When Barbados calls, you pack your bags, show up, check in at Courtyard Bridgetown, and bring your whole crew! Ok, you could totally go solo, but my girls and I def had a good time. Even though we all have different personalities, we found a way to do all the things that individually spoke to us. So what exactly was there to experience for a vegan, nature loving, eco nerd like myself? Well my fellow green squad, I’ve got just the green guide for you. Leggo.
NOTE: We were hosted by Courtyard Bridgetown and Visit Barbados. All opinions are 100% all me.
HOW BARBADOS IS LEADING THE WAY IN SUSTAINABILITY
Let’s all just take a collective pause to appreciate what Barbados has done. They made an essential leap towards a greener economy by implementing a nation-wide ban on single use plastics.
Do you know how big that is? In the U.S. where I live, there are no federal restrictions on single-use plastics and only a few states have passed plastic bans. For Barbados to do this across its entire nation sends a strong message to the rest of the world about the responsibility countries have to take real action in saving our fragile environment from further damage.
Island nations have so much to protect, as they are surrounded by oceans and marine life struggling to survive amidst worldwide pollution and rising water temperatures. I was incredibly proud to see bamboo straws everywhere we went.
Go Barbados! Your beauty captured my attention, but your role in climate action won my heart.
5 EXPERIENCES FOR ECO TRAVELERS, VEGANS, AND NATURE LOVERS
* Note About the Currency: The Barbadian or Bajan Dollar (BDS) is the currency of Barbados, but they accept USD! If you do get the local currency, the exchange rate is easy to calculate – every $1 USD is equal to $2 BDS.
1. Bajan Cooking Class at Courtyard Bridgetown: Vegan Style
When I first made the switch to an animal friendly lifestyle, I thought I’d struggle with finding meals at island and coastal destinations where seafood is prominent in local cuisines. Luckily, when you’re an a tropical island, you also have access to the most wonderful fruits and veggies your heart could desire.
Courtyard Bridgetown hooked me up with a vegan Bajan cooking class (Bajan’ is another term for ‘Barbadian’). Chef Maylene Willoughby had us testing our upper body strength as we literally “whipped” up the national dish: Flying Fish and Cou Cou (minus the fish for me). We substituted the fish with sweet potato instead for mine and topped it off with a scrumptious creole sauce. Cou Cou is similar to polenta or grits, but made with okra.
Sound simple? I thought so too – but the magic is in the technique and she’ll show you how. Here’s the basic recipe for this dish, but every Bajan chef puts their own special twist on it. *YOUTUBE VLOG COMING SOON*
HOTEL: Courtyard Bridgetown, Barbados
LOCATION: The Garrison Historic Area, Hastings, Christ Church, Bridgetown, BB15156 Barbados
2. Tour an Eco Farm
Can you imagine what a difference it would make if the world embraced sustainable agriculture? Eco farming produces healthier food, creates way less stress on the environment, and protects animals from the horrific abuse of animal factory farming.
While I personally advocate for the world to eliminate its dependency on animals for food, I know we still have a long way to go before that can happen. Eco farms are a step in that direction. PEG Farm and Nature Reserve provides a way for you to support a form of sustainable food production that is way less cruel and impactful on the environment than animal factory farming.
At PEG, they practice a style of eco agriculture using four main principles: biodynamics, free range animal practices, broad acre permaculture and holistic management. The animals there have acres and acres of land to roam around.
Vegan eco travelers and nature lovers will appreciate touring the medicinal garden where you’ll learn of the traditional uses of native Bajan plants. I also enjoyed being surrounded by so much greenery and swinging from bearded fig trees, the nation tree of Barbados.
Chrysalis Café, the on-site farm to table restaurant, has something for both vegans and omnivores alike. I ordered the Vegan Hash, a beautiful blend of sweet potato, curried eggplant, roasted tomato, beans, and greens.
Next up, I got an artfully crafted dish called Beet Textures. The beets were roasted, pureed and shaved–and complimented with okra chimichurri, pickled watermelon, tomatoes, and tarragon. Drool.
LOCATION: St. Joseph
COST: Ranges, based on which tour you pick. We did the “Island Nature Experience” – Adults BDS $160 ($80 USD) | Children 3-12 BDS $110 ($55 USD)
OPEN: Tours run daily 8:00am to 4:30pm. Cafe open 10am to 3pm (closed Monday).
3. Explore Harrison’s Cave
I haven’t explored a whole lot of caves in my lifetime but my experience at Harrison’s Cave made me want to change that. I never appreciated just how much of a natural wonder caves truly are until now.
Here, you’ll descend beneath the earth’s surface to witness underground streams, waterfalls, and cave formations. There are different tours you can take according to your desired amount of adrenaline rush, including an eco adventure tour that involves helmets, headlamps and knee guards! We did the tram tour, which is optimal for those in the mood for a more laid-back adventure.
Our tour guide was just phenomenal. She had a quirky, bubbly personality and regularly laughed at her own jokes. Her random outbursts of Christmas carols also took me out. She not only impressed us with her infinite knowledge of caves, but also entertained us with stories of her celebrity encounters–Queen Bey was there y’all!
