Types of Rocks Found in Barbados: A Guide to the 4 Most Common You Will See

There are many types of rocks in Barbados that may be interesting to observe. 

Here’s a list (with explanation) of some of the most likely you’ll find.

Types of Rocks Found in Barbados


The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.


Barbados is an island formed by sedimentary rock, this sets Barbados apart from the rest of the Lesser Antilles which are volcanic.

Barbados is covered by over 80% limestone created by the ever rising, dying and rebuilding coral reef that surrounds the island.

Expect to find radiolarites, sandstone, ironstone, and shales in the Scotland District where the oldest formations of rock are exposed.  

The geology of Barbados contains a very rare view of the history of sea level rise and fall.

It was formed by tectonic action and it has pushed the edge of a tectonic plate to above sea level.

Barbados is the only place in the world where this has happened. 

Barbados has been formed by accredatory action of the South American plate and the Caribbean plate.

The South American plate is being pushed down and the Caribbean plate is scraping material from it to create the Barbados Ridge. 

Coral Limestone

As much as 85% of Barbados is covered in limestone. Limestone is most commonly formed from the remains of marine life. 

Marine animals that produce calcium containing shells and skeletons die and the remaining calcium consolidates into limestone. 

The Coral formations on Barbados are stunning.

Since the island is being pushed up from under the sea the coral keeps getting lifted above sea level and dying. 

The coral below the water keeps growing and expanding.

This has created The Giant’s Stairs

The Giant’s Staircase is a formation that begins in Bathsheba and goes to Hackelson’s Cliff.

You can drive up this formation and observe each spot where the ascent levels out. 

The six flat areas represent a high point of the sea level. 

The highest point of the Giant’s stairs is karst limestone and the lowest point is live coral reef.

This area offers the full lifecycle of limestone.  

The coral also filters the water into wells on the island that supply all the freshwater to the residents of Barbados. 

Coral Boulders

The coral rock formations are unique on Barbados as some of the beaches have large boulders made of dead coral. 

When the coral rises above the sea level it dies and maintains its structure and since this cycle has been happening for much of the history of Barbados there are many examples of coral on the shores of Barbados. 

These large coral boulders are found on Bottom Bay Beach and Harry’s Beach.

They are still studied often by geologists. 


The oldest rocks on Barbados are found in St. Andrews in the Scotland District. 

These deep bed sandstones are very fine grained appearance.

This sandstone was formed before the island rose above the sea level.

The sandstone supports lush vegetation that is notably absent on limestone formations.  

The St. Andrews area of Barbados is the home to several nature preserves including Turners Hall Woods.

These are some of the most remote and persevered natural spaces on the island. 

There are great opportunities to hike, observe and enjoy the unspoiled beauty of this geological wonder. 


Radiolarites are the consolidated remains of radiolarians that have formed a chert stone. 

Radiolarites are dark colored, layered sedimentary rock that often has visible layers. 

Radiolarians are protozoa that form intricate skeletons that are rich in minerals and when they die they settle onto the seafloor and become part of the ooze that forms many types of rocks. 

Radiolarites can be very young or very old, but the Radiolarites found on Barbados date from the early Eocene to middle Miocene geological age. 


Ironstone is a sedimentary rock that is formed in the presence of iron ore or a stone where the iron has chemically replaced another mineral.  

Freshly broken ironstone is gray and it turns red as it oxidizes.

It is a non-banded stone with an irregular cleving pattern. 

Ironstone can be formed from other types of rocks and the ironstone found on Barbados is mostly sandstone.

The term ironstone is only used to describe these iron-containing sedimentary rocks that are post-precambrian, meaning they were formed during the current geological age. 


Shale is a type of sedimentary rock that breaks into large flat layers. 

Shale is generally found in medium to large flat pieces with visible layers and a fine uniform appearance. 

Shales can be many colors, and the shale on Barbados is a variety of darker gray colors. 

Shale is often seen carved out to create roadways, you may see the many layers, as thin as 1 cm as you drive along the roads in Barbados. 

The shales on Barbados are formed from clay and quartz and they contain a lot of organic matter. 

Shales often house natural gas and petroleum. 

Collecting Rocks in Barbados

There are lots of interesting geological specimens that are all over Barbados.

Shells, sand and rocks may be purchased as souvenirs but they should be declared when entering the US. 

While much of the island is very accessible to tourists, you should be careful to not disturb the natural environment. 

There are several natural preserves on the island and they may have their own regulations. 

It is important to read and obey all posted signs regarding collection of rocks, sand or shells. 

The local rules on Barbados may vary from the custom laws when you return home.

Even legally obtained rocks, sand or shells could result in a fine when you return home. 

Be sure to declare all items that you are carrying and read any posted signage or available regulations for your home country. 

Types of Rocks in Barbados

Barbados is a fascinating place to study the rocks and soil.

The tectonic action that created and continues to create the island has brought some very ancient rocks to the surface to be studied. 

The coral staircase as it is called, has been an important place for climate scientists to study historic sea levels. 

The natural preserves in St. Andrews are some of the most untouched areas of the island. There are plenty of hikes and guides that can help you explore this area. 

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Types of Rocks Found in Barbados