Just Add Water: Family Fun in Barbados
Ocean attractions a highlight of island vacation
Let’s face it, the ocean is the main attraction for most families visiting an island like Barbados.
With a surface area of only 166 square miles, if it’s not the coastline you’re after, you’ve probably picked the wrong destination. Whether you’re on it, in it or under it, the ocean is where most of the family fun is at in Barbados. Here are some suggestions to sink into.
This is an obvious recommendation – who comes to Barbados without going to the beach? However, which beaches are safe for young kids and which are good for older wave cravers is not always easy to suss out.
- Rockley Beach (also known as Accra Beach) is a good choice for families. The southern end has a protective reef that juts out and creates a safe, relatively calm, shallow pool for youngsters to paddle in, while the rest of the beach is ideal for confident swimmers and boogie boarders.
- The west coast’s Paynes Bay and Mullins Beach are other family-oriented options that often have water sport rentals like kayaks, jet skis, banana boats and ocean trampolines. Note, the scenic north and east coast, while breathtaking, are too rough for swimming. Watch out for manchineel trees on west coast beaches (usually marked with a red ring around the trunk) – their small, green, crabapple-like fruit can irritate skin if touched.
There’s nothing like spending the day (or at least a few hours) on the open water. Barbados has plenty of boating options that are suitable for the whole family.
One of the big draws are tours up the west coast that let you swim/snorkel with the gentle Hawksbill and Green sea turtles and other marine life teeming around shipwreck sites.
- There are several catamarans that offer 3-5 hour cruises, most including lunch – check out Cool Runnings , El Tigre , or, if you like more speed, the Wildcat power catamaran (246-3687). The Shamon Too (246-233-6089) offers a 2-hour trip up and down the west coast onboard a glass bottom boat. There are opportunities to jump in for a cool swim, or you can simply gaze thought the window at the marine life below.
- The MV Harbour Master has lunch and dinner cruises with calypso entertainment, an onboard crafts village, snorkel stops and a 70-ft. water slide into the ocean. Their Jolly Roger Pirate Ship is due to launch in 2009.
Do you have some wannabe surfer dudes in your family? Kids as young as 6 can learn to ride the waves at some of Barbados’ surf schools, although 9 is the recommended age for group lessons. Some beaches along the south coast have moderate swells suitable for beginners, while others along the powerful east coast are only for the experienced (it’s fun to watch them at Bathsheba’s Soup Bowl).
- Check out Zed’s Surfing Adventures (246-428-SURF), Barbados Surf Trips (246-262-1099) or Burkie’s Surf School (246-228-5117) run by professional surf champion Alan Burke.
The Atlantis Submarine will rate as “cool” to most kids and grownups (minimum height, 3 ft.). On this undersea voyage you’ll dive down 150 ft. into the blue to explore shipwrecks, coral reefs and marine life usually only seen by scuba divers. The waters are teeming with Sergeant Majors, Blue Tang and sea turtles. The entire tour, including boat transfers, takes about 2.5 hours, with 40 minutes onboard the submarine itself.