Two words, Barbados and Budget. Definitely not words you'd expect to find together, not here at least. After all, this Caribbean island paradise plays home, at least some of the time, to influential and affluent individuals from across the globe.
Its super-rich fans include Simon Cowell, Mariah Carey, Prince Harry and Gwyneth Paltrow, regular holidaymakers here. Others, like Wayne and Colleen Rooney, own luxury homes. But Barbados isn’t just for the super-rich, budget-friendly holidays are possible.
Located in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies, Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean Islands. A British Colony for 300 years, the British influence here is strong. Barbados gained independence in 1966, but Queen Elizabeth II remained as Queen of Barbados until 2021.
Prior to its days under British rule, Barbados was also claimed by Europeans, notably the Spanish and Portuguese. These influences mixed with the island’s African and Indigenous roots mean one big thing – flavour. While British food influence still features heavily on menus, the stand-out cuisine here is Bajan or Creole – a mixture of African, Portuguese, Indian, Irish, Creole, Indigenous and British cuisine, it’s also big on seafood. Local flying fish, swordfish, kingfish, yellow-fin tuna, red snapper, shark and more can be sampled at the lively Friday night fish-fry at Ostin’s Fish Market. Fresh off the grill, it’s the best.
The recommended areas to stay in Barbados are along the south and west coasts. The north and east of the island are excluded for now, beautiful but more rugged, rustic and less popular than their rivals.
Big choices in accommodation are available in both areas, many not costing a fortune. The famed Sandy Lane resort, however, may be an exception. This west coast celebrity bolthole is £900 minimum per night and is a favourite hideout for the X-factor boss Mr Cowell, but Simon in shorts? It’s a no from me.
The south coast is the lively one, home to St Lawrence’s Gap and the fabulous white sands of Dover Beach. This place offers plenty of nightlife and some budget eats. TripAdvisor lists its best-rated budget hotel in this area as Time Out at the Gap, just steps from the beach and from £79 per night, it’s well priced.
The south coast is also home to many often championship golf courses. A day’s golfing can cost as little as £70 per person including cart hire.
The west coast is a bit more chilled and spread out but offers affordable digs all the same. Days here can be spent on beaches, bathing in turquoise waters or head over to Holetown. This small city is steps away from the free-to-enter Folkestone Marine Park, great for picnics or snorkelling the reef.
For reasonably priced rooms try the All-Seasons Resort at Sunset Crest, St James. They offer comfort and a great pool area from just £96 per night, room only. For great value daytime eats check out Papa Earls street food van, around lunchtime he’s often found opposite the Sandpiper Hotel, offering local food and generous portions for less.
It’s in the evening when Holetown wakes up, head over to the imaginatively named First and Second Streets where there’s an abundance of bars, eats and even nightclubs.
It may surprise you to know that all beaches in Barbados are public, which means a slice of Sandy Lane is indeed possible, you just access the beach at one of the public access points and walk along. Sadly you can’t use the resorts’ sunbeds, so take your towel and go for a dip.
A great budget-boosting day can be spent ‘beachhopping’ by local bus. We called them the ‘reggaereggae’ busses, brightly coloured, they pump out the Caribbean beats and take you as far as you need for around £1.50 per journey. Get your map out and set your agenda for adventure.
We did this and experienced near-empty beaches. We swam, snorkelled, sunbathed and chatted with locals, drinking from the coconuts they’d just harvested. Although the transportation is not for the faint-hearted, it’s a day much more memorable than an overpriced afternoon tea, just don’t be shy, you’ll need to ‘holler’ when you want to get off!
The weather here is hot and you’ll need refreshments regularly. One alcoholic variety is the local tipple, rum. Barbados is considered its birthplace and the Mount Gay distillery was founded here in 1703. It still operates today and is believed to produce the oldest rum in the world. In abundance and great value for money, rum punch is an island favourite, order it at a bar or rum shack or head to popular Surfside Beach Bar near Sunset Crest. Its happy hour offers a litre of this tasty rocket fuel for just $20 US, be warned, it’s got a kick.
Travelling on a budget can be tricky and requires a bit of prep, a top tip is research before you go. Data is expensive and Wi-Fi not always available so plan your days and nights around your budget and build in a couple of treats. The island paradise of Barbados awaits your arrival.