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Cycling Barbados:
your ultimate guide

Is Barbados on your list of must-visit cycling destinations? No? It wasn’t on ours either. But in need of some winter sun in a family-friendly destination, we booked a trip. We had low expectations for quality riding, but hoped that the island’s extensive road network would permit some training. Turns out, we loved it.

With 1,600km (990 miles) of roads, varied terrain, beautiful scenery and stunning weather, cycling Barbados is a great choice for anyone wanting to combine a holiday in the sun with cycling, whether daily training or one-off rides. Road surfaces are sometimes sketchy and traffic is heavy in places. But roads criss-cross the island, so it’s easy to escape the traffic, choose the sort of terrain you want to ride and get to see the real Barbados that most tourists never experience. At home, we’re used to riding in London and the narrow lanes of the Surrey Hills: riding Barbados’ roads was no big shock.

Biking in Barbados is a popular local pastime; we saw lots of local roadies out by themselves, and in groups, throughout the two weeks we were there. Triathlon is also popular, with kids triathlons throughout the year, an ITU sprint triathlon in April each year and the Barbados National triathlon in September/October. The Barbados Cycling Union is active, there is a strong racing scene and Barbados regularly hosts the Caribbean Road Race Championships. 2017 saw the first Barbados Cycling Festival. This short video, made by the organisers, says it all:

Barbados is also an excellent choice for family holidays and if you’re with non-cyclists. On top of the watersports, boat trips and impressive coastline, you can explore the island’s colonial history through its plantation houses and rum distilleries. There are green monkeys to be seen at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, or just scampering around the roadside. There are also beautiful gardens, impressive caves and a wide range of restaurants and cafés serving good quality local and international cuisine. Read our article on things to do in Barbados for more.

Read on for the best Bajan cycling routes, places to stay, bike hire options and more!

(Banner photo credit: Vyshnivskyy/Shutterstock.com)

BARBADOS CYCLING ROUTES

Below you’ll find some of our favourite rides. Do also read out general tips for cycling in Barbados. If you’re going to plan your own ride on Barbados, these tips may help:

  • The roads hugging the south and west coasts are generally flat.
  • There is a central band of hills that runs down the spine of the country (for example Mount Hillaby, White Hill, Cherry Tree Hill and see our hilly ride east of Holetown). Many of the longer climbs are in this band.
  • There is also a band of hills running north-south between the interior and the east coast road (for example Horse Hill, Stewarts Hill). These hills have particularly severe gradients and many are in poor condition. The upside is fantastic scenery.

Guide to Northern Barbados

  • Distance: 46km
  • Elevation: 580m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Barbados Coast to Coast Loop

  • Distance: 70km
  • Elevation: 1,1600m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

Southern Barbados Loop

  • Distance: 56km
  • Elevation: 520m
  • Difficulty:
  • Epic rating:

2017 was the Year of Sports in Barbados. As part of this, they ran a cycling festival which included a 95km gold route and a 63km silver route. Check out the gold route here and the silver route here.

ACCOMMODATION

This section includes details of hotels and villas we have either stayed in or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a booking, we may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy for further information.

Which area to stay in Barbados

The first thing to consider is which part of the island to stay in. The best riding is inland and east whereas most of the hotels and the best beaches for swimming and kids are in the south and west.

West: This is the most upmarket area of the island, with large resort hotels and privately owned beachside villas. The busy west coast road passes the front door of these properties, but with the calm, turquoise Caribbean on the other side, you probably don’t notice it. Often referred to as the Platinum Coast.

South: Hotels are generally more mid-range and mix in with holiday apartment blocks, shops, restaurants, bars and locals going about their everyday life. Beaches are excellent, wide and with white sand. The warm Caribbean laps the beaches and ranges from flat and calm to mid sized waves.

East: This area has a very different feel to the west and south. It’s far less populated and there are fewer hotels and holiday villas too. Beaches are strewn with seaweed, there are lots of waves, currents are fierce and the Atlantic air is full of salt.

North: The least touristy area of the island with few beaches and little holiday accommodation.

Inland: The place to discover abandoned windmills, forgotten factories and plantation buildings from colonial times, churches, tropical gardens and rum distilleries.

