.

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Barbados Turtle and Shipwreck Snorkel Adventure

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Barbados Island Tour, Monkey feeding & Swimming with the Turtles

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Andromeda Botanic Gardens Andromeda Botanic Gardens

This 8-acre property was founded by horticulturist Iris Bannochie in 1954 with flowering plants she collected from around the world. Today, it's operated by the Barbados National Trust. The gardens boast more than 500 plant specimens accompanied by streams, ponds and views overlooking the ocean. 

The gardens are a fantastic place to spend a couple of hours, according to recent travelers, who raved about the beauty and the tranquility of the naturalistic setting. They also praise the on-site cafe. Several reviewers also recommended downloading the free companion smartphone app, which includes an audio guide that will help you identify the various plants featured throughout.

tourist attraction for barbados

Dover Beach Dover Beach free

U.S. News Insider Tip: Just a short walk away from Dover Beach is the Worthing Beach section, which comes alive at night. When you’re finished with your water activities, take a five-minute drive or a 20-minute walk northwest to dance and eat food along the beach. – Tonya Russell

The south coast's Dover Beach can be found in Oistins, which sits in Christ Church parish. Although the beach's waves make it less than ideal for activities like paddleboarding and kayaking, its waters are great for surfing and body surfing. Other popular water sports include Hobie Cat sailing, Jet Skiing and windsurfing. A swimming area away from the ocean's rip tides is also available.

tourist attraction for barbados

Oistins Fish Fry Oistins Fish Fry

Want to be among the locals? Plan to spend a Friday night in Oistins Bay Gardens in Christ Church Parish for the fish fry. Held right next to Miami Beach, this weekly event invites diners to grab a beer and a plate of locally caught fish like marlin or swordfish for less than $20. You may see “dolphin” on a menu, but that is just what mahi-mahi is called on the island. Lines may get pretty long at each stall, but with the variety of daily catches, it’s worth the wait. Despite the event’s name, the stands are mostly grilling fish, chicken and lobster – not frying it. The “fry” officially starts at 7 p.m., but diners have been able to walk up to the stands at about 5:45 p.m. and be served. 

Don’t be in a rush to grab your food and leave. Dress comfy and plan to hang out, since there will be music playing and vibes flowing. 

tourist attraction for barbados

Crane Beach Crane Beach

Crane Beach is located on the island’s southeastern coast in the parish of St. Philip, about 5 miles east of the airport. Because of the beach’s location on the island’s Atlantic coast, the water can be rough, with an undercurrent and some riptides. Nonetheless, the pink sand at Crane Beach entices visitors and locals alike. Most days, you’ll want to stay close to the sand, where you can rent loungers and umbrellas for about $10 from the historic Crane Resort . Because of the rough surf, you won’t see many children here, and you’d probably prefer to take yours to calmer water elsewhere on the island, such as Miami Beach on the south side. 

Visitors have said parking isn’t ideal and that you have to leave your car along the road. However, with fewer crowds compared to other island beaches, it is often easy to find a spot. From end to end, there are bars and stands selling drinks out of coconuts or fresh fish to enjoy while you lounge. The local bars also offer bathrooms to beach visitors. 

tourist attraction for barbados

Holetown Holetown

Holetown is located on the west coast of Barbados, and it’s the site where the British first landed on the island in 1625. It was the first colonized city, and it is home to the oldest church on the island, St. James Parish (the section’s namesake). While the church is still in use, it was recently closed for tours. 

The town features boardwalks and beaches, but also villas and private residences. It is a section of St. James Parish that is also known for its nightlife and a great section for eating with the locals, including Indian food and vegetarian options like The Apple Crate. 

tourist attraction for barbados

Original Bajan Walking Food Tour

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Barbados Catamaran Snorkel Cruise with Lunch and Open Bar

Barbados Catamaran Snorkel Cruise with Lunch and Open Bar

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tourist attraction for barbados

Speightstown Speightstown

Speightstown is the second-largest city in Barbados, and it is located on the northwestern corner of the island in the parish of Saint Peter. It was originally founded in 1630, and the remnants of the once-thriving port town still remain; you can see it on display in the colonial architecture that’s still intact. The town is walkable, and boasts an abundance of shops, culture and eclectic dining options. It might even remind you of Charleston, South Carolina . 

The Arlington House Museum is the most popular attraction and a great family-friendly option. It spans three levels and tells the history of Barbados. It also has a cafe and ice cream parlor attached. Happyness Cafe is another fun option for families. 

tourist attraction for barbados

Richard Haynes Boardwalk Richard Haynes Boardwalk free

Though Barbados offers an array of beaches to enjoy, one of the island's most popular attractions is the Richard Haynes Boardwalk. Situated less than 4 miles south of Bridgetown, this coastal boardwalk connects Accra and Camelot beaches. What’s more, it’s accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. In addition to providing outdoor enthusiasts with scenic ocean vistas, turtles and crabs are known to visit the adjacent waters. For the best views, plan your visit at sunrise or sunset.

Most former visitors raved about the boardwalk's views and cleanliness. However, some travelers caution that the boardwalk's wood can get hot during the day, so be sure to wear shoes when visiting. And to avoid sunburns and dehydration, pack plenty of sunscreen and water. Visitors in 2023 warned that there is a large construction project along the western end of the boardwalk, but they also said the fence surrounding the construction site displays art made by local artists – a treat for most.

tourist attraction for barbados

Atlantis Submarines Barbados Atlantis Submarines Barbados

Barbados is considered the shipwreck capital of the Caribbean and Atlantis Submarine has been taking visitors up to 150 feet below the surface for the last 35 years. It offers the best view of Bridgetown's sea life and some of those wrecks. 

Reviewers reported turtle sightings, seeing the sea floor and occasionally whales. Some also mentioned motion sickness upon descent, so take precaution if you’re prone to seasickness. Others praised the knowledgeable, safety-conscious crew and the air-conditioning inside the submarine. 

tourist attraction for barbados

George Washington House George Washington House

Now a museum, this 18th-century plantation house (also known as Bush Hill House) was the base for George Washington and his sick half-brother Lawrence (who had tuberculosis) for two months in 1751. The Washington brothers traveled to the island hoping the tropical climate of Barbados could cure him. This trip would be the only overseas voyage the future president would ever take.

Recent travelers found the museum and the tour quite informative and recommended a visit. Exhibits feature artifacts from the 18th century, secret tunnels discovered under the house and a 15-minute film about Washington's time on Barbados. Many reviewers also praised the on-site cafe.

tourist attraction for barbados

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Next Stop Barbados

37 Best Things To Do In Barbados [UPDATED 2024]

Published: February 4, 2022

Updated: April 25, 2024

The author sits on a stone bench in a small cave overlooking the ocean in Barbados. She is smiling and wearing yellow sunglasses and a green tank top

*This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please read our disclosure.

Barbados may be a small island, but it’s packed with fun things to do and see. Whether you love amazing beaches, historical sites, culinary exploration, guided tours, snorkeling, or a little of everything, Barbados has something for everyone.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some amazing Barbados activities, tours, excursions, and sights. In no particular order, here are 37 of the best things to do in Barbados!

Planning your trip to Barbados?

These are some of my favorite resources for booking Barbados travel.

✈️ Flights: I’ve had the best luck finding Barbados flight deals on Skyscanner . (Use airport code BGI for Bridgetown.)

🚗 Rental Cars: DiscoverCars has easy car hire pickup from the airport or town.

🏨 Hotels : Booking has good hotel and resort deals around the island.

🏠 Vacation Rentals : Check out VRBO for rentals and beach houses.

🌴 Guided Tours & Activities: Get Your Guide and Viator are my go-to’s.

36 Best Things To Do In Barbados

#1 carlisle bay.

Carlisle Bay Barbados

The beautiful Carlisle Bay is a must-see spot when visiting Barbados. Located just outside of Bridgetown , Carlisle Bay is a calm, clear stretch of beach with white sand and turquoise waters. Here, you can enjoy water sports, snorkeling shipwrecks, kayaking , or simply relaxing on a beach lounger. 

There are plenty of beach clubs, restaurants, and gear rental stands lining the clear waters, so you’ll definitely want to dedicate a day to exploring Carlisle Bay.

#2 Snorkeling Tour

woman snorkeling over a shipwreck in Carlisle Bay

Snorkeling in Barbados is a real treat. From the shipwrecks in Carlisle Bay to the calm reefs of the west coast, Barbados snorkeling can’t be missed. You can rent snorkel gear on the beach in Carlisle Bay or explore deeper sites by taking a catamaran cruise or guided snorkel tour. 

You can also go snorkeling with Harbour Lights or Boatyard Beach Club . Folkestone Marine Park, Dover Beach, and Paynes Beach are other popular snorkeling spots.

#3 Surfing Lessons

A surf instructor gives a lesson to two students under a palm tree by Freights Bay, Barbados. Best Barbados Surf Schools

Believe it or not, Barbados is one of the best surf destinations in the Caribbean . If you’re a total beginner, the gentle waves of Freights Bay are perfect for learning the ropes. There are plenty of amazing Barbados surf schools where you can learn techniques from experienced instructors.

(I recommend taking surfing lessons with Bodie’s School of Surf in Oistins.) 

If you’re an experienced surfer, head to the east coast Barbados surf spots for more of a challenge. Waves are bigger in the winter months, so plan accordingly if surfing is a priority. 

#4 Animal Flower Cave

Cliff views at Animal Flower Cave Barbados

Located on the rugged north coast of Barbados, you’ll find Animal Flower Cave . Take a walk along the breathtaking cliffs, enjoy a tour of the sea cave, and even go for a swim in the natural lagoon. 

When you’re done exploring, make sure to grab a bite to eat at the famous Animal Flower Cave restaurant, one of the best restaurants in Barbados , complete with sea views. 

#5 St. Nicholas Abbey

The Great House at St. Nicholas Abbey

St. Nicholas Abbey is a historical home and sugar plantation in central Barbados with a rum distillery and train line. Tour the great house, sample delicious rums, and ride the heritage railway to Cherry Tree Hill, one of the best lookout points on the island.

Guided tours of St. Nicholas Abbey and distillery are also available.

#6 Sam Lord’s Castle

Sam Lord's Castle is one of the best things to do in Barbados

Located on the south coast in St. Philip, Sam Lord’s Castle is a fascinating historical site with a mysterious past. It was once the home of buccaneer Sam Lord and it later became a luxurious hotel. Now, guests can visit the ruins of the property and what remains of the gardens and lookout points.

