Just before Christmas. Thinking about Barbados because wife and daughter want to snorkle while we want to surf. Most places w/ waves are too stirred up ( like Costa Rica ) for good snorkeling. Seems like Barbados has both. If anybody has any intel on the place I would like to hear it. The island is only like 12 miles long so if we rent a viila and a car we should be able to go anywhere (?). Is it nice? Super crowded? Anybody have a better option? S Pacific is too far for 1 week.
wife and I did our honeymoon there last november. Definitely recommended. With three distinct coasts, you have a lot of different options. In general: the east coast is rough, the west coast is calm, and the south coast is in between. That's an over-simplification, of course. You can almost guarantee that you'll find something to surf.
Soup bowls is the famous spot, but some of the west coast spots are pretty awesome when they're on. You might need a guide to get you to one that's working. You might stop at one beach and it's flat as a lake, but drive up the road and it's head high.
You can get almost anywhere on the island if you rent a car, but there's basically only one "highway" and it's mostly back roads. Pretty easy to get lost.
Most of the population is centered in the southwest corner, and the south and west coast are pretty well populated, but not overcrowded. The rest of the country is pretty rural.
Barbados is the best place on earth, period. Well, I guess it was until they instituted a VAT.... now everything you do is just as expensive as in the states. Anyway, here is a brief outline off the top of my head, will try to add other info later as more people chime in.
-If you are unfamiliar with the island, there is one person to go to who will put you on some waves and good spots: Christian "Boozy" Boose. One of the coolest people in the world by far.
-You will be going in prime time, so where you surf depends on your skill level. I highly suggest you go to MSW and read all of their info on each spot to help you gauge whether you will have fun or be in danger at any particular spot. The usual suspects are Soup Bowls (east coast), Duppies (northwest coast and only works when its big and you'd better be in good shape), Maycocks (west), Sandy Lane (west), Tropicana (west), Southpoint (self-explanatory). I'm not going to give up any lesser known spots--call Boozy. West Coast has lots of fire coral. Duppies breaks .5 miles offshore of cliffs with serious currents. Soup Bowl is by far my favorite wave on the island, lots of urchins though. South Point can get really good but can be really crowded. Nonetheless, it's better to go out early in the day because most of the locals pile into the lineup in the afternoon.
-Go to Oistins Fish Market on Friday evening--eat and party (kid friendly too) like you have never seen.
-The locals are generally really nice. However, respect is EARNED in the lineup--shoulder hopping and not charging are looked down upon.
-Stay away from dudes walking around with little monkeys clinging to them--they are hustlers. They are harmless but will waste your time with monologues of nothingness then ask for money.
-Get a map and study it. Once you figure out the difference between the highways and backroads its not too difficult to get around, just remember it is a giant mountain sticking out of the ocean--roads that look straight on the map ARE NOT STRAIGHT. Get used to driving on the wrong side of the road, very skinny roads at that.
-The island looks small but it's not. You can't see everything in one week.
-Eat at Jus' Grillin' at least once. There are a couple on the SW side of the island.
-Drink rum--Mount Gay and Pussers originated here.
Most importantly HAVE FUN! I am jealous, not going to be making it to paradise this year....
I will chime in again when I think of other stuff.
The comments tell me Barbados is a nice place and not sketchy. We thought about Tortola but someone I talked to whose brother used to have a house there said the place had changed since the cruise ships arrived and that the locals ( this based on multiple visits ) are the most unfriendly they've ever seen. They aren't mean and won't hurt you but they barely tolerate you and it's unpleasant. Plus, it sounds like you have a good chance of going there and getting skunked wave wise.
Barbados is awesome, I have been there many times and was married there back in 2004. I have driven almost ever inch of the island (1800km one one 3 week trip), surfed every named wave according to MSW and several that locals took me too not named of course. December may be too early in the season for pristine snorkeling. You may get lucky but having been there at least 3 times during that time frame, you are more likely to see waves than great snorkeling.
There is plenty to do to keep you busy if you are not surfing or snorkeling. The west coast can start to fire early winter but usually just after the turn of the new year when storms roll off the US. Make sure you are honest with yourself on a skill level, as Erock stated the reefs do not forgive and they are alive.
Stouts car rental is who we have used for all our trips, good people.
Enjoy and if you need any more details looks like a few of us have some.
I second Barbados. Unfortunately I didn't get to surf there as we were only there for a couple of days with no car and there were no waves where we were staying (Oistin Bay - July 2004), but it is a beautiful country with amazing people. If anyone in your party wants to scuba dive instead of snorkel, contact Andrew at EcoDive Barbados. The scuba there is among the best I've seen and Andrew is a great guide.
Some of the spots on the west coast break over sand, or in deep water. That's probably where it pays to hire someone to show you around. I wasn't able to hook up with "Boozy," but he seemed like a cool guy. He maintains a pretty active facebook page for his company - it's worth "liking" it to get your stoke worked up before you go. I would also recommend Melanie Pitcher (Barbados Surf Trips) or Russell Garret (Dread or Dead).