We never met a Caribbean beach we didn’t like…but these are our favorites.
Ahh, Caribbean beaches. We’re guessing soft white sand, pristine water, and swaying palm trees come to mind? There are those, yes. But there’s way more variety to consider: beaches with jet black sand and pounding surf; others with pink sand and a calm sea. Beaches with reefs that are perfect for snorkeling; beaches where clothing is optional. While choosing just one best beach for every island is like being asked to choose a favorite kid (we love them all!), we know you won’t be disappointed with the beaches that made the cut.
This tiny island is packed with beautiful beaches (it has 33!), but Shoal Bay (on the island’s northwestern coast) steals the show. Its two-mile long white-sand beach has water in every shade of blue—from turquoise to deep azure. The shallow water makes it a great family beach, but the strand is so broad and long that you can find privacy if you want it. Grab a bite to eat at Gwen’s Reggae Grill, and stick around for the amazing sunset. (P.S. Don’t confuse it with Shoal Bay West Beach, at the far western end of the island.)
Aruba’s widest beach, Eagle Beach wins the prize, with striking white sand, aquamarine water, gentle surf, and the iconic divi-divi tree that you see in almost every Aruba photograph. If your timing is right, you might see turtle hatchlings heading for the sea. Beachfront hotels here are low-rise and relatively low-key—beachgoers are welcome at their restaurants and beach bars.
Pink Sand Beach
WHERE: Harbour Island, Bahamas
The millions of broken bits of coral, shells, and minuscule organisms native to the reefs off the Atlantic Ocean side of Harbour Island give the sand at Pink Sand Beach its pale pink tint. As is true throughout the Bahamas, the water that washes up here is beautiful and clear. Surprisingly, the delicate sand remains cool to the touch, so you can walk on it without it burning your feet, even at noon; and that’s a good thing since you’ll definitely want to stroll down its three miles of sand.
Bottom Bay Beach
Barbados has many top-notch beaches, particularly along the south coast, but secluded Bottom Bay Beach is the star. Tucked into a quiet spot at the island’s southeastern tip and surrounded by coral cliffs, the beach’s pure white sand is soft and studded with swaying palm trees. Truly one of the most romantic settings you’ll find on the island, Bottom Bay is almost never crowded, and it’s possible you’ll have the entire beach to yourself.
WHERE: Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda
Barbuda, sister island to Antigua, is off the beaten track, so its miles and miles of Pink Beach (17 miles, in fact) are a hidden treasure unless you’re in the know. The only footprints you’ll see will likely be your own. The unusually soft sand gets its sponginess and hue from eons of crushed pink shells being churned up from the seabed, which means the sand becomes softer and pinker after a storm.
Horseshoe Bay Beach
This eye-popping beach in the Southampton Parish of Bermuda is shaped like—you guessed it—a horseshoe. Its broad strand of clean, pink-tinted sand bordered by limestone cliffs is a favorite beach among visitors and locals alike. Swimmers make the most of the clear blue sea, snorkelers enjoy exploring the offshore reef, and families flock to the shallow water and gentle surf at the adjacent kids’ beach. During the first week of August, Horseshoe Bay Beach becomes the site of BeachFest—a massive beach party with games, music, food, and drinks all day long.
This stunning white-sand beach on the southern part of Lac Bay—on the sunny, windy, eastern coast of Bonaire—is a mecca for windsurfers. The clear water is no more than waist-deep as far as the offshore coral reef that partially encloses the bay, so beginners who fall off their boards can easily get right back up. You can also walk right out to the reef without getting your head and shoulders wet. In addition to windsurf shops, Sorobon Beach has covered areas for shade or a picnic.
WHERE: Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Giant boulders, called batholiths, appear to have been dropped in a pile here by some prehistoric giant. In reality, volcanic eruptions created the site, designated The Baths National Park. You can slide between the massive granite rocks, wander into grottos, and swim in shallow pools fed by ocean waves. There’s a small beach adjacent to The Baths for a refreshing swim; snorkelers will see lots of fish. Come early in the day or later in the afternoon to escape most of the day-trippers and cruise passengers.
Seven Mile Beach
WHERE: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Along the picturesque western shore of Grand Cayman island, Seven Mile Beach has long been named one of the best Caribbean beaches—if not the best Caribbean beach, period. The long crescent of unspoiled beach is actually just over six miles long due mainly to erosion (but who’s counting?). Most of the island’s luxury resorts and hotels are located here, along with restaurants, beach bars, dive shops, and other water-sports vendors.
