The Best Caribbean Beaches For Every Type of Traveller
So many beautiful beaches, so little vacation time! With each of these sun-soaked destinations boasting their own unique claim to fame, here's the definitive guide to the best Caribbean beaches for everything from sunsets to snorkelling to seafood.
The Best Caribbean Beach for Seclusion
Little Bay, Anguilla
Little Bay challenges your inner explorer, as it’s only accessible by water. From Crocus Bay, you’ll have to hire a boat or kayak on your own to this tucked-away cove. Once there, you can jump into the sea from the rocks or put on a snorkel and mask to check out the colourful fish. Swim out a little way into the grass and you’ll likely be rewarded with the sight of sea turtles.
The Best Caribbean Beach Near a Port City
Carlisle Bay, Barbados
Boasting no fewer than three beaches, Carlisle Bay’s shallow, warm waters make it a favourite destination for families. At the Pebbles Beach end, marked by 17th century cannons at Needham’s Point, enjoy a taste of local heaven: a “cutter” (fresh-grilled fish sandwich) from Cuzz’s famous fish shack. At the Browne’s Beach end is quaint Bridgetown, one of the Caribbean’s prettiest cities. Founded in 1628 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can feel the history as you stroll (and shop!) its narrow laneways.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Live Music
Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla
All beaches are public in Anguilla, and none are more fun than Rendezvous Bay when Bankie Banx is playing. Each spring, the world-renowned reggae artist leads Moonsplash, the Caribbean’s longest-running independent music festival. You can check out the live music and great food year-round at Banx’s very own wooden beach bar, Dune Preserve.
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The Best Caribbean Beach to Live Like a Local
Jolly Harbour, Antigua & Barbuda
It’s said that Antigua has a beach for every day of the year. Whether or not that’s actually true, there certainly are plenty to choose from, many of which are part of vacation resorts. If you’d rather experience Antigua like a local, however, consider renting one of the many apartments and villas near Jolly Harbour beach. You’ll have the freedom to cook your own meals, and in shopping for fresh local ingredients, you’ll get an authentic taste of island life.
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The Caribbean Beach With the Most Beautiful Sand
Harbour Island, Bahamas
Once the capital of the Bahamas, Harbour Island, just off the main island of Eleuthera, defines the laid-back style of this Caribbean nation. Fortunately, it was outside the path of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019, and the pastel-coloured cottages and endless pink-sand beaches remain to be enjoyed. Harbour Island is also known for its standout dining, some of the best in the Caribbean.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Surfing
This surfing hub hosts many international competitions. American Kelly Slater, regarded as the best pro surfer of all time, has put Bathsheba’s so-called “Soup Bowl” wave among his top three in the world. Even if you’re not comfortable getting out in the rollers yourself, it’s a thrill to watch the surfers from shore, and the rugged beauty of the eastern Barbados coastline is second to none.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Snorkelling
1,000 Steps, Bonaire
Ringed by some of the Caribbean’s healthiest corals (thanks in part to its Reef Renewal Foundation), Bonaire is a snorkeler’s paradise. The best part? There’s no need to hire a boat—you can access some truly spectacular snorkelling simply by wading in from the beach. One of the most popular spots for snorkelling is 1,000 Steps on the north coast. Despite its name, it’s a mere 70-odd steps down to the rocky beach, where you can don your mask and snorkel, and soak in the colourful sights of staghorn and fan corals, sea turtles, parrotfish and so much more.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for a Cocktail
White Bay, Jost Van Dyke Island, British Virgin Islands
You can walk to White Bay if you’re staying at one of Jost Van Dyke Island’s cottages, but many arrive by charter boat, jump in, and swim ashore. What’s the big attraction? The Soggy Dollar Beach Bar and its famed “Painkiller”: a cocktail of rum (ideally Pusser’s), juices, coconut cream and Grenadian nutmeg. On the swim back after a couple of Painkillers—wearing your lifejacket, of course—it’s unlikely you’ll be worried about a few soggy dollars left over in your trunks pocket.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for a Long Stroll
Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
It’s not quite seven miles long—in fact, it’s closer to 6.3—but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this pristine sugar-white beach is ideal for a long leisurely stroll. There’s plenty to do along the way, like snorkelling, stand-up paddleboarding, and taking a cooling dip in the luminous blue water. Beaches here are public to the high-tide edge, so you can literally walk the length of this beauty and stop to imbibe whenever the cocktail mood or a rumbling tummy strikes. The bonus? You can indulge with a clear conscience—just think of the calories you’ll burn on the walk back!
