If you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip to Barbados and looking to do more than sit on a sun lounger while sipping rum punch (though that's not a bad way to spend a day or two), here are five fun things to do on the beautiful Caribbean island that don’t involve a cocktail umbrella.
Bring out your inner Willy Wonka and tour the only chocolate factory on the island—the Agapey Chocolate Factory. Although Barbados doesn’t grow cocoa beans (Agapey's are imported from neighboring island Grenada), this small, artisanal business manages to produce 300 chocolate bars a day, which are then sold to local hotels on the island.
Owner Derrick Hastick gives you a detailed guided tour of his quaint factory and demonstrates the traditional chocolate-making method. (Spoiler alert: You get to taste the chocolate at each stage!) You start off seeing beans get roasted in a giant machine. Then the cocoa nibs are separated from the shells in a machine that Derrick engineered himself. The chocolate is then refined and cooked (a process known as conching) before it's tempered, molded, and packaged.
Agapey produces a variety of flavors, some with Caribbean twists (think: rum, coconut, and mango), and there’s a gift store to buy chocolates for your friends back home—that’s if you don't eat them before your plane lands. It's a test of willpower.
PEG (People. Environment. Growth.) is a biodynamic farm in the center of the island. It sits 1,000 feet above sea level and covers 108 acres. The farm began when Barbados native Paul Bourne was trying to overcome 30 years of chronic back pain. His wanted to heal himself with wholesome, healthy food, but he quickly realized this type of food was not easily available on the island. So in 2013 he decided to start a healing farm institute, bringing new holistic lifestyle and agricultural practices to the island. He focuses on four key practices: biodynamics, free-range animal husbandry, broad acre permaculture, and holistic management.
PEG farm has a farm shop and a new garden-to-table café, along with guided tours of the farm. If you’re feeling adventurous and love the outdoors, you can even camp on the farm. Fresh, biodynamic eggs for breakfast, anyone?
The national dish of Barbados is cou-cou (like buttery polenta cooked with chopped okra) with flying fish and gravy. A Bajan trip wouldn’t be complete without trying it. Visit Waterfront Café in Bridgetown, the island’s capital, to enjoy the dish. This hidden gem has been cooking and serving Caribbean food and fresh seafood for 35 years, and it's situated by the marina (or Careenage, as the locals say) for a pleasant view.
For Rum Lovers
There are only three genuine Jacobean mansions in the Western hemisphere, and St. Nicholas Abbey is one of them. This beautiful plantation house built in St. Peter’s parish in 1660 is where you can taste the only cane syrup (as opposed to cane sugar) rum that’s produced in Barbados.
In addition to the rum tasting, you can tour the historical house, explore the stunning grounds, and see how rum is made. Added bonus: After a recent restoration project costing $1 million, visitors can now hop on a traditional German locomotive from the abbey up to Cherry Tree Hill.
For Foodies & Rum Lovers
Can't pick between food and rum? Just want more of both? Then plan your trip during the Barbados Food & Rum Festival (2020 dates TBA). It's a three-day celebration of what is sometimes referred to as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, with various events and tons of delicious delicious Bajan food, rum, and local beverages.
The crescendo of the festival is an annual party that gathers all the established and local up-and-coming chefs and mixologists for a food and drink sampling sesh accompanied by alluring beats from local soca bands. Come with an empty stomach and your dancing shoes.