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The beaches on Barbados fall into several areas
The West coast has the calmest waters due to being sheltered from the prevailing East wind, this is generally the best place for gentle weather conditions & easier swimming. The South coast is less calm, ROUGHER not ROUGH i.e. small waves just a bit bigger in general than the West. As for the Southeast coast, the waves are considerably larger as one goes round the island, the beaches here eg. The Crane onwards, are really only suitable for really strong,confident swimmers & not ALONE.Swimming at night is not recommended anywhere. These conditions will obviously vary due to prevailing weather conditions
The rest of Barbados, the East & North is NOT safe for swimming unless you are a watersports professional
As previously stated, coastal conditions vary all over the Island. Conditions can change with the tides, or Caribbean/Atlantic weather systems. Conditions are also effected by whether the area is protected because it is in a cove, or if there is a natural or manmade blockade, or thick reef just offshore to blunt the movement of the water. Areas with many waverunners & power boaters can become very choppy, & occasionally rough. The definition of "rough" is certainly subjective and personal. ASK about the water conditions in the exact area where you want to go, i.e., a specific hotel, or beach name. Your forum LOCAL EXPERTS and local citizens do know their country. There are many experienced Bajan travelers who can help you as well. If in doubt, ask their definition of terms used. There are many miles of coastline, and all beaches are open to the public, so you will meet people of all walks of life on any given beach.
Common water definitions include:
Rough = Water with large, rolling wave that one can surf in. Great crashers & tubes to make avid sportsmen dream! Lots of mobile sand. For very competent water sportsman only.
Medium = Waves that roll over and break before reaching shore. Light foam & bubbles, some sand stirred up.OK for boogie boarding & novice wind-surfers. May be some undertow further out. OK for experienced swimmers. Always watch the kids, even teens & pre-teens who are daring.
Calm = Light, rolling waves that never really break, might produce a small amount of bubbles, but not foam full of churning sand. Still watch the kids, but with more attention paid to pre-teens & younger.
Glass = Almost as smooth as a bath. Very little movement. You can float on your back & not drift much. Still watch the little ones.
In Summer, Fall, & Winter, the West Coast can have water that is predominantly like Glass. From Folkestone heading south along the West Coast hotel area. Nearer to Bridgetown, Carlisle Bay can also be like Glass, but mostly Calm. The area along St. Lawrence Gap can be Medium sometimes, but is mostly Calm. Dover Beach can be calm too! There can be a breeze in this area, which can be great for light windsurfing. No waves to knock you about, unless those generated by wave-runners & boaters! Traveling further South, towards Silver Sands & Oistins, then South East, the water starts to become Calm-Medium, then Medium-Rough as you head toward the East Coast.This is the beginning of influence from the Atlantic. While the looks of the beaches is spectacular everywhere, caution is best used, even for experienced vacationers. Do not attempt to use the water in the North, or very North West & North East. High, jagged cliffs, rocky coastline, & heavy Atlantic influence prevent this from being more than a beautiful area for enjoying your photographic efforts.
Hope this has been helpful. Thanks JTD, for starting this page! Happy & safe swimming!