Dreaming about diving off the coast of a stunningly beautiful Caribbean island into calm, clear waters, with rich marine life and an abundance of coral reefs? Divers from all over the world frequently travel to Barbados. Upon arrival, they often fall for the charm of this tropical isle with dive sites on every coast.
The sightings during a scuba dive vacation in Barbados may be a bit different from neighboring islands as it is one of the only islands in the Caribbean which is not volcanic in origin. Barbados is a limestone island, otherwise known as a coral island. It was created by the upward movement of coral, rather than as a result of volcano action. As such, the landscape above and beneath the sea in Barbados differs considerably to its neighbors.
Barbados promises lots to see, comfortable and warm temperatures, great options of all-inclusive resorts, and lots of events happening year-round. Whether you go solely for diving or you want a bit of everything, you won’t be disappointed in Barbados!
In this article on the Sandals Blog:
What is it like to scuba dive in Barbados?
24 popular dive sites in Barbados
When to go scuba diving in Barbados
Dive for free with Sandals
Now that you know more about scuba diving in Barbados
Divers love the fact that whether you want to explore coral reefs, marvel at wrecks, or simply drift dive, there’s a dive site with your name on it in Barbados. Common undersea sightings include parrotfish, Bermuda chubs, groupers, bar jacks, yellowtails, lionfish, and many other types of fishes.
You’re also likely to spot eels, lobster, reef squid, seahorses, turtles (hawksbill, leatherback and green turtles), and barracuda. Stingrays, moray eels and nurse sharks are spotted less often, but are still on the list of possible sightings. All of this of course in addition to soft and hard coral of all types in the crevices of which you’re likely to spot many elusive sea creatures.
Carlisle Bay is great for wreck diving. There are at least five wrecks in this area which include the Berwyn, the Eilon, the Ce-Trek, the Bajan Queen party boat, and the Cornwallis. The latter dates to World War II and was a freighter that sank elsewhere that has since been relocated to the Carlisle Bay Marine Park. Carlisle Bay is quiet, calm and shallow with a myriad of sea life including golden spotted eels, seahorses, and many different types of reef fish among the wrecks.
The Berwyn was a World War I French tugboat. After the war, it was transitioned for use as an artificial reef in Carlisle Bay (1919). The Berwyn is just about 7-10 ft below the surface, and as history tells it, the ship was sunk by its own crew. On and around the Berwyn you’ll find lots of hard and soft coral, and a lively reef environment.
The Cetrek was at one time busy chugging around on the Caribbean Sea, but today it lays at rest on the bottom of the sea floor. This 45 ft wreck was added to the collection of wrecks in the Carlisle Bay area in 1986. You’ll need to go into the deep to see this wreck which is on the northern end of the Carlisle Bay Marine Park. It has adapted over the years to the natural environment serving its purpose as a safe space for marine life of all kinds.
The Eillon had quite an exciting life serving as a drug runner before finally meeting its ultimate end. The 110 ft boat with Colombian origins was tied up for 6 years in the Bridgetown Careenage before it was intentionally sunk on June 8, 1996. Today it’s a solid fixture at the Carlisle Bay Marine Park which can be explored by divers. There’s an air pocket in the bow that many undersea explorers make a point of visiting.
All the wrecks in the Carlisle Bay area have an interesting story to tell. In the case of the Cornwallis, it met its demise after being struck by a German U-Boat torpedo. This happened during World War II. The Canadian freighter was thereafter relocated from a high-traffic area to a quieter area of the bay in October 2003.
Once named the “Pelican”, this was the first tugboat brought to the island of Barbados back when the Bridgetown Harbour was being built. This was back in the 1960s, and about 10 years after that, the allure of the Pelican faded when more modern boats were brought in. That was only the beginning of her life as the Bajan Queen, and from then on lots of parties ensued. After many years of successes, the old Bajan Queen was handed over to the Coastal Zone Management Unit. She was sunk in May 2002 and has since added a level of vibrancy and coral diversity to the marine environment.