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Couples
There’s something incredibly romantic about Varadero, often named one of the best beaches not only in the Caribbean, but in the whole world. Maybe it’s all the adult-only hotel options, the minty mojitos or the abundance of bright bougainvillea and powder-scented oleander. It could also be the ever-present music: beyond the classic love song Guantanamera, Cubans claim to have created Bolero and Cha-Cha-Cha. Whatever the case, it’s definitely a destination best shared with a significant other.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Showing Off Your Swimsuit
Playa Porto Mari, Curaçao
Tucked away on the west coast of Curaçao is this secluded beauty that served as a backdrop for Sports Illustrated’s 2017 Swimsuit Issue. It’s easy to understand its appeal: the pure white sand and deep turquoise waters provide truly breathtaking scenery. Stage your own photoshoot on the Instagram-worthy wooden dock, then explore the stunning landscape on one of three nature trails.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Fresh Seafood
Macao, Dominican Republic
Near Punta Cana is lively Macao Beach, best known for its dune buggies, surf camps, and the open-air seafood experience at D’Bale Restaurant La Dona. Fishermen pull their boats onto the beach to display their daily catch—think lobster, red snapper and shrimp—and the restaurant’s cook prepares it to your liking. Grab a soft drink or Presidente beer from the cooler, sit at the communal tables, and enjoy your feast alongside the locals.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Cliff Jumping
The cliffs at Negril’s south end have long been a draw for adrenaline junkies. Whether you want to take the plunge into the waters below or are content to observe the heart-pounding spectacle, a visit to Rick’s Café—and a round of rum punch—is a must. Combined with the ever-present Reggae music and mouthwatering aroma of jerk chicken, it’s the consummate Jamaican experience.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Sand Dunes
Playa Pilar, Cayo Guillermo, Cuba
Off Cayo Coco is tiny Cayo Guillermo, with its famously long Playa Pilar beach, one of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite fishing spots (the beach gets its name from the writer’s boat, Pilar). Fifteen-metre dunes, said to be the highest in the Caribbean, are the spectacular backdrop to super-fine white sand that leads into delightfully warm waters.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Horseback Riding
Sandy Bay, Jamaica
Saddle up! If you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure near Montego Bay, Jamaica-based Chukka Caribbean Adventures has you covered. For more than 30 years, the company has conducted guided horseback rides along Sandy Beach and other locations throughout the Caribbean. It’s a pretty awesome experience to view the lush shore from atop your gentle steed while it carries you through cooling blue waters, and the friendly guides help ensure there are a lot of laughs along the way.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Ancient Ruins
South of busy Cancun lies quieter Tulum. History enthusiasts will marvel at the site’s 11th-century Mayan ruins, perched dramatically—not to mention strategically—on a clifftop overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Visiting the site first thing in the morning delivers two significant advantages: Not only will you beat the throngs of tourists, but you can also catch a truly unforgettable sunrise over the water. Before you leave, descend the wooden steps for a stroll or a swim (if the sea is calm) at the “secret” beach.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for a Little Bit of Everything
Luquillo, Puerto Rico
After working up a sweat on a hike through the adjacent El Yunque rainforest, descend to this long crescent beach for a refreshing dip in the calm waters. Lined with loads of mature palms and alive with the sounds of salsa and merengue music, the beach is also a prime spot for some chinchorreando (bar-hopping). Browse the kiosks for the perfect empanadilla—snacks stuffed with lobster, shrimp and crab—and the tastiest pina colada—a cocktail that Puerto Ricans claim as their own.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for Film Buffs
Wallilabou Bay, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Whether it’s a cruise ship port-of-call or a destination in itself, no trip to St. Vincent is complete without a visit to Wallilabou Bay. Located on the island’s leeward side, the bay is famed both for its fantastic sunsets and its role in movie-making history: it’s where several scenes from the Pirates of the Caribbean were shot. Marking the entrance to Wallilabou Bay is a magnificent stone arch—an awe-inspiring sight that would surely have impressed Jack Sparrow himself.
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The Best Caribbean Beach for a Romantic Sunset Dinner
Montpelier Plantation’s private beach, St. Kitts & Nevis
Each Monday, guests of historic Montpelier Plantation and Beach on the island of Nevis head to this quiet cove for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience. Chef Halva Browne and his team create an exquisite dinner—including grilled wahoo or mahi-mahi—served on tables at water’s edge. Candlelight, wine and passionfruit Prosecco add to the mood as guests enjoy the sunset and watch for its storied “green flash.” Then, there’s live music and dancing. Sheer Caribbean bliss.
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The Caribbean Beach With the Most Beautiful Water
Grace Bay, Turks & Caicos
Despite regularly being named one of the best Caribbean beaches, Grace Bay feels like one of the best-kept secrets in the sunny south. Sure, there are plenty of luxury resorts to choose from, but this paradise never feels crowded. The other big draw here is the magnificent water, which changes colour as though it was alive. Sometimes appearing sapphire blue, sometimes turquoise—and often both—it’s a natural wonder sandwiched between the cobalt Caribbean sky and whitest, softest sand you’ll ever feel between your toes.
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