Do you love music, culture, gastronomy and sport, or just laying back on a stunning beach in the tropical sunshine? If so, Barbados will tick all your checkboxes and then some. This lush tropical island at the southern end of the Caribbean has everything you'd expect from a Caribbean island and then some.
If fun-filled festivals are your jam, you’ll find plenty on the cultural calendar during the peak season from mid-December to mid-April. But for more laid-back travelers drawn here by the lure of carefree beach days and relaxed exploring inland, the two shoulder seasons from mid-April to June and across the month of November combine great weather with slightly lower prices.
Big events on the Bajan calendar include international motocross events, carnival celebrations and some top culinary festivals, so there's truly something for all tastes and budgets. Here’s our guide to the best times to visit Barbados.
High season is the best time for festivals and good beach weather (mid-December to mid-April)
Travelers looking to escape cold winter temperatures in the northern hemisphere descend on Barbados for some sunshine between December and April. This surge in interest results in pricier flights and increased competition for accommodation excursions and dining experiences – if there's anywhere you have your heart set on, book early to secure a spot.
The climate tends to be slightly cooler during the high season, with much less humidity than in the steamy summer months. It’s also Barbados' dry season, so there’s very little chance of a prolonged downpour driving you off your sun lounger.
Adding to the fun, big festivals such as the Oistins Fish Festival and the Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup horse race dot the calendar during across this busy period, for days when you don't want to sit back on the beach taking advantage of the favorable weather.
The shoulder seasons are the best time for sightseeing (mid-April to June, November)
Prices tumble as the high season crowds depart, creating welcome opportunities for a budget-friendly island getaway. Barbados has two shoulder seasons, bookending the winter high season. From mid-April, the crowds disperse and things remain calm until July when activities ramp up for the Crop Over festival. November ushers in a second shoulder season, as the rainy season tapers off. Not only are prices low, but the lack of crowds allows for unhurried sightseeing.
Low season is the best time for budget travelers (July to October)
Like much of the Caribbean, Barbados has its rainy season during the summer months, and the wet weather continues almost until the year’s end. This is also hurricane season – officially running from July to November – but most storm systems pass to the north, and the island has managed to avoid any serious trouble for years.
Visitors can expect some showers, but usually not enough to derail vacation plans. Temperatures hover consistently above 80ºF in the daytime and there's enough sun around to still enjoy the beach. If you’re traveling on a budget, this season brings discounts on everything from airfares to accommodation.
January is the time for cool breezes and sailing
New Year welcomes in cool breezes and a throng of visitors drawn here by the prestigious Round Barbados Sailing Week, formerly the Mount Gay Round Barbados Series. The highlight is a sprint of 60 nautical miles around the island, with cases of rum on the line for the winners.
Key events: New Year’s Day, Round Barbados Sailing Week, Errol Barrow Day
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February is a big time for cultural celebrations
Barbados celebrates its rich heritage during the busy Holetown Festival, commemorating the anniversary of the first British settlement on the island on February 17, 1627. This week-long cultural showcase includes a steel band concert, street fairs, parades, a Queen of the Festival Pageant, memorial talks, and lots of liming (as locals like to call mingling, eating and drinking).
Key events: Holetown Festival, Barbados’ Agricultural Festival (Agrofest), Vujaday Music Festival
March is horse racing season in Barbados
Since 1982, the Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup horse race has been one of the premier events on the Bajan calendar and one of the biggest racing meets in the Eastern Caribbean. Jockeys and trainers travel to the historic Garrison Savannah area in Bridgetown for this mаrquее thoroughbred hоrsе rасе, which sees plenty of betting interest from locals.
Key event: Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup, Barbados Independent Film Festival
April is for fun and festivals
The largest community festival in Barbados, Oistins Fish Festival falls over the Easter weekend, usually in April. The tiny fishing village of Oistins on the scenic south coast hosts a unique celebration to honor the local fishing industry with a fish-boning competition, a grease-pole contest, music, dancing, and of course, lots of seafood. Wash down local specialties such as flying fish, cou cou (cornmeal and okra), fish cakes, and "pudding and souse" (pickled pork with sweet potato and breadfruit) with a frosty Banks Beer.