Where to stay in barbados?

Our choice: Sapphire Beach Condos

We stayed in the southwest of Barbados. We had one night at Coral Mist Hotel on Worthing beach and eleven nights at Sapphire Beach Condos on Dover beach.  

We cannot recommend Coral Mist.

However, we were really happy with our two bedroom apartment in St Lawrence Gap. Each apartment in the Sapphire Beach Condos is individually owned and we found ours through Ownersdirect. Three bedroom apartments are also available.

Sapphire beach condos, viewed from Dover beach

View from our first floor apartment

Gym within the apartment block

What we loved

  • The apartments are in the St Lawrence Gap area. This location worked well for us, with a good range of shops, restaurants and bars within walking distance, good transport links, lovely beaches and a friendly atmosphere. With young children, we weren’t interested in staying out late but there was certainly that option if you wanted it.
  • Another advantage of St Lawrence Gap is that it is on a one-way system, off the main road. This meant that traffic noise was minimal.The apartment is light and airy.
  • Views to the pool, and beyond that to the beach, are a real highlight.
  • Being on two levels means you get a lovely sea view terrace from the first floor but can access the pool and beach directly from the lower level. If you were travelling with two families/couples it would also It also offer some additional privacy.
  • We found the beds very comfortable, there were plenty of towels and housekeeping came in three times during our stay, to change linen, towels and clean up.The kitchen was well equipped and there were washing and drying facilities.
  • TVs in the lounge and two bedrooms - though we didn’t use them. Wifi worked well.
  • Being able to walk straight out of the apartment into the nicely landscaped gardens, to the pool and then straight on to the beach (via a gate with a keypad), was massively convenient. Dover beach was a great beach to be on: for more information read our things to do article.
  • There is 24-hour security and both the security guard and gardeners that we met were very friendly.
  • We didn’t use the gym, but the equipment looked in good condition.

Things to know

  • In the bedroom facing the street, there was a bit of noise from the bars (and cockerels in the morning, a common issue throughout Barbados!), but nothing that ear plugs didn’t sort out. This wasn’t an issue at all in the bedroom at the back.
  • There are a few bars and restaurants just outside the apartments, but most of our favourites were about 10 minutes walk away at the entrance to St Lawrence Gap.

conclusion

  • We enjoyed our stay at Sapphire Beach Condos in St Lawrence Gap and would recommend our apartment to friends. It was comfortable and well located for the beach and restaurants. For cyclists, St Lawrence Gap is a good location as you’re close to some of the best road surfaces on the island and can quickly escape the traffic heading up the west coast. You’re also 8 minutes walk from the excellent Bike Caribbean bicycle shop, which is a good bonus. 

HOTELS

We would also consider the hotels below for a future holiday. A two-base holiday could work and provide a more varied experience with the opportunity to easily cycle different parts of the island.

Please note we haven’t visited all of these hotels and you’ll need to double-check with them about storage if you’re planning on taking a bike.

HOTELS WEST COAST BARBADOS

Sandy Lane Hotel (5 star)

It would be wrong to prepare a list of places to stay in Barbados without including Sandy Lane. It is one of the most famous luxury resorts in the world, and for good reason. Built from coral stone, set in a mahogany grove overlooking a white sand beach and the Caribbean, it’s an outstanding place with awesome service. For a hotel frequented by the rich and famous, it’s somehow surprising that Sandy Lane is very family friendly with a complimentary kids club for 3-12-year-olds. Facilities are second to none, with three golf courses, spa, fitness centre, nine tennis courts, four restaurants and give bars.

This place definitely has the wow factor.

The hotel confirmed they would store our bike in their bell closet (a secured storage area, available 24 hours a day, which is only accessible to our bell desk team) but it could not be stored in our room.

The Sandpiper (5 star)

This is the sort of place people come back to year after year. It’s luxurious (it’s a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World) yet it’s family run and has a charming, homely atmosphere. The tropical gardens are wonderful, the beach is attractive (if narrow) and Holetown is within walking distance.