#7 Shark Hole Beach

Families swimming at shark hole beach at sunset

If you want to take a quick, refreshing dip, head to the Shark Hole swimming spot . The unique shape of the reef formed this small swimming hole which is protected from the rough seas surrounding it. Don’t worry, contrary to the name, there aren’t any sharks here.

#8 Relaxing Beach Day

beach shops where you can rent sup boards and kayaks under palm trees

There’s a lot to love about a relaxing beach day, and there are dozens of excellent Barbados beaches to choose from.

Dover Beach, Miami Beach / Enterprise Beach, and Worthing Beach were three of my favorite spots since they had ultra-clear water for swimming, beach chair rentals, and nearby amenities like restaurants and beach bars. Beach chair and umbrella rentals usually range from $10-$20 BBD per day. 

I also loved going for a swim at Pebbles Beach near Bridgetown. Go early in the morning to see the racehorses exercising in the water!

#9 Barbados Magic Lounge

Hans leaning over a blue table with coins on it, preparing for a close-up magic trick

For evening entertainment and mind-boggling magic tricks, head to the Barbados Magic Lounge located in Castaways restaurant in the St. Lawrence Gap. The theater is cozy and limited to 24 guests at a time, which means you’ll have a close-up view as resident magician Hans Grane performs. Make sure to book dinner at Castaways after the show for a delicious meal with a dreamy sea view.

You can book tickets on the Barbados Magic Lounge website .

#10 Boatyard Beach Club

clear blue water and boatyard beach club

Boatyard Beach Club is one of the best ways to relax in Barbados, and it’s a great deal! Arrive in the morning and pay the day rate for admission. 

Then you’ll get access to beach chairs, umbrellas, and a free snorkeling excursion, as well as amenities like bathrooms, showers, WiFi, and an onsite restaurant. Kids will love the beach toys and inflatables, and the water here is perfect for swimming. 

#11 Harbour Lights Beach Club

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Harbour Lights Barbados (@harbourlightsbarbados)

Like Boatyard, Harbour Lights Beach Club is a great way to spend the day in the sun. You can book packages that include beach chairs, umbrellas, snorkeling tours , and even optional jet ski rentals, making this a great spot for relaxation in Carlisle Bay. 

#12 Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry

Dinner at the Oistins Fish Fry

On Friday nights, head to Oistins, Barbados for the famous fish fry. Located next to the fresh fish market, the fish fry consists of dozens of food stalls where vendors cook daily caught fish and other local classics.

I’ve never had a bad meal at the Oistins Fish Fry, and there’s also live music and entertainment. The casual but fun atmosphere is the perfect way to wind down the week with some top-notch Bajan cuisine. Definitely one of the best places to eat in Oistins , if not the whole island!

#13 Catamaran Cruise

clear blue water with two boats on the horizon

Take to the seas with a Barbados catamaran cruise . Daytime and sunset cruises are available and most leave from Bridgetown. I recommend going with Captain Nick from Calypso Cruises . His cruise includes snorkeling at shipwrecks in Carlisle Bay, swimming with sea turtles, and unlimited food and drinks. 

A catamaran cruise is the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure, and it’s a great way to see the island from a new vantage point.

#14 SCUBA Dive

With warm, clear water and fascinating shipwrecks teeming with life, Barbados is an incredible SCUBA destination . Take SCUBA lessons with one of the highly-rated Barbados SCUBA companies and head out to explore the reefs and wrecks around the Bajan coast.

#15 Harrisons Cave

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Harrison’s Cave (@harrisons_cave)

Harrison’s Cave is one of the most impressive natural wonders in Barbados and a great place to enjoy the island’s geology. Take a tram tour through the limestone caves and see clear pools, stalactites, stalagmites, and towering caverns. Wear good walking shoes and a light jacket since it can get chilly in the caves. 

#16 Bridgetown Historical Walking Tour

pathway along the waterfront with colorful houses on one side

Discover the unique history of Bridgetown on this informative walking tour . Learn about the oldest street and church in the city, as well as the history behind the Parliament buildings and the Blackwood Screw Dock. Great for history fans and anyone who wants to learn more about the interesting capital city.

#17 Barbados Wildlife Reserve

The Barbados Wildlife Reserve is located in the northern part of the island and is a protected area where animals can roam freely. Iguanas, peacocks, deer, and tropical birds all call the wildlife reserve home, and you might also see the famous Barbados Green Monkeys. Come in the afternoon for the best chance of seeing them since this is feeding time.

#18 Folkestone Marine Park

Folkestone Marine Park is located on the platinum west coast near Holetown. Here, you’ll find a quiet beach with designated swimming and snorkeling area, as well as areas to rent kayaks , water toys, and beach loungers. 

Palm trees provide shade and there’s a playground, paved walkway, visitor center, and other amenities like restrooms and showers. 

#19 Andromeda Botanical Gardens

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Andromeda Botanic Gardens (@andromeda_botanic_gardens)

The Andromeda Botanical Gardens are located on the eastern coast of Barbados and are part of the Barbados National Trust. These stunning gardens date back to the 1950s and guests can enjoy over 400 plant species, as well as educational classes and an onsite cafe. 

#20 Welchman Hall Gully

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Welchman Hall Gully (@welchmanhallgully)

Welchman Hall Gully is a tropical garden and forest area in a collapsed cave. It’s believed that grapefruit originated here and guests can see different flora and fauna, including monkeys! 

The monkeys are wild but they frequently call this gully home. There are guided tours every weekday morning at 10:30 am during high season, but you can also explore independently. There’s an onsite cafe and if you’re visiting Barbados with kids , don’t miss the children’s adventure park.

#21 Hunte’s Gardens

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Huntes Gardens (@huntesgardens)

Hunte’s Gardens is the perfect place to reconnect with nature. Nestled into a gully, this exotic garden escape is centrally located and a friendly place to relax. They’re open every day and refreshments are available. 

#22 PEG Farm and Nature Reserve

View this post on Instagram A post shared by PEG Farm and Nature Reserve (@pegbarbados)

The PEG Farm and Nature Reserve is a biological farm, cafe, and education center. Take a tour to learn about sustainable farming, interact with free-range animals, and enjoy a farm-to-table meal a the Farm House Cafe. 

For those who want to get even closer to nature, camping is available on the property. There are also weekly events like guided walks and sunset hikes. 

#23 Watch surfers on the east coast

surfboard on the beach on the east coast of barbados

The east coast has many advanced spots for experienced surfers, including the world-famous Soup Bowl. Even if you aren’t catching waves yourself, it’s fun to spend the day watching the surfers ride unbelievable waves. 

Bring a blanket and kick back on Bathsheba Beach or the nearby Bathsheba Park. Bathsheba Park has grass, shade, and picnic tables. You can also enjoy a meal with a view at Round House, Dina’s Bar, or Zaccios. 

#24 Island Safari Barbados

panoramic view of the east coast of barbados

Spend the day on an exhilarating 4×4 jeep tour with Island Safari Barbados . Go off the beaten path on the east and north side of the island and experience some of the best natural viewpoints around. This tour includes hotel pick-up and a local buffet lunch at Sandy’s Chattel Bar. 

#25 East Coast E-Bike Tour

the beach at bathsheba on the east coast

Explore the east coast cliffs and natural beauty on this guided e-bike tour . Follow trails to see amazing panoramic views, Codrington College, Hackleton’s Cliff, and other historic buildings around the rural Bajan countryside. This tour includes an e-bike as well as safety equipment and a knowledgeable guide.

#26 Mount Gay Rum Distillery

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Mount Gay Rum Barbados (@mountgayrumbdos)

The Mount Gay Rum Distillery has been producing Bajan rum for over 300 years. To experience these fabulous rums for yourself, plan a tour at the Mount Gay Rum Visitors Center in Bridgetown. Learn about the history of Mount Gay through the museum and an informative tasting session.

#27 Foursquare Distillery

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Foursquare Rum Distillery (@foursquare_rum_distillery)

Continue your Bajan rum experience at the Foursquare Distillery . Located on the southern side of the island, Foursquare has a museum, factory, and even a play area for families. It’s free to visit and a variety of rums are available for purchase.

#28 Cricket Match at the Kensington Oval

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Kensington Oval Barbados (@kensingtonovalbarbados)

When in Barbados, enjoy the national sport of cricket! The Kensington Oval is the impressive cricket stadium located in Bridgetown and the perfect place to watch one of the most popular sports on the island. Cricket has been played at The Kensington Oval site since 1882.

#29 The Garrison Savannah Horse Racing Track

Sunset over the Garrison race track

The Garrison Savannah is a horse racing track and part of the Historic Bridgetown and the Garrison UNESCO World Heritage site. If you visit on race day, the energy is high and you can purchase a ticket or watch from the grassy areas around the track. 

When there aren’t races being held, the track is open to the public for exercising. You can also tour the nearby Barbados Museum and Historical Society to learn about Bajan culture and military heritage. 

#30 George Washington House

Located within the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bridgetown and the Garrison, The George Washington House is a historical home where US president George Washington is believed to have stayed in 1751 . If you like American and Bajan history, this unique landmark is worth a visit.

#31 Arlington House Museum

The Arlington House Museum is a Barbados National Trust property in Speightstown. Visitors can tour the renovated eighteenth-century property while learning about the history of Barbados.

#32 Take a Food Tour

Want to experience Bajan food like a local? Take a Bridgetown food tour. This guided walking tour will show you off-the-beaten-path culinary delicacies.

The tour takes about three hours and guests rave about the delicious food and informative guides. If you want to see less-visited spots around Bridgetown, this is the tour for you.

#33 Take a Rum Tour

On a similar note, you can learn all about Bajan rum with this guided rum tour around the island . Visit both the Foursquare and Mount Gay Distilleries, learn about the history of rum in Barbados, and of course, taste plenty of samples. 

#34 Harbour Lights Beach Club Dinner Extravaganza

Enjoy dinner and a show at the Harbour Lights Beach Club dinner extravaganza . There’s live music, entertainment, unlimited drinks, and a bottomless buffet of classic Bajan dishes. The party is out by the beach so you can listen to the waves and feel the sand under your toes.

#35 Atlantis Submarine Tour

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Atlantis Submarines Barbados (@atlantissubmarinesbarbados)

Explore coral reefs, tropical fish, sunken ships, and local marine life on board the Atlantis Submarine Tour . You’ll descend into the ocean onboard a submarine and take in the sights through large windows. The tour lasts for forty minutes and leaves from Bridgetown.

