With more than 80 stunning beaches spread around its tropical shoreline, Barbados has sand to spare.
On this small but perfectly formed tropical island in the Eastern Caribbean, you’re never far from an idyllic stretch of beach. Best of all, under local laws, Barbados' beaches are open to all, whether you're staying in a five-star resort or a modest rental apartment.
In general, beaches on the west and southwest coasts of Barbados have the calmest waters and softest sands, and are ideal for swimming, snorkeling and other water-based activities. The beaches in the north and on the Atlantic side of the island are more suited for sitting back and admiring the view, due to strong currents and powerful waves, though the east coast is also where you'll find the island's best surf breaks.
Here’s our list of the very best places to soak up the Caribbean sun and cool off in crystal-clear waters in Barbados.
1. Bottom Bay
A crescent of high coral cliffs towers over an oasis-like clump of palm trees on the fluffy white sands at blissfully undeveloped Bottom Bay. Tucked away on the southeast coast, this quiet slice of Caribbean wilderness is an unexpected find on a busy vacation island like Barbados.
The white swash of the rolling waves cedes gradually to brilliant turquoise waters, which in turn are eclipsed by the deep blue sea beyond. It's a postcard-perfect panorama that justifies a trip out here even for those who aren’t fans of sand between the toes. Keep an eye out for sea turtles close to the shore and whales further out.
Planning tip: Entering the water at Bottom Bay is only recommended for experienced swimmers: there are no lifeguards and currents can be tricky.
2. Bath Beach
A wide open space overlooking the Atlantic, isolated Bath Beach is a favorite escape for Bajans, who come here to enjoy the cooling effect of the shady trees and fresh sea breeze. A protective reef forms a series of pools along the shore, making Bath Beach one of the few safe places to bathe on the island's exposed eastern shoreline, but only when the sea conditions play ball.
It’s an easy place to while away a day sampling delicious traditional snacks from the vendors who patrol the grassy lawns, in between long walks and exploring the sparsely-populated coastline on a kayak. The beach is also an important nesting ground for hawksbill turtles, so scan the water for these aquatic visitors if you swim.
3. Folkestone Beach
With a lovely shady park running down to golden sands, Folkestone Beach is a wonderfully relaxed place for a walk and a swim. But the best reason to come to this pretty spot near Holetown is the first-class snorkeling just a few feet offshore.
The area around the beach is a protected marine area with shallow reefs and calm, warm waters that are suitable for even novice snorkelers. Marvel at a kaleidoscope of colorful tropical fish and keep your eyes out for roaming sea turtles.
Planning tip: Boats and jetskis are barred from the snorkeling zone, so it's a safe option for children and less confident snorkelers. You can rent snorkeling gear at the Folkestone Marine Park Visitor Centre, which also has a small museum.
4. Accra Beach (Rockley)
One of the most buzzing beaches on the island, Accra Beach near Bridgetown is backed by a shady park that brings the best of Barbados to the shoreline, from bearded oldtimers selling handicrafts to dignified dames in their Sunday best serving up traditional Bajan snacks.
It’s a beach that even sand-scorners will enjoy — there’s plenty of shade, vendors sell cold drinks and there's always something going on for people-watchers. But that doesn't mean the sand and sea are sub-par; the sweeping, snow-white sands and brilliant shallow waters are among the best on the south coast.
5. Shark Hole
If a beach could be tailor-made for the backyards of the glitterati, it would probably look just like Shark Hole. Hidden below a manicured housing development on Barbados’ south coast, this tiny inlet is like a fun-size salty swimming pool with calm waters that gently lap at a little slice of soft sand, tucked between rocky outcrops.
Planning tip: Come during the week and if you’re lucky, you’ll have the place to yourself. And don't worry – despite the name, sharks are not frequent visitors to this lovely sliver of sand, so you can relax and enjoy the sea.
6. Pebbles Beach
Don’t be fooled by the name; this gorgeous beach just south of Bridgetown is covered in soft white sands and backed by shady coconut palms. With virtually no currents, beachside bathrooms, plenty of picnic tables and lifeguards on duty, Pebbles is one of the best beaches on the island for travelers with children. It’s also a good spot for water sports enthusiasts, with plenty of equipment available for rent right on the sand.
