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Keyaira Kelly at the Barbados food and rum festival

Source: Keyaira Kelly / Keyaira Kelly

Last Thursday, I visited Barbados for their annual “Food And Rum” Festival, hailed as the “mecca for foodies all over the world.” I got to experience this foodie heaven for myself and spent days immersed in delicious Bajan cuisine, with lots of smooth rum to wash it all down (Barbados is the birthplace of rum, after all).

While I have visited a few countries in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and The Bahamas, to name a few), my first trip to Barbados was unlike any other island I’ve been to before. 

For folks who’ve never been, here’s a quick fact sheet: Barbados is a small island in the West Indies (about a four-hour flight south of Miami), with a population of just under 290,000. It’s also the birthplace of our holy pop icon Rihanna, who dreamt of being a big star growing up on an island only 21 miles wide! You can literally drive around the entire country in just three hours. The small-town vibe of this cozy island made every second of my trip feel like a homecoming to a place I’ve never been. 

Where to stay for the Barbados Food and Rum Festival

While enjoying the festival, I spent four days and four nights at the Courtyard Marriott in Bridgetown, conveniently located a 15-minute taxi ride from the Grantley Adams International Airport. While not directly on the ocean, the property is just a short walk from Bridgetown’s famed boardwalk, which boasts pristine beach views and delicious ocean-side eateries. There is also a fitness center that includes equipment and a treadmill overlooking a gorgeous lap pool (which closes at 11:00 pm). There are also restaurants and a spa on-site. 

I stayed in one of the hotel’s King-size suites, stocked with a mini-fridge and sink in the kitchen and dining room area, a balcony with pool views, and a soaking shower/tub. 

The dining options on location are delicious, and I’m not saying that in a “just for hotel food” type of way; I really mean it. All the dishes were loaded with freshness and flavor (and that Island spice, if you can take the heat!) Breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus are available from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm every day! (great news for early risers or late-night eaters). 

If you want to take a break from hotel food, walk a few minutes up the street to the boardwalk for an array of food and drink options. The location of the Marriott in Bridgetown is ideal if you want easy access to local food and entertainment without the hassle of grabbing a taxi. I dined at Tapas, a beachfront restaurant steps from crystal blue waters. I had the Black Belly Lamb Ravioli, which was to die for. Luckily, since it’s not too far from the hotel, I could quickly return to my King-sized bed for that post-big lunch nap, ha!

Back at the hotel, the hospitable staff created an atmosphere of friendliness and fun that was absolutely contagious; I even caught a hotel-hired DJ giving impromptu dance lessons in the lobby one night. It was giving that home away from home feel that any traveler may long for, even while on vacation.

When I wasn’t dancing or eating in the Marriott’s lobby, I was out catching a few of the tentpole events for the Food & Rum festival. 

Barbados Food and Rum Festival events

One of my favorite events was Saturday morning’s “Rise & Rum” event, which is a traditional Island breakfast fěte, or breakfast party, that starts at 4:00 am. Yes, you read that right: 4:00 am. As someone who is naturally an early riser, I was game for the 3:30 am call time. I got into my taxi in the pitch black of the morning and arrived within minutes to a pre-dawn extravaganza with more rum and food options than I’ve ever seen in my life. The dress code for all attendees was yellow, and it was a glorious sight to watch the day break dawn over the ocean while black and brown folks danced in clothes dripping with the color of sunshine.

Keyaira Kelly at the Barbados food and rum festival

Source: Keyaira Kelly / Keyaira Kelly

Sunday morning, I took a 5-star catamaran lunch excursion with Tiami Catamaran Cruises. The trip included a snorkeling stop to see sea turtles and opportunities for all types of water activities on the open water (including jet skiing). The hilarious and informed crew provided lunch and all the spirits you could drink at the boat bar (responsibly, we were on the ocean swimming, after all). 

Sunday night, they closed out the “Food & Rum” festival with Liquid Gold Fest. It was a red-carpet affair, where guests were instructed to rock their finest suits and gowns and vote on the dishes of their favorite chefs. We all drank, ate, and danced the night away to the sounds of Afro-beats, Reggae, Soca, and R&B jams.

Barbados gave me everything I could want in a vacation: cultural immersion, convenience, safety, peace and quiet, clear waters and soft-sand beaches, music I can move my hips to, and food I will be singing the praises of for many, many, years to come. When I say I didn’t taste a single bad thing in Barbados, I mean that. 

If you are a foodie and lover of music, sun, and rum, don’t skip this small island; you might miss out on something big. 


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Here’s What Went Down On My First Trip To Barbados For The Island’s Annual ‘Food And Rum Festival’   was originally published on