#36 Nightlife in St. Lawrence Gap

The beach at St. Lawrence Gap

St. Lawrence Gap is known for being the nightlife hub of Barbados. Here, there are dozens of lively beach bars, nightclubs, and restaurants that serve food and drinks long into the night. For music, dancing, and more, head to St. Lawrence Gap on the south coast.

#37 Watch Sunset at La Cabane

Tables with umbrellas at La Cabane Beach Club

Wind down for the evening at one of the best sunset spots in Barbados , La Cabane. This restaurant is known for being a celebrity hot spot and the perfect place to sip cocktails with your toes in the sand.

Final Thoughts: Fun Things to Do in Barbados

As you can see, there are so many fun things to do in Barbados for all types of travelers. I hope this list gives you great ideas for your Barbados bucket list and the trip of your dreams.

More Things to Do in Barbados:

  • 19 Best Things to do with Kids & Families
  • Best Catamaran Cruises
  • Best Snorkeling Spots
  • Best Sunset Spots
  • Best Cruise Shore Excursions

Plan Your Barbados Holiday:

  • The Ultimate Barbados Travel Guide
  • Best Restaurants in Barbados
  • Best Resorts in Barbados
  • Best Barbados Beaches

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15 Unforgettable Tourist Attractions in Barbados

tourist attractions in barbados

  • October 18, 2023 7:48 pm

tourist attraction for barbados

Visiting Barbados should top your dream destination list this year! Barbados is an eastern Caribbean island and an independent British commonwealth nation located in the Northern American continent. With a population of about 287,371 according to the world bank population consensus conducted in 2020 and a very pleasant climatic condition with 2 major seasons a year, the Island promises to be the best location for tourists who are looking for a calm and less rowdy destination to unwind.

tourist attraction for barbados

Predominantly 90% of the population, are of African descent. A smaller fraction comes from Europe (mainly British), while the rest are dispersed amongst the Chinese, Lebanese and Syrians. Most importantly, the people are warm and welcoming with English as the official language.

tourist attraction for barbados

As any location in the world, Barbados is safe as long as basic safety precautions are met. Avoid walking alone on dark and lonely roads or allies and be very observant. Not to worry, generally speaking, most visits to Barbados are trouble-free. Visiting Barbados? Great!!! Here are some of the unforgettable sites to visit 2022!

tourist attraction for barbados

  • OISTINS FISH FRY  Oistin is a small town situated in Barbados and often the settlement area of most Tourists. If you are in Oistin, the week is not complete without the Oistins’ fish fry night. It is almost considered a sin to miss this spot. It is so popular that residents from other towns, foreigners and locals alike, converge at Oistin for its novel Fish fry nights.

tourist attraction for barbados

2. BARBADOS WILDLIFE RESERVE  Located at the parish of Saint Peter,  Barbados Wildlife Reserve  occupies about 4 acres of mahogany forest, near the top of Farley hill. Experience wildlife of the Caribbean first hand and close-up. A trip to Barbados without visiting its wildlife reserve would be considered an incomplete trip.

tourist attraction for barbados

3. ANIMAL FLOWER CAVE RESTUARANT  What better way to spend your day if not on a cliff, in an open restaurant and the view of the ocean. Having dinner while the ocean breeze blows away your stress has to be one of your accomplishments when visiting Barbados. This premium restaurant is located at North point at Saint Lucy parish and has been the tourist destination for decades now. Do not leave the Island without a visit.

tourist attraction for barbados

4. BATHSHEBA BAY  Bathsheba is a small village, predominantly a fishing village at Saint Joseph parish which is located at the eastern coast of Barbados. Bathsheba beach, popular called the Soup bowl is a tourist destination for international and local surfing competitions which are held annually. Photographers and painters would love this location for its scenery.

tourist attraction for barbados

5. FLOWER FOREST BOTANICAL GARDEN  A major reason for a vacation or tourism is to discover peace and tranquility. Flower forest would get you there faster. Littered with all manner of colorful tropical flower and plants, it gives a feeling of paradise on earth. This garden seated on about 50 acres of land is located in the Parish of Saint Joseph, Barbados. This is one place to visit and sure would leave a lasting memory.   

tourist attraction for barbados

6. ANDROMEDA GARDEN Still within the parish of Saint Joseph lies this magnificent tropical garden seated on an expanse of 6 acres of land and houses over 500 different plants. Whether for educational purposes or pleasure, Androdema gardens is the perfect place to intertwine both purposes. It is no wonder the garden has acquired several international recognition and awards. It is a must-see when on the Island.

tourist attraction for barbados

7. DOWNTOWN BRIDGETOWN  The Capital city, Bridgetown, is known for its seaports and its historical British architectural building designs. Located on the island’s southwest coast, Bridgetown holds so many historical landmarks. Taking walks is recommended to get the best out of a visit to downtown Bridgetown.

tourist attraction for barbados

8. CARLISLE BAY  Still in the capital city, Bridgetown? Then Carlisle bay is the next best place to visit. It was given its name after the second Lord proprietor of Barbados, James Hay, the first Earl of Carlisle. The calm waters in Carlisle bay’s beach make it great for a good swim and relaxation. The six shipwrecks at the bay of Carlisle make it a great place for Scuba diving. Do not forget your swimsuits when visiting.

tourist attraction for barbados

9. LAWRENCE GAP  Looking for a place for safe nightlife? St. Lawrence Gap in Oistins’ is the place to be. St. Lawrence Gap is an over 1km road stretch, known for its numerous restaurants and clubs for locals and visitors looking for a good night out. Be sure to have a good time with an array of clubs, bars and restaurants on St. Lawrence Gap when in Barbados.

tourist attraction for barbados

10. FARLEY HILL NATIONAL PARK  This historic national park, established in the 17th century is located at Saint Peters, Benny Hall, Barbados. Though now in ruins, it was once a beautiful Mansion built for the entertainment of Royalty. Farley hill is perfect for families as it holds a lot of historical knowledge and a perfect view.

tourist attraction for barbados

11. HARRISONS CAVE  For those craving a bit of mystery and adventure, Harrisons Cave has got it all. This wonder of nature is located in the central part of the Island and is a site attraction to tourists. Feel the spooky feeling when exploring this 2.3 kilometer stretch of the Harrisons cave. The experience will not depart from your memory in a hurry.

tourist attraction for barbados

12. THE GARRISON HISTORIC AREA  Lovers of history and the stories it holds would love to visit the Garrison historic area. Located in Bridgetown, Barbados, the Garrison is not only home to Barbados military defense, but also its Turf club. It is said that in 1751, the First American president and leader of the American Revolution, George Washington, once spent time with his ill brother at the district. The building is now called the George Washington House and is a site attraction for tourists.

tourist attraction for barbados

13. NICHOLAS ABBEY  St. Nicholas Abbey, located at Saint Peter, Barbados, is an ancient building erected in 1658 and is one of three Jacobean mansions in the western hemisphere. This old plantation house, which is also a museum and rum distillery, is a must-see when in Barbados.

tourist attraction for barbados

14. CRANE BEACH  Among other beaches in Barbados, this pink sanded beach, Crane beach, is considered to be the most beautiful. Crane beach is found in the Parish of Saint Phillip and is about 6 kilometers from the Airport. It is one of Barbados’ most popular beaches and its rich vegetation and unique cliffs among other things make this so.

tourist attraction for barbados

15. THE EMANCIPATION STATUE  The emancipation statue was originally sculpted by the island prominent sculptor and architect, Karl Broodhagen. The statue symbolizes the ‘breaking of chains’ of slavery at emancipation in 1834. The sculpture is also called ‘Bussa’, named after a West African slave who held the first rebellion against rights and freedom in 1816. If you love history, you would not miss visiting this site. The Emancipation statue is located in east Bridgetown.

tourist attraction for barbados

Thinking about traveling to experience Barbados ? Be sure to check our Caribbean Travel Requirements COVID-19 updates for the latest requirements for travel to Barbados as well as other Caribbean countries including  Antigua and Barbuda,  St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago. __M.E.

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tourist attraction for barbados

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While it's justifiably famed for its fantastic beaches, Barbados is an island that has it all. In addition to fine powdery sand and brilliant turquoise bays, you'll find smashing nightlife, a Unesco World Heritage–listed capital, a beautiful interior dotted with gardens, and wild surf on the lonely east coast, all inhabited by a proud and welcoming populace.

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A somewhat hidden gem that is the antithesis of its American namesake. Small, shady and intimate, it's well removed from the often frenetic south-coast…

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St Nicholas Abbey

St Nicholas Abbey is a Jacobean-style mansion that is one of the oldest plantation houses in the Caribbean and a must-see stop on any island itinerary…

Parliament Building, Bridgetown, Barbados, West Indies, Caribbean, Central America

Parliament Buildings

On the north side of National Heroes Sq are two stone-block, neo-Gothic-style buildings constructed in 1871. The western building with the clock tower…

Bottom Bay

On an island blessed with beautiful stretches of sand, Bottom Bay is up there with the best. With translucent turquoise waters framed by rocks and…

Rockley Beach

Rockley Beach

The largest beach in the area, Rockley is a picture-perfect crescent of sand. Backed by shade trees, there’s moderate surf. The new boardwalk allows you…

Paynes Bay Beach

Paynes Bay Beach

Fringed by a fine stretch of sand, gently curving Paynes Bay is endlessly popular and its calm waters make it one of the west coast’s best spots for…

Hunte's Gardens

Hunte's Gardens

These gardens at the home of famed local horticulturalist Anthony Hunte already have a magical aura. Set mostly within the confines of a collapsed cave,…

Top picks from our travel experts

11 of the best things to do in barbados.

Harrison's Cave

Harrison's Cave

This cave is promoted as one of the island's premier attractions, but how much you enjoy it will depend on which tour you choose. The main 'tram tour'…

Beach at Soup Bowl in Bathsheba, Barbados.

Bathsheba Beach

A wild stretch of golden sand that's framed by rough headlands and punctuated by magnificent rock formations standing defiant in the shallows against the…

Gun Hill

This 1818 hilltop signal tower has impressive views of the surrounding valleys and the southwest coast. The island was once connected by six such signal…

Pebbles Beach

Pebbles Beach

Running between two high-end hotels, this lovely stretch of sand is really just an extension of Brownes Beach. It has soft sands and calm waters and is…

Cherry Tree Hill

Cherry Tree Hill

A historic avenue lined with mahogany trees that leads from St Nicholas Abbey down to the Atlantic. The view from the top is spectacular.