Planning tip: There’s no reason to stray far from the water’s edge at Pebbles Beach; for sustenance, several food vans serve barbecued treats and tremendous fish "cutters" (a Barbadian fish sandwich).
7. Brownes Beach
A 10-minute walk from downtown Bridgetown, but well removed from the resort district, this long, broad beach on Carlisle Bay has soft silky sands and shallow, brilliant blue waters, and it rarely gets crowded, despite the proximity of the island capital. With calm water and lifeguards on duty, it’s a popular choice for local families who often bring a picnic.
Planning tip: As an added bonus, several shipwrecks in shallow waters lie just offshore from Brownes Beach, and can easily be explored with a mask and snorkel.
8. Brandons Beach
Popular with young Barbadians, Brandons Beach is just a short walk from the Bridgetown cruise ship terminal. Its wide stretch of powdery sand, perfect for sunbathing and fronted by multi-hued turquoise waters, offers a perfect welcome to new arrivals, and the floating offshore waterpark is a big hit with younger travelers.
In the evening hours, this is one of Barbados’ places to see and be seen, with locals ditching their work clothes for light attire and descending to the shore to exercise and socialize. Brandons has some of the best facilities on the west coast, with lifeguards, loungers, changing rooms and kayaks and small sailboats available to rent.
9. Gibbes Beach
One of the shadiest beaches on the West Coast, the narrow crescent of sand at Gibbes Beach is backed by a dense, green wall of trees that separates the public sands from the luxurious villas that dominate the coastline. Gibbes is one of the best beaches on the island for a stroll, particularly in the evening accompanied by the legendary West Coast sunset.
The lush forest contrasts brilliantly with the glowing white sand and gives the beach a private, secluded feel – which is just as well, as you'll probably be sharing the sands with movers and shakers from around the globe.
Planning tip: From Gibbes Beach, it's a short hop to Speightstown, a relaxed village that's becoming a top stop for island foodies.
10. Bathsheba Beach
On the wild Atlantic Coast, boulder-strewn Bathsheba Beach, with its rugged, barreling waves and lush foliage, feels a world away from the gentle turquoise waters of the resort strip, and it's one of the best places for surfing in the Caribbean.
This is a spot for long walks buffeted by sea spray, thoughtful contemplation and taking photographs rather than diving in, unless of course, you plan to surf the Soup Bowl, Barbados’ most famous wave, which rolls in consistently right in front of the cute little town.
11. Miami Beach (Enterprise)
One of the best spots on the island for a family day out, Miami Beach (also known as Enterprise), has tons of soft white sand just begging to be piled into sandcastles, and a crystal clear swimming area protected by a breakwater. There are small fun waves further along the bay for boogie boarding, all overlooked by a lifeguard station.
Planning tip: When you’ve had enough sun, there are plenty of picnic tables beneath pretty Casuarina trees just a stone’s throw from the sea.
12. Crane Beach
Viewed from the cliffs above, the sands of the magnificent Crane Beach give off a warm pink glow which, together with the layered turquoise waves, lends this upmarket south coast beach a gently psychedelic aura.
But down at sea level, the beach takes on a different character, with towering bluffs and churning waves joining forces in a perfectly balanced show of power and elegance. The breakers here are ideal for boogie boarding. The southern portion of the beach is dominated by loungers from the nearby resort but the beach is big enough that you won't have to worry about crowding.
Planning tip: For a more solitary experience, cross the headland to the less-visited forest-backed northern extension of the beach, but be careful swimming here as there are no lifeguards.
13. Paynes Bay
One of the west coast’s most iconic beaches, Paynes Bay is formed by a long, tree-fringed arc of golden sand that slopes down to tranquil, deep waters, offering one of the best swims on the island. It's also a top spot to see wildlife.
Hawksbill turtles are attracted to these stunning surroundings and tend to hang out just offshore in large numbers; they're easy to observe with a snorkel and mask, but give them a little space to avoid causing stress to these air-breathing animals.
14. Batts Rock
A peaceful natural haven away from the jet skiers and vendors who crowd the more popular west coast beaches, Batts Rock has a lovely golden sand beach backed by an inviting park that attracts wild green monkeys. The sea here is perfectly calm, with transparent waters and small rocky outcrops that are great for snorkeling. Walk up the pathway on the north side of the access road for fantastic sunset views.