When it comes to dream getaways, the Bahamas and Barbados are two destinations top of most people’s lists. Both of these Caribbean paradises can offer amazing experiences, especially if you’re looking for sun, sea, and sand.
Choosing whether to visit the Bahamas or Barbados for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday or honeymoon destination can therefore be difficult. Having visited both, we compare them below, and show you what each has to offer.
The Bahamas or Barbados: Stunning natural scenery
For tourists looking to sunbathe and swim, the Bahamas and its hundreds of beautiful islands seem the natural choice. The Bahamas is huge compared to Barbados, and there are countless islands and beaches to discover. Therefore if you’re wanting a holiday where you can explore and island hop, then the Bahamas may suit you better than Barbados.
In fact Barbados has 60 miles of coastline in comparison to the Bahamas’ 3,542!
There is a tourist vibe in both though, and it’s not uncommon to get a little harassed by street sellers trying to hawk their goods to sun-seekers on the most popular beaches in the Bahamas and Barbados.
However the infrastructure in Barbados is some of the best in the Caribbean, and it’s a very easy island to get around. In theory that means you can get from beach to beach, town to town, in Barbados a lot easier than in the Bahamas. Buses are cheap and easy to get between resorts, which is another big plus point. In fact that is one of the reasons Barbados makes our list of five cheapest Caribbean islands.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches in the Bahamas, which has countless sandy bays and coves across 655,000 square kilometers!
One of our favorites is Greenwood Beach on Cat Island, because it is a long sandy stretch that is far less touristy than other beaches. In many ways this is where the Bahamas shines over Barbados. Here it is still possible to find beaches to enjoy in peace and quiet.
Iconic beaches such as Pig Beach on Big Major Cay are a must visit too. It’s famous not for the turquoise-hued waters, but the pigs that swim here! Visiting this uninhabited Bahamian island can be expensive though. (Recommended: The Best Island in the Bahamas For You).
A more accessible, and equally iconic beach, is Gold Rock Beach in Grand Bahama. Regarded as one of the best swimming spots – and beaches in the Caribbean – the sunsets here are unparalleled. In fact it’s the sunset reflecting off a nearby cay that gives this beach its name.
The Bahamas also have some of the world’s best diving spots in arguably the world’s clearest water. And with 340 days of sun a year, there’s rarely a day when scuba diving and snorkeling isn’t possible.
Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park is probably the best snorkeling experience in the country, where you can see a huge variety of colorful sea-life. A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
Although the Bahamas lacks mountains and rainforests, it’s not all beaches and coral reefs. There are some forests to be explored in northern Bahamas, particularly on the islands of Grand Bahama and Andros. However this country is definitely suited more to a sun-seeker, than an adventure-seeker. (Recommended: Are There Snakes in the Bahamas).
The Bahamas is that picture-perfect Caribbean holiday many people are looking for, with upmarket hotels, and beach-side bars set on stunning coasts.
Smaller Barbados is perfect for sun, sea, and sand, but the island itself can be easily explored within a week. That makes it perfect for a short holiday, whereas the Bahamas may be suited to a longer one.
Make your way to Oistins and Miami Beach for great swimming waters and one of the best sunsets in the Caribbean. Beaches in Barbados can get busy with tourists, and it’s harder to find a secluded beach here than it is in much larger Bahamas.
You can find turquoise water and golden sandy beaches up and down Barbados though. One of our favorites is Bottom Bay. It’s not a great swimming spot, but it’s secluded, romantic, and with swaying palm trees it has a real desert island feel to it. Beautiful beaches like this are one of the reasons Barbados made our list of the best Caribbean islands for couples!
Barbados’ teeming sea-life can also be viewed when out and about swimming and snorkeling. Bell Buoy reef, near Accra Beach is the perfect place to spot angel fish and parrot fish.
While at Carlise Bay Marine Park you can dive among numerous ship wrecks that have been taken over by colorful fish, nurse sharks, and manta rays! Some of the best reefs to explore in Barbados can be found in this.