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Barbados is so much more than just beautiful beaches. Here are the top island experiences.


Nothing provides a peek into Bajan culture quite like hopping on a city bus – here's everything you need to know about getting around Barbados.

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Boasting some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, Barbados is a great choice for getting away from it all. Here's everything you need to know about visas.

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Everyone makes a beeline for the beach on the gorgeous island of Barbados on the beach, but taking a road trip reveals a whole other side to the island.

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De Thirsty Lizard is a well-known rum shop in Barbados and a pillar of the community.

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Discover Barbados’ rich history as the birthplace of rum and how it became home to almost 1500 rum shops across the island.

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Visit these Barbados Tourist Attractions.

Have a great day out.

As well as all the wonderful free things to do which you can read about in, there are some top notch Barbados tourist attractions which can really enhance your holiday. It’s a chance to explore the island, its history and give you things to do with structure and focus. All are accessible by car or bus and well worth a visit. The variety of Barbados tourist attractions is one reason why the island is the best destination in the Caribbean.

Barbados tourist attractions

Welchman Hall Gully

Barbados tourist attractions

Atlantis Submarine

Barbados tourist attractions

Hunte's Garden

Barbados tourist attractions

The Concorde Experience

Barbados tourist attractions

St Nicholas Abbey

Barbados tourist attractions

Andromeda Gardens

Barbados tourist attractions

Mount Gay Visitors' Centre

Barbados tourist attractions

Graeme Hall Sanctuary

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Happy Potter

Things to do in Barbados

Animal Flower Cave

Barbados attractions

Jolly Roger Cruise

Orchid World

Bushy Park (Karting)

Island Safari

Harrison’s Cave

Cool Runnings Catamaran

Arlington House Museum

Barbados Wildlife Reserve

Earthwork Potteries

Mount Gay Visitors' Centre

Hunte's gardens, take a peek, behind the images below , find the hidden treasure.

(See all our stories about Barbados here... )

Be Cool in the Pool

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Picnic at River Bay

Picnic at River Bay

Try Spa-bados!

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Funniest Night of the Year

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Flower Forest Gardens

Barbados is a small island with many places to see and experience on your vacation.

Review our top 10 places to see in Barbados and enjoy the many beautiful locations and exciting sightseeing opportunities the island has to offer.

Barbados Wildlife Reserve

Visit the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, Grenade Hall Signal Station, and Forest, for the most affordable tourist attraction in Barbados.

Take a relaxing stroll along the brick paths, which meander through a forest of Mahogany Trees. Our Tortoise is likely to be the first animal to greet you. They can be found all around the Wildlife Reserve.

Earthworks is an open pottery studio, making functional hand-decorated dinnerware and all kinds of red clay ceramic pieces. You can walk in and see experienced Bajan potters crafting their work.

Bushy Park Barbados

Our Bushy Park Ultimate Driving Experiences offer you a chance to see, hear, and feel what it’s like to push a racing car or kart to the limit.

Prepare to abandon any preconceived ideas of when a driver should be ‘breaking for a corner’ or how fast a vehicle can go into and out of the corner. Let our professionals get you on the start line, and you will have one of the most exhilarating and memorable experiences of your life.

Flower Forest

The Flower Forest Botanical Gardens of Barbados is a perfect place to retreat from the hustle of the world and relax for a few hours. Find your tranquillity in the Flower Forest Botanical Gardens of Barbados.

Blakeys Bar and Restaurant

Come to Blakey’s Bar and Restaurant on the Barbados Boardwalk to enjoy a great time out with friends, family, or that special someone.

Take a romantic stroll on the Barbados Boardwalk while enjoying the view of the beautiful sunset, see the turtle mural and stop at Blakeys Bar and Restaurant and enjoy your dinner under the evening sky in Barbados.

The Crane Resort

Since 1887, the Crane Resort in Barbados has developed from a historic small hotel into a premier luxury resort offering guests an idyllic getaway.

Many of the resort’s superbly appointed suites feature fabulous ocean views and private plunge pools.

The resort overlooks spectacular Crane Beach, named by Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous as “one of the Ten Best Beaches in the world.”

Pirates Cove

Located in Carlisle Bay, steps away from the island’s capital of Bridgetown, is Pirates Cove Beach Bar and Restaurant. The bamboo bar is a great place to hang out and have a pirates brew or a signature pirates burger. Carlisle Bay got its name after the Earl of Carlisle, who stole Barbados away from Sir William Courteen in the Great Barbados Robbery.

Continue your pirate party experience on the sea with Black Pearl Party Cruises Aboard the Barbados Jolly Roger.

Bath Beach House Getaway

Getaway from the crowds and indulge yourself at a very charming private beach house on the rustic east coast of Barbados. For the most memorable day in Barbados, visit Bath Beach House.

Join a small, select group for a day of unique adventures, VIP relaxation, sumptuous cuisine, and endless cocktails in beautiful Bath Beach, St. John on the East Coast of Barbados. Truly an authentic Bajan experience.

Mount Gay Visitor Experience

Mount Gay Rum invites guests from around the world to discover the secrets behind Barbados’ most exceptional spirit. Visit the home of the oldest, most famous Rum in the world. Mount Gay Visitor Experience allows visitors to explore the history, heritage, and craft of Mount Gay rums. At the same time, special tours treat you to a cocktail mixing session or a traditional Bajan lunch.

Agrofest – Barbados Agricultural Society

The Barbados Agricultural Society is an agricultural organization that is over 150 years old. It was established in 1845 by an Act of Parliament in Barbados and sought to represent the interests of the farming sector in all relevant forums.

The society is the secretariat for seven commodity groups representing over 500 farmers, with women comprising 30% of the total.

You can get other ideas from many different places to visit within the many photo galleries on Pinterest and Instagram Barbados.


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Planner at Heart

Here’s 15 Things to Do in Barbados From Someone Who’s Been 10 Times

Oistins things to do in barbados

With miles of white-sand beaches fringed by lazy palm trees, Barbados is a true paradise. That’s why I returned to this Caribbean island time and time again.  Each trip I discover more things to do in Barbados and I fall in love with it all over again.

My Favorite Things to Do in Barbados

tourist attraction for barbados

This island has captured my heart through not only the plethora of activities that you can take part in, but also the stunning landscape as well as the heartwarming hospitality of the island’s locals.

There’s are things to do in Barbados for everyone, whether you prefer to unwind on a picture-perfect beach or fulfil your adventurous desires and visit a huge underground cave, sample local cuisine or stroll through vibrant city streets. In this guide I’m going to show you some of the best things to do in Barbados, one of my favorite Caribbean islands.

Bask in Bliss on the Platinum Coast

tourist attraction for barbados

Perched on the leeward side of Barbados is an uninterrupted stretch of white-sand beach. The stretch of coastline actually consists of numerous individual beaches which are home to a range of hotels, restaurants and bars.

This area of coastline hugs crystal clear waters which are alive with marine life. It’s the perfect place to go snorkeling or to simply unwind on the beach.

Visit one of the bars or restaurants where you can sip on a cocktail in the most idyllic of settings.

One of my favorite things to do on the Platinum Coast is simply stroll along the beach, navigating past large boulders which jut out into the ocean and sometimes wading through shallow waters to reach the next stretch of beach. The sights that you will encounter will simply take your breath away.

Embark on an Adventure to Bathsheba Beach


On the eastern coastline, bordering the Atlantic ocean is this wild and untouched beach which feels worlds away from the Platinum Coast. Bathsheba Beach is arguably one of the most stunning beaches in Barbados, a large expanse of golden sand dotted with striking rock formations and natural pools.

The pools are perfect if you’d like to cool down but swimming isn’t recommended at this beach as the ocean is rough.

There are a couple of restaurants within walking distance from Bathsheba Beach so you can enjoy a bite to eat whilst watching the ocean crash onto the gorgeous coastline.

Descend into the Depths of Harrison’s Cave

Harrison's Cave Things to do in Barbados

Nestled in the very heart of Barbados is an underground cave in the middle of the jungle.

Harrison’s Cave is a wondrous display of nature’s artistry, with mesmerizing stalactites suspended from the cave’s ceiling and stalagmites emerging from the ground. Also in the vast cave system are crystal-clear streams of water which cascade down from waterfalls, forming deep emerald pools on the cave floor.

The cave is best visited via a tram tour. The tram winds through the cave, providing clear views of the spectacle and you will be accompanied by a knowledgeable guide.

Marvel at the Pristine Countryside on Horseback

tourist attraction for barbados

Explore the untouched east coast from the comfort of the saddle. Horse treks at Ocean Echo Stables take you through the peaceful countryside where you will hear nothing but the sounds of nature. Ocean Echo Stables tailor for riders of all ages and ability.

The trek will take you along a quiet beach where you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the rugged coastline.  You may find it hard to believe that Barbados houses such vast stretches of wilderness as the island is renowned for its beaches and chic restaurants. But this trek will demonstrate that Barbados is home to beautiful forests like that of the nearby island of Grenada .

Immerse Yourself in Vibrant Culture at the Oistins Fish Fry Market

Oistins things to do in barbados

The Oistins Fish Fry Market takes place every Friday in the normally quiet fishing town of Oistins and is a hive of activity. Fresh locally-caught fish are served here, grilled or fried in front of you. You will find a host of locals and tourists alike here, all sampling the delicious cuisine. It’s plates filled sky high for very affordable prices. 

As well as serving mouth-watering food, the market hosts karaoke, steel pan bands, and live music. Alcohol is also served here. A smaller event takes place every Saturday night and the regular fish market is open daily to sell the day’s freshly caught fish.

Explore The Eerie Shipwrecks In Carlisle Bay

tourist attraction for barbados

Located at the southern tip of Barbados is a vast expanse of sand known as Carlisle Bay. The waters of the bay conceal six shipwrecks in an area known as Carlisle Bay Marine Park.

The ships lie at various depths and can be explored by either diving, snorkeling or even kayaking over the top of them. Not only are the shipwrecks themselves fascinating, but they provide a vital home for an array of marine life. Turtles, a range of tropical fish, eels and seahorses can be found here.

Stroll Through the Colorful Chattel Village

Chattel House

Within Holetown on the west coast is a delightful collection of colorful wooden buildings known as the Chattel Village. Surrounded by leafy gardens , this village is home to numerous shops, a restaurant and cafe.

