If go south and east in the Caribbean islands, your last stop to the before you disappear into the Atlantic is the island of Barbados. With a small population and a mix of Caribbean and British lifestyle, it is often overlooked as a travel destination especially among paddle boarders. My original trip to Barbados was in the mid 2000’s for a windsurfing trip as I had heard tales about the perfect wave sailing on the south tip of the island. On a trip in 2006, we had a spell of no wind and the first SUP boards had just arrived to the island. From then, all trips have been SUP focused as I realised how ideal the island is for stand up paddle boarding. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of times I have returned Barbados, and each trip is always better than the one before.
Getting to Barbados
There is only one airport on the island, and all arrivals will be to Grant Adams International Airport, or known better, BGI. Having under gone substantial renovations and expansion over the last 10 years, it allows for quick arrivals and departures to allow you to maximize your island and water time.
Nothing on Barbados is that far from the airport, so taking a taxi from the airport is your best bet. Expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $40 USD depending on where you are headed.
Pro Tip: Only take certified taxis. Outside the arrivals area is a taxi stand and queue. Check in there and they will get you the first cab that is available. If someone approaches and offers a cab take my advise and walk away. They are not a licensed taxi and could be trouble. Being a taxi driver in Barbados is a respected profession and taken seriously, so you are in good hands with a licensed driver.
Where to Stay and Eat
Going to Barbados is a sort of home coming for me as I always stay in the same area on the South Coast, which is in the Silver Sands/Atlantic Shores/Oistins area. The closer you go to Bridgetown the more amenities you will get in terms of restaurants and nightlife. Since I go for the on the water action, my idea of nightlife is the walk home in the dark after a sunset session. On my last trip in January, my 11 year old daughter and I stayed at Freights Bay Mews which is a gorgeous 3 bedroom home set back off the main road complete with chill pool and tons of privacy. From there, it is a 5-minute walk to the SUP surf spots of South Point and Freights Bay, and a 15-minute walk to the shops and restaurants in Oistins.
Pro Tip: Do not miss going to Surfers Bay. This open air beach bar could possibly be the greatest place to go for dinner and drinks on the island, and often has live music. At Surfers Bay is also Moonraker, a funky little hotel with pool, ocean views, and an eclectic mix of windsurfers, kite surfers, and surfers as guests. Café Luna in Oistins has a great menu, and the Friday Night Fish Market in Oistins is a must do. If you are near Miami Beach, the Mr Delicious food truck has the best fish cakes and lemonade anywhere!
Personally, I walk. Nothing is more than 15 minutes away, and if it is, taxis are easy to find and relatively cheap. There is also a great bus network that seemingly seems to run non-stop. Car rentals are available, however, the cars are right hand drive and you will be on the opposite side of the road if you are from a country that has left hand drive vehicles.
Pro Tip: While Barbados is very safe, use some common sense and stay to main roads, and best to not flaunt your Rolex.
Where to Paddle Board in Flat Water
Basically anywhere on the island’s south and west coasts is ideal for cruising. The east coast dishes up great surf at places like Soup Bowls, but is best left alone if you are looking for calmer conditions. Often my daughter and I would start at Freights Bay and paddle east towards South Point. Keep your eyes open for sea turles, as they are everywhere and you will love the up close viewing as you glide along the crystal clear waters. Be respectful of them and don’t try to touch or feed them. Or, we would head west from Freights Bay towards Miami Beach, which for an 11 year old is heaven on earth with great swimming and snorkeling. With so many beaches along the way to Bridgetown, you could literally paddle for miles and stop in for a rest at Miami Beach, Accra Beach, Dover beach and all points along the way.
Pro Tip: Get to know what the wind is doing. If you are paddling west, you will be paddling with the wind. This also means that when you turn around to head east, you will be into the wind. Save enough energy and plan accordingly knowing that the paddle home is going to be harder and take longer.
Where to SUP Surf
If you stay at Moonraker, or places near Freights Bay Mews, you have South Point and Freights Bay within 10-15 minute walks. I like the walk to and from the water to get warmed up a little, but very often you will see other surfers and SUP’ers along the way and can get the last condition updates. There are many other great spots to SUP surf on the island, but I stick to my favorites.
The wave at Freights Bay is fun and mellow, and the atmosphere very laid back. Localism all but does not exist, but it can be busy with surf schools during the day so sunrise and sunset sessions are your best bet. There is a brand new set of stairs off Enterprise road with parking, and from there it is a quick 2-minute paddle to the line up. I won’t claim Freights Bay to be anywhere near the biggest or best wave on the island, but it is a great spot to get used to being on your board again especially if you haven’t paddled in a little while. For what the wave lacks in size, it more than makes up for with great views, great sunsets, and the friendliest line up I have ever been in.
Pro Tip: Paddle at the end of the day, or the start to avoid the wind which Barbados has its share of. Also, respect the surf schools during the day. Lots of rookies that are stoked to learn, but may not know the ins and outs of surf etiquette. Remember, that was you once so give them a break!
At the very tip of the island, and just around the corner from Freights Bay is South Point. With more size and speed than Freights Bay, South Point is a quick and fun left hander. This is the home spot of most surfers that live in the area so can be a bit busier (especially after 4:30), and the peak of the wave is a sought after spot so be patient, but also respectful to the locals. Start stealing every wave and you won’t make friends. At Freights Bay a party wave (more than one person on a wave) is pretty common, but at South Point best wait until the wave is clear. Sit on shore and watch a few sets roll through, and a few people paddle out to get a sense of where to be, and where not to be! The rocky shoreline with the stunning omes of Atlantic Shores atop them makes for a great back drop to your session.
Pro Tip: The launch is a little rougher, and the reef can be shallow and with the occasional urchin. It is in the middle of residential neighborhood as well so if you drive, park in a way not to block the road, or someone’s driveway
Photo Credit @matt_hrom
What Stand Up Paddle Board to Paddle?
Airlines do make it tough to bring non-inflatable boards to Barbados. Personally, I travel with an inflatable. An 8’10 to 10’6 inflatable is a great pairing for the south coast. If you can only brind one board, err on the side of a little larger. This past trip I had an 8’10 and 10’2 and was perfectly covered. Since inflatables pack up so small into their back packs, they are easy to check as baggage. Rentals are available at some of the surf schools on the island. Paddle Barbados is a SUP dedicated business who also have some Cruiser SUP’s!
Pro Tip: Check with your airline to make sure you can bring a board, or inflatable. Surprises at the airport are not fun.
Book Your Ticket!
Once you discover Barbados, you will keep returning trip after trip. The climate, the people, and the conditions make Barbados a great get away spot to recharge, spend time with family, but also get in some serious time on the water in the great cruising and surf conditions the island has to offer.
Have questions or did I miss something? Just let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.