The island's beaches are all open to the public -- even those in front of the big resort hotels and private homes -- and the government requires that there be access to all beaches via roads along the property line or through hotel entrances. The beaches on the west coast -- also known as the Gold Coast, or in recent years, Platinum Coast  -- are the most popular.

On the West (Platinum) Coast

The waters are calm here. Major beaches include Paynes Bay, which is accessed from the Coach House, south of Holetown, and has a parking area. This is a good choice for watersports, especially snorkeling. The beach can get rather crowded, but the beautiful bay is worth the effort. Directly south of Payne's Bay, at Fresh Water Bay, are three of the best west-coast beaches: Brighton Beach, Brandon's Beach, and Paradise Beach.

We also recommend Mullins Beach, where the glassy-blue waters attract snorkelers. There's parking on the main road and some shady areas. At the Mullins Beach Bar, you can order that rum drink you've been craving.

On the South Coast

Almond Beach (also known as Casuarina Beach) is accessed from Maxwell Coast Road, behind the Casuarina Beach Hotel. This is one of Barbados's wider beaches, and it's cooled by trade winds even on the hottest August days. Windsurfers are especially fond of this one. Food and drink can be ordered at the hotel.

Silver Sands Beach, to the east of Oistins, is near the southernmost point of Barbados, directly east of South Point Lighthouse and near the Silver Rock Hotel. This white-sand beach is a favorite with many Bajans (who would probably like to keep it a secret from tourists). The Silver Rock Bar sells drinks.

Sandy Beach, accessible via the parking lot on the Worthing main road, has tranquil waters opening onto a lagoon. It's a family favorite, and especially boisterous on weekends. Food and drinks are available.

On the Southeast Coast

The southeast coast is the site of big waves, especially at Crane Beach, the white-sand strip set against a backdrop of palms that you may have seen in travel magazines. The beach is spectacular, and Prince Andrew, who has a house overlooking it, might agree. It offers excellent bodysurfing, but at times the waters may be too rough for all but the strongest swimmers; take appropriate precautions. The beach is set against cliffs, and Crane Beach Hotel towers above.

Bottom Bay, north of Sam Lord's Castle Resort, is one of our Bajan favorites. Park on top of a cliff, then walk down the steps to this much-photographed tropical beach with its grove of coconut palms; there's even a cave. The sand is brilliantly white against the aquamarine sea, a picture-postcard-perfect beach paradise.

On the East (Atlantic) Coast

The miles and miles of uncrowded beaches on the rougher Atlantic side are ideal for strolling, but swimming can be dangerous. Waves are extremely high, and the bottom tends to be rocky. The currents are also unpredictable. Many travelers enjoy the rugged grandeur of these beaches, especially those in the Bathsheba/Cattlewash areas.

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.