Varadero Beach is at the northern end of the Hicacos Peninsula, a long, narrow spit of land (with its own airport) on the northwestern coast of Cuba. Europeans and Canadians make up the bulk of overseas visitors to Varadero, particularly since the U.S. government has increased the restrictions on U.S. citizens visiting Cuba. But if you can get there, bury your toes in the pure white sand on the pretty beach, facing a sea of every shade of blue. It’s worth the effort.
This long stretch of white sand on Porto Marie Bay is part of Plantages PortoMari, a private plantation on the west coast of the island near the village of Sint Willibrordus. A double reef is accessible from shore, making it an excellent place to snorkel and dive. Hikers, bikers, history buffs, bird watchers, and other landlubbers can explore three nature trails on foot or on a mountain bike. Just don’t plan a beach day for either Carnival Sunday or New Year’s Eve; those are the two days each year that the beach is closed.
A volcanic island with 365 rivers and as many waterfalls, “The Nature Island” is not exactly known for its beaches. Nearly all of them are rocky and have jet black or dark gray sand. But Mero Beach, on the southwestern (Caribbean) coast, has a long stretch of silvery-gray sand, and it’s not rocky. Swimmers find the warm, calm, kid-friendly water inviting. Several hotels are nearby, and you’ll find a restaurant, beach vendors, and other amenities (showers and restrooms)—which are mostly unavailable on the other beaches of Dominica.
WHERE: Dominican Republic
A large nation on a very large island, the Dominican Republic has lots of great beaches. Playa Grande—a broad, mile-long stretch of golden sand on the northeastern coast between Rio San Juan and Cabrera—distinguishes itself by its dramatic craggy cliffs that drop into the sea; its proximity to Parque Nacional Cabo Frances Viejo, a jungle preserve; and endless rolling waves, a surfer’s dream. Casual swimmers, stand-up paddleboarders, and kayakers enjoy the clear, calm water close to shore; scuba divers can explore sunken shipwrecks; and snorkelers can swim among the sea turtles and seahorses.
Grand Anse Beach
The grandest of Grenada’s beaches is aptly named Grand Anse Beach, a gleaming two-mile semicircle of pure white sand dotted with sea grape trees and swaying coconut palms. Glance to the north for a picture-perfect view of St. George’s, the capital city, framed by lush green mountains. Grab an alfresco bite to eat or a cool drink at a beachfront restaurant or beach bar.
Plage de Grande Anse
Basse-Terre, the western “wing” of butterfly-shaped Guadeloupe, is mountainous, less populated, and quieter than Grande-Terre, the other “wing.” But a weekend day at beautiful Grand Anse Beach in Deshaies, on Basse-Terre, can get crowded thanks to the most beautiful (and largest) beach in Guadeloupe. Nearly a mile of golden sand wraps around a lovely bay, a thick row of palm trees provide shade from the blistering sun, and the sea usually has high waves that break close to shore—great for body surfing.
Also called Seven Mile Beach, Negril Beach stretches along the western tip of Jamaica and is the island’s finest beach—especially for nude sunbathing. The white sand is soft and smooth, the gentle sea is robin’s egg blue, and the sunsets are amazing. While all beaches are technically public, resorts facing the sea can restrict the sand above the high-water mark—and they do. If you’re not a resort guest, be advised that there are no public facilities; on the other hand, there are lots of restaurants and beach bars, some of which have beach chairs and umbrellas.
Grande Anse des Salines
Beaches in the north have dark sand; those south of Fort-de-France, Martinique’s capital, have white sand. Near the island’s southern tip, Grande Anse des Salines—the most popular part of a stretch of beach known as Les Salines—is one of the loveliest white-sand beaches of all. A mile of soft sand shaded by coconut palms borders a pretty cove; the calm, shallow water is safe for swimming, even for kids.
Rendezvous Bay Beach
Thanks to a volcanic eruption in 1995, all but one beach on Montserrat has volcanic black or dark gray sand. The single crescent of lighter (not really white) sand is on the island’s northeast coast at Rendezvous Bay—a picturesque, remote beach tucked into a cliff that’s accessible only by boat, kayak, or a 30-minute hike over a steep trail starting in the nearby village of Little Bay. (There’s a gorgeous view of the valley from the top of the trail.) Bring your snorkeling gear, because the reef is teeming with marine life.
WHERE: Culebra, Puerto Rico
While Puerto Rico has many great beaches, the most celebrated is Playa Flamenco on the northern shore of Culebra—an island that’s a 50-minute ferry ride from Cieba. Swaying palms, lush green hills, and the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge surround the horseshoe-shaped playa’s sparkling white sand and clear turquoise water. For a peek at Culebra’s recent past as a weapons-testing site, take a walk to the northern end of the otherwise pristine beach to see two rusting, graffiti-laden Sherman tanks that the U.S. Navy left behind in 1975.
