Although there's plenty to cheer about as autumn rolls in – hello Pumpkin Spice Lattes and the return of Hocus Pocus – many of us will have already set our sights on summer 2023. Hey, after two years in lockdown, can you really blame us for being eager beavers?
If that sounds like you, then you're not alone. We've already found ourselves heading to Google to look up the best vacay spots for our 2023 getaway. Yep, physically we're lying on the sofa in a pair of pyjamas and fluffy socks, but mentally we're in a bikini on a white sandy beach.
And if it's white sandy beaches you're after (same!), then perhaps a trip to Barbados is just what you need. From its incredibly tasty seafood (honestly, prepare for your jeans to fit a *tad* tighter on the return flight home), to the epic event that is Crop Over Festival. Barbados has so much to offer...
Barbados travel guide: What we did
Crop Over Festival
If you're planning a trip to Barbados, you'll definitely want to time it around Crop Over Festival – which locals describe as the "sweetest summer festival".
As the name suggests, Crop Over Festival marks the end of the harvest season and the traditional celebration dates back to the 1700s. The three month long event sees locals gather together to celebrate their hard work over the harvest season with plenty of food, plenty of dancing and plenty of Soca music.
Crop Over Festival 2023 will take place in between July and August.
Grand Kadooment Day
There are numerous of events across the entire Crop Over Festival season (more on that later!) but the main celebration is the Grand Kadooment – the climax of Crop Over Festival!
"Barbados ends the festivities with a grand carnival parade known as Grand Kadooment Day," explains the Visit Barbados website. "Masquerade bands make their way to the Mighty Grynner Highway with revellers dressed in sequin costumes decorated with colourful feathers, jewels and bright accents; dancing behind music trucks and moving bars."
On our visit to Barbados, we joined – or as the locals say, "jumped in" – the Grand Kadooment with the Aura Experience, one of several bands in the parade. Custom-made outfits for the event are always in high-demand, so be sure to order yours well in advance.
In 2023, the Grand Kadooment will take place on 7 August.
Non-stop Soca parties
Let me tell you: Bajans know how to throw a party! More specifically, a Soca party!
Soca music – which is described as the "reimagining of Calypso music" – is synonymous with Caribbean parties. On our visit, we certainly got a crash course in all-things-Soca, attending events everywhere from the chicest beach clubs all the way to the President's house.
Some of our favourite Soca parties over Crop Over Festival 2022 were Lifted (a beach party with sea views you won't want to miss), Mimosa Experience (an all-inclusive breakfast party that kicks off in the early hours) and, best of all, Native (an unmissable paint party that'll have you dancing til sunrise!) Pro tip: Lather up in baby oil ahead of your Native experience, it'll help stop the paint from staining your skin.
An island boat tour
What better way to see the best of Barbados than on a boat tour of the island? On our visit, we took a five-hour catamaran cruise with Cool Runnings which included time to snorkel with sea turtles, a swim to a private beach, a delicious lunch on-board and endless rum cocktails. Maybe too many cocktails...
Spend the day exploring the island's capital, Bridgetown (pictured above). Mingle with the locals and find out their favourite food spots – fishcakes are a must! – then take a stroll along the harbour to shop for handmade crafts and souvenirs.
While you're there, be sure to make a stop at the historic St. Michael's Cathedral, Chamberlain Bridge, Cheapside Market, Nidhe Israel Synagogue, George Washington House and the Parliament Buildings.
Barbados travel guide: Where we ate
After a busy time dancing yourself silly at Crop Over Festival's many events, be sure to make a stop off at La Cabane for a relaxing evening of dinner and drinks. Set right next to the sea – and we mean, right next to the sea – this water-side restaurant is the stuff of dreams.
With an impressive menu of local, freshly-made dishes, cocktails you won't want to put down and live music, La Cabane is a must-visit on your trip to Barbados. The best part of all? Once you're feeling sufficiently stuffed, take a dip in the crystal clear water and then have a snooze in the hammock. Heaven!
Seafood lovers, this one's for you! Head to Oistins – a small seaside town – for a seafood feast you'll be dreaming about long after your return home. Pat's Place has been voted one of the best food spots on the whole island, and the freshly-caught fish is seasoned and grilled to perfection.
We're salivating just thinking about it...
A beach bar and grill by day, and a party-goer hotspot by night, Copacabana is a must-visit on your Barbados vacay. Spend the afternoon lazing on a beach bed, sipping cocktails and listening to the sounds of the sea, or put on your most glamorous outfit and dance the night away on the sand.
Where we stayed
On our vacay to Barbados we stayed at the Hilton Resort, built next to the 17th-century ruins of Charles Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today the resort offers direct access to two white-sand beaches (you can quite literally stumble from your suite to the sea!) as well as free watersports, tennis, outdoor pools and a spa featuring a heated sand massage bed. The resort also has plenty of places to eat whether you're looking for a quick iced coffee, a cocktail at the beach-bar or an upscale dining experience – we loved the Lighthouse Restaurant and Careenage Bar.
Bridgetown centre is just a 15 minute drive away, or you can experience the local side of life and take a stroll into town. Head here to find out more about the Hilton Resort Barbados.
For more information on how to plan your trip, head to the Visit Barbados website here.
BRB, off to book flights for another Bajan adventure...
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