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Where to go for winter waves, tropical vibes and a laidback, family-friendly surfing adventure? How about Barbados?

It’s December. I’m basking under the shade of a palm tree, kindle in hand, saltwater stain on my tanned skin, listening to the hoots of my three boys getting tumbled in the shore break at Bottoms Bay. I lift my head occasionally, between pages, to witness dreamy turquoise and golden hues. There’s hardly a soul around. I’m happy. Ridiculously happy.

On a typical winter’s day at home, my teenage kids would be holed up with gaming controllers in hand, SnapChatting their mates, with YouTube on in the background. Yet here, far from their devices and the dismal UK weather, they’re playing together, shrieking with joy, revelling in the sunshine, waves and bathwater sea temperatures of Barbados.

Catching ripples in paradise. Maycocks, Barbados. Image by Leo Lawrence.

Days are spent exploring jungle-backed shorelines, surfing and sea-glass hunting. Then seeking out the best spot to fill up on rotis – local pastries filled with the likes of saltfish, meats or sweet, tropical fruits. When the setting sun drives us, finally, out of the ocean, we quench our thirst in the occasional beach bar and buy fat fillets of the freshest catch from local fishermen. Mahi mahi, tuna, snapper… sizzled up with rice and washed down with a Caribbean rum punch. We sleep soundly, ready for another round as the next day breaks.

Barbados is an island that’s always been on my radar for a family surfing holiday, but I’d been deterred by the rumours of it being outrageously expensive. Then Norse Atlantic launched a low-cost flight direct from Gatwick to Bridgetown and my ears pricked up. Ditching the Virgin and BA fares makes whopping savings. Which – teed with a basic, comfortable apartment and local car hire – totted up to under £5k for a two-week family holiday over the Christmas holidays. And when you add up what you spend over the festive break with three kids, including food, presents, entertainment and alcohol, this isn’t such a silly number. Not for bucketfuls of sunshine and waves, and balmy blue seas where turtles and parrotfish outnumber humans.

There are more turtles than surfers in the water at Freights. Barbados. Image by Hayley Lawrence.

So, if you fancy swapping the UK winter and the commercialism of Christmas for sun-filled memories of a lifetime, here’s my little guide to Barbados for a surfing family.

SURFING IN BARBADOS

As a surfing family, waves were high up on our holiday agenda. And with coral reef stretching around the island, there is always somewhere to surf in Barbados, no matter which direction the swell is travelling.

Barbados offers the perfect surf if you want to progress in warm, consistent waves. Image by Leo Lawrence.

The best season for surf is October to March. And, with the water temperature hovering between 25-28C, there isn’t a better place to strip off your 5mm of neoprene and seek reprieve from the harsh UK winters. June to October is classed as hurricane season and brings with it some hot, wet weather, but serious storms are rare and you can still get some classic surf on the southern tip.

Bathsheba is the place everyone’s heard of on the east coast, where you’ll find the famous Soup Bowl – one of Kelly Slater’s favourite waves. Down south there’s a littering of more mellow beach and reef breaks, while the north is where you can seek out the more remote, jungle-fringed breaks.

Top Surf Breaks in Barbados

Freights

If you’re looking for a family-friendly wave with turtles aplenty in the line-up, this is it. A mellow left-hander and a punchier right, Freights is the perfect place to spot turtles and parrot fish between ripples. Ride the Tide surf school is footsteps from the beach for all your gear and lessons.

South Point

A short hop from Freights and one of the most popular breaks on the south coast for good reason. South Point is a little more challenging than Freights (especially the entry/exit over the reef), but serves up line after line of lovely left-handers for intermediate and advanced surfers. One of our favourites.

Soup Bowl

Wait your turn in the line-up and commit to the take off, and you can see why this bowly right-hander is one of Slater’s faves.

Parler

Footsteps from Soup Bowl, this is the place to paddle out if you don’t want to fight the crowds on the peak. It’s a more forgiving take off, with long right-handers and plenty of water over the reef at mid tide.

Parlers, next to the famous Soup Bowl, is a bit more forgiving than Slater’s favourite wave. Image by Leo Lawrence.

Sandbank

Just up the road from Soup Bowl, this is more accessible for beginners. It’s a great option on the east coast if you have different levels of surfers in the family who aren’t ready for Soup Bowl and Parler.

Surfer’s Point

This easily accessible left-hander peels off a point in the south east. It’s great for the whole family, although there are a few rocks to negotiate, and Zed’s Adventures has got you covered for lessons and kit.

Brandons/ Drill Hall Beach

Brandons is actually just offshore at Drill Hall Beach, located opposite the Garrison Racetrack, not Brandons Beach on the other side of Bridgetown. It’s a consistent spot where you’ll often find a bunch of beginners, but on its day it’s a fast, fun lefthander.

Batts Rock

This a-frame reef break just north of Bridgetown (head towards La Cabane) is short and powerful when the west coast works. The beach has parking and a picnic area for spectators.

Maycocks 

Look for monkeys as you descend the jungle trail to this remote paradise beach at the north of the island. A bit more tricky to get to, it fires up with awesome right handers on a northerly swell. A little shallow. Ideal for intermediates.

