Get your bearings. The southern and western coasts have fine beaches and calm waters, while the eastern, more rugged Atlantic coast is popular with surfers (watch out for undertows here). The best-known surfing sport is Bathsheba, where you can also have a soak in tide-pools.
Swim with protected hawksbill and leatherback turtles as they feed amongst the coral, perhaps by taking a sailing tour/snorkelling picnic. You can also see them on a turtle walk or while kayaking or diving, or combine a glass-bottomed boat snorkelling trip with a shipwreck adventure or even a horse-ride. Between February and July, moonlight cruises can take you to see turtles nesting on the beaches.
Alternatively, snorkel at Folkestone Marine Park & Museum. The artificial reef here, created by the sinking of the Stavronikita after it was destroyed by fire, is open to experienced divers only. But there’s a recreational zone with an inshore reef where snorkellers can admire sea anemones, sea lilies, corals, sponges and more, plus a visitor centre with an aquarium, playground, basketball court, snack bar and picnic benches.
Swim in Animal Flower Cave at the island’s northernmost point, named for the ‘animal flowers’ (sea anemones) in its pools. Parents may recognize the cave, which has awesome sea views, from a Billy Ocean video. The bar/restaurant serves sandwiches and rum punch amidst cannons from sunken ships.
Go on an underwater adventure in a real submarine with Bridgetown’s Atlantis Submarines Tour, which takes you down into the ocean to see the island’s glorious marine life at play in a coral reef that began forming 20 million years ago. Accompanied by a narration, the trip has a height restriction of 3ft minimum.
Explore the crystallized limestone cavern of Harrisons Cave with its stalactites and stalagmites (sometimes joining in the middle to form a pillar), its waterfalls and its emerald pools. Kids love trundling inside in the little electric tram.
Visit the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, the island’s answer to a zoo. Set in a mahogany forest, it’s a place to stroll freely through a natural environment and observe animals – including Barbados green monkeys, flamingoes, brown pelicans, caimans and armadillos (the last two non-native to the island) – close-up. Note that your ticket to the reserve also gives admission to the neighbouring Grenade Hall, one of the old signal stations that dotted the island as a way of spreading warnings about slave rebellions or attacking ships. This in turn is surrounded by a forest full of healing plants, with signs explaining their usage. Picnic opposite the reserve, in Farley Hill National Park, with stunning views over the Atlantic Coast in the grounds of a now-ruined mansion that once belonged to a British planter.
Explore the unique Morgan Lewis Windmill, Barbados’ last sugar windmill, also near the reserve. Here, cane was ground until 1947. Now owned by the island’s National Trust, it’s a museum with intact machinery, sugar-mill and plantation artefacts, and old photos. On one Sunday a month you can see a historical reenactment, with the mill’s sails set in motion to grind cane and provide juice; otherwise, climb to the top for great views, an ice cream or cool drink in hand.
Discover another signal station at Gun Hill in St George, with further panoramic views, a display of military memorabilia, including a cannon, and a statue of a lion carved from a single piece of rock by one of the station officers (slave rebellions and pirate attacks must have been scarce during his watches).
Found out all about the island’s famous ‘golden spirit’ at the Mount Gay Rum Distilleries, with guided tours of its museum featuring a replica of a ‘good ol’ Barbadian rum shop’, the opportunity to touch and smell the essential ingredients (sugar-cane, molasses and distilled, unaged alcohol) and tastings.