Reggae, rum and pristine beaches – the Caribbean islands have always been synonymous with sun, white sand and warm water, cool cocktails and a relaxed lifestyle.
Barbados is no different, only that this island is also a perfect playground for kitesurfers, surfers, and windsurfers. Due to its geographic location as the easternmost island of the Lesser Antilles, Barbados is blessed with unique wind conditions and is the windiest island in the Caribbean.
Between November and June, the trade winds blow regularly with anything between 15 and 30 knots, making it ideal for a kitesurfing holiday in a paradisiac ambience. I spent two whole months in Barbados in the winter of 2016 and apart from some odd days here and there without wind, I was always out on either my 7- or 5-meter kite (with a surfboard).
Kite spots in Barbados
Silver Rock Beach Barbados
Silver Rock Beach in the Silver Sands area, on the southwestern tip of the island, is the main kite spot in Barbados. This is also where former Windsurf - Pro Brian Talma has his kite – and windsurf school.
Silver Rock lies about 16 kilometres south of the capital Bridgetown. The wind usually blows side- to side-offshore from the East (left), with anything between 15 and 30 knots.
Barbados is a wave spot (no flat water!) and on good days, the reef in Silver Rock can produce some nice waves up to three metres high (left hander). The waves are quite smooth and not very aggressive, and thus are suitable for wave beginners.
For complete kite novices, Barbados can be a rather challenging spot however. Depending on the tide, the shore break can be quite high, and this, coupled with a strong current, definitely doesn’t make it easy for those learning. This however doesn’t mean that Barbados is not recommended for beginners – learning in tougher conditions prepares you better for what comes after.
A couple of friends of mine have just opened their brand new kite school in Barbados this season. Kitesurf Intl. is located at its own little spot in front of the Ocean Spray Beach Apartments at Surfer’s Point, just a few hundred metres down south of Silver Rock Beach. The two girls have been teaching in Barbados for many seasons already and know exactly how to introduce beginners safely to this wonderful sport.
Another thing worth mentioning when kitesurfing in Barbados is that Silver Rock Beach doesn’t have any rescue boats, as a lot of the bigger, more established kite spots around the world have. When going out it’s best to go out with a friend or make sure that someone you know is aware that you’re on the water.
Long Beach Barbados
The other kitesurf spot in Barbados is called Long Beach. As the name already suggests, this is a very long, sandy beach about two kilometres upwind from Silver Rock Beach. This beach is often completely empty, and even on good days you’ll never find more than a handful of kiters in the water. Long Beach doesn’t have a reef but quite a big shore break to play in. For experienced kiters, Long Beach is also a great place to start a downwinder to Silver Rock.
As it is a wave spot, most kiters in Barbados are on directional boards, however I’ve also seen many twin-tippers having fun in the waves and in the choppy water that leads up to the reef.
Apart from the amazing wind and wave conditions in Barbados, there are two things worth mentioning that make kitesurfing in Barbados very special: the incredibly beautiful turquoise water, as well as the countless sea turtles that cross your way when kiting, often coming up for a gasp of air right next to you. I’ve kited in many different spots around the world from Asia to South Africa and Central America, and I must honestly say that Barbados tops them all in terms of beauty.
No wind activities in Barbados
Barbados is also a very popular and famous surf spot. Eleven times world champion Kelly Slater comes to Barbados regularly to shred in Bathsheba, a small town on the east coast, about 26 kilometres from the kite spots.
For the non-pros and those still learning, the west coast offers plenty of surf spots to choose from, with easy and small to medium waves to ride. A favourite among beginners is Freights Bay, not far north of Silver Rock Beach. The spot can get quite busy with surf schools but if you head there early, you will be able to catch some nice waves before the crowds arrive.
But it’s not just water sports that make Barbados an amazing place for a holiday. Barbados is a beautiful island with stunning, diverse landscapes. While the west coast is famous for its immaculate palm fringed beaches and luxury real estate, the east coast boasts rocky cliffs and much less tourism than the western side.
In central Barbados you’ll find rolling green hills and verdant landscapes, including quite a few historic and natural sites, which are worth a visit. Until today, the cultivation of sugar cane is a very important part of the local economy; in fact, today Barbados is the only coral island that continues to produce sugar cane – we all know the tasty results!