Family-friendly surf breaks, Barbados. Having fun at Maycocks. Image by Leo Lawrence.

Tropicana

A powerful, punchy lefthand reef break on the west coast. One for advanced surfers that don’t mind the shallow reef.

There are plenty more surf breaks in Barbados to seek out, these are just a few recommendations. If you want to surf in the hands of an expert, tap up Bodie’s School of Surf and he’ll take you to the best waves of the day for your ability.

Family quiver. Freights. Barbados.

THINGS TO DO IN BARBADOS

The of Barbados island has lots more to offer than just beautiful beaches and surf. From caving to pirate-themed boat cruises, there are plenty of family adventures with a true Caribbean twist. We loved donning a mask and snorkel to witness the turtles, parrotfish and squid in the underwater world, a day at the horse racing at the Garrison Savannah racetrack, and partying the night away to calypso bands at Oistin’s.

While there’s plenty on offer, you don’t have to go on loads of expensive family days out to make the most of Barbados. However, these were some of our favourite things to do when the surf was flat:

For energetic families you can’t beat a day at a waterpark – these huge inflatable courses are towed offshore and you can hop on and off all day – or watch the kids from your sun lounger while sipping your complimentary rum punch. The Boatyard Beach Club on Carlisle Bay offers all-day access to the waterpark including a free boat tour (get there early as it sells out fast), while Rascals Waterpark at Brandons is a little more laidback (an all-day family pass at the latter costs around £150).

Family fun at Rascals Waterpark, Barbados. Image by Hayley Lawrence.

If you’re out sightseeing, it’s an easy island to get around, and some of our favourite spots were wild little bays found off the beaten track (seek out Bottom’s Bay and Crane Bay). However, if you want to weed the highlights out of the exhausting reviews of things to do, explore the Animal Flower Cave at the north of the island, get up early to see the race horses swimming on Pebbles Beach (free), and bask in the tropical Hunte’s Gardens.

Racehorses taking a bath on Pebbles Beach, Barbados.

WHERE TO EAT IN BARBADOS

If you’ve ever thought about going to Barbados, you’ve no doubt heard that it’s an expensive place to eat out. And if you’ve got three hungry boys in tow, that’s not good news. However, you can fill up on rotis (filled pastries) from a street vendor for just a couple of Bajan bucks each (around £1), or get the same thing in a café for around 20 bucks each. Same with fish cutters – maybe five bucks on the street, and around 40 bucks in a restaurant. If you’re on a family budget, use the locals’ supermarket (Popular Discounts), fill up on rotis from street vendors and buy seafood from the fish market (around 20 Bajan dollars for more than enough to feed a family of 5).

Then, when you want treat yourselves to a meal out, here are some of our favourite foodie spots:

Order at Bombas and take a swim while you wait for your food to arrive. Image by Hayley Lawrence.

Bombas Beach Bar 

A cracking little beach bar on the edge of Mullins where you can tuck into goat curry, fish cutters and the best rum punches we found on the island. Bang on the beach, you can swim and snorkel between courses.

Dis Ole House 

Traditional Caribbean dishes served in a tropical garden setting where you might just be serenaded by local music, too. Sustainable, rustic and deliciously Bajan.

Cafe Luna 

One for a romantic night out or special occasion – where the Caribbean meets the Med in a roof-top dining space decked out in Moroccan style.

The Orange Street Grocer

Nudging the beach at Speightstown, this cool deli-cum-café is quite the place for Sunday brunch – Bajan style, full English, vegan or health kick?

Oistins Fish Fry

For us, this is Barbados scram at its best – fresh, delicious and great value. There are lots of vendors to choose from, frying up seafood flipped straight off the fishing boats. The atmosphere is lively and queues can be long on Fridays. We love the ‘Legend Uncle George’ where you can get a smorgasbord of mahi mahi, tuna and swordfish, with all the trimmings (potatoes, rice, mac-cheese and salad), for around 40 Bajan dollars (about £15).

Barbados is a colourful place. Image by Hayley Lawrence.

WHERE TO STAY IN BARBADOS

Most of our accommodation options in Barbados are in the Christchurch area, from where it’s easy to waltz straight out onto paradise beaches, and hop by car to the best waves of the day. If you’re dead keen on staying in view of the surf, the best spot to stay is right beside the beach at Freights (also known as Cotton Bay). This white-sand beach break is perfect for longboarders, learner surfers, swimmers and snorkelling with the turtles. From here, you can also walk in one direction to the reef break of South Point, and in the other to Oistin’s Fish Market – where you can tuck into a fish fry up or buy just-landed seafood.

Sunset Swim at Silver Sands. Image by Hayley Lawrence.

If you want something a little cheaper look around Silver Sands – between Surfer’s Point and South Point. This residential area is well situated if you don’t mind hopping in the car for a surf. You can still walk to Silver Sands beach for kitesurfing and swimming, and you can get a bargain apartment here compared to the more touristy areas. We loved Gloria’s Hideaway – so well equipped for a family, and five minutes walk from the beach.

Visit Barbados anytime from November to April – the perfect destination to escape the UK winter, just a direct 8-hour flight away. If you’re thinking about a family surf trip here and want any tips, feel free to get in touch.

father-and-son-surfing

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