The Barge rounds things up in terms of wrecks at Carlisle Bay and interestingly, this barge has naval connections. It once served as a Navel Landing Barge, and since finding itself submerged in the Carlisle Bay area has appealed in a good way to creatures of the deep including porcupine fish which love shallow temperate and tropical seas.
Old Fort is another fantastic dive location in Barbados. This reef is off Needham’s Point and it is a great place for a drift dive. Once you dive in you can scope for things like cannon balls and antique bottles. There is also a good population of smaller fishes that can be spotted around this shallow barrier reef.
Thank goodness there’s a place with a high likelihood of seeing the sometimes elusive lobster while in Barbados. Drift dive at Lobster Reef and immerse yourself in a world rich with marine life – you may even spot the occasional stingray. This dive is off Drill Hall Beach, and the reef ranges from 30 ft at the shallow end to 80 ft.
You can get to Piece of Eight by boat while in Barbados. It is the perfect dive site if you want to explore and take great photos. The reef depth ranges from 40ft - 60ft. There’s great visibility on most days and lots of reef fish. This dive site is accessible via Hastings Beach.
There are so many amazing dives to try in Barbados that for a newbie, it might be a little difficult to choose just one. Accra is a good place to start as this is a shallow reef dive and thus easier to navigate. The reef depth ranges from 20-60 ft, and sightings of schools of Bermuda Chubs are almost guaranteed. This reef can be found off the coast of Rockley Beach.
There is a small wreck of a coast guard boat that you can catch glimpses of as you drift dive in this area. With a depth of 40-80 ft, this dive site off Sandy Beach is ideal for beginners who will be impressed by the number of turtles that populate the area. Eagle rays also make frequent appearances.
Dover Beach is a picturesque strand in Barbados and for divers it is made even more appealing because of the many dive sites it leads to, like Close Encounters. Off the coast of Dover, this inner reef measures 40 ft on the shallow end, extending to 80 ft. Here you can do things like feed the fishes, or even interact with the stingrays if you’ve got someone experienced with you that can guide you in that regard. All in all, a dive worth trying.
Drift divers will love the experience at Bottle Ground which was once an anchorage for wooden sailing vessels. Aside from an abundance of marine life, this spot serves as a museum of sorts for ancient bottles from the 18th and 19th century. If you find one worth picking up, it’s yours to keep. Aside from the bottles, you’ll see lots of interesting sea creatures swimming around. Bottle Ground can be accessed via Carlisle Bay and the depth of this reef ranges from 45-100 ft.
Do you know what you want to see once you get underwater, or are you a diver who just loves to go with the flow? Whichever the case, consider giving Clarkes Bank a try. The reef here ranges from 30 ft in the shallows to 130 ft further out. The Atlantis Submarine dive usually scopes out this location with passengers, and you may spot it while diving here. Other sightings at this dive site off Brighton Beach include horse-eye jack, eels and barracudas.
Ranging from 30-50 ft, this shallow patch reef is perfect for divers just starting off. The dive here is straightforward with lots to see including various species of reef fish and large coral heads. If you’re trying it for the first time, advanced divers can do it in combination with sites like SS Stavronikita as dive number two.
The seas are a bit tough on the Atlantic side of the island, particularly so on days when there’s bad weather. Luckily though, throughout the year you’ll be able to find sweet spots when the weather is good enough to dive on the east coast. The best time of year is during the summer, and you’re likely to see anything from turtles to sharks.
Dottins is among the more popular dive sites in Barbados. Although it is best suited for newbies, many seasoned divers go to this site to dive among the beautiful coral. Dottins Reef can be accessed via Holetown and the reef ranges from 40-100 ft in depth. Bar jacks, yellowtails and turtles are commonly spotted here as well as barracuda.
Go into The Deep for a drift dive you won’t soon forget. This is a good option if you want some variety or want to test your photography skills. The Deep is best suited for divers who’ve been around the block and are up for a challenge. This reef is a break off from the Castle Bank Reef on the south coast of Barbados.
