It may be only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, but Barbados offers plenty for families to see and do. The Caribbean island was under British rule for more than three centuries and some English traditions linger, including afternoon tea service and cricket games played on verdant hillsides. Only a three-hour flight from Miami, the island has plenty of natural and historic attractions, but it’s the gorgeous turquoise waters that will have you planning your family’s second trip before your flight takes off for home.
AddressHill Crest, Barbados
The rugged, crowd-free beaches in the town of Bathsheba are perfect for a seaside picnic. Bathsheba Park is a postcard-worthy, beachfront paradise where parents and kids can often be spotted playing an impromptu game of cricket or simply watching surfers tackle the world-class swells here (swimming is not allowed). Shell and rock collecting are also popular here. At the top of the cliff that towers over the park, the 100-year-old Round House is a casual, Caribbean restaurant with commanding views of the ocean from the outdoor terrace. Pick up picnic supplies here or pack your own from the hotel. (Hill Crest, Bathsheba)
Kids will love seeing the Caribbean's underwater natural beauty from the inside of a submarine. Atlantis Submarines Barbados whisk passengers to a coral-encrusted shipwreck to see tropical fish up close. Special night dives feature nocturnal sea creatures few get to see during the day. (The Shallow Draught, Bridgetown, St. Michael; 246/436-8929)
Sports-loving kids will enjoy watching players clad in all-white uniforms playing a game of cricket. This national sport of Barbados, one rarely seen in the United States, is a nod to the island’s British heritage. Barbados has become a major player in international competitions in recent years, with matches occurring throughout the year at Kensington Oval, the preeminent stadium on Barbados. (Fontabelle, Bridgetown, St. Michael; 246/274-1200)
On the northern tip of the island, the Animal Flower Cave earns its name from the sea anemones found inside its tidal pools. Kids can gently poke one with a finger and watch as it immediately shuts its stalk. Stone steps lead to caves with narrow, natural pools (some deep enough for kids to jump right in) and a coral floor believed to be hundreds of thousands of years old. The coolest part is standing at the edge of the coral openings that frame breathtaking sea views. Changing rooms, bathrooms, a playground and a waterside restaurant perched on a cliff are also on site. (North Pt., St. Lucy; 246/439-8797)
Join an off-road adventure tour with Island Safari and visit some of the island’s least-known sights, including Joe’s River Forest, where you can go hiking in a tropical rainforest, as well as the dynamic blow holes and cliff edges in Little Bay. (Lower Estate, St. George; 246/429 - 5337)
With such beautiful turquoise water, Barbados should be enjoyed by sea as much as by land. Take the family on a lunchtime cruise aboard the Jolly Roger I, with its pirate sails, rope swings, planks to walk and BBQ buffet. Swimming stops include turtle and fish feedings. Upgrade to the evening cruise and you’ll also enjoy a show featuring limbo dancing, stilt-walkers, and fire-eaters. (Carlisle House, The Careenage, Bridgetown, St. Michael; 246/826-7245)
Hiding in the lush forest as you walk brick paths shaded my mahogany trees at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve you’ll discover free-roaming tortoises, parrots, brocket deer, peacocks and mara (a cross between a guinea pig and a small kangaroo). Visit in the afternoon during feeding time for the unique green monkeys, which arrived in Barbados from West Africa about 350 years ago. The entrance fee includes admission to the Grenade Hall Forest and Signal Station next door. Kids will love climbing the 1819 signal station tower for sweeping views of the island. (Portland, St. Peter; 246/422-8826)
Let your kids dance their tushies off at the Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry, where Bajans show off their Caribbean dance moves to live reggae while spectators indulge in the island specialty, flying fish. Have your pick of a rainbow of colorful cottage restaurants with nearly identical seafood menus then wander past local artisans selling trinkets and handmade pottery under thatched-roof huts. Kids love wandering around and watching the natives show off their moves. Most resorts offer shuttle service to this Bajan bash every week. (Oistins Fish Market, Oistins; 246/434-8460)
Billing itself as one of the “seven wonders of Barbados,” Harrison’s Cave is a natural gallery of stalactites that hang from the cave’s ceiling and stalagmites that sprout from its floor, with streams of clear water running through. Beautiful waterfalls within this limestone cavern form deep and beautiful emerald pools. You have to board a tram to tour Harrison’s Cave, but you’re allowed to hop off and walk alongside one of its most spectacular waterfalls. (Welchman Hall, St. Thomas; 246/417-3700)
AddressPorters BB24017, Porters Rd, Holetown, Barbados
Families who stay at Elegant Hotels’ sprawling Colony Club on the island’s resort-studded west coast enjoy complimentary motorized and non-motorized watersports as well as a bevy of resort activities. Sign up for snorkeling, waterskiing or paddle boarding lessons at the surf shop on the beach, or reserve a catamaran for a sunset sail with the family. The Folkstone Marine Park is just offshore, so once kids pick up the basics, they can explore underwater anytime they want. The lush property boasts several courtyards, pools, and gardens, and accommodations are roomy, with patios or balconies and sunken sitting rooms ideal for nighttime reading and cuddling.