LOCATION: Allen View, St. Thomas, St. Thomas
COST: Ranges, based on which tour you pick. We did the “Tram Tour” – Adults BDS$60.00 ($30 USD) | Children BDS$30.00 ($15 USD)
OPEN: All year, daily from 8:45am to 3:45pm
4. See Unspoiled Beauty at Public Beaches
Another thing I really respect about Barbados is their decision to keep all beaches public. There are over 80 beaches on the island and you can find a comprehensive list of beaches and activities on Visit Barbados.
If you love raw, natural beauty, I particularly enjoyed Bathsheba Beach. Its rugged surroundings and dramatic rock formations make it a photographer’s dream, but not a safe place to swim. Besides physically going there, you can catch this view of it from PEG Farm.
5. Spot the Local Animals
I didn’t get a chance to visit any animal reserves during my visit, but I thought it would be worth a mention!
I came across Hope Sanctuary while researching online, and their story is touching. This is an animal welfare charity offering refuge to cats and dogs which have been abandoned or mistreated. Unfortunately it appears they have not received enough financial support to continue to fully operate. When visiting the Hope Sanctuary website, you are greeted with this message: “AT THIS POINT WE ARE NO LONGER ABLE TO TAKE ANY ANIMALS IN. THE HOPE SANCTUARY IS FILLED TO CAPACITY.”
I sent them an email asking if my fellow green squad of eco travelers and animal lovers could help in any way — I’ll update y’all if I learn anything new. In the meantime, if you’re planning a visit to Barbados, reach out and see if you can stop by the sanctuary to show some love to the rescues!
Barbados also has some fascinating wildlife to keep an eye out for. We saw monkeys outside of Harrison’s Cave! One of the most popular animals to spot is the Barbados Green Monkey, which has quite the back story on how it originally arrived in this country.
* DID YOU KNOW? The green monkey was initially brought over to Barbados as pets from regions of West Africa during the slave trade. Many of them escaped and as time passed, they adapted to their new environment and evolved to display a completely new set of characteristics, making them uniquely Bajan.
5 LOCAL BAJAN FOODS TO TRY
Plant-based foodies mustn’t leave Barbados without trying the following local foods:
1. BAJAN VEGAN SNACKS: Courtyard Bridgetown had some amazingly yummy snacks waiting for us in our rooms! My favorite was Guava Cheese. Don’t let the name fool you. There’s no cheese in it! It’s a 100% vegan friendly Bajan snack, consisting of two ingredients, guava and sugar. They also had a variety of Caribbean chip flavors from the Soldanza brand, including plantain, cassava, and banana chips.
2. COU COU: If you scroll back up, I wrote all about my cooking class experience at Courtyard Bridgetown, where they taught us how to make their national dish, consisting of cornmeal and okra.
3. RICE AND PIGEON PEAS: Rice and peas is a favorite in Barbados. Pigeon peas are savory and packed with protein.
4. BREADFRUIT: This is a very nutritious fruit found all over the island. It can be boiled, baked, made into chips, and transformed in a number of various ways.
5. MAUBY DRINK: We first tried this during our Courtyard cooking class and its distinctive taste caught us by surprise! Made primarily from the bark of a tree, mauby drink is brewed with spices like mauby bark, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It was surprisingly bitter, yet tasty.
* DID YOU KNOW? Rastafarianism was introduced to Barbados in 1975. Ital, a variation on ‘vital’, is a belief system from the Rastafari faith dictating that its followers should eat food grown from the earth around them. Typically that means a vegan diet!
WHERE TO STAY
This was my second time visiting Barbados! There are many fantastic areas to stay in based on your interests.
My first time visiting, I stayed in St. Lawrence Gap (known as ‘The Gap’) located on the South coast of Barbados in the parish of Christ Church. This is a great spot for travelers interested in dining and clubbing.
This time, I opted for the Bridgetown area on the southwest coast, where you’ll find a plethora of culture and history. We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Bridgetown, Barbados within the Garrison Historic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They arranged a car service to safely take us sightseeing around the island, where we explored must-see spots like Rihanna Drive, PEG Farm and Nature Reserve, Bathsheba, Harrison’s Cave, and the Garrison Historic Area.
Water lovers, you will find a swimming pool on the property or you can walk to the public beach in front of the hotel. Vegetarians and vegans, I’m happy to report the on-site restaurant Centro was extremely accommodating to my dietary needs! Plant based foodies will have no trouble getting something delicious cooked up – just ask! Don’t forget to ask about a vegan cooking class experience. I highly recommend it.
When you book your stay, tell them what you want to see and they’ll help you have the Barbados experience you want. Peep Courtyard Bridgetown’s Local Area page to see a list of nearby activities to enjoy.
WHAT TO WEAR
Barbados weather is typically warm and sunny year round with an average daytime high temperature of 30°C / 86°F. If it rains, it rains in true Caribbean fashion – quick showers and then it’s over. We went in December and the weather was perfect for our outings.
We were gifted dresses from Grass-fields, an ethical African-print clothing company. Although most restaurants are very casual, we decided to dress up and stand out on our last night.
We were gifted custom-made swimsuits from Suga Apple Swim, a swimwear company local to Barbados. Supporting local businesses is a sustainable way to pour money into the communities you visit.
For additional green travel ideas in Barbados, check out the Nature and Wildlife page on Visit Barbados and Happy Cow for a list of vegan spots on the island.
Stay green y’all,