Western Barbados is the area of Barbados that lies north of Bridgetown and comprises the parishes of Saint James, Saint Peter and Saint Lucy. This is the west-facing, most sheltered coast, so it's the best for family beach holidays, and has the highest concentration (and steepest prices) of hotels.
Holetown and Speightstown are the two main settlements but it's basically one long ribbon development along the coastal Highway 1B. Tourist maps and similar literature often refer to the sea here as the Caribbean but that's 100 miles west, over the horizon beyond Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent. This here is the Atlantic and can get rough, but it's normally in the "Goldilocks zone" of being calm enough inshore for family bathing, yet lively enough further out for surfing, wind-surfing and the like.
Holetown is where the British first landed in 1625, the hole being the haven and freshwater creek; it was first called "Jamestown" for King James I and VI. More settlers arrived in 1627, plantations and transatlantic trade were established, and the area grew up to be the first capital of the colony. Then the Earl of Carlisle founded a new settlement with a better natural harbour to the south which overtook it, and is nowadays Bridgetown. The west coast ports however stayed in business, trading especially with Bristol.
20th century commercial aviation brought first the rich then a mass market to take holidays on Barbados, and a hotel strip burgeoned along the west coast. One famous resident was Claudette Colbert (Émilie Claudette Chauchoin 1903-1996), star of many 1930s Hollywood film romances and comedies. She bought a house in Speightstown in the 1960s and lived the rest of her life between there and Manhattan.
The coast highway runs north from Bridgetown via Holetown to Speightstown. All public transport runs along this road, some continuing up to St Lucy's Church. Bus #1 runs up the coast from Bridgetown Princess Alice Terminal to Holetown and Speightstown every 30-60 min, but there are also very frequent minibuses. Bus # 1E crosses the top of the island every couple of hours daily between Speightstown and Bathsheba on the east coast.
Highway 2A, the Ronald Mapp Highway, has been built further inland and now takes most of the traffic. It links to the Earl Barrow Highway bypassing Bridgetown, so taxis or other private transfers between the airport and west coast resorts shouldn't exceed an hour. So the coastal highway is nowadays slow and congested in rush hour but not permanently thrombosed.
The coast road is narrow and ratty with traffic, with poor sidewalks, so walking is no fun. Take a minibus for any distance along the north-south main drag; getting inland (eg to Harrison's Cave) will involve a taxi or joining an excursion.
- Holetown Monument commemorates the first English landing.
- Saint James Parish Church in Holetown was the first church in Barbados, founded in 1628. The present structure dates from 1874.
- 1 Speightstown was the island's main settlement until Bridgetown outgrew it - William Speight was the landowner. It has a pleasant old centre, with 18th / 19th century buildings such as St Peter's, the Anglican church.
- 2 Farley Hill (pictured at head of page) is at Benny Hall on Highway 2, straddling the boundary with Saint Andrew. The 19th-century mansion is now a ruin. It's set in Barbados Wildlife Reserve; brick paths lead through four acres of mahogany forest. Adult B$30, child B$15, which includes admission to Grenade Hall Signal Station.
- 3 Animal Flower Cave at the north tip of the island is a scenic sea cave, open Tu-Su 9:30AM-4PM.
- 4 Coles Cave is a well-decorated karstic cave. It's a tougher proposition and you need to be fit and agile.
- Scuba diving: the main concentration of shacks is in Bridgetown, but one operator is based in Holetown:
- 1 Hightide Watersports, Coral Reef Club, Holetown (below Hwy 1B jcn with Porters Rd), ☏ +1 246 432 0931. M-Sa. One-tank dive B$160, 2-tank dives B$270.
- Golf: Sandy Lane Country Club has three courses, see Sleep.
- Holetown Festival in February celebrates the arrival of the English in Barbados with parades, dances, games, street fairs, and hymns and prayer at Saint James Parish Church.
- Limegrove Mall in Holetown is full of clothing stores.
- New Town Square in Speightstown is attractive, with a collection of boutique stores.
- Bean & Bagel, Holetown, is open daily 8AM-3PM.
- Ragamuffins, Holetown, Saint James, ☏ +1 246-432-2119. Su-F 5:30-11PM. Caribbean food: blackened shrimp, curries, and a delicious vegetarian stew. B$50.
- Zaccios (was Cocomos), Highway 1, Holetown, ☏ +1 246 432-0134. Daily 8AM-10PM. Italian ocean-front dining. Good value for money, relaxed atmosphere.
- The Fisherman's Pub, Speightstown, Saint Peter, ☏ +1 246 422 2703, firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 11AM-10PM, W to 2AM. Reasonable priced pub with local food that is hopping on Wednesday nights with live music but sleepy and goes to bed early on other nights. Lunch from B$25, dinner from B$30.
- The Cliff, Derricks, Saint James (West Coast Road between Fitt's Village and Holetown), ☏ +1 246 432-1922. Daily 6:30PM-midnight. Excellent top-end restaurant, gets great reviews for food, service and views, all reflected in the price. Two courses B$300.
- Daphne's, Payne's Bay, Saint James (West Coast Road between Fitt's Village and Holetown), ☏ +1 246 432 8501. Tu-Su 12:30-3PM, 6:30-10PM. Upscale fish restaurant on waterfront. B$150.
- Roti Den, Highway 1, Payne's Bay, Saint James (Jcn with Holders Hill opposite Exxon gas station). Daily 11AM-6PM. Good roti and curries at this small shop. B$5-10.
- Fish Pot, Little Good Harbour, Clinketts (A mile north of Speightstown), ☏ +1 246 4393000, email@example.com. Daily 8AM-10:30AM, noon-3PM, 6:30-10PM. Dine above the breaking surf at this fine Barbados restaurant but call ahead for reservations. Hotel has doubles from B$1000.
- Red Door Lounge is in the Mango Bay Hotel, Holetown. It's open from 6PM, Th to 2AM, F to 4AM, Sa to midnight.
- John Moore Bar and Carlton Variety Bar are near the junction of the coast highway with Carlton Rd.
The west coast is prime territory for family beach holidays. There are good package deals to be found, but hotel rates for individual travellers are over-inflated. However this area also has a number of small B&Bs and guesthouses a few blocks inland for more reasonable prices. The Fitts Village / Risk Road neighbourhood is a good bet.
- 1 Sandy Lane, Sandy Lane, Holetown. Luxury hotel on a former sugar plantation. Opulent is the word, this hotel is in the top bracket for room comfort, amenities, service and price - reckon US$2000 per night.
- 2 Starfish Discovery Bay, Holetown. Situated on St James Beach within landscaped gardens, this is a Rex Resorts mid-range hotel in plantation-style chalets. Doubles from US$500.
- Leamington Pavilion is a swanky Italianate beach villa, with a 1950s makeover (thanks to the Heinz Ketchup fortune) to draw the Hollywood big names. It's at Little Battaleys, St Peter, 2 miles south of Speightstown. A mere US$2500 a night, or join the public tour on occasional open days.
- Fustic House: reckon US$5000 a night, minimum 5 nights, to rent this 7-bedroom 18th-century villa in Saint Lucy; similar rates for weddings and photo-shoots. It's occasionally open for public visits.
- Public transport converges on Bridgetown. The Garrison Savannah is a couple of miles south of the centre.
- Southern Barbados has wilder waters, better for water sports, and is well-developed.
- Central Eastern Barbados has more rugged terrain. The big attraction is Andromeda Gardens.