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Welcome to Barbados: The best of Caribbean food, festivals and fun

Words by Yousif Nur

There are welcomes and then there are Bajan welcomes: no sooner had I arrived in Barbados, I was greeted with a fruit punch, steel band orchestra, dance troupe and a carnival atmosphere – and that was before we reached passport control.

As soon as we were done with immigration checking we were all good to go after an 8h 25min flight, we headed in a minivan straight to our hotel for the week, which was around a 20-minute drive to the town of Worthing.

Arriving at our accommodation for the week in Barbados, we stayed at The Sands Hotel; a new luxury abode with ocean or pool views, during its soft launch. Because there were about 20 people at most throughout the entire week, it felt like we staying at a private villa with our very own beach.  There are studios, one, two and three-bedroom suites as well as penthouse suites that overlook the ocean. The Sands pride themselves on having the luxury hotel vibe with a boutique resort feel at the same time.

The Sands Hotel has a luxury hotel vibe with a boutique resort feel

My room was right opposite the bar and swimming pool and a 30-second walk from the beach, with stunning views looking over the Caribbean Sea. I often didn’t even need to enter or exit my place through the front door, as the patio door was on the ground floor level.

On a personal level, the hospitality I received from the staff was second to none. They looked after my every need, even when on one day I had a stomach bug and they took care of me as though they were family. That made all the difference in making my week in Barbados a good to an unforgettable one.

That evening we headed to Primo Restaurant, located around 1km from our hotel at St Lawrence Gap. Because of the conservative nature of Barbados and luxurious setting of the premises overlooking the water, a smart dress code is obliged of trousers above the knees and sleeves fully covered. I opted for a starter of calamari and for the main course, Steamed Flying Fish, served with breadfruit mash, which has the consistency of potato and is extremely commonplace on the island.

St Nicholas Abbey was previously a sugarcane plantation when the Great House was built in 1658.

The following morning we had an early start for a full day of sightseeing, starting off driving around the island, including a quick pass through the exclusive residences of Simon Cowell and Barbados’s most famous daughter, Rihanna at One Sandy Lane. We then pass by a local bakery and sample some sweet and savoury treats, including turnovers and a rock cake. Who was I to say no?

After one too many pastries later, we headed up towards St Nicholas Abbey. Steeped in history, the residence was previously a sugarcane plantation when the Great House was built in 1658.

The area is also home to a rum distillery, a train ride through to Cherry Tree Hill – boasting a view of Barbados you will never forget and every so often, I spot a monkey and some parrots. Seeing as St Nicholas Abbey is also a distillery and considering that Barbados is the birthplace of rum, the island is abundant with the stuff (that, and sugar cane), you can’t move so much as a yard without there being a rum bottle in sight.

Delicious Caribbean cuisine is one of the highlights of a visit to Barbados

After walking around the grounds, it was time for lunch at The Crane Resort, a place that can make a strong case for having some of the best views in Barbados, located at a clifftop looking down towards the beach and miles of coastline.

For starters, I ate Bajan Fish Cakes with a mango lime chilli sauce, which were shaped into little balls and tasted divine. They weren’t too oily, nor were they too small. They were so good, that the rest of our group wanted me to share them and they rolled their eyes in delight. A main of grilled flying fish and a side of sweet potato fries was a good follow up, but the starter upstaged the mains on this occasion.

Another early morning start with Tiami Catamaran Cruises, this time for snorkelling and swimming in the turquoise sea. Wearing a pink blazer in 30c heat, I’m trying to get my Duran Duran ‘Rio’ moment on, amidst many stranged perplexed stares.

An island cruise allows visitors to get up close to the local marine life

Being welcomed with a couple of drinks and a quick 20-minute tan, we’re sailed to a point where there are coral reefs, tropical fish and turtles. As soon as the Catamaran cruise was over, we were told that ‘the holiday is now over’ and now the real business begins – by partying all day and all night at Crop Over Festival.

And in our case, it was literal. We were woken up at 5.30am to attend a party that began at 6 (yes, really) called Mimosa. Stepping inside the site, two things were immediately noticeable – 1) how loud the sound system was at such an early hour and 2) the amount of drinking flowing at the free bar.

Then came the main event at a more sensible hour for partying – the Foreday Morning/Jam Parade, which began at 11 pm. An all-nighter event whereas part of the ‘band’, where people paint their arms and faces and have paint thrown at them all night, whilst walking behind a sound system playing loud Bajan Soca music attached to a truck going at 2mph.

If it sounds ridiculous, well..that’s because it is, until you’re actually there. As I had a camera in my hand, I wrapped it in cling film prior and I was good to go with paint flying around. That went on until the sun rose at 6 am before a well-earned snooze until the late afternoon.

The Ocean 2 Hotel boasts stunning views across the Caribbean

In the evening we headed to Ocean 2 Hotel, where we received a tour of the premises with extremely spacious rooms, the biggest walk-in showers I’ve ever seen and ocean views. We were treated to dinner on the beach and opted for a breadfruit and lobster dish. Very filling and kept me full all night.

Our final bash was the Kadooment Day party, which was a street parade of flamboyant Caribbean outfits, soundtracked by (you guessed it) loud soca music. This time around, I was watching from a booth, sharing with the Prime Minister and Rihanna for a brief period.

It was a good vantage point for photos and watching the parade go by, but largely because by this point we were absolutely partied out. When it comes to partying hard, Bajans take it as seriously as their sugar cane and rum. Often Simultaneously.


Virgin Atlantic flies daily from London Gatwick to Barbados and twice a week from Manchester to Barbados with return Economy fares starting from £453 per person return. For further information and to book please visit

For details on more Barbados attractions go to