Looking for the best Barbados beaches? This guide highlights the top spots for swimming, surfing and relaxation.
From pristine bays to rugged surf spots, Barbados boasts an array of amazing beaches. Some are popular with the tourist crowds, while others are located off the beaten track. With more than 70 miles-worth to choose from you might want to narrow it down by finding the best beaches based on what you want to do, or not do!
Barbados has two main coasts, the calm Caribbean with its white sands and turquoise waters, and the wild Atlantic which has rugged shores and world-class waves. The beaches on west coast Barbados are pristine and the sea is calm almost all year round – some beaches are internationally famous (hello, Sandy Lane) attracting tourists all year round. Over on the east coast it’s a totally different picture. Crashing waves, dramatic cliffs and empty expanses of windswept sands give it a refreshing back-to-basics vibe.
The best beaches in Barbados
There is no ‘best’ beach in Barbados as ultimately it will come down to your own personal preferences. The east coast options are the best beaches for surfing, hiking and exploring the more rugged side of the island, while for swimming and snorkeling, the west coast beaches are the best.
Families with young children may prefer the calm seas on the the Caribbean side where well-known names like Paynes Bay are a hub for turtle spotting. Along the south coast, watersports and outdoor activities abound, making it ideal for visitors of all ages.
Here’s a rundown of our top picks, coast by coast:
The best beaches – west coast Barbados
Sandy Lane Beach
One of the most famous beaches in west coast Barbados, Sandy Lane is a stunning stretch of pristine sand lapped by the gentle Caribbean Sea. Located in the popular parish of St James it’s best known for the famous luxury hotel that shimmers in the sunshine next to it. The beach is public apart from a small sliver that’s lined with the hotel’s iconic sunloungers – you may well spot a celebrity or two as you walk past. And the luxury villas in this part of the island are to die for.
For swimming, this is one of the best Barbados beaches with its gently sloping sands and millpond-calm waters. The beach benefits from being sheltered in a small bay so the water has little undertow. As a day visitor you can rent chairs from a beach vendor, plus you’ll find vendors hiring out kayaks, jet skis and other equipment.
If you’re feeling peckish, non-residents can use Sandy Lane’s beach bar and restaurant (booking is highly recommended at the latter). Alternatively, there are lots of cafes and restaurants in nearby Holetown, or you can buy picnic provisions from the shopping mall and enjoy them on the beach.
If you’re visiting the area between July and October you’ll be in time for the nesting season of the friendly Hawksbill turtles that favor this area of coastline. As well as being able to spot them, you can also go swimming and snorkeling with them. Taking a trip on a catamaran is a great way to do it. Take a daytime cruise they sail you out to where the turtles are, with snorkelling equipment and lunch provided.
If you prefer west coast Barbados but want somewhere a little lower key, then Holetown is the place to head. Just north of Sandy Lane, it’s not quite as famous as its neighbour but it has a lovely stretch of sand and is ideal for long relaxing days. The beach has a lifeguard and bathroom facilities, as well as special swimming zones clearly marked out by buoys so you’ll feel extra-safe while you’re in the water.
You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas, plus there’s a market stall where you can buy locally-made clothing, jewellery and souvenirs. You can even get your hair braided Bajan style or get a foot massage on the beach. A number of watersports outlets also operate in this area offering jet skis, paddle boarding, kayaking and sailing. There are some stunning villas to stay at here, including options with their own pools.
For refreshments, head to one of the restaurants and bars along the beach. Try and visit these in the late afternoon to benefit from ‘happy hour’ prices.
When you’re done with the beach make sure you take a wander around Holetown’s main center. It was the site of the first British landing back in 1625 and is now popular for its great shopping and nightlife. Also in the region are important historic sites like St James Church, one of the oldest buildings in Barbados.
Located in St James around half way up the west coast, Paynes Bay is one of the best Barbados beaches for families. Nestled in a small bay, it features a wide sweeping arc of sand bordered by gently swaying palms and casuarina trees. The water at Paynes Bay has no waves or currents so it’s an ideal place to swim and snorkel.
Paynes Bay gets fairly busy through high season (November–April) although it rarely gets overcrowded. It has plenty of parking facilities as well as showers, toilets, on-duty lifeguards and retail outlets for refreshments and food.
A number of water sports activities are available from the main bay including jet skiing and catamaran sailing. The shallow reefs and calm waters here also make for excellent snorkeling conditions. Kids will love spotting the huge sea turtles just offshore – you can sail on a glass-bottomed boat right from the beach out to where they congregate.
For great-value stays along the west coast, Paynes Bay is a good option. This beachfront region is home to some great family accommodation in a range of styles and price ranges. You’ll find everything from huge villas decked out with amazing amenities, to cozy condos where you can enjoy shared leisure facilities.