The Chattel Village is the perfect place to purchase souvenirs for your loved ones back home or browse for unique items of clothing in independent shops which you’d struggle to buy elsewhere.

Plunge into the Vast Ocean in a Submarine

Things to do in Barbados

Submarine tours operate from Barbados’ capital of Bridgetown and are a unique way to see what lies on the ocean floor. From the comfort of your submarine you can try to spot fish as they swim between the rusting remains of an ancient shipwreck at 130 feet deep.

Tours are available both in the day and at night, giving you opportunities to spot an array of marine life.

Stroll Through Bridgetown

Bridgetown Water front

Barbados’ capital city, Bridgetown, is in fact a UNESCO world heritage site, housing buildings dating back to the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries. There’s a host to see and do in this vibrant city such as visiting one of its lively beaches, enjoying a bout of shopping or visiting one of the city’s museums.

Bridgetown is also home to the island’s biggest port so you can book a scenic boat trip or deep-sea fishing trip here.

Set Sail on a Peaceful Catamaran Cruise

tourist attraction for barbados

Catamaran cruises offer the perfect opportunity to admire Barbados’ stunning coastline and to snorkel on some of the island’s best reefs and shipwrecks whilst in a relaxing environment.

You can enjoy swimming alongside countless tropical fish before settling down on the boat to sip on a cocktail under the sun. There are numerous companies offering Catamaran cruises in Barbados and they tend to come with lunch and an open bar.

Swim in the Warm Ocean Alongside Turtles

tourist attraction for barbados

Turtles can be encountered in abundance off Barbados’ leeward coast. You may be lucky to encounter one whilst snorkeling from the beach but for almost guaranteed sightings you can book a boat trip which will take you to places where the turtles frequent.

Many catamaran tours take you to spots where turtles are likely to be found. Other options include glass-bottom boat cruises and sunset tours. When researching tours be sure to choose one which doesn’t feed the turtles. Turtles should be viewed from afar and not encouraged to approach people.

Sample Rum at ​​Mount Gay Distillery

tourist attraction for barbados

In the north of Barbados is the world-famous Mount Gay Rum Distillery which produces the island’s flagship drink: Mount Gay Rum. Visiting is one of the most popular things to do in Barbados. 

Tours of the distillery run multiple times a day and offer you the opportunity to sample several rums whilst learning about the interesting production process. A complimentary rum punch is offered upon arrival so you can learn all about the rum whilst sipping on this delightful cocktail.

Admire Racehorses Swimming at Pebbles Beach

Carlise Bay

Just as the sun starts to rise each day, grooms lead their racehorses from Garrison Savannah, one of the oldest racetracks in the Americas, down to the shores of Pebbles Beach. The horses enjoy a dip in the ocean and some can even be witnessed swimming.

This heartwarming spectacle can be viewed each day between 5:30 and 7 a.m. and is said to be performed as swimming is good for the horses’ muscles.

Discover the Natural Beauty of Animal Flower Cave

Animal Flower Cave

At the very northern tip of the island is a natural landmark known as Animal Flower Cave. The cave derives its name from the sea anemones that inhabit the pools within the cave. Some of these pools are deep enough to swim in.

Animal Flower Cave is the island’s only accessible sea cave. The steps leading down to the cave can be slippery so it’s advisable to watch your step. Atop the cave is a bar and restaurant which has panoramic views of the rocky coastline and ocean.

Ride Waves on a Jet Ski

tourist attraction for barbados

At numerous points along the leeward Platinum Coast is the opportunity to take to the ocean in a jet ski. I can’t tell you how many times I have hired a jet ski in Barbados as the feeling of the wind in your hair as you take to the ocean simply never gets old.

Wiz up and down the coastline, spotting hidden beaches and coves whilst at the same time enjoying the thrill of crashing through waves.

Don’t Miss These Things to Do in Barbados

tourist attraction for barbados

Barbados is an island of surprises. Around every corner you will find something new to do, whether that’s a hidden beach you have just come across on your wander, or a quaint bar in an unexpected location.

The vastness of things to do makes Barbados a great Caribbean pick for pretty much any type of traveler. And if you can’t fit all of the exciting activities you want to complete in one trip? I guess that’s a reason to make a return visit in future!

5 Reasons the Bougainvillea Barbados is the Upscale Boutique Escape You’re Looking For

bougainvillea barbados

Listen to the ocean waves from your room, even from your bed, as you drift off to sleep.  A chic, modern, impeccably clean hotel with the most beautiful courtyard filled with pools, waterfalls, tropical flowers, and trees. When you think of an island paradise picture, the place you’re dreaming of is real. It’s the Bougainvillea Barbados. 

Looking at Barbados Resorts? 5 Reasons the Bougainvillea Barbados is the Small, Upscale, Gorgeous Escape You’re Looking For

This Food Network Star Was Smitten Instantly With the Culinary Capital of The Caribbean; After 13 Visits, Here’s His Must Dos in The Cayman Islands

Jeff Mauro Cayman islands

Three in four Americans who have traveled in the last five years went for the food, according to a OnePoll/Hello Fresh Survey. One of those travelers is Emmy-Nominated Food Network Star, The Sandwich King, Chef Jeff Mauro, who said, “I want to go to places with great food. And Cayman never ceases to amaze me.”

“I like going to new places and discovering new things, but out of all the places that we have been, this is the one that we come back to,” Mauro explained to the audience at the recent Taste of Cayman Food & Drink Festival.

The Beautiful Bimini Bahamas: 8 Things To Do in This Less Crowded Gem

Bimini Bahamas

Do you love the beauty of The Bahamas but don’t love the crowds of New Providence or Paradise Island? Then perhaps it’s time to consider another of the Bahamas’ 16 islands.

Bimini Bahamas is a breathtaking island known for its crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and smaller island feel. With only a few resorts and accommodations, it’s a different vacation vibe. 

17 Things to Do in Montego Bay Jamaica for Your Next Adventure

things to do in montego bay jamaica

Montego Bay Jamaica, or “MoBay,” is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city’s downtown area. There are sun-kissed beaches, iconic plantations, tropical gardens, and a picturesque countryside dotted with rocky peaks. There are many things to do in Montego Bay that fit the bill for a tropical getaway.

31 of The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico to Explore The Island and Culture

Things to do in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is described as the heart and soul of the Caribbean. Yes, this island boasts 720 miles of coastline with over 300 stunning beaches, but it offers so much more!

From one of the world’s very few bioluminescent bays to the lush mountaintops of El Yunque National Forest, plus history and some of the world’s most delicious food, there is something here for every traveler.

So whether you want a getaway that’s jam-packed with adventure, or you want to do nothing at all there’s are so many things to do in Puerto Rico. And bonus, no passport is required if you’re traveling from the United States!

This article was produced by Planner at Heart . 

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I’m a full-time travel writer who is passionate about pushing myself out of my comfort zone and encouraging you to do the same! I love immersing myself in new cultures and sampling cuisines from around the world.

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Things to do | San Francisco’s hot tourist attraction:…

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Things to do

Things to do | san francisco’s hot tourist attraction: driverless cars, cable cars are still trundling up the city’s hills, but robotaxis from waymo are shaping up as the city’s latest must-do for visitors.

Passersby stop to photograph a self-driving car from Waymo in San Francisco, where robotaxis have been operating commercially since August<span class="rte rte-comment" data-user-id="00000169-b65f-d577-abfb-b7df37250000" data-user-label=" Martha Lynch" data-time="06/10/2024 8:22:18 AM" data-replies="" data-collapse="false">on May 16, 2024</span>. <span class="rte rte-comment" data-user-id="00000169-b65f-d577-abfb-b7df37250000" data-user-label=" Martha Lynch" data-time="06/10/2024 8:25:12 AM" data-replies="" data-collapse="false">Cable cars are still trundling up the city''s hills, but the robotaxis from Waymo are shaping up as the city''s latest must-do for visitors. (Ji</span><span class="rte rte-comment" data-user-id="00000169-b65f-d577-abfb-b7df37250000" data-user-label=" Martha Lynch" data-time="06/10/2024 8:22:23 AM" data-replies="" data-collapse="false">m Wilson/The New York Times)</span>

Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles or, colloquially, robotaxis, have been driving the streets of San Francisco in some form since 2009 and have been operating commercially since August. The cars are also shaping up as the city’s latest tourist attraction.

De Clercq, 42, who splits his time between New Jersey and Sardinia, where he owns restaurants and bars and rents villas, is an avid traveler.

“I love exploring and doing new things,” he said. “I knew that I definitely wanted to get a ride while I was in town.”

What, where and how to ride

Conversations abound on Reddit and the social platform X, with visitors seeking advice on how to secure a ride while in San Francisco, or be well positioned to spot a driverless car on the go.

Some basics are necessary when plotting your own robotaxi ride. First, while AV companies such as Cruise and Zoox have proliferated in recent years, Waymo, which is owned by Alphabet (Google’s parent company), is currently the only company offering rides to the public in San Francisco.

Waymo also operates in the Phoenix metro area, including offering rides to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and is currently slowly rolling out rides in Los Angeles and testing rides on the San Francisco Peninsula and in Austin, Texas. In Phoenix, you can hail a Waymo using the Uber app; in all other locations, downloading the Waymo app is required. (The app is very similar to other ride-hailing services; pricing is comparable, too.) And in almost all service areas, there is a waiting list to be granted access.

Anjelica Price-Rocha, a public relations manager for Waymo, was not able to provide specific estimates for waiting list times in various cities, but she did say that the wait is shorter in San Francisco than in Los Angeles. (I signed up for the app in San Francisco in late April and was off the waiting list just over a week later.)

“For anyone visiting San Francisco, I would suggest that you get on the waitlist as soon as you book your trip,” Price-Rocha said. Looking to spot a Waymo car on the go? According to Price-Rocha, popular pickup and drop-off locations include tourist attractions such as the Ferry Building, Pier 39, Coit Tower and the Japantown Peace Plaza.

A futuristic attraction

Not able to get direct access in time? Try asking friends, family or colleagues if they’ll invite you on a ride. Jason Karsh, a 38-year-old San Francisco resident who works as a tech marketing executive and consultant, regularly “hails” Waymo cars and suggests riding in them as a tourist activity.

“San Francisco has gotten a bad rep for visitors recently,” Karsh said. “This is a reminder that San Francisco also is a place that’s living a few years into the future technologically.”