On a no wind day, get a rental car, drive around the island and explore the different areas of Barbados. The island is not very big so it’ll only take you half a day to circle it, and if you don’t fancy driving yourself, you can always book a pre-arranged island tour.
Experience Barbados the local way
For a unique Barbadian experience, head to the fish market in Oistins, which lies in the south-west of the island, not far from the kite beach. During the day, fishermen sell their fresh catch of the day, including tuna, flying fish and dolphin (note that dolphin, also called mahi mahi, is a popular local fish and has nothing to do with the friendly aquatic mammal).
Every Friday evening, Oistins fish market transforms into a party zone. This is the place where the locals mingle and dance the night away to loud reggae music. Numerous very casual restaurants offer a variety of grilled and fried fish dishes, all delicious and not expensive at all. If you want to do it like the locals do, then you’ll drink rum from paper cups and enjoy the vibe as young and old come together to celebrate life.
If you’re not planning on getting a rental car for your stay in Barbados, you can use the minibus service to get around between the kite spot in Silver Sands and Bridgetown - you’ll be up for a unique experience for sure. A bus ride of any length costs two Barbados Dollar (1USD) and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a free reggae concert with party atmosphere on top; the drivers of the mini busses often function as entertainers too. Barbados doesn’t have any drink driving laws, so don’t be surprised if those drivers sometimes seem a little happier than usual.
Accommodation for kitesurfers in Barbados
The Silver Sands area offers a selection of hotels and apartments for kitesurfers wishing to stay close to the spot. The hotels aren’t exactly cheap, so if you’re looking for a more economical option, finding an apartment on Airbnb for example can be more suitable.
If you don’t have a tight budget and want to stay right on the main spot, then the Silver Point Hotel is a good option as it’s literally built on the spot, meaning you can kite directly in front of your room. About then minutes walking distance from the spot are the Moonraker Beach Apartments, a very popular address among kitesurfers, partly because of its Surfer’s Bay Beach bar, which is the perfect spot to enjoy a sundowner after a great day on the water. Surfer’s Bay also plays live music on two evenings during the week, featuring local artists.
Private apartments can be found for various budgets in the Silver Sands and Long Beach area, however bear in mind that if you’re not in comfortable walking distance from the spot, a rental car is highly advisable.
Useful information for kitesurfers in Barbados
Getting to Barbados
Fly to Bridgetown International Airport (BGI), from where you can take a taxi or your rental car to your desired destination. If you’re going to need a trolley for your luggage on arrival in Bridgetown, make sure to have a few coins or small notes on you as the trolleys are serviced by airport staff.
Climate in Barbados
Barbados has a tropical climate, meaning year round summerlike temperatures. You can expect around 30 degrees Celsius at peak daytime while evenings are comfortable with around 25 degrees Celsius. The water is around 28 degrees, hence board shorts and bikini are sufficient, however I strongly recommend wearing a rash vest as the sun is very strong. And don’t forget waterproof sunscreen.
Kite season Barbados
The best time to travel to Barbados for kitesurfing is from end of November until June. From June to October is rainy season, which occasionally includes heavy showers and thunderstorms.
Note that Barbados doesn’t have any kite shops per se, so it’s advisable to bring a few replacement parts for your favourite gear, especially if you’re planning to stay longer.
Money and prices in Barbados
Barbados’ currency is the Barbados Dollar (BBD). Two Barbados Dollar equal one US Dollar. Since Barbados is an island amidst the Atlantic Ocean and everything, which doesn’t grow or cannot be produced on the island itself, has to be imported, grocery prices are quite high. If you’re living on a budget and have an accommodation with a cooking facility, stick to locally grown fruit and vegetables from the markets, and of course fish, to prepare healthy meals at home without breaking the bank.
Nightlife in Barbados
Barbados is known as a party nation and indeed it’s not hard to find something for every music taste. Most bars and clubs are located in St. Lawrence Gap, about 10 minutes by car from the kite beach. The famous Harbour Lights Nightclub in Bridgetown is an outdoor nightclub where guests pay a flat entrance fee of 65 BBD, including unlimited alcoholic drinks.
Kitesurfing in Barbados – the verdict
To sum it up, out of all places where I have kited so far around the world, Barbados is still number one for me. I guess it’s the unique combination of great wind and wave conditions, perfect weather, friendly people and happy, relaxed lifestyle that make Barbados so special. I’m definitely heading back there soon.