You’ll also find a good selection of friendly restaurants and bars within walking distance of the resorts. A popular spot is Paynes Bay Fishing Complex where you can dine on freshly fried fish for just a few dollars.
Mullins Beach is not as big as some of it neighbours, but that’s actually one of its charms. It’s a great place to spend a day out with family or friends, offering something for everyone to enjoy at their own pace. The gorgeous surroundings include an array of private villas at the southern end of the beach and rocky limestone cliffs to the north.
This beach is just right for relaxing, or if you feel like it, exerting a little more energy. You can rent loungers and umbrellas from vendors on the beach, and there are a number of watersports outlets where you can hire jet skis, banana boats and giant rubber rings. Also on the beach are a handful of casual restaurants offering delicious simple food in a relaxing atmosphere.
Guests staying at Mullins Bay resort have access to the private beach club on the main stretch of sand at Mullins Beach. The resort is home to a handful of elegant villas which all have private swimming pools and easy beach access.
Head away from the beach and you’ll find a number of attractions including the colorful town of Speightstown, St Nicholas Abbey rum plantation and Arlington House Museum.
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Named after Benjamin Thomas Fitt who once owned this western stretch of the island, it features sloping sands, calm aquamarine waters and lush hibiscus bushes that line the coast. Situated slightly off the tourist track, the beach is usually quiet making it ideal if you want to relax and unwind.
You can while away the hours sunbathing on the white sand, swimming in the clear sea or watching fishing boats as they bob gently on the water. For something more active, take a stroll around the nearby shopping plaza or enjoy dining at award-winning restaurants like The Cliff and Cin Cin by the Sea, all within easy reach.
Located at the northern end of St. James, this beach is quiet, relaxing and idyllic. The sands are powdery soft, the sea is crystal clear and the water stays warm all year round.
Trees and bushes line the shore providing lots of shade. There’s also a marked area for swimming, and a wider area for jet skiing and other watersports.
You’ll find some local shops and restaurants in Reeds Bay, and a wider choice at Speightstown to the north and at Holetown to the south. The beach is located along the main bus route so it’s easily accessible.
Quieter than some of the more well-known Barbados beaches, Alleyne’s Beach is a top spot for swimming, snorkeling and relaxing. Located just a few kilometers north of Holetown, it can be accessed by walking from nearby Weston Beach.
Spend long days lounging in the sun or enjoying the tasty food and ice-cold beverages at Ju Ju’s Beach Bar. Here you can rent umbrellas and loungers, or for the more adventurous, kayaks and jet skis.
The best beaches on the east coast
Located in the southeast corner of Barbados, this out-of-the-way gem is one of the best beaches in Barbados. Partially protected by an offshore reef, it’s backed by swaying palms and tropical rainforest. On low cliffs above the beach is the renowned Crane Hotel, but apart from that there are few facilities and little in the way of tourist crowds.
Crane Beach was originally a harbor, with its name derived from the large cliff-top cranes once used for loading and unloading ships. The pink-hued sands are exquisitely beautiful and the powerful waves in the area make Crane Beach perfect for surfing and other high-octane water sports. Lifeguards are on duty but swimming isn’t always safe on this often-breezy corner of the island.
If you fancy a busier vibe, it’s an easy 20-minute drive from here to the vibrant tourist areas of the south coast, and just a slightly longer one across to the calm beaches and upmarket restaurants on the west coast.
Famous for its world-class Atlantic waves, Bathsheba is a top spot for surfing. Here you will find the renowned Soup Bowl, a major surfing spot which hosts regular local and international surfing competitions. With prime surfing conditions all year round, this east coast beach can get busy, especially around competition times.
Although this stretch of sea sometimes appears inviting, swimming in the ocean is not recommended as there are strong under-currents and no lifeguards on duty. That said, the coast is dotted with beautiful natural pools where you can swim safely.
Aside from surfing, there are quite a few other things to do. A good choice of restaurants and bars offer space to relax and enjoy seeing surfers riding the waves. The beach also has some great surf shops and a number of attractions including the famous Bathsheba Rock that sits slightly offshore.
Morgan Lewis Beach
Located on the out-of-the-way northeast coast, Morgan Lewis Beach is one of the most remote Barbados beaches. Whatever time of year you choose to visit you can almost guarantee it’ll be deserted. Here you will be greeted by an endless expanse of golden sand and huge Atlantic waves crashing at the shore.
This beach is not safe for swimming but it’s a great spot for wildlife spotting and beach-combing. Many visitors also come here for surfing, horse-riding and other outdoor activities.
