Surf a Caribbean Break
BASE CAMP: Sea-U Guest House
ACTIVITY: Seek out year-round swells on the island's Atlantic coast
"Tea is served" is what you'd expect to hear in Barbados, with its proper English manners and highbrow Platinum Coast hotels. But increasingly, "Surf's up!" is the rallying cry among travelers who've discovered that this island has some of the best waves in the Caribbean. From the big east coast breaks at Soup Bowl—site of the annual Reef Classic Barbados international surf contest held in November—to the intermediate rollers at Six Men's Bay on the west coast to the beginner-friendly riffles at Freights Bay in the south, Barbados gets rideable swells from all sides. "And you can surf every day of the year," says Melanie Pitcher, three-time Barbados National Surf Champion, who recently started Barbados Surf Trips, a surf school and tour company.
GAME PLAN: Whether or not you're ready for the 20-foot (6-meter) barrels that hammer the undeveloped Atlantic coast in winter, that's still the place to stay. Book a room at one of the island's most charming inns, the breezy, whitewashed Sea-U Guest House in the village of Bathsheba (it's owned by former travel writer Uschi Wetzels). Start the day with fresh coconut bread on the inn's veranda, where you can watch monkeys swinging through the palm trees and hear the waves crashing onto the boulder-studded beach below. Spend the morning cutting up swells that suit your skills, then stop at a classic Bajan rum shop—the Surf Side Bar opposite Parlors break is a good one—for a cold Banks (beer), a fresh ham cutter (sandwich), and a dose of local chatter (tireless gossip). Save an afternoon to hike from Bathsheba to Bath Beach along an old rail line; the three-mile walk ends on a perfect crescent of palm-shaded sand—one of the few spots on the rocky east coast where you can take a break from the waves and swim.
THE VITALS: Sea-U Guest House ($136; www.seaubarbados.com). Barbados Surf Trips offers instruction, rentals, and daily wave-hunting safaris (prices vary by trip; www.surfbarbados.com).
HOT TIP: Cricket is the national sport of Barbados. To catch a match, stop into the Kensington Oval stadium in Bridgetown—and come ready to party. Win or lose, there's always a celebration afterward.
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