If you’re ready to graduate from beginner dives to something a little more challenging, you can try Caribbee Reef once you have the necessary certifications. This barrier reef dive is great if you want to be thrust into an underwater world with lots of variety. The depth of this reef ranges from 60ft -120ft, and sightings include lionfish, trumpetfish and moray eels.
Aspiring macro photographers specializing in underwater scenes will really enjoy diving in this area which is off Drill Hall Beach in Bridgetown, Barbados. This barrier reef has a slow drop off on both sides, which divers love. Oh, and you’re almost guaranteed to see barracuda which often reside near coral reefs.
Don’t concentrate so much on not missing the bigger fish that you miss all the amazing smaller reef fish that are constantly present. Fork Reef is off the coast of Hastings and measures 60 ft on the shallow end. It goes as far down as 120 ft, and this barrier reef also has a drop off on both ends. Expect to see things like cavalli, snapper, barracuda, and more.
You’ll have excellent photography opportunities during a dive here if you can even look away from all the captivating things you’ll see for long enough to remember that you have a camera. Off the coast of Worthing Beach Barbados in the Christ Church area, this reef is a good choice if you’re hoping to come across fish like horse-eye jacks, black jacks, and barracuda. The reef ranges in depth from 60-130 ft.
One of the things that stands out about diving in Barbados is that most underwater scenes around this island are extremely colorful with an outstanding variation of coral growth. Mount Charlie off Dover certainly lives up to this. This deep dive reef ranges from 70 ft to 120 ft. While diving here you may come across turtles, snapper, horse-eye jacks and barracuda. Photographers especially will love the vibrant underwater atmosphere of this outer barrier reef.
Highwire Reef is smack in the middle of Mount Charlie and Close Encounters. It is one of those dives best suited for divers who already know the ropes and want to explore the best of the Barbados undersea. On a dive at Highwire you can expect to come across a myriad of tropical fishes as you navigate the reef from its most shallow point (70 ft) to depths of 120 ft. Highwire is accessible via Dover.
Victors Reef is to the north of Fitts Village and it is often included in lists of top-rated dive sites in Barbados. Some consider it underrated as dive numbers can be low here, but year-round, chances are high that you’ll spot something amazing. Sightings here include soldier fish, butterfly fish, and seahorses. Victor’s Reef is 50 ft at the shallow end extending to 120 ft. You can also have a pretty awesome drift dive at this site on the outer side of the SS Stavronikita.
Add Sandy Lane to your list if you’re trying to rack up your dive numbers in Barbados. This site is an extension of Dottins Reef and common sightings include barracuda and lobster, though you’ll really have to investigate the crevices of the coral to spot the latter. You may also come across bar jacks, yellowtails and turtles on your dive at this reef which ranges from 70 ft in depth to 140 ft.
Try something new in Barbados by exploring this west coast reef where the corals seem to get more beautiful with every dive. This dive is off Paynes Bay, and ranges from 70-80 ft along the reef. Take your time and take in everything you see which can include a range of hard and soft coral, lots of tropical fishes including parrot fish, turtles and even barracuda. The dive conditions here are consistent, which is something that appeals to divers of all skill levels.
Night diving is popular at this location which has a maximum depth of around 35 feet. This might sound scary but it’s really not, especially if you’re in the right company. A diver’s flashlight will be all you need to be able to see your way around under the pier. If you dare, switch off your flashlight once you get comfortable.
Give your eyes a moment to adjust and then move your arms around. Doing this is a magical experience as almost simultaneously, the millions of bioluminescent plankton around you come alive – only they were there the whole time and you didn’t see them! Other sightings include spiny lobsters, tarpons, sea urchins and fishes of all kinds.
The SS Stavronikita Wreck is an all-in-one dive site with plenty to see and experience including a historic wreck. The Stavronikita is about 140 ft beneath the waves. It takes some skill to navigate this dive site even though divers can catch glimpses of the ship from about the 20 ft mark. This Greek freighter ship was sunk intentionally in 1978 after being badly damaged by a fire. Today, the Stavronikita shines in all its glory being a home for fishes and other sea life that are usually swarming in this coral rich area. The Stavronikita is just about 230 ft from shore.
