Is Barbados on your list of must-visit cycling destinations?
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.
Read on for the best Bajan cycling routes, places to stay, bike hire options and more!
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Why should cyclists consider Barbados?
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.
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:
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.
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.
What we loved
Things to know
- 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.
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.
Remember to double-check accommodation bike storage arrangements (and any other services you need) before booking as policies often change.
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.
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
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.|
|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.|
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:
Life in Barbados
- We used ridewithgps.com for route planning and then uploaded the route to our Garmin. However it is sometimes helpful to have a physical map, and this looks a good option.
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).
Pub quiz knowledge: a bluffer’s guide to Barbados
Did you find this guide useful? Let us know in the comments below!
Don’t miss our posts on the best things to do in Barbados. You’ll see our other articles on Barbados below.
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