Watersports are complementary and there’s tennis, a fitness centre and pool too. The pool is 60 foot (about 18 metres) long and is a lap pool, so a possibility for triathletes looking for a pool rather than the sea.

The hotel confirmed that our bike could be stored in our room.

The Little Good Harbour (4 star)

5km north of gorgeous Speightstown, this family run, villa style hotel has two pools and a good restaurant. It’s on the seafront but its beach is not great. However, there are good, quiet beaches within walking distance. This is the place to come if you are looking for peace and don’t mind walking or driving to get to restaurants and shops.

The hotel confirmed that our bike could be stored in our room.

The Tamarind (4 star)

This is a great choice for families. It’s four star luxury but informal, with a great kids club and three pools (one adult only). It’s at the southern end of Paynes Bay, one of the best west coast beaches (though it can get busy with people coming in to swim with the turtles). There are complimentary watersports available too and you can even go to one of their sister properties by complimentary water taxi.

HOTELS EAST COAST BARBADOS

The Atlantis Hotel (3 star)

This small hotel is located in the fishing village of Tent Bay, a short walk from Bathsheba and overlooking the spectacular, Atlantic Ocean.  It’s famous across the island for its Wednesday and Sunday buffet lunches. Outside those times, expect little noise other than crashing waves. It’s a comfortable, rather than luxurious sort of a place, with a colonial-chic vibe and an inn-like feel to it. This could be a great choice if you’re after a second base for your holiday: it would make a fabulous contrast with a stay on the south or west coasts.

The hotel confirmed that our bike could be stored in our room.

HOTELS SOUTH COAST BARBADOS

Sugar Bay (4 star)

Located within the Bridgetown garrison, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this all-inclusive hotel is on a gorgeous, white sand beach. It has a modern feel and guests comment on the excellent staff. There are five restaurants as well as bars on the beachfront and in the pool. There are two pools and is a great option for families due to the spacious family rooms and suites, the kids' and teens clubs and crèche and the fact infants and one child (3-16) are free.

Little Arches

If you’re travelling as a couple, this hideaway is good to know about. It’s opposite Miami beach, which was one of our favourite places to swim as it’s one of the calmest bays on the south coast, a spot where locals come to swim and relax. The hotel has a small pool, a great restaurant (Cafe Luna) and excellent service. The hotel confirmed that our bike could be stored in our room.

BIKE Rental Barbados

Quality road bike hire on Barbados is limited. Your safest bet is to bring your own. We tried both options with one rider bringing their own and the other hiring. We were based in St Lawrence Gap so Bike Caribbean was a very convenient choice (#9 Mirabelle Apartments, St Lawrence Gap BB15018, Barbados).

Bike Caribbean, Barbados bike hire

Bike Caribbean is run by Natalie, originally from the UK, and Randy, born and raised on Barbados.

Natalie runs the office; Randy is in charge of the bikes. They’re very friendly and hugely enthusiastic about cycling Barbados. They run road and mountain bike tours around Barbados, hire bikes and Randy also does repairs (see below). When we visited in 2017, they had three road bikes for hire and some mountain bikes with either mountain bike tires or slicks, depending on what kind of ride you want to do. They will also drop bikes to you, if it’s not convenient to come into their shop. Their hire includes helmet, puncture repair kit and lock.

Looking for a bicycle shop on Barbados?

Randy at Bike Caribbean (#9 Mirabelle Apartments, St Lawrence Gap BB15018, Barbados) is an experienced mechanic. He told us he has run a bike repair business since he was 14 years old so you should be in safe hands.

If you need bike accessories, Bike Caribbean may be able to help you out. Alternatively, head to Taylor’s Cycle Centre, St Michael Row, Bridgetown, which sells bikes and accessories.

Tips for Barbados bicycle rental

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    Book your bike in advance, particularly in peak season.
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    Remember to bring your pedals, shoes and helmet. This packing list may help!
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    Check which way around your brakes are set before you ride away (i.e. whether the front brakes are on the right hand (as is usual in the UK) or on the left (as is usual elsewhere in Europe). Also take a look at our list of things to check before hiring a bike.

Undecided on whether to hire a bike or bring your own? Read this now.