There’s hardly a bad time to go to an island with 3,000 hours of sunshine recorded on a yearly basis. Even more reassuring is the trade winds which blow frequently through this part of the world which also ensures that you’re always able to cool down.
The annual temperature of Barbados is 75-85°F. Peak season takes place from December until April, which happens to be the dry season. Though you might encounter some rainy days if you travel during the wet season (June - November), these are usually minimal and unlikely to interrupt your beach hopping time!
The warm and clear waters around Barbados add to the appeal of the many awesome scuba sites. Added to that Barbados is outside of the hurricane belt which means the water is calm and the fishes plentiful year-round.
The water temperature in the summer is usually around 84°F from June up until September and 77°F between January and March. If you’ll be diving in the summer, a swimsuit or skin suit might do just fine, while a 3 mm ‘shorty’ (short wet suit) is recommended during the ‘winter’.
Find out more about when to go to Barbados by reading our ‘Best time to visit Barbados’ post.
There’s a reason Sandals is loved so much by couples一it’s one of the most romantic resorts on the planet! Not only is Sandals a great choice if you’re looking for a getaway with emphasis on the good ol’ fuzzy feelings of love, it is also just right for those looking for some diving excitement. Part of the lure of Sandals for dive lovers is that dives are part of the all-inclusive package, which means all guests can dive for free (max. two tanks per day) for your entire vacation.
During your dive vacation with Sandals you can choose between morning or afternoon dives. Some people choose afternoon dives on the first day if they arrive in the morning, which gives them time to check out the resort before suiting up.
Most divers prefer to head out in the morning though, as chances are high that you’ll head to some of the more spectacular sites which can be further out. Newbie divers will love either of these dive time options.
Check out Sandals all-inclusive resorts in Barbados. Sandals Barbados and Sandals Royal Barbados are located right next to each other on the beach: Stay at 1, Play at 2! Sandals Royal Barbados even comes with a craft beer hall and bowling alley, which is free to use for guests. See what else is included in your stay.
Sandals dive staff are simply amazing. They are the epitome of that Caribbean friendliness many foreigners who visit the islands often rave about. During your diving expedition you’ll feel as though you’re diving with friends. As you build a good relationship with your dive team over the course of your vacation you can make suggestions on where you’d like to go, and the things you’d like to see. Your dive instructor will also likely watch you closely to see how comfortable and capable you are in the water to determine whether you’re ready for more advanced dive locations.
Keep in mind when diving with Sandals that all equipment is included. This means that aside from everyday vacation things, you don’t need to bring anything with you but a wetsuit. If you don’t own a wetsuit or just want to pack light, you can rent one once you arrive. Aside from that, the only other thing you’ll need to rent is a locker in the dive shop, if you need one.
The best part of diving with an all-inclusive resort is that you don’t need to worry about the costs racking up一you won’t even need to tip the dive center staff, as tips aside from butlers and spa staff are already included in the cost of your stay. Some people choose to get around this and thank the dive staff if they’ve had an amazing time with small tokens of appreciation, or even handy dive gadgets from home.
A heartfelt “thank you” also works just fine!
Getting PADI® certified is a straight-forward process with Sandals. You can get PADI® Certified at Sandals during your vacation if you aren’t already一all you’ll need to do is register for a training course and pay the required fees. You’ll need to fill out a medical form before going on any dive to ensure you’re in tip-top dive shape, and then you’ll be good to go. Speed up your dive certification by going online and starting your course even before you arrive. Once you’re certified, you’ll be able to dive for free for the duration of your vacation!
Get ready for the dive vacation of a lifetime! Likely you’ve already got some of the ‘must-do’ dive sites in mind, and all that’s left to do is pack. The countdown is on, and we urge you to let all the incredible experiences sink in once you get to Barbados!