With an average of eight to nine hours of daily sunshine and consistently warm sea temperatures, any time of year is holiday time in Barbados. The climate is tropical, but rarely excessively hot because of the prevailing northeast trade winds that gently roll in off the Atlantic.
Daytime temperatures average between 28°C and 35°C, the coolest and driest time being December-May, and a wetter and hotter season June-November. Rain is usually heavy when it comes but, because of its easterly position outside the Caribbean Sea basin, Barbados has rarely been hit by hurricanes, although tropical storms may occur August-October.
If you want a carnival atmosphere then time your visit for the Crop Over Festival, from late June to early August, a centuries-old tradition that celebrates the end of the sugar cane season. The main carnival celebrations take place on the first weekend of August; book flights, accommodation and car hire in plenty of time for this long weekend as everything is very busy with Barbadians, returning family and friends and visiting tourists. Other musical events worth aiming for are the Reggae Festival in April, the Celtic Festival in May and the Jazz Excursion in October.
Cricket lovers should try to take in a Test Match or a regional competition to see top international players at the Kensington Oval, but there are cricket festivals at other times of the year and of course matches every Sunday in villages around the island. For a diary of events and festivals see www.whatsoninbarbados.com.
Barbados Horticultural Society (BHS) Annual Flower & Garden Show
Held on the last weekend in January, there are lovely floral exhibits from societies affiliated to the BHS including the Barbados Association of Floral Artists, Bonsai Barbados, Barbados Orchid Society and the Barbados Cactus and Succulent Society, as well as craft, tea and food stalls.
The week-long festival begins in mid-February and commemorates the first settlers’ landing in February 1627. There are parades with floats during the day, all well organized and restrained, nothing outrageous. It features a parade of vintage and classic cars, plus the Queen of the Festival pageant. A few kids march in costume, there are one or two masked performers, and stalls are set up, selling food, Banks beer and crafts.
One of the most popular events is the Police Tattoo, a floodlit night show featuring the men and women of he Royal Barbados Police Force. The Police Force band plays on a stage on the beach and the mounted troop, canine unit and motorcycle unit are usually on display. This is Little England par excellence.
Oistins Fish Festival
Held over the Easter weekend to celebrate the signing of the Charter of Barbados and the history of this fishing town. There are three days of competitions, parades and demonstrations of fishing skills. Fish-boning is the major competition, the winner being the Queen of the Festival. There are also boat races, the greasy pole and a big street party with live music which goes on until late at night – and of course, lots of fried fish and fish cakes.
Vujaday Music Festival
Held over five days in mid-February, this electronic music festival (house, techno, etc) features international DJs, rappers and producers. It’s a mobile party at different locations, often on beaches with bars and food vendors.
Barbados International Fishing Tournament
Held in mid-April, this, one of the premier fishing events in the southern Caribbean, attracts participants from across the region and internationally for five days of competition. Apart from the fishing, there’s much dockside activity and in the evenings people gather to witness the boats arriving with their catch and join in the cocktail parties, a fashion show, wine tasting, live bands, a pig roast and fish fry.
Barbados Reggae Festival
Held in the third week of April and featuring top-quality local, regional and international reggae acts with a beach party, cruise party, and the very popular Reggae on the Hill open-air concert at Farley Hill National Park.
Barbados Celtic Festival
Held over four days at the end of May on the South Coast Boardwalk, this is rather an unusual festival to be celebrated in the Caribbean, but Barbados attracts Celtic people from around the world for their annual gymanfa-ganu and other events including folk music, street theatre, ceilidhs and Celtic chefs. The main event is the Bridgetown Street Parade of marching bands playing pipes and drums on the Saturday afternoon.
Held over Whitsun, the last weekend in May, this international festival attracts gospel singers from the USA, UK and all over the Caribbean. Concerts are held at various locations including Farley Hill National Park.
Sol Rally Barbados
The Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sports event started out as a one-day car rally in 1990 and now attracts over 100 international drivers for three days of racing on public roads and off-road routes. There are many vantage points for spectators and several associated social activities.
Banks International Hockey Festival
Hockey is very popular in Barbados and this is the largest field hockey event in the region, with teams coming from all over the world to participate. Held at Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex in late August, matches take place during the day and are followed by beach parties, fêtes, party cruises and clubbing.
Barbados Jazz Excursion and Golf Weekend
Established in 2014 by Barbados-born soul-jazz saxophonist, Elan Trotman, jazz and R&B concerts are held over Columbus Day holiday weekend at the Hilton Barbados Resort and Lighthouse Beach. There’s a charity celebrity golf tournament at Apes Hill Club on the Sunday.
Although the actual day is 30 November, there are several events during the month commemorating Barbados’ independence from Britain in 1966, including a parade on the Savannah.
National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA)
Plays, concerts and exhibitions in the four weeks before Independence Day on 30 November. Competitors work their way up through parish heats to reach the finals at the Frank Collymore Hall in Bridgetown.
Run Barbados Marathon Weekend
On the first weekend of December, a full and half marathon, 10-km run and 5-km walk following an ‘out and back’ mostly flat route, take place from Bridgetown’s Bay Street Esplanade, where there’s music, family entertainment and food and drink.