Oistins Fish Fry, a Barbados Tradition
Oistins is a fishing village along Barbados’s southern coast. During the day it’s an excellent place to get an authentic feel for how (and why) a significant portion of the local population still makes it’s living from the sea. You can stroll the beach, collect fish scraps from locals and feed sea turtles by hand, or simply catch the sunset as it blazes to life out over the Caribbean Sea to the west. The town has a sort of sleepy feel common to fishing villages around the world and makes an excellent low-key destination to wind down and get a feel for the real Barbados.
When the sun goes down on the weekend Oistins becomes a completely different animal. Friday and Saturday nights (from about 7 PM until the party runs out of fuel) Oistins becomes a sort of rambling street fair for locals and tourists alike. Take in the food, music, and performers in this laid back little oasis and enjoy Oistins’ weekly party.
Fun, Food, and Festivities
The main draw to Oistins Fish Fry is of course the food (and beverages). Foodies will love the local favorites served in a very “rustic” setting. You’ll find amazing dishes like macaroni pie, rice and peas, sweet potato (in all of its glorious forms) and plenty of rum punch to compliment fresh-caught fish fried or grilled to perfection. You’ll likely be able to sample whatever the nets have caught that day including: tuna, swordfish, Mahi Mahi, flying fish, and even lobster. And it’s all cooked up right in front of you while you wait.
(Keep in mind that if you arrive later it may be a bit crowded and the waits for your fried favorites can get a bit longer.)
As the beer and rum punch start to flow, the music fills the air mingling with the belly-rumbling scents of fish frying. Two of the “venues” (if they can truly be called that) pump out music you’d expect to find on the islands: calypso, Bob Marley, Jamaican Ska. You may even hear some classic Country and Western mixed in with modern Crop Over hits from local artists.
Some nights there are live local bands as well (ranging from Island Music to Hip-Hop) that put on shows on one of the small stages that have sprung up around the eateries. However, some of the best entertainment is unscripted. Street artists (dancers and musicians) attracted to the hub-bub perform for tips and often come dressed in spangled costumes that play in the golden streetlights.
Of course there are the ever-present vendor stalls. Most sell cheaper touristy trinkets but you can find the occasional gem in showcasing the work of a local visual artist or sculptor.
Tips for Enjoying Oistins Fish Fry
Here are a few tips that will make enjoying your visit to Oistins legendary Fish Fry easier:
1) Arrive Early – After 8 PM things get a little crowded.
2) Come Hungry – There’s food everywhere!
3) Bring Friends – the experience is great alone but better when shared
4) The Later You Stay The More Local It Becomes – Tour buses typically take visitors back to their accommodations by 10 or 11 PM leaving a more local crowd.
5) Dress Down – Oistins is very “rustic” so dress (and pack) accordingly.