Key events: Holy Week, Oistins Fish Festival, Barbados Reggae Festival, Heroes Day
May ushers in the calmer shoulder season
The crowds thin out in late April and May, and Gospelfest Barbados is one of the last major festivals before the sticky summer. This gospel explosion is arguably the best celebration of the genre in the region and draws major artists from multiple countries.
Key events: Gospelfest Barbados, Barbados Celtic Festival, Labour Day (May Day)
Unmissable things to do in Barbados beyond the beach
June is the start of hurricane season
The summer heat starts revving up with the Sol Rally Barbados, the Caribbean’s biggest annual motor sport international. This tarmac road rally consists of 24 stages, and it's one of the crown jewels of the island’s sports tourism calendar. Technically, June is also the beginning of hurricane season but the southern Caribbean rarely sees a direct hit.
Key events: Sol Rally Barbados
July sees Barbados explode with festival color
One of the hottest months of the year, July also sees the most scintillating event on the island — Crop Over, a carnival-style harvest festival that has been celebrated here since the 17th century. Barbados’ biggest party runs through till August, with distinctively local events such as calypso competitions, soca monarch contests, J’ouvert jump-ups, Kiddie Kadooment and the Pic-O-De-Crop show, when the annual Calypso King is crowned.
Key events: Crop Over, Dive Fest Barbados
August brings the dizzying finale of Crop Over
The first Monday in August signals the end of Crop Over and the festival goes out with a bang. The Grand Kadooment revelry starts at the National Stadium on the outskirts of Bridgetown and extends down the Mighty Grynner Highway. It’s a visually stunning explosion of vibrant feathers, bedazzled headpieces, and sequined bodysuits as thousands of Bajans parade jubilantly through the streets to rhythmic soca beats.
Key events: the finale of Crop Over, Emancipation Day
September is for the creative arts
Barbados' talent is not limited to Rihanna, though she's celebrated as a national treasure. Starting in September and continuing for three months, the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts showcases rich local talent in diverse disciplines, including dance, drama, speech, fine arts, literary arts, music, culinary arts, craft, photography and film.
Key events: National Independence Festival of Creative Arts, Barbados Ninja Throwdown
October is the best time to sip rum
Barbados is hailed as the birthplace of rum, thanks to its long history as the world’s largest sugar producer. The Barbados Food & Rum Festival invites local and international chefs, wine experts, and mixologists for a four-day gastronomical exhibition. From street food to fine dining, connoisseurs gather to experience the ultimate pairing of local rum and Bajan cuisine.
Key events: Barbados Food & Rum Festival, Barbados Jazz Excursion and Golf Tournament, Barbados National Triathlon
Unmissable things to do in Barbados beyond the beach
November is the end of hurricane season
Hurricane season makes its exit just in time for the Open Water Festival, a friendly and inclusive three-day open-water swimming extravaganza. The swimming competitions are open to all ages and ability levels, with distances of 1.5km, 2km, 3.3km, 5km and 10km. November also sees the island celebrate its independence from Great Britain in 1966 with contests, fairs and the lighting of public buildings in the colors of the Barbados flag.
Key events: Open Water Festival, Lighting Ceremony, Independence Day
December is for sunbathers and runners
Save for a few errant spurts of rain, the balmy but breezy December weather is ideal for spending days on the beach, but if you feel like getting active, this is also the time for the Run Barbados Marathon. The route begins and ends on the Bay Street Esplanade, with a picturesque course winding through Bridgetown, but the real fun starts with the post-run parties in St Lawrence Gap, just east of Bridgetown near Dover Beach.
Key event: Run Barbados Marathon, Old Year’s Night (New Year's Eve)