With so many Caribbean islands and so little time, it can be difficult to choose which place is the right spot for your vacation. You probably won’t be able to see them all in your lifetime and if you pick the wrong one then you may feel you’ve wasted a week of vacation, your precious time away from work. How do you choose then? How do you decide which island to visit when they can all seem to blend together? Which beach paradise is better than the others? Well I’m here to help with my Caribbean Comparison! This is my review of Bahamas vs Barbados, to help you decide!
Well each island really is distinct, and offers a different experience from the others. I can’t pretend to know about them all. But I have visited now two quite distinct islands, and I’ll offer you here my impressions and advice on Bahamas vs Barbados. After all, the best way to get a feel for the different islands is to get firsthand accounts!
The Bahamas sit just east of Florida, a relatively quick ride for boat owners or a short flight from anywhere on the east coast of the US. The Bahamas is a nation actually comprised of over 700 islands. Many are uninhabited or privately owned, but several others cater well to the casual tourist. Probably the best know, and the one I visited, is Grand Bahama and Paradise Island. This is where Atlantis Resort is located, and the whole island is very tourist-friendly. Being so close to the US and a frequent vacation spot for Americans, these islands cater very well to the American tourist. You won’t see as much of the local island life when you’re here, as the years of catering to vacationers has made it more of a vacation destination than anything else. But they certainly have made all the most desirable vacation amenities available to you, and it’s all ready and waiting!
Barbados is at the southernmost end of the Caribbean, a single island with a small population. This island is much less developed and visited, though still easy to get to and enjoy. The island has a more laid back an relaxed atmosphere, an almost forced vacation mode that entices visitors. More British vacationers than Americans can be found here, though all are welcomed and embraced. The island’s claim to fame is pop artist Rihanna, but for the most part the island is very simple outside the resorts, with fewer commercial offerings or opportunities for shopping and daytrips. It seems to offer visitors a quieter respite, a chance to get away from the noise and stress of home!
Bahamas vs Barbados
The beaches at both The Bahamas and Barbados are fantastic! In the Bahamas you will find beaches to please all the different crowds, beaches as activity-driven as any active family could want, and beaches as quiet as you need after a stressful stretch at work. The Bahamas has the unique appeal of pink sand beaches, like the ones you’ve seen on Pinterest and hardly believed were real. But both the Bahamas and Barbados are home to the kind of pristine white sand beaches dotted with palm trees that you have on your computer screensaver. The beaches descent into the clear blue waters, and you’ll feel entirely at ease in either place.
The Bahamas are a traditionally popular destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. With all the hundreds of islands that make up the Bahamas, I think you might be able to spend a lifetime diving these coastlines, never repeating the same location! Barbados also has many scuba diving opportunities, mostly along the west coast of the island. No matter which destination you choose, the scuba diving is excellent at both! And with some really great dive companies in both the Bahamas and Barbados, you cannot go wrong at either one.
Both destinations have great cultural draw to them. In the Barbados, you may enjoy a tasting at a rum factory or a tour of a Jacobean mansion or a day of celebration at the Crop Over Festival. Find out more about what there is to do in the Barbados here. Because the Bahamas are more spread out, your options will vary by where you stay. The Bahamas boasts family-friendly vacation activities, like swimming with the dolphins, and adventure travel activities like hiking in the Lucayan National Park. Both island nations have plenty of activities to entertain you, though with Barbados’ distance from the US it’s likely you’ll find more cultural differences to explore if you’re looking to go beyond the beaches.
Resorts are the way to go when visiting either the Bahamas or Barbados because you’ll have everything you need and you can just enjoy the beautiful destination without any worries. You have a range of options at both locations, with resorts to suit every type of traveler. In Barbados, couples may enjoy The SoCo Hotel, while families may prefer to stay at Turtle Beach by Elegant Hotels, and those with a flair for history cannot miss the Caribbean’s oldest-standing resort The Crane. Meanwhile in the Bahamas, the popular Atlantis Paradise Island Resort is a top choice for families, the Grand Lucayan Resort is a great choice for those who love chic art deco style, and for scuba divers the best is Club Med Columbus Isle.
You can really choose to spend as much as little as you’d like in either of these destinations. You’ll almost certainly find what you’re looking for within your budget no matter which you choose. That being said, I have found in my experience that the Bahamas were more expensive than Barbados. So I would personally recommend that budget travelers consider Barbados, though of course you should research the specifics of your trip and utilize my budget travel advice in your trip planning. Remember to consider everything from the price of the hotel to the taxi fare, to the food and drinks at the resort, the activities and excursions, and the souvenirs and gratuities when planning for your Caribbean getaway.
Both of these destinations are easily accessible, a direct flight away from home for many of us. The flight length and ticket cost will vary by where you’re coming from, but I’ll give you an overview of how they compare if you’re coming from Boston. In the off-season, you can get to Barbados for as little as $230, and in the peak season for about $350-700, with a flight time of 6-8 hours depending on carrier and connections. For the Bahamas it varies by airport since they have several. To fly to the capital of Nassau, it costs about $200 in the off season, $350-500 in the peak season, and takes 5-6 hours depending on carrier and connections. I encourage you to utilize my tips for finding the cheapest flights here, when making your travel plans. There are also cruise lines that service both islands, so if you just want to visit for a day as part of an itinerary around the Caribbean then you have that option as well.
Health & Safety
While these destinations are relatively safe, there are some considerations you should take into account when choosing your next vacation destination, and some precautions to take when you go. In terms of health, both the Bahamas and Barbados are reported to have zika-infected mosquitos, and travelers should therefore take protective measures against them. Both destinations are currently ranked as a Level 2 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning that you should practice enhanced precautions but not that you need to avoid traveling here altogether. Read more about their recommendations here. Everyone should also be observing safe sun practices, applying sunscreen at least every two hours that you’re out in the sun, and drinking lots of extra water.
Regarding safety, there have been reported problems on both islands, which you can read about in more detail here: Bahamas, Barbados. I personally didn’t experience any concerns about my safety at either destination, I felt they were both quite safe and welcoming. But as always you must take normal travel precautions, avoid dangerous or irresponsible situations, and stay where you know you are safe like on your resort. Please take the time to further research the safety considerations of these and any other destinations you are considering, either through your home country’s travel advisories or here in the US State Department Travel Advisories: Bahamas, Barbados.
There you have my Caribbean comparison of Barbados vs Bahamas. I hope this helps as you plan you next vacation, and I hope you enjoy all the relaxing beauty that each island offers! Have you been to either of these vacation destinations? What did you enjoy most about them? What would you add to this Caribbean comparison of Bahamas vs Barbados?
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