Waymo vehicles are all-electric Jaguar I-PACEs outfitted with radar, lidar, sensors, and internal and external cameras. You use the app to unlock the car when it arrives and to play music during your ride. Four seats are available to passengers — you can sit up front, but you’re not allowed to sit in the driver’s seat (if you try, the car will not move). A real-life customer support team remotely monitors your ride for unsafe activity and is available should you require assistance.

Karsh described a recent ride with a group of colleagues: “They immediately got out their phones and began filming, almost like they were taping a celebrity or a concert.”

Indeed, riding in a Waymo can turn you into the main attraction. On a recent trip through San Francisco with my visiting in-laws, we not only filmed much of our ride, but spotted a group of tourists who pointed and stared at our driverless vehicle, even pulling out phones to snap footage of their own.

De Clercq, visiting from New Jersey, described his ride home from a night out in Chinatown as “very interesting and futuristic. It was extremely cautious and quite slow.”

According to safety data from the company, Waymos are significantly safer than human drivers. That hasn’t prevented public backlash over AVs — California suspended Cruise vehicles from operating on the streets of San Francisco after an incident in which a pedestrian was hit and dragged under a vehicle. There have been regular complaints of Waymo cars blocking traffic and emergency vehicles. Crashes, largely involving stationary objects, have led to a federal investigation of Waymo.

However, in Karsh’s experience, Waymo rides are sometimes less than seamless because they’re too cautious.

“If there’s a car stopped with the hood up on a two-lane street, a human driver will know to go around. A Waymo might just sit there,” he said.

From awe and delight to near normalcy

But perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of a first-time Waymo ride is how quickly it feels normal.

“For the first couple of minutes, there’s this giddiness,” Price-Rocha said. “But we see that, really quickly, people just ease into the experience.”

Karsh saw this shift happen firsthand on a recent trip to New York City, when his family opted for a ride in a yellow cab.

“My 3½-year-old son turns to me and my wife and says, ‘Look, Daddy, a driver!’ He was kind of shocked.”

This article originally appeared in <a href=””>The New York Times</a>.

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Mainly Mozart made national news in 2020 with its pandemic-driven decision to present drive-in classical music concerts at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. After four years of subsequent pivots and venue changes, this venerable but nimble nonprofit is now planting roots in La Jolla. Since its inception in 1988, Mainly Mozart’s main venue for its all-star […]

Putting down roots: Mainly Mozart to open All-Star festival at its new artistic home in La Jolla

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Stephen Hiltner/The New York Times

The sculpted facade of a 2,000-year-old tomb glows in the late-afternoon sun at Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Crowds of Muslim pilgrims gather outside the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

Camels march through the desert on the outskirts of the Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand sea.

For many years these Saudi Arabian scenes, including the lively open-air markets in Jeddah, were off limits to most travelers.

But not anymore. As it undergoes a profound transformation, Saudi Arabia is spending lavishly to lure tourists with its luxe new resorts ...

... its rich cultural heritage ...

... and its sublime natural beauty.

Can the Saudi government persuade would-be visitors to look past — or reconsider — its longstanding associations with religious extremism, ultraconservatism and human rights abuses?

Will the kingdom’s $800 billion bet on tourism pay off?

Supported by

Surprising, Unsettling, Surreal: Roaming Through Saudi Arabia

To witness the kingdom’s profound transformation and assess its ambitious tourism projects, a Times journalist spent a month on the road there. Here’s what he saw.

Stephen Hiltner

By Stephen Hiltner

An editor and photojournalist for the Travel section, Stephen Hiltner drove 5,200 miles and visited all 13 of Saudi Arabia’s provinces while reporting and shooting this story.

Wandering alone along the southern fringes of Saudi Arabia’s mountainous Asir Province, some eight miles from the Yemeni border, in a nondescript town with a prominent sculpture of a rifle balanced on an ornately painted plinth, I met a man, Nawab Khan, who was building a palace out of mud.

Listen to this article with reporter commentary

Actually, he was rebuilding the structure, restoring it. And when I came across him, he hadn’t yet begun his work for the day; he was seated on the side of the road beneath its red-and-white windows — cross-legged, on a rug, leaning over a pot of tea and a bowl of dates.

Two weeks earlier, on the far side of the country, a fellow traveler had pointed at a map and described the crumbling buildings here, in Dhahran al-Janub, arranged in a colorful open-air museum. Finding myself nearby, I’d detoured to have a look — and there was Mr. Khan, at first looking at me curiously and then waving me over to join him. Sensing my interest in the cluster of irregular towers, he stood up, produced a large key ring and began opening a series of padlocks. When he vanished through a doorway, I followed him into a shadowy stairwell.

This, of course, was my mother’s worst nightmare: Traveling solo, I’d been coaxed by a stranger into an unlit building in a remote Saudi village, within a volatile border area that the U.S. Department of State advises Americans to stay away from .

By now, though, more than halfway through a 5,200-mile road trip, I trusted Mr. Khan’s enthusiasm as a genuine expression of pride, not a ploy. All across Saudi Arabia, I’d seen countless projects being built, from simple museums to high-end resorts. These were the early fruits of an $800 billion investment in the travel sector, itself part of a much larger effort, Vision 2030 , to remake the kingdom and reduce its economic dependence on oil.

But I’d begun to see the building projects as something else, too: the striving of a country — long shrouded to most Westerners — to be seen, reconsidered, accepted. And with its doors suddenly flung open and the pandemic behind us, visitors like me were finally beginning to witness this new Saudi Arabia, much to Mr. Khan’s and all the other builders’ delight.

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Few countries present as complicated a prospect for travelers as Saudi Arabia.

Long associated with Islamic extremism, human rights abuses and the oppression of women, the kingdom has made strides in recent years to refashion its society and its reputation abroad.

The infamous religious police, which upheld codes of conduct based on an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam, were stripped of their power. Public concerts, once banned, are now ubiquitous. Women have been granted new rights — including the freedom to drive and to travel without permission from a male guardian — and are no longer required to wear floor-length robes in public or to cover their hair.

These changes are part of a broad set of strategies to diversify the kingdom’s economy, elevate its status in the world and soften its image — the last of which is a tall order for a government that has killed a newspaper columnist , kidnapped and tortured dissidents , precipitated a humanitarian crisis in Yemen and imprisoned people for supporting gay rights , among a number of other recent abuses .

Central to the transformations led by 38-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, is a major push for international visitors. It represents a sea change in a country that, until 2019, issued no nonreligious tourist visas and instead catered almost exclusively to Muslim pilgrims visiting Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities. In February, by contrast, my tourist e-visa was approved online in minutes.

Saudi Arabia has already transformed one of its premier destinations — Al-Ula, with its UNESCO-listed Nabatean tombs — from a neglected collection of archaeological sites into a lavish retreat with a bevy of activities on offer, including guided tours, wellness festivals, design exhibitions and hot air balloon rides.

Another project will create a vast array of luxury resorts on or near the Red Sea.

Still more projects include the development of Diriyah , the birthplace of the first Saudi state; the preservation and development of the coastal city of Jeddah ; an offshore theme park called the Rig ; and Neom , the futuristic city that has garnered the lion’s share of attention.

All told, the country is hoping to draw 70 million international tourists per year by 2030, with tourism contributing 10 percent of its gross domestic product. (In 2023, the country logged 27 million international tourists, according to government figures , with tourism contributing about 4 percent of G.D.P.)


At-Turaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was the birthplace of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is now the centerpiece of the $63 billion Diriyah project, a new center of culture just outside Riyadh.

Nujuma, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve on a remote island in the Red Sea, opened in late May. (A one-bedroom villa costs about $2,500 per night, excluding taxes and fees.) It is one of 50 properties scheduled to open in the area by 2030.

The preservation and development of Jeddah, a coastal city famous for its historic district built largely from blocks of coral, comes with a price tag of some $20 billion.

Al-Ula is a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions. Part of the city’s Old Town, long crumbling in neglect, has now been painstakingly restored.

To get a sense of these projects and the changes unfolding in Saudi society, I spent a month exploring the kingdom by car. I traveled alone, without a fixer, driver or translator. Per New York Times ethics guidelines, I declined the government’s many offers of discounts and complimentary services.

Much of the time I felt I’d been tossed the keys to the kingdom. But there were moments, too, when I faced a more complicated reality, one epitomized by a road sign that forced me to abruptly exit the highway some 15 miles from the center of Mecca. “Obligatory for Non Muslims,” it read, pointing to the offramp.

To me, the sign broadcast the lines being drawn to compartmentalize the country, which is now marketing itself to two sets of travelers with increasingly divergent — and sometimes contradictory — expectations: luxury tourists at ease with bikinis and cocktails, and pilgrims prepared for modesty and strict religious adherence. It’s hard to know whether the kingdom can satisfy both without antagonizing either.

My trip began in Jeddah, where, after spending two days exploring its historic district, I rented a car and drove eight hours north to Al-Ula, a benchmark for the new Saudi tourism initiatives.

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Saudi Arabia

Reporter’s route

Dhahran al-Janub

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Wadi al-Disah

Red Sea Resort

The name Al-Ula refers to both a small city and a broader region packed with attractions: Hegra , the kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage site and its biggest archaeological draw, is a 30-minute drive north of Old Town, a maze of crumbling mud-brick buildings now partly restored. Between the two, and fanning out to the east and west, are several other archaeological sites, as well as a smattering of resorts, event spaces and adventure outfitters. Farther northeast, beyond Hegra, is the Sharaan Nature Reserve , a vast protected zone used for conservation efforts.

My first priority during my five-day stay in Al-Ula was a visit to Hegra.

Like Petra , its better-known counterpart in Jordan, Hegra was built by the Nabateans, an ancient people who flourished 2,000 years ago. The site contains more than 100 tombs that were carved from solid rock, their entrances adorned with embellishments. Most impressive among them, set apart and standing some 70 feet tall, is a tomb colloquially called the Lonely Castle.

Not long ago, visitors could hire private guides and wander the area on foot, climbing in and out of — and no doubt damaging — the many tombs. Not anymore: I boarded an air-conditioned tour bus and zipped past most of them, stopping at just four locations.

