Coastal Vote: A Beach-Lover's Guide to Barbados

Soak up the sun and swim in crystal-clear waters on a beach getaway to Barbados
Soak up the sun and swim in crystal-clear waters on a beach getaway to Barbados | Courtesy of The SoCo Hotel / Expedia.com
Photo of Doug ONeill
15 November 2021
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From street parties to surfing Kelly Slater’s favorite break, we’ve sourced the best ways to soak up coastal culture on this cool Caribbean isle.

The perfect balm to combat winter chill? Beaches, Bajan food and a warm Barbadian welcome, of course. The Caribbean island of Barbados is just 34km (21mi) long and no more than 23km (14mi) wide. But with 96km (60mi) of coastline, extensive coral reefs and two protected marine parks, Barbados is the ideal escape for a winter-sun holiday.

Coral Reef Club

Coral Reef Club
Courtesy of Coral Reef Club / Expedia.com
Foodies, take note: the Coral Reef Club is just a short walk from the restaurants and beach houses of historic Holetown in the parish of St James. Guests staying at the resort’s rooms – one of which is the Luxury Plantation Suite, with a four-poster bed and private terrace – need only saunter through the property’s lush gardens to reach the white-sand beach. Here you’ll find snorkeling, kayaking, cat sailing and stand-up paddle boarding to keep you occupied. Plus, it’s family-friendly with doughnut rides for the kids, and more daring descents for deep-sea divers to west coast shipwrecks and bioluminescent bays.

Cobblers Cove

Cobblers Cove
Courtesy of Cobblers Cove / Expedia.com
Looking for a resort that excels at everything? Cobblers Cove checks all the boxes with a serving of country-house elegance in a plantation-era mansion. Accommodation? Consider the Camelot Suite, with sea views from the canopied bed, first-floor terrace and private rooftop. Food? Chargrilled ribeye steak with chimichurri in a dining room that invites you to smarten up. Then there’s the Sea Moon spa, offering treatments such as the Sun Recovery Body Wrap – ideal for guests who have over-snoozed in the sun.

The SoCo Hotel

The SoCo Hotel
Courtesy of The SoCo Hotel / Expedia.com
Located in Hastings, the southernmost parish of Barbados and known for its small-village vibe, this modern 24-room boutique hotel offers plenty of sea-focused amenities, including a terrace swimming pool overlooking the Caribbean. While many island resorts lean into old-world opulence, the SoCo Hotel very much sets itself apart as small-scale and stylishly modern, all minimalist white interiors, ocean-facing guest rooms and a sea-spying restaurant.

Eco Lifestyle Lodge

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Courtesy of Eco Lifestyle Lodge / Expedia.com
This popular eco-resort in Bathsheba, conceived by New York escapees Kyle and Maryam Taylor, is regarded for its sustainability focus. But it’s the ECO Restaurant & Pantry you want to head for. Overseen by Le Cordon Bleu chef Alisha Dawn Stoute, who sources products from local growers, fishermen and farmers, you’ll feast on healthy dishes such as tuna-tartare salads, vibrant fish tacos and plant-based beetroot ravioli with microgreens. Staying overnight? The owners can hook you up with local guides for spear-fishing and surfing expeditions, including to the Soup Bowl, one of Kelly Slater’s favorite spots.

Tranquility Cruises

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Tranquility Cruises
Courtesy of Tranquility Cruises
The 90-minute Turtle and Shipwreck Cruise offered by Tranquility Cruises takes guests through the turquoise waters of crescent-shaped Carlisle Bay – home to sea turtles, octopus, myriad tropical fish, sea horses, rays and other water-dwellers. There are also six shipwrecks in the bay, some in water as shallow as 4m (13ft). Guests have the opportunity to snorkel at one shipwreck site and swim with the turtles at another location.

Paddle Barbados

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Woman standing on sup board. Background of turquoise transparent water surface over coral reef. Tropical travel and leisure concept. Panoramic photo.
© Oleg Breslavtsev / Depositphotos.com
Carlisle Bay is known for its calm, shallow waters, with a natural harbor that means waves seldom get really big – providing the ideal space for beginner stand-up paddleboarders. Classes are held at Pebbles Beach and cover basic paddling techniques, safety and proper equipment handling. Once you’re comfortable, get set for a 1.5km (0.9mi) paddle across the bay with a rest stop at the Boatyard Club. Tours are offered at 10am and 4pm.

Yoga Samudra

Yoga Studio
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© Kurapatka / Depositphotos.com
​Yoga Samudra takes its name from the Sanskrit expression for “yoga by the sea.” Jen Coco leads group classes – vinyasa flow and restorative bliss – on the beachfront at St Lawrence Gap. Yogis meet at either Castaways Bar & Grill (mornings) or at the Tiki Bar on Accra Beach (afternoons). Another option is SUP yoga, held on the west coast at Port St Charles.

GoodTimes Catamaran Cruises

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Snorkeling in shallow water off the catamaran
© Mvaligursky / Depositphotos.com
Spend the day – five hours of it, anyway – on a four-cabin catamaran complete with a lounge with comfy sofas, a spacious deck with shady and sunny areas, plus plenty of drinks and snacks. The upper deck is ideal for relaxing after you’ve been swimming with sea turtles, exploring a shipwreck or snorkeling among brilliantly colored fish. Staff drop anchor to host lunch in a quiet bay.

Rascals Water Park

Amusement Park

The largest floating water park in the Caribbean features a mammoth playground of jumps and slides in the warm, crystal-clear waters of Brandon Beach, Bridgetown, on the west coast of Barbados. Families with children of all ages can enjoy circuits encompassing large slides, jumps and obstacles, as well as a Wetball park, swimming school, restaurant and bar. Rascals Waterpark is an easy 15-minute walk from the island capital Bridgetown.

Oistins Bay Gardens

Natural Feature
A man frying up fish on a BBQ at Oistins fish fry night, Oistins, parish of Christ Church, Barbados , Caribbean, West Indies
© Guy Harrop / Alamy Stock Photo
On Friday nights, what feels like the entire island population pours into the south-coast fishing town of Oistins for its legendary Fish Fry. This weekend street party sees vendors line up curbside, ready to grill or fry the day’s catch – from tuna and swordfish to marlin, mahi-mahi and lobster, piled plates plus a beer cost around US$15. There are also arts and crafts stalls in residence, making it a great way to celebrate coastal culture. Food starts from 7pm and there are often local live bands, but get there early to catch the sunset.

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