Open to all is the Tom Fazio 18-hole championship golf course of Sandy Lane Hotel, St. James (tel. 246/444-2000), on the west coast. Greens fees for 18 holes are $235 for nonguests and $200 for guests in winter, and $190 for nonguests and $170 for guests in summer. For its famed "Old Nine" holes, which wind through the estate grounds, cost is $100 for nonguests and $85 for guests year-round.
The Royal Westmoreland Golf and Country Club, Westmoreland, St. James (tel. 246/422-4653; www.royalwestmoreland.com), is the island's premier golf course. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., this 18-hole course is spread across 200 hectares (494 acres) overlooking the Gold Coast. It is part of a private residential community, but it's open for use by any nonmember who agrees to pay the requisite fees and who agrees to tee off any day between 10:20 and 11am. With rental of a golf cart included, the fee for 18 holes is $250.
Barbados Golf Club, Durants, Christ Church (tel. 246/428-8463; fax 256/420-8205; www.barbadosgolfclub.com), on the south coast, opened as Barbados's first public championship golf course in 2000. The 6,800-yard, par-72 course, designed by Ron Kirby, hosted the PGA Seniors Tournament in 2003. Greens fees for 18 holes are $120 (includes cart). A 3-day unlimited golf pass is $300 (includes cart).
The Barbados National Trust (tel. 246/426-2421; http://trust.funbarbados.com) gives Sunday morning hikes throughout the year. Led by young Bajans and members of the National Trust, the popular hikes cover a different area of the island each week. The guides give brief talks on subjects such as geography, history, geology, and agriculture. The hikes, free and open to all ages, are divided into fast, medium, and slow categories, with groups of no more than 10. Hikes leave promptly at 6am and take about 3 hours to complete. There are also hikes at 3:30 and 5:30pm, the latter conducted only on moonlit nights. For more information, contact the Barbados National Trust.
The Arbib Nature & Heritage Trail explores the natural history and heritage of Speightstown, once a major sugar port and even today a fishing town with old houses and a bustling waterfront. The trail takes you through town, the mysterious gully known as "the Whim," and the surrounding districts. The first marked trail is an 8km (5-mile) trek, which begins outside St. Peter's Church in Speightstown, traverses the Whim, crosses one of the last working plantations in Barbados (Warleight), and leads to historic 18th-century Dover Fort, following along white-sand beaches at Heywoods before ending up back in town. For information and reservations, call the Barbados National Trust, and ask for a trail map at the tourist office.
The rugged, dramatic east coast stretches about 25km (16 miles) from the lighthouse at Ragged Point, the easternmost point of Barbados, north along the Atlantic coast to Bathsheba and Pico Teneriffe. This is the island's most panoramic hiking area. Some hardy souls do the entire coast; if your time is limited, try the 6km (3.75-mile) stretch from Ragged Point to Consett Bay, along a rough, stony trail that requires only moderate endurance. Allow at least 2 1/2 hours. A small picnic facility just north of Bathsheba is a popular spot for Bajan families, especially on Sundays. As for information, you're on your own, but if you stick to the coastline, you won't get lost.
A different view of Barbados is provided by Caribbean International Riding Centre, St. Andrew, Sarely Hill (tel. 246/422-7433). With nearly 40 horses, it offers a variety of trail rides for all levels of experience, ranging from a 1 1/2-hour jaunt for $80 to a 2 1/2-hour trek for $100. You'll ride through the hilly terrain of the Scotland district; along the way, you can see wild ducks and water lilies, with the rhythm of the Atlantic as background music.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
The clear waters off Barbados have a visibility of more than 30m (98 ft.) most of the year. More than 50 varieties of fish are found on the shallow inside reefs, and there's an unusually high concentration of hawksbill turtles. On night dives, you can spot sleeping fish, night anemones, lobsters, moray eels, and octopuses. Diving is concentrated on the leeward west and south coasts, where hard corals grow thick along the crest of the reef, and orange elephant ear, barrel sponge, and rope sponge cascade down the drop-off of the outer reef.
On a 2km-long (1 1/4-mile) coral reef 2 minutes by boat from Sandy Beach, sea fans, corals, gorgonians, and reef fish are plentiful. J.R., a dredge barge sunk as an artificial reef in 1983, is popular with beginners for its coral, fish life, and 6m (20-ft.) depth. The Berwyn, a coral-encrusted tugboat that sank in Carlisle Bay in 1916, attracts photographers for its variety of reef fish, shallow depth, good light, and visibility.
Asta Reef, made from another wreck that was sunk in 1986, has a drop of 24m (79 ft.), as well as coral, sea fans, and reef fish in abundance. Dottins, the most beautiful reef on the west coast, stretches 8km (5 miles) from Holetown to Bridgetown and has numerous dive sites at an average depth of 12m (39 ft.), with drop-offs of 30m (98 ft.). The SS Stavronikita, a Greek freighter, is a popular site for advanced divers. Crippled by fire in 1976, the 106m (348-ft.) freighter was sunk .4km (1/4 mile) off the west coast to become an artificial reef in Folkestone Underwater Park, north of Holetown. The mast is 12m high (39 ft.), the deck 24m (79 ft.), and the keel 36m (118 ft.). You might spot barracuda, moray eels, and a vibrant coat of bright yellow tube sponge, delicate pink rope sponge, and crimson encrusting sponge there. The park offers an underwater snorkel trail, plus glass-bottom boat rides, making it a family favorite.
The Dive Shop, Pebbles Beach, Aquatic Gap, St. Michael (tel. 888/898-3483 in the U.S., or 246/426-9947; www.divebds.com), offers some of the best scuba diving on Barbados, charging $60 for a one-tank dive and $100 for a two-tank dive, including equipment. Every day three dive trips go out to the nearby reefs and wrecks; snorkeling trips and equipment rentals are also available. Visitors with reasonable swimming skills who have never dived before can sign up for a resort course. Priced at $85, these include pool training, safety instructions, and a one-tank open-water dive. The establishment is NAUI- and PADI-certified and is open Sunday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Other dive shops in Barbados that rent or sell snorkeling equipment include Hazell's Water World, Bridgetown, St. Michael (tel. 246/426-4043).
Several companies also operate snorkeling cruises that take you to particularly picturesque areas.
The big hotels have tennis courts that can be reserved even if you're not a guest. In Barbados most tennis players still wear traditional whites. Folkestone Park, Holetown (tel. 246/422-2314), has a free public tennis court. Courts at the Barbados Squash Club, Marine Gardens, Hastings, St. Michael (tel. 246/427-7913; www.squashbarbados.org), can be reserved for $20 for 45 minutes.
Experts say the windsurfing off Barbados is as good as any this side of Hawaii, and has turned into a very big business between November and April, attracting windsurfers from as far away as Finland, Argentina, and Japan. The shifting of the trade winds between November and May and the shallow offshore reef of Silver Sands create unique conditions of wind and wave swells. This allows windsurfers to reach speeds of up to 50 knots and do complete loops off the waves. Silver Sands is rated the best spot in the Caribbean for advanced windsurfing (skill rating of 5-6).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.