The Bahamas or Barbados: Explore the sights and experience the tropics
Along with the natural scenery on offer, both the Bahamas and Barbados have a wealth of attractions and cultural experiences worth checking out.
Barbados has no casinos though, as they are illegal. So if you want to try your hand at blackjack, the Bahamas is the place to be.
The Bahamas is a fascinating mix of culture, with African, British and American influences. In fact with its close proximity to the U.S., there’s no doubt there’s a very ‘American’ feel to the tourist hot-spots in the Bahamas. That’s not so true for Barbados, which definitely feels more ‘Caribbean’.
However, the Bahamas still has much culture on offer.
The vibrant rhythmic national music of the Bahamas, Goombay, was created as a way for slaves to pass down traditions and customs. Goombay continues to this day, and is a staple of fun summer festivals in the country. The Heritage Museum of the Bahamas in Nassau is a good place to visit to find out more about the history of the Bahamas.
There’s no doubt that the Bahamas is also a country synonymous with having a good time, so if you fancy a flutter then head to Paradise Island. Here you can try your hand at the casinos, and grab a beach-side cocktail at one of its high-market resorts.
For something a bit more historical then visit Fort Charlotte, which sits on a hill overlooking Nassau. The 18th century fort will introduce you to what the Bahamas was like when piracy was rampant a few centuries ago.
With a mix of West African and British influences, Barbados is a fascinating country with a rich blend of Caribbean traditions and a culture that emerged out of plantation slavery economy.
Historic Bridgetown is where you should head if you want to learn about the colonial past in Barbados. A walking tour will introduce you to the country’s tumultuous past, and the colonial relics and architecture that still stand today. You can also tour St Nicholas Abbey, a Jacobean plantation house.
As with many countries that were colonized by the British, cricket quickly became the national sport and a way to beat the occupiers on the playing field! Take a trip to Kensington Oval Barbados to watch a game.
Barbados also has one of the oldest horse race tracks in the world, the Garrison Savannah. Situated just outside of Bridgetown, locals and tourists mix on race day as excitement builds. In fact a visit here is on our list of the best things to do in Barbados!
A taste of the Caribbean
Both countries will provide a treat for your taste-buds, with cuisine focused around seafood.
As a nation made up of numerous islands, it will come as no surprise that Bahamian cuisine is focused around seafood. So if you are a seafood lover, this is the country for you!
Fried conch (aka cracked conch) is a popular dish in the Bahamas and is served in a variety of ways – look out for it on menus. Baked crab is another dish that’s very popular – it’s made up of crab meat, bread crumbs and egg, all baked within the crab shell itself.
As for what to drink, coconut water in the Bahamas is a no brainer! You also have to try Switcha, which is a sort of lemonade, except it’s made with limes.
Want something a little stronger? The beers made by the Bahamian Brewery are definitely worth trying, as are the delicious rum cocktails served up and down the archipelago. The Yellow Bird is a favorite rum cocktail of many Bahamians.
Unsurprisingly, fish features heavily in Barbadian cuisine too, and fried flying fish is one of the national dishes of Barbados! However with such a mix of cultures here, food is influenced by West African, British, and even Indian tastes.
Here popular dishes include chicken curry, barbecued pig tails and even Macaroni pies!
Just like many Caribbean islands, rum is the drink of choice in Barbados. Luckily for visitors, they make great rum too! Get yourself along to Mount Gay Rum Distillery for a tour and some free tasters.
The Bahamas or Barbados: Which should you choose?
Both the Bahamas and Barbados make excellent holiday destinations, and both have gorgeous beaches and vibrant cultures.
However if you’re looking for more of an adventure, the Bahamas offers plenty of options for island hopping and discovering secluded beaches.
Traveling around the Bahamas can be expensive though. Especially if you want to visit some of the most beautiful islands, many of which are uninhabited.
Being much smaller, Barbados is probably better suited to tourists who wish to have all the sights and tourist hot-spots in close reach.
Recommended for your trip to the Bahamas or Barbados
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