Adventures Made Easy
Diving in Barbados couldn't be easier. The waters are calm, the boat rides relaxing, and a bounty of wrecks and reefs await discovery at moderate depths. But don't equate easy with boring, as an abundance of marine life and a diverse underwater landscape provide ample variety. And those seeking adventure can delve a bit deeper to discover a slightly wilder side to this decidedly civilized island. Known as the friendliest folk in the Caribbean, Barbadians, aka Bajans, offer a gregarious welcome to one and all to an island that still serves High English Tea mid afternoon, then pulses to African roots at night.
- Best for: Novice to accomplished divers who enjoy a balanced combination of wrecks and reefs
- Best season to visit: Year round for diving, winter if also kiting or surfing, summer to dive the east coast
- Weather: Dry season runs from December to May, while the months of June to November may see passing rain squalls that have no effect on water quality. Trade winds moderate air temperatures, which remain in the 90s in summer and may dip into the low 70s in winter
About Diving in Barbados
Almost all diving in Barbados takes place on the island's sheltered western and southern coasts. Average visibility is in the 70-foot range, while sites farther from shore and to the north may see 100-foot days. Shipwrecks within the Carlisle Bay Marine Park sit at depths of 60 feet, providing ample no-stop time for exploration. During calmer weather, some shops may schedule dives to the island's east coast. Water temperatures range from 77°F in winter to 84°F in summer.
Diving in Barbados Tips
Because the island sits south and east of the Windward Island chain, it has been historically less susceptible to hurricanes. This can make summer a good time to visit, as temperatures remain mild, room rates are often lower and turtles arrive to nest, and are more frequently seen on area reefs.
Best Places to Dive in Barbados
The shipwrecks of Carlisle Bay are a must-do that is within the comfort zone of most all divers. The Pamir provides an easy introduction to wreck diving, while the Friar's Craig combines an interesting wreck and a vibrant reef at one site. Top reef dives include Bell Buoy and Maycocks Bank, and divers comfortable at depths of 100 feet should include the Stavronikita and Shark Bank.
What to Pack for Diving in Barbados
A skin suit or 3mm shorty, and add a vest or light head cover for second dives in the winter season. Bring a compact underwater light to brighten up the wrecks or illuminate reclusive marine life in the cracks and crevices that punctuate many of the reefs.
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Diving in Barbados
There's no need to choose between wrecks and reefs when diving Barbados, as both coexist in close proximity just off the island's western coast. The majority of these ships were sunk intentionally and positioned at diver-friendly depths. The centerpiece of the island's wreck collection is Carlisle Bay, which is home to six wrecks ranging from barges and passenger vessels to historic war wrecks. Sitting upright and rising to just ten feet below the surface, the 60-foot tugboat Berwin is a favorite shallow stop. Scuttled by a mutinous crew in 1919, this iron vessel has accumulated nearly a century of marine growth. Also rising close to the surface is the island's first tugboat, the 120-foot Bajan Queen. While a bit deeper, the 110-foot Elion provides divers with an opportunity to swim through a hold that smugglers once packed with bales of pot. The wreck with the most interesting backstory is undoubtedly the Cornwallis, a Canadian-flagged freighter that was torpedoed by a German U-boat, re-floated and repaired, only to be torpedoed a second time. Years later, the wreck was relocated to Carlisle Bay to join the sunken fleet. Due to the relatively shallow depths and proximity of these wrecks to one another, it's possible to visit several wrecks on one dive. When transiting between wrecks, it's not uncommon to encounter stingrays and turtles, and the sand bottom is littered with nautical jetsam such as anchors and even a cannon. Pause for a closer look under some of this debris and you might locate one of the resident frogfish. Other noteworthy wrecks not found in Carlisle Bay include the 165-foot Pamir resting at a depth of 60 feet, and the 160-foot Friar's Craig, which has become a fish haven at a depth of 50 feet. The big dog of Barbados wrecks is the Stavronikita. This 365-foot Greek-flagged freighter caught fire while en route from Ireland to the Caribbean carrying a cargo of cement. The fire-damaged hulk was towed to Barbados, stripped and cleaned, then sent to rest on the sea floor at depths from 100 to 120 feet. Though considered an advanced dive due to the depths, the wreck has been prepped for safe penetrations, and there are no strong currents. There are more than 30 named reef sites on Barbados’s western and southern coasts, some starting in as little as 20 feet of water, with much more beginning in depths of 40 to 50 feet and dropping below 100. Topographies range from gentle to steep slopes, with some vertical sections and the occasional mini wall. Most sites are covered in a mixture of hard and soft corals and attract the usual range of Caribbean suspects, including barracuda, turtles, rays, angelfish and parrotfish. The large bell-shaped coral head aptly named Bell Buoy is one of the island's most popular dives, as is Horseshoe Reef, where conservations efforts have resulted in a revitalization of this landmark site. The reef at Dottins is the top pick for night dives. For something different, Macock's Reef offers a series of high profile spur-and-groove coral heads separated by sand channels, while Shark Bank provides a coral wall that drops from 60 to 140 feet, giving advanced divers an opportunity to practice multi-level skills. When summer lulls in the trade winds occur, several dive shops can arrange for trips to the island's seldom-dove east coast, where steep underwater topography includes walls, caverns and deep overhangs, along with the possibility of shark sightings.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry/Exit Requirements: Entry into Barbados requires a valid passport. Visas are not required for U.S. Citizens with stays of less than 6 months.