Nearby is Morgan Lewis Mill located in the northern parish of St Andrew overlooking the Scotland District. It’s one of the only two intact and restored sugar mills in the entire Caribbean. Visitors can go on guided tours of the mill or enjoy drinks and snacks at its onsite cafe.
Barbados beaches on the south coast
A strong contender for the best beach in Barbados, this long stretch of white sand is one of the liveliest on the south coast. Sea conditions vary a lot but there’s often great surf for boogie boarding and jumping around in. Popular with tourists and locals alike, the beach is backed by a bustling boardwalk and is on the main bus route.
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The southern end is great for families as there’s a pool-like area that has calm water where young children can paddle around. For livelier surf, the main beach has bigger waves that are better for older children and adults. Watersports equipment and sun loungers are available for rent. Otherwise you can hang out at the many bars and cafes, or browse the beachwear and souvenir stalls.
Accra Beach (also known as Rockley) is situated in the southern parish of Christ Church, close to the famous Garrison Savannah racetrack and the Rockley Golf Course. Plenty of parking is available behind the beach, and the buses that travel along the main south coast road stop close by.
Barbados Miami Beach
Otherwise known as Enterprise Beach, Barbados Miami Beach, this beautiful stretch of coastline is located in the fishing village of Oistins. A favourite with the locals, this spot gets busy at the weekends, especially on Friday evenings when it plays host to the renowned Oistin’s fish fry.
The main tranche of beach gets big waves that are perfect for watersports, and on the west side of the bay you’ll find calm water that’s ideal for swimming. Local vendors offer beach chairs, umbrellas and sports equipment for hire, plus there are stalls selling drinks and fast food.
Lining the beach are lots of picnic benches where you can sit and enjoy some shade or refreshment. Stick around for the famous Friday night fish fry for lots of music, dancing and freshly fried fish.
If you’re looking to stay at Barbados Miami Beach you’ll find some fantastic family resorts a little further along the coast at Sapphire Beach.
Hastings is a small beach on the scenic southwest coast. It’s sandwiched between Bridgetown, the island’s capital to the west, and the party hub of St. Lawrence Gap to the east. There are some stony areas around the shore but apart from that the sea is clear and calm.
The beach is backed by swaying palm trees and a wooden boardwalk with a play area and a bandstand. The town runs parallel to the beach and offers plenty of things to do with its shops, malls, cafes, restaurants and bars.
St. Lawrence Bay
The beach here is also known as Little Bay and is situated at the entrance to busy St Lawrence Gap on the south coast of Barbados. The region is famous for its lively nightlife and has a long strip of laid-back rum bars and snack stops.
The bay has knee-deep water and a shallow reef teeming with tropical fish. It’s also popular for a number of watersports such as windsurfing, kayaking and kite surfing. Hawksbill turtles love this bay – you’re likely to see them swimming near the beachfront restaurants hoping for a few treats!
If you fancy a break from the beach make a beeline for Bridgetown, just a 10-minute drive away. It has a Unesco-listed Garrison crammed with army buildings including an old military prison. There’s also the Kensington Oval cricket ground and Mount Gay Distillery (the world’s oldest commercial rum distillery).
Barbados beaches on the north coast
The north coast of Barbados is known for its quiet coves and huge waves that crash onto the cliffs. Maycocks Bay is one of these such spots where from the clifftop you can soak up amazing views up along the coastline. It’s scenic and peaceful all year round, although you may see a few more tourists between December and April when humpback whales can be spotted playing in the surf.
Getting to Maycocks can be quite an adventure. You have to follow the signs carefully and head down a steep track that leads down into the bay. Good footwear (rather than flip flops) is advised. The beach is not generally recommended for swimming but there are some spots where paddling at low tide is quite safe.
It’s named after Thomas Maycock, a wealthy landowner from days gone by. Make time for a walk around the old ruins of Maycock’s Fort – local legend has it that there was treasure buried near the fort and it has never been found…
Cove Bay is located on the northeast coast of Barbados in the scenic parish of St Lucy. Backed by Casuarina trees and swaying palms it’s a lovely place for a day out in a peaceful setting.
The beach itself is not easy to get to, however you can easily drive to the cliffs overlooking the bay. You have have to travel along some rural tracks but it’s worth the effort for the beautiful views that await.
The clifftops here are the perfect place to enjoy a picnic while soaking up unparalleled views of the beach below. You’ll hear the powerful waves crashing at the shore and feel the warm trade winds that blow in from here.
If you want to walk to the beach it’s a good idea to join a guided walking tour. Providers like Eco Adventures will take you safely down to the bay via the rugged cliffside footpaths. It’s recommended that you dress for the occasion in comfortable loose fitting clothing and sturdy enclosed footwear.
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