Beach + Island

Last-Chance Beaches

by Peter J. Frank

Mullins Bay, Barbados

Most islands in the Caribbean suffer erosion to a certain degree, much of it from natural causes. Barbados, a country dependent on tourism, knows it needs to protect its beaches, but some of its attempts to do so end up making matters worse. Local environmental activists contend that in several places along Barbados's west shore—the famed Platinum Coast, lined with luxury hotels, condos, and expensive homes—erosion has been exacerbated by the construction of seawalls and groins.

On the island's northwest coast, sunbathers used to be able to walk from the popular beach bar on Mullins Beach north for several miles up the sandy shore. Now, there are only impassable boulders, sea walls, and crashing surf. The author of the local Mullins Bay blog blames the construction of three stone groins at St. Peter's Bay, a new condominium development a quarter mile north of Mullins Beach. Installed ostensibly to help build up the beach there, the structures have sapped the adjacent shoreline of sand. Surprisingly, Barbados's Coastal Zone Management Unit, a government agency charged with controlling erosion, approved the groins. It maintains that global warming is the main culprit in the island's erosion problem. Rising sea levels and severe storms certainly play a role, but to protect its shoreline, Barbados also needs to balance the demands of development and preservation.

If you go: Barbados's east coast is less developed but not unfamiliar with the power of the sea. The Crane Resort owes its pink sand beach and spectacular cliff-top position to the waves that crash onto the shore.

Next: A slippery situation on the Gulf Coast >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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