Objective To describe the surveillance model used to develop the first national, population-based, multiple noncommunicable disease (NCD) registry in the Caribbean (one of the first of its kind worldwide); registry implementation; lessons learned; and incidence and mortality rates from the first years of operation. Methods Driven by limited national resources, this initiative of the Barbados Ministry of Health (MoH), in collaboration with The University of the West Indies, was designed to collect prospective data on incident stroke and acute myocardial infarction (MI) (heart attack) cases from all health care facilities in this small island developing state (SIDS) in the Eastern Caribbean. Emphasis is on tertiary and emergency health care data sources. Incident cancer cases are obtained retrospectively, primarily from laboratories. Deaths are collected from the national death register. Results Phased introduction of the Barbados National Registry for Chronic NCDs ("the BNR") began with the stroke component ("BNR-Stroke," 2008), followed by the acute MI component ("BNR-Heart," 2009) and the cancer component ("BNR-Cancer," 2010). Expected case numbers projected from prior studies estimated an average of 378 first-ever stroke, 900 stroke, and 372 acute MI patients annually, and registry data showed an annual average of about 238, 593, and 349 patients respectively. There were 1 204 tumors registered in 2008, versus the expected 1 395. Registry data were used to identify public health training themes. Success required building support from local health care professionals and creating island-wide registry awareness. With spending of approximately US$ 148 per event for 2 200 events per year, the program costs the MoH about US$ 1 per capita annually. Conclusions Given the limited absolute health resources available to SIDS, combined surveillance should be considered for building a national NCD evidence base. With prevalence expected to increase further worldwide, Barbados' experiences are offered as a "road map" for other limited-resource countries considering national NCD surveillance.