At the penultimate stop, we exited the bus and trudged several hundred feet along a sandy path to the front of the Lonely Castle. Even in the late afternoon, the heat was stifling. I craned my neck to take in the details of the sculpted facade, which emerged like a mirage from one side of a massive boulder: its four pilasters, the rough chisel marks near the bottom, its characteristic five-stepped crown. Ten minutes evaporated, and I turned to find my group being shepherded back onto the bus. I jogged through the sand to catch up.

A few miles north of Hegra, I hopped in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser — accompanied by an Italian graduate student and his mother — for a drive through the sandy expanse of the Sharaan Nature Reserve.

The scenery was sublime: Slipping through a narrow slot canyon, we emerged into a vast, open desert plain, then settled into a wide valley enclosed by an amphitheater of cliffs. Occasionally our guide stopped and led us on short hikes to petroglyphs, some pockmarked by bullet holes, or to lush fields of wildflowers, where he plucked edible greens and invited us to sample their lemony tang.

Gabriele Morelli, the graduate student, had first come to Al-Ula a few years ago — a different era, he said, given how quickly the place had transformed. He described a version that no longer exists, rife with cheap accommodation, lax rules and a free-for-all sensibility.

Some of the changes, of course, have been necessary to protect delicate ecosystems and archaeological sites from ever-growing crowds. But several people I met in Al-Ula — Saudis and foreigners alike — quietly lamented the extent of the high-end development and the steady erosion of affordability. Many of the new offerings, like the Banyan Tree resort, they pointed out, are luxury destinations that cater to wealthy travelers.

These hushed criticisms were among my early lessons on how difficult it can be to gauge the way Saudis feel about the pace and the pervasiveness of the transformations reshaping their society.

I got a taste of Al-Ula’s exclusivity — and of the uncanniness that occasionally surfaced throughout my trip — at a Lauryn Hill concert in an event space called Maraya . To reach the hall, I passed through a security gate, where an attendant scanned my e-ticket and directed me two miles up a winding road into the heart of the Ashar Valley, home to several high-end restaurants and resorts.

Rounding the final bend, I felt as if I’d stumbled into a computer-generated image: Ant-size humans were dwarfed by a reflective structure that both asserted itself and blended into the landscape. Inside, waiters served hors d’oeuvres and brightly colored mocktails to a chic young crowd.

The surreality peaked when, midway through the show, I left my plush seat to join some concertgoers near the stage — only to turn and see John Bolton, former President Donald J. Trump’s national security adviser, seated in the front row.

Where else, I wondered, could I attend a rap concert in the middle of the desert with a longtime fixture of the Republican Party — amid a crowd that cheered when Ms. Hill mentioned Palestine — but this strange new corner of Saudi Arabia?


The mirrored facade at Maraya, a vast event space in Al-Ula, warps and reflects the surrounding desert landscape.

The building is in some ways a precursor to the kingdom’s most ambitious architectural design: the project at Neom called the Line, a 106-mile linear city that will also feature a mirrored surface.

Lauryn Hill performing in front of a large crowd at Maraya.

After Al-Ula, I drove to another of the kingdom’s extravagant schemes: the Red Sea project, billed as the “world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism destination.” After weaving through a morass of construction-related traffic, I boarded a yacht — alongside a merry band of Saudi influencers — and was piloted some 15 miles to a remote island, where I disembarked in a world of unqualified opulence at the St. Regis Red Sea Resort .

I was chauffeured around in an electric golf cart — past 43 beachside “dune” villas and onto two long boardwalks that connect the rest of the resort to 47 “coral” villas, built on stilts over shallow turquoise water. Along the way, I listened to Lucas Julien-Vauzelle, an executive assistant manager, wax poetic about sustainability. “We take it to the next level,” he said, before rattling off a list of facts and figures: 100 percent renewable energy, a solar-powered 5G network , plans to enhance biologically diverse habitats.

By 2030, he said, the Red Sea project will offer 50 hotels across its island and inland sites. Citing the Maldives, he mentioned the kingdom’s plans to claim a share of the same high-end market.

Another prediction came by way of Keith Thornton, the director of restaurants, who said he expects the resort to legally serve alcohol by the end of the year. (While a liquor store for non-Muslim diplomats recently opened in Riyadh, the Saudi government has made no indication that it plans to reconsider its broader prohibition of alcohol.)

The hotel was undeniably impressive. But there’s an inescapable irony to a lavish resort built at unfathomable expense in the middle of the sea — with guests ferried out by chartered boat and seaplane — that flaunts its aspirations for sustainability.

Toward the end of my several-hour visit, I learned that every piece of vegetation, including 646 palm trees, had been transplanted from an off-site nursery. Later, reviewing historical satellite images, I found visual evidence that the island — described to me as pristine — had been dramatically fortified and, in the process, largely remade. Its footprint had also been significantly altered. It was, in a sense, an artificial island built where a smaller natural island once stood.

Something else struck me, too: The place was nearly empty, save for the staff and the Saudi influencers. Granted, the resort had just opened the month before — but the same was true at the nearby Six Senses Southern Dunes , an inland Red Sea resort that opened in November. Fredrik Blomqvist, the general manager there, told me that its isolated location in a serene expanse of desert — part of its appeal — also presented a challenge in drawing customers. “The biggest thing,” he said, “is to get the message out that the country is open.”

Since the country began issuing tourist visas, influencers have been documenting their experiences in places like Jeddah and Al-Ula, their trips often paid for by the Saudi government. Their breezy content contributes to the impression that the kingdom is awaiting discovery by foreign visitors with out-of-date prejudices. To an extent, for a certain segment of tourists, that’s true.

For many travelers, though, the depiction of the kingdom as an uncomplicated getaway could be dangerously misleading.

Speech in Saudi Arabia is strictly limited; dissent is not tolerated — nor is the open practice of any religion other than the government’s interpretation of Islam. In its travel advisory , the U.S. Department of State warns that “social media commentary — including past comments — which Saudi authorities may deem critical, offensive, or disruptive to public order, could lead to arrest.” Punishment for Saudi nationals has been far worse: In 2023, a retired teacher was sentenced to death after he criticized the ruling family via anonymous accounts. As of late 2023, he remained in prison.

Other restrictions are harder to parse. L.G.B.T.Q. travelers are officially welcome in the kingdom but face a conundrum: They might face arrest or other criminal penalties for openly expressing their sexual orientation or gender identity. As recently as 2021, an independent U.S. federal agency included Saudi Arabia on a list of countries where same-sex relationships are punishable by death , noting that “the government has not sought this penalty in recent years.”

When asked how he would convince a same-sex couple that it was safe to visit, Jerry Inzerillo, a native New Yorker and the group chief executive of Diriyah, said: “We don’t ask you any questions when you come into the country or when you leave.”

“Maybe that’s not conclusive enough,” he added, “but a lot of people have come.”

Female travelers might also face difficulties, since advancements in women’s rights are not equally distributed throughout the kingdom.

The changes were more visible in big cities and tourist centers. Ghydda Tariq, an assistant marketing manager in Al-Ula, described how new professional opportunities had emerged for her in recent years. Maysoon, a young woman I met in Jeddah, made extra money by occasionally driving for Uber. Haneen Alqadi, an employee at the St. Regis Red Sea, described how women there are free to wear bikinis without fear of repercussions.

Outside such places, though, I sometimes went for days without seeing more than a handful of women, invariably wearing niqabs, let alone seeing them engaged in public life or tourism. My photographs reflect that imbalance.

As an easily identifiable Western man, I moved through the country with an array of advantages: the kindness and cheery curiosity of strangers, the ease of passage at military checkpoints, and the freedom to interact with a male-dominated society at markets, museums, parks, restaurants, cafes. Not all travelers could expect the same treatment.

Roaming in the far north and south, I often found the earlier version of the kingdom — with lax rules and less development — that had been described to me in Al-Ula.

I trekked to the northern city of Sakaka to see an archaeological site promoted as the Stonehenge of Saudi Arabia: a set of monoliths called the Rajajil Columns thought to have been erected some 6,000 years ago but about which little is definitively known.

My heart sank when I pulled into the parking lot after a five-hour drive and found the columns blocked by a tall fence. Approaching on foot, though, I noticed that a section of the fence had been peeled back and that visitors were wandering freely among the stones, which protruded from the earth like isolated clusters of crooked teeth. I joined the small crowd, if hesitatingly, and was surprised to find no footpaths, nor anything to keep us a safe distance from the columns. In the end I wondered if our access had been officially approved or informally arranged.

My travel experiences were sometimes awkward in other ways, too.

Standing just outside the grounds of the central mosque in Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad is buried, I was detained by a stern member of the Special Forces. (Even after 2019, non-Muslim tourists remained barred from Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities. The ban was relaxed in parts of Medina in 2021.)

The guard interrogated me and, after calling a colleague to confer, demanded that I leave the area. “Go,” he said threateningly. Another traveler who witnessed the encounter scurried away to avoid a similar fate.

The unsettling exchange cast a pall over my time in the city, which few non-Muslims have seen. As far as I knew, I’d abided by the rules by staying outside the grounds of the Prophet’s Mosque — a boundary line that I’d confirmed with tourism officials beforehand.


Peering through the perimeter fence — the boundary line for non-Muslims — at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

The Mosque of Al-Ghamamah, one of the oldest in the holy city.

A sprawling maze of ramshackle residential buildings sits less than a mile from the Prophet’s Mosque.

A guide speaking to a group of visitors near the Hejaz Railway Museum, visible in the distance. (The museum was closed for renovations at the time.)

A group of young men, most of whose families emigrated from Sudan, playing soccer in a field just outside the center of Medina.

More than anything, family and friends wanted to know if I felt safe on my trip — and I did, almost without exception. Petty crime in Saudi Arabia is exceedingly rare. And while parts of the country are under a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory , even my rambling itinerary was approved by a security expert.

Instead of fearing for my safety, I was often preoccupied with how I’d fairly portray a place that elicited such a range of conflicting emotions: joy and distress, excitement and apprehension, sincerity and doubt. So much lay hidden from public view — like the collective anguish over the war raging in Gaza . And so little was easy to categorize, in part because the warmth of everyday Saudis was strikingly at odds with the ruthlessness of their authoritarian government.

In Riyadh, a young man warned me not to speak openly with strangers. “People get arrested here for a tweet ,” he said. “Can you imagine?”

I could, actually. The Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi had chronicled his government’s increasingly draconian responses to criticism. “Repression and intimidation are not — and never should be — the acceptable companions of reform,” he wrote in The Washington Post in 2018, just months before he was killed and dismembered at his country’s consulate in Istanbul.