WHEN TO GO

With its tropical climate, Barbados is a year-round destination. The absolute best time to visit is between mid-December and mid-April, when it’s coolest (due to the cooling trade winds) and driest. The rest of the year, it tends to be hotter (as the trade winds die back) and wetter. That said, you get rain at any time of year! It is likely to be heavy but blow over quickly (particularly between December and April). 

The downside of visiting between December and April is that it coincides with winter in the USA and UK (where most visitors come from), so it’s peak season with a consequent effect on prices. Also bear in mind the Crop Over festival when Bajans return from all over the world and partying goes on for five weeks from mid-July. A final note, hurricane season in the Caribbean is June to November, though Barbados hasn’t been hit by a major hurricane since 1955.

December

Beautifully hot and the intense heat is kept at bay by cooling winds. It’s also a little cooler at night (but still no need for long shirt sleeves!). Rain tends to take the form of short, sharp downpours.

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    Average highs: 29-30℃
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    Rainfall: 36-105mm, 17-23 days per month

January

February

March

April

May

Temperatures remain high, but the cooling winds die back. Rainfall increases, but still takes the form of intense downpours rather than all day rain. Hurricane seasons runs from June to October and particularly August to October.

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    Average highs: 30-31℃
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    Rainfall: 74-187mm, 19-25 days per month

June

July

August

September

October

November

TIPS AND ARTICLES

This section includes details of products we have either used and liked or which we think look great. Full disclosure: if you click on a link and make a purchase, we will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure policy (which includes our Amazon Associates disclosure) for further information.


BOOKS

I haven’t come across any books about cycling in Barbados, but these look like great reads for before your trip or while you’re there:

Historical non-fiction

Beach fiction

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    The Turtle Run by Marie Evelyn: A woman goes to Barbados to research British rebel history. But the Caribbean paradise isn’t all that it seems. 
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    Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me: A feel-good novel of friendship and love by Caroline James. A romcom read about a woman who goes on holiday to Barbados, setting off a course of events that brings mayhem and madness. The book was a finalist at The Write Stuff - London Book Fair 2015.

Life in Barbados

Cycle maps

Good to know

Do you need a tour guide for Barbados cycling?

For those with limited time on the island, who are nervous about going it alone or who don’t want to have to worry about navigation, getting a cycle guide may be a good idea, even just for a day or two.

I did two days of cycling with Randy from Bike Caribbean and loved the rides he took me on. He’s been cycling Barbados all his life and seems to know every road on the island. Randy tailored the itinerary to what I wanted to see and how fast I rode which provided a memorable couple of days of cycling. Though I paid for a group tour, I was the only client, and the company seems to go out of its way to provide private tours, rather than cluster cyclists together in groups. I originally only booked one day of cycling, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to book another. Bike Caribbean also offer bike hire and repairs.

Randy is also a keen mountain biker and leads mountain biking tours too. Another option is Mountain Bike Barbados (check out their Facebook page).

Useful information

Money
  • The Barbados dollar is tied to the US dollar at $1US:$1.98BDS though everyone just seems to work to 2BDS to 1US.
  • When we visited from the UK, we found Barbados expensive due to the GBP:$US exchange rate. A few tips to save money in Barbados:
  • When we visited from the UK, we found Barbados expensive due to the GBP:$US exchange rate. A few tips to save money in Barbados:
  • If you end up self-catering in the St Lawrence Gap area, do your best to avoid the over-priced, small supermarkets on the Gap one way system. Instead, get a bus or taxi to the TriMart, Rendezvous Hill, Christ Church or the Massey supermarket, just around the corner from there, on Peronne Plaza, Worthing. You’ll save a lot of money and have a much wider choice! Massey even stocks Waitrose products (at a price…).
  • If you’re a National Trust member in the UK, take your National Trust card to Barbados. It will give you significant discounts if you visit any Barbados National Trust properties.
  • Many restaurants automatically add a 10-15% service charge and also a line for a tip on top of that. We viewed the extra tip as entirely at our discretion and only paid it where we received excellent service.
  • Taxis are not metered so agree the fare before you start out.Far cheaper than a taxi though is a bus. Try catching one of the public buses or minibuses that ply the main road of the south and west coast. It’s a great way to get a glimpse of local life - and a taste of the Bajan’s love for music.
practical matters
  • There is little fluctuation in daylight hours through the year. Roughly speaking: November-March: Sunrise 6-6:30am, sunset 5:30-6pm. April-October: Sunrise 5:30-6am, sunset 6-6:30pm.
  • Barbados is 4 hours behind GMT. During winter it is 4 hours behind the UK (5 hours behind the rest of Europe) and an hour ahead of the Eastern US.
  • Emergency numbers: Police - 211; Ambulance - 311; Fire department - 511.
  • The following are illegal: wearing camouflage clothes, smoking in public places and topless or nude sunbathing.
  • Cars drive on the left side - as in the UK. Take particular care when driving at night because of narrow roads with no hard shoulder and frequent pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
  • Other than for the big supermarkets and restaurants, most shops are shut on a Sunday.
  • If you hear locals speaking to each other, you’d be forgiven thinking that they were speaking a different language. In fact, everyone speaks English, they just speak so quickly - and miss out words - so that it can often sound like a different language! There are no private beaches in Barbados - they are open to all.

