To those of us who live in the frosty north, the idea of an island paradise with white sandy beaches and crystal-clear aqua waters occupies our minds for much of the year. When the weather turns sour and our beloved outdoor activities are no more, what do we do? 

Well, this year, book a trip to Barbados

Barbados is an exceptional active travel destination, captivating adventure enthusiasts with its diverse range of activities set against a backdrop of breathtaking natural beauty. From the moment travellers step onto its sun-soaked shores, they are greeted by a world of possibilities. 

“Barbados is an absolute playground for the outdoor adventurer. Whether travellers are looking soft adventure, hard adventure or something in between, our small but mighty island offers a range of easily accessible terrains and experience from north to south, east to west, from coastline to inland,” says Peter Mayers, Barbados Tourism Director Canada. 

“Our festivals are a taste of what a visitor can experience on any given day, year-round. From traversing Harrison Cave’s deep caving system to experienced surfers trying their board at the Soup Bowl, to a tranquil morning paddle boarding on the Caribbean Sea, there is something for everything.”

Lady doing yoga at animal flowers in Barbados
Animal Flower Cave

With its warm and inviting waters, Barbados offers unparalleled opportunities for water sports such as surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, and stand-up paddleboarding. The island’s rugged terrain beckons hikers and bikers to explore its lush trails, leading to panoramic viewpoints and hidden coves. Barbados also hosts an array of sporting events and festivals, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the vibrant local culture while participating in races and competitions. 

For the adventurers, Barbados has it all. From Bushy Park, the leading racing circuit in the Caribbean, to Animal Flower Cave, the island’s lone accessible sea cave where you can swim in natural rock pools, you’re guaranteed an exciting time. Looking for another unique experience? Harrison Cave Eco-Adventure Tour is like nothing you’ll experience elsewhere. Explore the expansive Harrison Cave by tram. Immerse yourself in nature with picturesque views of running streams, waterfalls and magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations.

Bushy Park Race Circuit
Bushy Park Race Circuit

With its year-round tropical climate and welcoming locals, Barbados becomes an ideal playground for those seeking an active getaway that seamlessly combines adventure, relaxation, and the undeniable charm of the Caribbean.

November may be the perfect time to visit the island when they hold their Barbados Open Water Festival. From November 8-12, people from around the world flock to the island to take part in the festival offering swim distances of 1.5 kilometres, 3.3 kilometres, 5 kilometres and 10 kilometres.

Over the years, many familiar faces of the open-water world have been seen at the festival — Olympians, world champions, Masters Champions, marathon swimmers, Triple Crowners, Pan Am medallists, national champs, ice swimmers, world record holders, pro-triathletes, swim administrators and more.

The focal point of the festival is the magnificent Carlisle Bay. The swimmers rave about the ideal open-water swimming conditions at the venue, a protected marine park. The bay is truly idyllic but also steeped in history, as a former bustling seaport visited by the likes of George Washington and famous British Admiral, Lord Nelson. Suitably, the bay now lies adjacent to the designated UNESCO World Heritage Site: Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison.   

Clock Tower Garrison Carlisle Bay
Clock Tower Garrison in front of Carlisle Bay.

The bay offers crystal clear calm water that laps gently onto a long white sand beach and little or no undertow.  A swimmer once likened Carlisle Bay to a “large swimming pool but even more beautiful.”

Over the life of the event, the festival has welcomed swimmers of all ages and abilities from more than 35 countries. From recreational to elite, pool swimmers to channel swimmers, from as far away as Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa and Singapore, every year the swimmers arrive from different countries and all walks of life with a shared passion for open water swimming and heart-warming camaraderie ensues. 

“You know we just love this festival.  It’s what inspired us to launch our first Freestyle Experience Retreat in Barbados. And the organization and organizers are amazing. If you love swimming, you will love this festival. It’s the best week of our year,” says open-water swim participant, Katie from Ottawa. 

Barbados is known for another event that attracts thousands of people each year — the Run Barbados Marathon

Run Barbados Marathon
Participants of the Run Barbados Marathon

Run Barbados is the largest marathon in the Caribbean. The prestigious marathon has evolved into one of Barbados’ premier sporting activities on the island known for its festive atmosphere and spirit of friendship.

The race’s unique route takes participants on a scenic journey through some of the island’s most historical landmarks. The choice of races around the world is endless, but the Run Barbados Marathon weekend has distinguishing characteristics that can provide the experience of a lifetime. The friendly local culture, the sheer beauty of the island and the marathon’s course, which is both scenic and historic, make this a must-do marathon. 

Bottom’s Bay Landscape, Barbados

What’s more, 2023 will mark 40 years of the Run Barbados Marathon, making this a milestone event you will certainly want to be a part of. 

From December 8-10, participants from around the world gather to test their limits and embrace the exhilarating experience of running a marathon amidst the island’s tropical beauty. From the rhythmic sound of waves crashing on the shore to the cheers of supporters along the route, the marathon encapsulates the essence of Barbados’ warm hospitality and passion for sports. 

Run Barbados Marathon
Participants of the Run Barbados Marathon

With multiple race categories catering to various fitness levels, the Run Barbados Marathon isn’t just a race; it’s a celebration of the human spirit and the island’s commitment to promoting health, unity, and unforgettable memories.

The festivities kick off on December 8 with entertainment beginning at 6 p.m. and the Garrison Savannah Fun Mile at 8 p.m. Held in the picturesque setting of the historic Garrison Savannah, this one-mile fun run brings together people of all ages and fitness levels to participate in a lighthearted and energetic race — the perfect start to a spectacular three-day event. 

On December 9, the fun begins at 3:30 p.m. on the scenic east coast at Barclays Park. The races for the day are the Sleeping Giant 5K and the Sand Dunes 10K.  

The marathon weekend ends on Sunday, Dec. 10, with the main event — the half and full marathon. 

Barbados is more than just a holiday destination. It is a place where a myriad of outdoor pursuits converge. Whether it’s engaging in thrilling water sports along pristine coastlines, running the beloved island or immersing yourself in the island’s rich history and local traditions, Barbados offers an unparalleled opportunity to invigorate both body and spirit. 

With its welcoming atmosphere and a wide range of activities to suit every adventurer’s taste, Barbados promises an unforgettable and energizing getaway for those seeking an active and dynamic escape.

It’s time to visit Barbados:

Barbados Tourism

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