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Were we to travel only where we feel comfortable and unchallenged, we’d all be poorer for it. But the question of whether to travel to Saudi Arabia is thornier than that.

It’s easy to see one response, “No,” as yielding to closed-mindedness at the expense of ordinary people — like the kindly vendor Abdullah, who served me local honey at his shop in the southern mountains.

But it’s easy, too, to see “Yes” as an affirmation that might makes right, that amusement outweighs morality, that princely wealth can wipe a stained slate clean.


Sunrise over the mountainous village of Fayfa, some six miles from the Yemeni border.

Abdullah Ghaleb Zaid, a honey vendor, at his shop atop a mountain pass near the southern city of Abha.

Sunset near Jabal Soudah, the kingdom’s highest peak.

Ten days into my trip, I ventured to Wadi al-Disah, a steep-walled valley where I’d booked a tent at a campsite I found on Airbnb. For an additional 300 riyals ($80), my host, Faisal, led me on a four-wheel-drive tour, departing the paved road and weaving through a path along the bed of an ephemeral river. Continually jolted by the uneven terrain, we eased past thick reeds, lofty palms and small bands of visitors who’d nestled into clearings.

As we left, I met a group of young men gathered for a picnic, their sandals scattered around a carpet on which they were preparing their dinner. Delighted to meet an American with a camera, they asked if I’d take a group portrait, then exchanged information with me so I could send them a copy — a scenario by then so familiar that I hardly thought anything of it.

A full day later, some 200 miles away, I was cruising along a lonely highway near the Jordanian border when a Land Cruiser blew past me at an astonishing speed. I felt my compact car rock from its turbulence — and then I watched with a twinge of dread as the car abruptly braked, slowing hard in the left lane until our front ends were aligned. It held steady there.

For a moment I stared straight ahead, hoping to avoid a confrontation. When I finally turned to look, I saw a group of boys grinning wildly and waving through an open window. Then I realized: Improbably, it was three of the young men I’d met the day before. Somehow we’d all followed the same route. And somehow, in the split second it took them to fly past, they’d recognized me. I lifted my camera from the passenger seat and snapped a photograph.

The picture shows three young Saudis on a precipice: endearing, erratic, captivating. I have a sense of where they came from but no certainty about where they’re going. Two are flashing peace signs, and none appears to be wearing a seatbelt. No one is watching the road as their car drifts out of its lane, careening a little recklessly into a hopeful and uncertain future.

Stephen Hiltner’s recent work includes a photo essay about his childhood in Budapest , an examination of A.I.-generated guidebooks and an investigation into the deaths of Russian soldiers in Ukraine . You can follow his travels on Instagram .

Got a question about this story? Drop a note in the comments section. Got a tip? Send him an email .

Read by Stephen Hiltner

Audio produced by Jack D’Isidoro .

Stephen Hiltner is an editor, writer and photographer for the Travel section of The Times. More about Stephen Hiltner

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Virgin Galactic to Launch Space Tourism Flight as Waiting Lists Grow

Jesse Chase-Lubitz , Skift

June 7th, 2024 at 1:51 PM EDT

Virgin Galactic joins Blue Origin and Space Perspective in aspiring to make the final frontier open to all who can afford it. That's good news for travel agencies like RocketBreaks.

Jesse Chase-Lubitz

Virgin Galactic plans to send a handful of paying passengers to the edge of space on June 8 as the space industry continues to grow and diversify.

“So far, there are about 3,000 to 4,000 people on the waiting lists for these trips,” said David Doughty, co-founder of the space travel agency RocketBreaks . His agency has secured contracts with seven tourists looking to launch into orbit and has set a date for one. 

Virgin Galactic’s flight will take off from New Mexico on Saturday and carry three private passengers from California, New York, and Italy. Tuva Cihangir Atasever , a researcher-astronaut from infrastructure company Axiom Space, and two commanders will accompany them.

Virgin Galactic has not released the identities of the private passengers. 

In an email to Skift, the company said, “We don’t consider our mission to take people to space, “tourism.” Those who fly with us become astronauts in what is a very thoughtful, purposeful journey that begins when they purchase a ticket.”

The passengers, whose identities were not disclosed, will enjoy a roughly 90-minute journey to the edge of space that includes a few minutes of zero gravity.

The company’s website states that spaceflight tickets cost $450,000, though it doesn’t disclose what passengers truly paid. On a recent earnings call, executives said the average price per seat on this flight is over $800,000 hope to charge a ticket price of $600,000 . Blue Origin doesn’t publicize its prices, but they have been said to range between $200,000 and over $1 million .

The space tourism industry

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are known for their shorter suborbital flights, while SpaceX focuses on bringing tourists into orbit and to the International Space Station.

In August 2023, Virgin Galactic brought a health and wellness coach and her 18-year-old daughter who had won a fundraising competition by Space for Humanity, a non-profit that seeks to democratize space travel to space.

BlueOrigin , which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has sent more than two dozen passengers into space. SpaceX , founded by Elon Musk, brought an all-tourist crew back from space in 2021.

The industry is growing and diversifying. One company, called Space Perspective , is offering an even more luxurious experience, with VIP seating, a toilet, Michelin-star catering, and WiFi. Rather than a 90-minute round trip, this experience would last closer to six hours.

A space travel agency

“This is our number one product,” said Doughty. “People don’t necessarily want this fast 15-minute adrenaline field journey. They want a full experience. There are people that are planning to get married and have the first weddings in space.”

The waiting list for Space Perspective is already about 800 names long, according to Doughty. The first flight is scheduled to launch in 2027.

Virgin Galactic plans to retire its current spacecraft after this flight and start developing a new generation of Delta spaceships, which the company hopes will have the capacity to launch up to eight times per month and carry more passengers. Private astronaut flights are expected to resume in 2026. But the company will have to find a way to stay financially viable in the meantime .

The future of space tourism

RocketBreaks sees the industry widening to different types of experiences. “You can really personalize the experience and we help people find the journey they want,” said Doughty. “We could plan anything from a child meeting an astronaut for his birthday, a bucket list trip in your 70s and you don’t like G-Force, something for a premier league footballer who wants to feel the adrenaline.”

The technology is developing rapidly and confidence is slowly building, said Barry Shanks, director at RocketBreaks. “There’s going to be a great deal of marketing going on, so then I think we will see a rise,” he said. 

“In the long term, like 10 years time, we’re looking at doing a trip around the moon that will be no different than flying from London to Australia,” said Shanks of RocketBreaks.

CORRECTION : This article originally said Virgin Galactic’s latest flight on June 8 would be its second with paying passengers. It will be its seventh. We’ve also added this statement: “On its latest earnings call, the company said the average price per seat on this flight was over $800,000.”

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Photo credit: Virgin Galactic's first mission carrying passengers in August, 2023. Virgin Galactic

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Chinese actress Fan Bingbing debuts as Melaka tourism ambassador

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MELAKA – Popular Chinese actress Fan Bingbing officially started her first day as the Visit Melaka 2024 ambassador on June 14 in the state capital of Melaka City.

Hundreds of people made a beeline to get a glimpse of her at the iconic Stadthuys building in the area of Bandar Hilir.

The crowd gathered on June 14 as early as 10am to wait for her arrival. Some people also attempted to take a wefie with the star of My Fair Princess (1998 to 1999) and X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014).

Fan, who was clad in a Nonya kebaya, was at meet-and-greet sessions at various locations and was also scheduled to visit tourism and heritage sites from June 14 to 16.

Earlier, the 42-year-old actress paid a courtesy call to Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Ab Rauf Yusoh at his office in the Seri Negeri state building in Ayer Keroh, Melaka.

He said Fan, who has 63 million followers on Chinese social media platform Weibo, would be able to create an impact for Melaka tourism in view of her popularity.

“Fan Bingbing is influential and her fans will follow her, placing Melaka at an advantage,” he said.

He said the state government was lucky as Fan’s Asian manager is a Malaysian and she suggested that the Chinese film star could offer her services to promote the state.

He said Fan’s influential status will help with the success of the tourism campaign, and that the state government hoped she would be able to woo tourists from China and other parts of Asia to Melaka.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Fan Bingbing 范冰冰 (@bingbing_fan)

The campaign in Melaka is not Fan’s first brush with promoting tourism in South-east Asian cities.

In April, she was invited to be a special guest at the Maha Songkran World Water Festival 2024 by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The event saw her dressed in traditional Thai costume and standing on a float fashioned from a tuk-tuk decorated with flowers at a Songkran parade in Bangkok. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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Tourism Malaysia encounters challenges in domestic tourism promotion efforts

Friday, 14 Jun 2024

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Motac developing tourism app to transform travel experiences, more from motac to melaka.

KUALA LUMPUR: Tourism Malaysia has encountered difficulties in its domestic tourism promotion efforts, with certain states showing a reluctance to share their lists of tourist spots, especially those that need infrastructural development, says Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.

"The Prime Minister asked me about the competitiveness of Malaysian tourism compared to Thailand's. He is keen to see Malaysia draw in more tourists, considering our numerous beautiful destinations.

"Unfortunately, following our invitation for discussions, some states have still not presented their lists of sites needing improvements," said the Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister.

He said developing tourist sites through a broad strategic approach was important, not just minor improvements.

"During economic downturns, a unified effort is crucial to bolster the tourism sector and generate substantial income," said Tiong at the "Road to Visit Malaysia 2026—Re-Strategise The Marketing Action Plan for Tourism Malaysia Overseas Offices" event.

Tiong also expressed the necessity for directors of overseas offices to increase their efforts to promote Malaysia in the next two years.

"I've made it clear to the Tourism Malaysia Director-General that a transformation is essential; without it, we'll consider leadership changes.

"Our directors abroad must move beyond talk; they require actionable, market-driven plans.

"Our desks need to be alert, responsive to inquiries immediately—not in months or years. Fail to do so, and your position could be at risk," Tiong warned.

He also acknowledged the need to hire more staff for global promotional activities, adding that one office covering promotions in six countries is an unreasonable ask.

He hopes to expand the contract staff to enhance efficiency and outcomes.

Previously, Tourism Malaysia Director General Manoharan Periasamy said the Ministry targeted 220 million domestic tourists and RM88bil in tourism revenue for this year.

"We have achieved 25% of our target in the first quarter," he reported.

Tags / Keywords: Motac , Tourism Malaysia , State , Upgrade , Domestic Travel , Promote , Staffing , Domestic Tourism , Global Tourism ,

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