Pub quiz knowledge: a bluffer’s guide to Barbados

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    Barbados celebrated 50 years of independence in 2016. It remains a member of the Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth II is the titular head of state.
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    Barbados is 21 miles long and 14 miles wide. It is the easternmost island in the Caribbean and is northeast of Venezuela and west of Africa.
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    Unlike many of the Caribbean islands which were formed from volcanoes, Barbados is a mixture of limestone and coral. The compacted coral provided European settlers with quarries from which to extract building material. St Nicholas Abbey, the Principal’s Lodge at Codrington College and Drax Hall Plantation Great House are early examples.
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    The highest point of the island is Mount Hillaby, at 1,089 feet.The country is divided into 11 parishes, all named after Saints.The hurricane seasons runs from June to November. Barbados has not had a major hurricane since 1955, but that could of course change.
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    At the height of British rule, more than 500 windmills dotted the landscape, powering rollers that crushed juice from sugar cane stalks to produce sugar and rum.
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    Sandy Lane Hotel is Barbados’s most famous hotel. It was built by Ronald Tree in 1961. He included a golf course and strategically located house lots for sale. The owners of the houses had (and still have today) the right to use the golf course, hotel facilities and beach, making it the first resort in Barbados.
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    Port Ferdinand Marina is an exclusive development and the only marina in Barbados where each apartment has its own berth.The north east of Barbados, around Cattlewash and Bathsheba, are known as the “Scotland District” - you’ll immediately see why if and when you visit!
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    If you see a sleek brown creature with a bushy tail, dashing across the road in front of you, fear not. It’s a mongoose! They were brought to the island in 1879 to combat a rat problem. It’s meant to be good luck to have one cross the road in front of you.
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    The National dish of Barbados is cou-cou, made with cornmeal and okras, and flying fish, prepared in an aromatic sauce of tomato, onion, chives, thyme, fresh pepper, garlic and herbs.
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    Chattel houses are moveable houses, distinctive to Barbados. You’ll see them all over the place, built on blocks so if the owner had to move to another area, he could take his house with him.
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    If you see “dolphin” on the menu, don’t worry, it is in fact Mahi Mahi.
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    Mount Gay Rum was first produced in 1703 and is one of the oldest rum brands in the world. It is sold in over 66 countries, particularly the USA.

What's next?

  • Did you find this guide useful? Let us know in the comments below!

Don’t miss our posts on the best things to do and places to eat in Barbados. You’ll see our other articles on Barbados below.

Want to check out some other destinations? Search by the month you want to travel or cycling destination you want to visit, here.

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The best St Lawrence Gap restaurants, Barbados
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Southern Barbados loop
Our guide to an awesome route through little-explored Southern Barbados. Highlights include sugar cane plantations, Saint John parish church and some of Barbados's best asphalt!
Barbados coast to coast loop
Our guide to a tough ride over some of Barbados's most difficult climbs. Your reward is finding the Barbados most people never see, quiet roads and beautiful scenery.
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