While it may not boast the national parks and rainforest-covered interiors of neighboring islands, Barbados is a surprisingly good walking destination where it’s easy to get away from the crowds to explore windswept beaches, dramatic cliff tops and pockets of tropical forest.
Most visitors to Barbados stay on the built-up western and southern coasts, but the best hiking on the island is found amongst the rugged nature of the eastern and northern reaches of the island. These are the best hikes in Barbados.
Bath to Bathsheba Railway Line
Best for nature
3.75 miles (6km), 2.5 hours, Easy
The old Barbados Railway line once transported sugar cane from the estates of St Andrew to the port of Bridgetown. While the trains are long gone – the last wagons rolled along the line back in the 1930s – parts of the track now form some of the best hiking trails in Barbados.
One of the most dramatic stretches of the line runs between Bathsheba and Bath in the heart of the Atlantic Coast, where the line hugs the wild, boulder-strewn coastline. The trail is shaded by many casuarina trees and passes beneath natural tunnels of sea grape bushes and vines to reach blustery outcrops that afford sweeping views. The entire journey is accompanied by the booming sound of the powerful waves rolling off the Atlantic into the rock formations below.
The hike can be walked in both directions, but it’s best to begin in Bath for better transportation options home. Upon arrival at Bathsheba, walk to the northern edge of town to find the refreshing bathing pools which appear at low tide – the only safe place for a dip near town.
Northern Cliffs Hike
Best for adventure
4 miles (6.4km), 2.5 hours, Easy
With sheer cliffs towering over churning waters, St Lucy parish in the remote northern reaches of Barbados couldn’t feel further away from the resorts to the south. Sparsely populated and with little traffic, the area is a dream for hikers with caves, tranquil hidden inlets, and even eerie abandoned hotels to explore.
This hike begins at the picnic area at Cove Bay, where the trail heads north along the top of the cliffs. At first glance, these cliffs seem barren and desolate, but they are actually home to scurrying hermit crabs and small groups of butterflies that somehow maintain their formation despite the roaring winds that whip up off the Atlantic. Make sure to keep well clear of the cliff edges as strong gusts can appear out of nowhere.
Take a break at Cuckold Point, a spectacular inlet where earthy ocher cliffs contrast brilliantly with the frothing bright blue waters below, and tranquil River Bay, where a fresh stream has carved a large opening between the cliffs leaving a secluded, almost totally enclosed inlet. After crossing the stream, the trail climbs back up to the cliff top and continues west before finally reaching Animal Flower Cave with its urchin-filled caverns cutting deep into the cliffs.
Barclays Park-Chalky Mount Loop
Best for panoramic views
3.1 miles (5km), 1.5 hours, Moderate
Climbing rapidly above the coastal plain to incredible panoramic views of the Atlantic, this short but moderately challenging hike leads from Barclays Park near Bathsheba up to the striking white rocky bluff at Chalky Mount.
Begin from the picnic area at Barclays Park, where the bluff resembles an immense stone face gazing skywards, known to locals as the Chalky Mount Giant. The first part of the hike is quite steep, but fresh Atlantic breezes throughout ensure that it never gets too hot. The views of Long Pond and Walker’s Beach from the top are ample reward for the exertion. Make sure to use the rope to reach the top of the rocks, where a selfie-ready stone arch offers key-hole views of the unspoiled coastline below.
Heading back to Barclays Park, the descent passes through the charming little village of Chalky Mount, home of Barbados’ artisanal potters, where thirsty hikers can get away with a cheeky rum punch or two considering the gentle trail through wildflower-sprinkled grasslands back to the sandy beach below.
Mount Hillaby Loop
Best for getting in shape
6.5 miles (10.3km), 3 hours, Moderate to Difficult
Located right in the middle of the island, this inviting trail winds around and then up to the top of Barbados’ tallest peak, Mount Hillaby. At 340-meters, it only just qualifies as a mountain, but a hike here is more about the lush heliconia and palm-filled landscapes than the peak itself. The views of the island are also magnificent, especially looking eastwards to Bathsheba and north to St Lucy.
Home to some of the last remnants of the tropical forest that once covered Barbados before the introduction of the ruinous plantation economy, the slopes of Mount Hillaby boast a cool microclimate that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable trek. At the summit, a few steps lead to a survey marker from 1957 that marks the exact location of the island’s crown.
The trail begins and ends near the village of Welchman Hall and traverses quiet rural roads before eventually turning into a narrow path that sometimes requires beating through the bush – so bring long trousers and solid footwear.
Walkers Savannah to Long Pond Loop
Best for beach combing
3 miles (4.8km), 2 hours, Moderate
For a solitary, windswept beach hike all to yourself, head to the aptly named Walkers Beach on the northeast of the island. Beginning at Walkers Savannah just east of St Andrew Church, this hike runs south for two kilometers along driftwood-strewn sands to Long Pond, one of the last remaining coastal wetlands on the island. The hike then heads inland over the dunes and back north along a dirt track through the parched savannah.
This is a dry part of the island, and it’s even possible to spot clumps of cacti and other interesting vegetation, including the wonderfully named fat pork – an edible red plum with a white pulpy flesh that is a favorite of local school children.
Rockley to Bridgetown Southwest Stroll
Best for kids
3.5 miles (5.6km), 2 hours, Easy
Despite traversing some of the most built-up areas in Barbados, this pleasant and breezy hike takes in first-class beaches, spacious parklands, and some of the island’s most fascinating historical sites.
Beginning at the lively Rockley Beach Park with its buzzing little market, the walk follows the breezy boardwalk north for just over a kilometer before spilling out onto the sunbather-laden sands that lead up to Drill Hall beach. The route then heads inland to take in the Garrison Savannah and its historical monuments and mysterious tunnels.
Finally, the hike turns back to the coast at the southern end of Brownes Beach, where brilliant blue waters lap gently at pristine white sands all the way north to the Careenage waterfront area on the Constitution River in Bridgetown. There are plenty of gentle swimming spots (ideal for kids) along the way – pack a snorkel to check out the marine life.
Tips for Hiking in Barbados
While it’s possible to follow each of these hikes on your own, due to the remote location of many of the starting points, joining a group is often easier – and more fun.
The Hike Barbados Group, run by the Barbados National Trust and the Barbados Hiking Association, organizes regular hikes that are a great way to get to know locals and new parts of the island. Most hikes are around three hours, and there are different graded paths to suit a variety of fitness levels. They also run occasional cross-country and moonlight treks.
Due to the hot, humid climate, the best times to hike are early in the morning and in the late afternoon, with most organized hikes departing between 6 and 7am or after 3pm. Whether you go with a group or alone, a good hat, sunscreen and plenty of fluids are essential as there is often little shade, and shops are few and far between.