Barbados – Our Tropical Paradise Family Vacation

Jocelyn Murray May 6, 2011 2 Comments

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Barbados Hilton Hotel Beach

View of the Hilton hotel and waves from the beach

Barbados – “Los Barbudos” – or the bearded ones – was named by the Spanish after the island’s fig trees which have a bearded appearance with their long vine-like hanging roots. It is the eastern-most Caribbean island and quite unique in that it was formed by the merging of the Atlantic crustal and Caribbean plates, rather than volcanic eruptions. This coral island with all white sand beaches has pure drinking water right from the tap, filtered naturally by the limestone rocks of the island.

We first visited Barbados in 1997 during a luxury cruise of the Caribbean islands, and were instantly enchanted. Never having forgotten it, we decided to take our two children and visit once again recently. We were not disappointed.

Barbados Hilton Bridgetown Beach

View of the beach from our Hilton hotel room

Traveling from the West Coast United States, we had to take 2 flights going, but the flights were comfortable and without incident. The return trip – 2 flights also – were not as pleasant mostly due to the customs procedures in Miami, Florida. One feels like cattle being shuffled through line after endless line, where our baggage had to be collected and rechecked with all the long tedious security measures involved. We had to run to catch our connecting flight, which was very full. A word of caution: always travel with snacks on hand for yourself and family in the eventuality that the airline does not serve a meal. This was the case on our return flights, though going did provide one.

Sunset on the beach in Barbados

Sunset on the beach in Barbados in front of our hotel

Once we landed in Barbados, we were greeted by the delightful northeast trade winds as we stepped out of the airplane and down the stairs outside where we made our way to the customs and baggage claim area in the Grantely Adams International Airport.  With a maximum daily temperature of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and those balmy trade winds, the weather is consistently mild and comfortable.  Barbados is considered one of the safest and lowest crime islands in the Caribbean because the Barbadian police have zero tolerance for any suspicious behavior. There is also a 97% literacy rate which makes it easy to communicate and get around.

Hitlon Barbados Hotel Pools Balcony Biew

View of the pools and beach from our hotel balcony

We stayed at the Hilton in Bridgetown which suited our needs perfectly. Located at  Needham’s Point St. Michael, Bridgetown, Barbados BB 11000, it is just a 20 minute drive from the airport (this is especially nice after a long day of travel with children).  We had made prior arrangements through the hotel to have a taxi transport us there from the airport safely and directly. Our spectacular Caribbean Ocean view suite had three balconies, mini bars, and high speed internet access available for a daily fee. There is daily maid service and nightly turn-down service complete with chocolates on the pillow and all the bottled water you can drink, free of charge. The staff at the hotel is warm, friendly and very helpful.

One of the Pools at Hilton Barbados

One of the pools at the Hilton Barbados

Because the hotel is uniquely situated on its own peninsula, its beach is dedicated to hotel guests and quite secure without vendors or solicitors wandering about. There are 2 protected sandy beaches: one with waves which is perfect for boogie boarding or body surfing, and one calm beach which is great for leisure swimming or snorkeling. Both are ideal for kids of all ages.

Barbados white sand beaches

White sand beaches of Barbados

The hotel has 2 large swimming pools, a hot tub, a toddler pool (1 foot deep), and a health club. Two onsite restaurants – The Grille and The Lighthouse Restaurant – offer delicious food, while The Water’s Edge Bar is a pool-bar gazebo that provides casual lunch or snacks and a full range of exotic cocktails. There is also 24 hour room service available for in-room dining convenience.  This hotel also offers babysitting services, a childcare center, children’s activities, and a business center.Barbados wildlife reserve monkeys

There is much to do and see while in Barbados. From snorkeling, swimming and other water sports, to fishing, golf, tennis, exploring shipwrecks, and plenty of sightseeing and shopping. We visited the Barbados Wildlife Reserve (one of the highlights of our sojourn and an absolute delight for the children), Farley Hill National Park, Welchman Hall Gully (where we hiked through a lush tropical rain forest in the heart of the island), Harrison’s Cave (a spectacular site full of stalactites and stalagmites with underground lakes and waterfalls sparkling with calcite crystals), Atlantis Submarine (where we toured the coral reef and marine life at a depth of 115-150 feet), St. Nicholas Abbey (this historical landmark Jacobean mansion was built in 1658), and the Mount Gay Rum Distillery (the world’s oldest rum distillery dating back to 1703).

Harrison's Cave Barbados

Stalactites and stalagmites of Harrison’s Cave Barbados

Moke Car Rental Barbados

Our Moke car rental for touring the island

We rented a 4 passenger moke (an open air mini vehicle: convertible without doors) to get around the island, although driving on the left side of the road in the British tradition, with the steering wheel on the right side of the car was a challenge for us Americans, but one we met with enthusiasm. Our children – ages 7 and 9 – were great sports about the sightseeing, making it fun for us to go exploring the island’s history and natural geographical treasures without much complaining from them at all, although most children are perfectly content to spend their days at the beach and pool, playing in the water.

Brown Sugar Restaurant Barbados

Brown Sugar Restaurant Barbados

A typical day for us began with a light continental breakfast provided by the hotel featuring a wide selection of hot and cold cereals, assorted rolls, muffins and pastries, cold cuts, fresh smoked fish, fresh fruit, juices, coffee and tea. We then ventured out for a few hours of sightseeing followed by winding down at the beach and pools, then dining at one of the onsite or nearby offsite restaurants.

We ate at the Brown Sugar Restaurant which offers fresh and delicious Caribbean cuisine in a casual yet elegant atmosphere, and Champers Wine Bar and Restaurant which was another fantastic dining experience, boasting a gourmet menu, and situated atop a rocky hill overlooking the sea with the eddying tide crashing below. For evening and night activities such as dinner, I strongly suggest traveling via taxi which can easily be arranged through your hotel. It is challenging enough to drive around during the day as it is.

Although the island and its history are fascinating, the people are what make it most enchanting. Warm, friendly, open, and helpful, the people of Barbados have an easy-going charm that make one feel instantly welcome and comfortable.

Atlantis Submarine Barbados

Atlantis Submarine Barbados

Everything about the island: the sights, sounds and smells, the wildlife, the history (including real pirates of the Caribbean), and shipwrecks that litter the ocean floor just off the Barbadian coast, the colorful Caribbean architecture that appears to be in a charming perpetual state of slight dilapidation, the British colonial appeal evident throughout the culture, the balmy breezes, the nightly chorus of the crickets, the fragrant rains that stir up a heady blend of earthy-sea spray – make it an absolute sensual paradise.

Mount Gay Rum Distillery Barbados

Mount Gay Rum Distillery – oldest rum distillery in the world

Not your typical commercialized tourist spot, Barbados retains an inviting and nostalgic charm that is unspoiled and alluring.

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avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

Tags: Reviews, Travel Excursions
2 Comments to “Barbados – Our Tropical Paradise Family Vacation”
  1. avatar Barbados Wildlife Reserve - A Great Family Attraction says:

    [...] Barbados Wildlife Reserve was one of the highlights of our stay in Barbados and a real treat for the entire family. Barbados Wildlife Reserve [...]

  2. avatar Rich Lovelace says:

    My recommendation is take a picnic lunch over to the east coast, Bathsheba park. The Atlantic ocean is stunning and you will have the place practically all to yourself.

    The Animal Flower Cave is a great spot too.

    Catch a cricket match or polo match.