Anse de Grande Saline (Saline Beach)
WHERE: St. Barthélemy
Named for the large inland salt pond nearby, Saline Beach is a stretch of unspoiled beachfront along the southern shore of St. Barth. While the beach is public, it feels private. Going topless is de rigeur on French islands, but nudity is generally not. Still, you’re bound to find discreet nudity here, given the fact that the beach is fairly hidden and never crowded.
WHERE: St. Eustatius
The beaches on this small, off-the-beaten-track island—usually referred to as “Statia”—are mostly rocky and usually deserted. On the other hand, Zeelandia Beach, a two-mile stretch of rugged ocean beach with black sand and a great view of The Quill (the island’s dormant volcano), is a perfect spot for taking a long walk, shelling, and searching for the elusive blue glass beads for which the island is known. The Dutch West India Company once used the blue beads as currency; today, beachcombers occasionally find them washed up on the beach.
WHERE: Nevis, St. Kitts and Nevis
This long stretch of soft golden sand on St. Kitts and Nevis, shaded by palm trees on one side and lapped by the clear blue sea on the other, is the two-island nation’s most popular beach. It follows the western coastline of Nevis for three miles, starting in Charlestown and heading north to Cades Bay (where you can catch the St. Kitts ferry). At the southern end, near the Four Seasons Resort, you’ll find some snack shacks and beach bars—notably Sunshine’s, where you’ll want to try a “Killer Bee”; it’s a potent signature drink sweetened with local honey, and yes, it’s capable of a big sting.
WHERE: Saint Lucia
This long strand of golden sand is the focal point of Rodney Bay Village in the north of Saint Lucia. Three resorts line most of the beachfront, but that doesn’t preclude public access. And best of all, those resorts welcome beachgoers to their beachfront bars and grills. In fact, the water-sports center at Mystique Royal St. Lucia rents snorkeling equipment and will arrange waterskiing, deep-sea fishing, and scuba diving excursions for guests and nonguests alike. At the north end of Reduit Beach there’s also a water-sports park and obstacle course for families.
Mullet Bay Beach
WHERE: St. Maarten/St. Martin
Recent hurricanes that ravaged the region had a disastrous effect on St. Maarten/St. Martin, but Mullet Bay Beach—on St. Maarten (the Dutch side) of this two-nation island—is once again an inviting semicircle of powdery-soft white sand. Step into the translucent water, and you can see right through to your feet. Calm and quiet (except for the occasional roar of a passing plane), Mullet Bay is a great beach for swimming, especially at the northern end, and never too crowded.
WHERE: St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Tobago Cays—five small, uninhabited islands way down in the southern Grenadines—are everyone’s vision of a Caribbean paradise. The Tobago Cays Marine Park here is even designated a wildlife reserve due to its natural beauty and biodiversity. Each of the five cays has one or more idyllic beaches with soft white sand, shaded by palm trees, facing a brilliant blue lagoon. Horseshoe Reef, which is studded with corals and sponges and populated by numerous varieties of colorful fish, surrounds four of the islands and is perfect for snorkeling inside and scuba diving. Baradel, one of the five cays, is a protected turtle sanctuary where you can swim freely with big, friendly sea turtles.
Englishman’s Bay Beach
WHERE: Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago
Tobago, the smaller of the two islands in this dual-island nation, has beautiful white-sand beaches—gorgeous broad strips facing pretty bays and stunning crescents surrounding isolated coves. Englishman’s Bay Beach, a mile-long beach fringed by a tropical rain forest, is safe for swimming and great for snorkeling. You’ll likely see a barracuda swim by, and maybe a porpoise or two. The beach itself is pretty far from anywhere, but Eula’s Restaurant serves cool drinks and a bite to eat.
Half Moon Bay
WHERE: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands
With reflective water and sugar sand, Half Moon Bay is virtually a sand bar sandwiched between two uninhabited islands of Turks and Caicos: Little Water Cay and Water Cay. Access is by boat, a 15-minute ride from Blue Haven Marina in Providenciales, but hardy kayakers and paddlers often make the trek. Once there, the peace and quiet—and sheer beauty—is a sharp contrast to the crowds and tourist activities elsewhere on the islands. Sunbathe, swim, snorkel, dive, and explore limestone caves at the southern side of the “bar.”
Trunk Bay Beach
WHERE: St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
You’ve likely seen Trunk Bay Beach in photos, as it’s the quintessential beach and the showpiece of Virgin Islands National Park on St. John. The horseshoe of pristine white sand has a bay that gradates in color from clearly transparent to rich turquoise and surrounding deep green hills. The main attraction here is the self-guided underwater trail showcasing submerged coral formations.