Bridgetown, Barbados | Layover

As one of the Caribbean’s most popular tourist destinations, Barbados is also a major hub for international flights to the region. Our guide to exploring the island when time is tight

Anton_ivanov/Shutterstock.comPhilip Willcocks/iStock.comLu Lin/Shutterstock.comAnneli Salo/Wikimedia CommonsPhilip Willcocks/Shutterstock.comPhoto courtesy Mount Gay Distillery

One of the Caribbean’s most popular tourist destinations, Barbados is host to approximately 600,000 stayover visitors each year — more than twice the country’s permanent population — yet somehow manages to never feel overrun. And at just twenty-one miles by fourteen, the island is small enough to get the gist of on a brief trip. You can cover a lot of ground here in just half a day.

Grantley Adams International Airport, located near Barbados’s southern tip, is a mere couple of miles from the heavily populated stretch of the south coast between Oistins and Bridgetown. Here you’ll find hotels, restaurants, and shops galore — but also two of the island’s most popular beaches, Accra and Dover. Even a few spare hours are enough to pop down for a swim.

When Bajans refer to “the Gap,” they don’t mean a brand of khaki trousers. They’re talking about St Lawrence Gap, a street on the south coast running along the shore, and one of Barbados’s nightlife hotspots. You’ll find it all here: high-end restaurants, dive bars, karaoke joints, an Irish pub, plus Italian, French, Mexican, and local cuisine. Just one night to spend on the town? The Gap is your one-stop shop.

The tides of history bring strange flotsam. Did you know the last descendant of the emperors of Byzantium, a gentleman by the name of Ferdinando Paleologus, ended his days in Barbados in 1678? You can see his tombstone in the graveyard of St John’s Parish Church, with its stunning views across the east coast — a short drive from the airport, but a long journey back through time.

Let’s sidestep the contentious question of whether rum was actually invented in Barbados. The fact is, the fiery beverage has been distilled here for over 350 years — and if you’re looking for a crash course in rumology, you can get it in just forty-five minutes at the Mount Gay Distillery on the Bridgetown waterfront. The tour includes a bit of history, a bit of science, and a bit of taste-testing.

After a long spell on a plane, a bit of a stroll is never a bad thing. And one of Barbados’s most pleasant promenades is the south coast boardwalk, opened a few years ago and already an irreplaceable feature of the island’s landscape. Running from Accra Beach to the southern outskirts of Bridgetown, the boardwalk offers sea views and sea breezes, access to beaches, benches, and picnic areas.