The Split Personality of Barbados

Bottom Bay, Barbados
Barbados lies East of the Windward islands of the Caribbean and faces the wrath of the Atlantic alone. For an island exploding with culture and activities it is surprising how small it is. The island is only 21 x 14 miles (34 x 23 km) at its widest and it is amazing how much variety of scenery can be seen on such a trim little island. Each coastline has a unique character, but which is for you?

The West coast of Barbados, or the Platinum coast as it is also known, hosts the stunning picture perfect beaches you see on the postcards and in the guidebooks. The fine coral sand is golden and the gently lapping Caribbean sea sparkles invitingly. The beaches here tend to slope gently towards the water which is like a warm bath. There are two main towns on the West coast: Holetown in St James and Speightstown in St Peter. Holetown is largely a laidback tourist area with restaurants mostly on 1st and 2nd streets and lots of shops (the chattel house shops are especially fun to wander around). There are lots of hotels here because of the near perfect beach conditions, but there is also a busy reef running from North to South which provides superb snorkeling. Folkestone Marine Park, one of the best snorkeling spots, is just offshore from Holetown. There are some well-preserved wrecks too, which keep divers happy. Speightstown is further North and was the island’s first major port town. Today it is the second largest town on the island, after the capital Bridgetown. All along the West coast sunsets, rum in hand, are spectacular.

West Coast, Barbados around Paynes Bay and Holetown

I come to the East coast next as it is such an enormous contrast to the West coast, mainly because of the nature of the sea. The Atlantic crashes onto Barbados’s East coast leading to spectacular scenes of abandoned, raw and natural beauty. There are some dangerous currents here and no lifeguards, so swimming is not advised. Surfing is a popular pastime though and the ‘soup bowl’ at Bathsheba is the island’s surfing hotspot. If you like your beach experience without crowds this may be your idea of paradise. There are plenty of scraps of beach inbetween large coral rocks, making it seem like your own private beach. The beach at Cattlewash is stunning. It is a wide expanse of windswept sand that the Atlantic pounds dramatically. Because of this, you can often find yourself the only person here, which is something I love, but it also means there are no facilities. Many locals have holiday homes on the East coast and use it as an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life found in other parts of the island. For a spectacular view over the East coast approach from the North and make a stop on Cherry Tree Hill for a hugely worthwhile Kodak moment.

East Coast, Barbados. Bathsheba and Cattlewash

The North Coast of Barbados (or the Northern tip really) is totally different from the rest of the island’s coastline. The North shore is made up of rocky coral cliffs and features a large cave formed by the water’s tireless erosion of the coral island. There are no beaches as such, but if you want to see evidence of the power of the ocean you can see it here as the sea smashes into the coast spraying fine sea mist into the air. The Northern parishes of the island have a very remote feel to them, which is amazing when you think they are only 20miles (30km) from the capital. 

North Coast, Barbados. By the Animal Flower Cave

The South coast has two distinct sides. Along the South East coast there are high cliffs and narrow sandy beaches where the water is still fairly rough. This quiet (and far less densely populated) area is popular with surfers and kite-surfers. Further West the beaches are wide expanses of flat, fine sand and there is a higher concentration of hotels, bars and cafes again. The South has the liveliest nightlife scene outside Bridgetown. It doesn’t feel as laidback as the West coast but you will never run out of things to do!

South Coast, Barbados. St Lawrence Gap and Foul Bay