Check the Entry/Exit Requirements here.
No vaccinations or preventative medications are required for travel to Bonaire. Check with the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov
Culture and Customs
Stroll down St. Michael’s Row from the Parliament Building to Queen's Park and you might imagine you were in a warmer version of England. At least until a passing local calls out a lilting “good day.” Then you'll know you're in the Caribbean. Barbados offers a unique mix of British infrastructure and African roots, and its people are known for their lighthearted attitude to live and their civility. Oral traditions honed generations ago around equatorial cook fires live on in a love for storytelling, an appreciation for the double entendre and a wealth of colorful colloquialisms. Cultural fusions are heard in the music of tuk bands, which get feet moving with an infectious blend of African rhythms and British folk tunes. Barbados is a sporting island. Cricket is still king, but football, rugby union and basketball matches will all draw a crowd. A uniquely Bajan invention is road tennis, which is a fast-paced blend of tennis and ping-pong played on a swath of tarmac using a six-inch net and wooden paddles. Winter visitors can enjoy an assortment of festivals devoted to food, wine, chocolate, song and art, but the island's big event is the summer's Crop Over Festival, which keeps the party going with a full twelve weeks of dances, parties and parades. Another ongoing island tradition is the weekly fish fry's that take place at locations such as Oistins Bay Garden. In addition to savory seafood offerings, these community gatherings become outdoor concerts and lively marketplaces for arts and crafts.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in Barbados is 115/230 volts/50 cycles. Standard plugs use 2 flat pin or 2 flat pin plus 1 round grounding plug. North American appliances and electronics will not need a converter.
The island uses solar power mainly for hot-water systems.
There are a few on island phone and internet suppliers that you can use if you have an international plan on your cell phone or roaming charges will apply. Most hotels offer WiFi, as well as some restaurants, bars, coffee shops and cafes.
The international direct dialing code/area code for Barbados is (1–246), followed by a seven-digit local number.
Barbados was one of the first Caribbean Islands to have piped water, it is safe to drink right from the tap.
Language & Currency
English is the official language of Barbados, although the Bajan dialect, which is a combination of British English and various West African languages, can be heard all around the island.
The local currency is the Barbados Dollar. The Barbados Dollar is fixed to the US Dollar at a rate of 1 USD = 1.98 BDS. Check the current rate here.
US currency is accepted across the island, and most stores and restaurants accept major credit cards.
There are many commercial banks in Barbados (mostly British and Canadian) and most have ATM's that will accept credit cards. They all dispense funds in Barbados dollars at the current rate of exchange. Make sure to have your PIN number and to let your credit card company know you will be out of the country so the charge will go through. Local currency offers $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 bills and coins of 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents and $1.
Barbados is in the Atlantic Time Zone (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Barbados is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
Barbados is the Easternmost island in the Caribbean. Barbados is in the West Indies and located in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is approximately 300 miles north of Venezuela. Barbados is 166 square miles, divided into 11 parishes. Its capital city is Bridgetown,
Barbados is 21 miles long and 14 miles wide.
Driving in Barbados is on the left side of the road and the majority of vehicles are “right-hand drive.” The island has an extensive road network of paved roads. A highway links the north and the south of the island. There are a number of ways to get around the island by hired car, taxis and buses; all are safe, reliable and convenient. The population of Barbados is 285,006 (2016).