From cricket and polo to surfing and sailing, Barbados offers a wealth of fantastic outdoor activities and watersports for a range of abilities.
Cricket is king in Barbados and everybody has an opinion on the state of the game as well as the latest results. Going to watch a cricket match is an entertaining cultural experience and well worth doing, even if you don’t understand the game.
Village cricket is played all over the island at weekends; a match here is nothing if not a social occasion. Cricket lovers should try to arrange their visit to coincide with a Test Match or a One Day International at the Kensington Oval. No sedate Sunday afternoon crowd this – the atmosphere is electric, with DJ music, constant whistling, horn-blowing, cheering and banter. At lunch there are food stalls outside where you can pick up a burger, roti or Bajan stew, buy a T-shirt and West Indies hat and drink a few Banks beers. The biggest crowds come for the matches against England, with touring teams tagging along, but cricket tourists come from as far afield as Australia or South Africa.
Diving and snorkelling
Barbados is surrounded by an inner reef and an outer barrier reef. On the west coast the inner reef is within swimming distance for snorkelling or learning to dive, while the outer reef is a short boat ride away and the water is deeper. Here you can see barracuda, king fish, moray eels, turtles and squid as well as some fine black coral, barrel sponges and sea fans.
The underwater landscape may not be as pristine as some other islands, but there are some excellent wrecks worth exploring and Carlisle Bay is littered with bottles, cannon balls, anchors and small items such as buckles and buttons after many centuries of visiting ships ‘losing’ things overboard or sinking. There are 200 reported wrecks in Carlisle Bay, but another popular dive site is the SS Stavronikita in Folkestone Marine Park, one of the best diving wrecks in the Caribbean. Water temperatures are usually about 25°C in winter and 28°C in summer, with visibility of 15-30 m.
A highlight for snorkellers is to swim with the turtles – at Sandy Bay you can see them close to the beach; otherwise Paynes Bay and Folkestone Marine Park offer plenty of opportunity for those prepared to swim out a distance to find them.
Many keen golfers come to Barbados just to play golf and there are enough courses to keep anyone busy for a while, with several 18-hole and nine-hole courses, from the public Barbados Golf Club to the more exclusive Sandy Lane (where Tiger Woods got married).
The RBC Golf Classic is held in November; the Barbados Open in August; the Sir Garfield Sobers Festival of Golf Championships in May and other competitions throughout the year. The Barbados Golf Association publishes a schedule of events on its website.
The most beautiful part of the island is the Scotland District on the east coast. There is also some fine country along the St Lucy coast in the north and on the southeast coast. There is a particularly good hiking route along the old railway track, from Bath to Bathsheba and on to Cattlewash.
The Barbados National Trust organizes very enjoyable and sociable three-hour guided hikes every Sunday to various locations.
The main anchorage and focal point for the sailing fraternity is Carlisle Bay, south of Bridgetown, home to the island’s two yacht clubs: Barbados Yacht Club and the Barbados Cruising Club. In mid-January, the Round Barbados Sailing Week, holds a series of races along the south and west coasts and the anti-clockwise Mount Gay Round Barbados Race.
There are lots of motor and sailing boats available for charter by the week, day or for shorter periods. Cruises up the west side of the island with stops for snorkelling and swimming with turtles are very popular, whether for lunch or sunset watching.
Because Barbados is exposed in the Atlantic, swells are driven towards the island from all directions, and surfing is good throughout the year with the larger waves occurring between October and March. The best and most consistent surfing is on the east coast at the Soup Bowl, Bathsheba, which has perfect barrelling waves.
Experienced surfers also like Duppies on the north coast, where you have a long paddle out and there is a lot of current, but the waves are really big. The south coast is good for beginners and for boogie boarding, although there is a good break at Brandons, while the west coast has some good spots with easy access, often best when there are no waves on the east coast. Sandy Lane, Tropicana, Gibbs and Maycock’s are all worth trying.
Windsurfing and kitesurfing
These are best along the south coast, where moderate winds are present all year and good 15-20-knot wind conditions from November to June. The centre of the action for windsurfers is Silver Rock on the southeastern tip of the island where there’s a 3-km stretch of reef providing excellent wave sailing on the outside and a sheltered lagoon and beach on the inside for beginners and those who are less confident.
South of the airport, Long Beach is the main kitesurfers’ hang-out, with 2-km of undeveloped beachfront and cross-onshore northeast winds.