Searching for Pink Sand in Barbuda

Thinking pink

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

The sun is putting on its most shiny show, and a cool breeze kisses my shoulders.  Wispy clouds skid silently across a turquoise sky, presiding over a stretch of tawny sand that stretches as far as the eye can see. Warm waves rhythmically rush to shore, making a frothy scallop on the sand. It’s the perfect Caribbean beach day.

But I’m disappointed.

It’s my first time setting foot on Barbuda, the 62-square-mile sister island. I’ve arrived on a Windstar Cruise, and most of my fellow passengers have set off for a tour of the Codrington Lagoon, where a marine sanctuary is home to the rare frigate bird.

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My mission, however, is to see the pink sands for which the island is famous and that I’ve been hearing about for the last 15 years. I long to sink my toes deep into their rosy depths and snap selfies with the pinkish coast as my backdrop. While I don’t have enough time to get to Low Bay (the famously pink 17-mile strand where Lighthouse Bay resort, Barbuda’s best-known hotel, sits) I’m eager to sample the sand at Dulcina Bay, the winsome beach that unfurls from the small  pier where our ship is docked.

But now, strolling the quarter-mile curve along what locals call the river stretch, I can’t help but feel disappointed. The beach, though lovely and studded with thatch-roofed palapas, is definitely not the hue I’d been expecting.

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“The pink sand is seasonal,” the young woman from the tourism office tells me when I return to the pier. She explains that the sand is at its pinkest just after groundswells, when the crushed fragments of pink shells are churned up by the sea and deposited on the southern and western coasts. “Trust me, it’s like a pink carpet; you have to see it!” she exclaims.

Registering my disappointment, she reaches down into a bag at her feet. “This is for you,” she says, handing me a small bottle filled with the tiniest and pinkest shells I’ve ever seen. “This is what our sand looks like. And it’s even finer and pinker when it’s fresh,” she assures me. “You have to come back and see it!”

barbuda pink sand

I can’t help but gasp at the bottle in my hand, marveling at the miniscule shells it contains, each as delicate and transparently pink as baby’s fingernails. And I imagine how thrilling it must be to see them blanketing the sand. It really is something I have to see for myself.

Alas, it won’t happen today. But as I turn the bottle over in my palm, I know in an instant that, one day, it will.