The Caribbean has much to offer, but the beaches are extraordinary. From long stretches of the finest powder sand to pretty deserted coves.
There’s one to suit every mood, and here some well-known favourites.
AWAY-FROM-IT-ALL BEACH The Abacos and other Out Islands of the Bahamas have blissfully empty beaches. Most, like Tahiti Beach, take a little extra effort to reach. It’s about four miles from Hope Town, which has almost no cars, so renting a bike or golf cart to make the trek on sand and gravel paths is a great option, as is chartering a Boston Whaler. The sand is whiter than white, and the strand is often deserted, with water that’s calm and warm.
ADVENTURERS’ BEACH Haiti has some of the loveliest unspoiled beaches, particularly on La Tortue (aka Tortuga Island), an island six miles off the north coast, which was at one time riddled with pirates. At the west end is Pointe Saline, a broad, 1.5-mile spread of creamy sand against a brilliantly aquamarine sea. A village of thatched huts is inhabited only by fishermen.
STROLLING BEACH Rendezvous Bay on Anguilla is a sweeping, 2.5-mile stretch of luxurious white sand. Observe the glittering lights of Saint-Martin while strolling along. This beach is rarely busy and at one end is local reggae star Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve, the definitive “ramshackle beach bar”.
LONG BEACH Antigua claims to have 365 beaches, but its sibling Barbuda has one strand on the west coast that continues virtually unbroken for 17 miles. The sand varies ever so slightly along its length – mostly it’s sugar white, but in some sections tiny remnants of broken shells give the beach a beautiful pink hue.
GRAND BEACH Grand Anse in Grenada is a two-mile stretch of golden sand that offers something for everyone. Water sports, beach bars and hair braiders congregate at the south end, while the north end tends to be quieter, almost residential. The island’s picturesque capital and nearby majestic mountains provide a spectacular backdrop.
BLACK-SAND BEACH Martinique’s Anse Céron is arguably the island’s prettiest beach with sand the colour of black glass that reminds the visitor of the simmering volcano that produced it. Despite the somewhat remote location, there are shower and bathroom facilities, plus a charming restaurant at an old sugar plantation nearby.
LOCALS BEACH 17 miles east of Puerto Rico, you’ll find Culebra, and mile-long curve of brilliant white sand called Playa Flamenco. Popular with locals, Sanjuaneros ferry over from the mainland on weekends.
LOBSTER BEACH Anegada, a wonderfully remote backwater in the British Virgin Islands, boasts Big Bamboo’s at Loblolly Bay, where a lobster trap sits in the sea about 30 feet from nearby tables. U.S. senators and European princesses have been spied here.
NO PROBLEM BEACH Seven miles long and lively from one end to the other, Negril in Jamaica still packs a lot of laid-back vibes after all these years since its days as a hippie hangout in the ’70s. The beach, known as the “Capital of Casual” is lined with restaurants and bars, and vendors stroll up and down the strip offering souvenirs and hair-braiding. At night, live reggae heats up the sand.
PICTURE-PERFECT BEACH Taking St. John’s winding road from Cruz Bay into the Virgin Islands National Park presents one of the Caribbean’s finest picture-postcard views, Trunk Bay. Fortunately, there’s a well-placed pull-off from which to admire this perfect panorama.
PARTY BEACH Orient Beach on Saint-Martin is a great place for freewheeling Riviera-style revelry, with lounge chairs and water-sports equipment for rent, chic restaurants and body-painting. Try the parasailing, or just watch from the beach.
SECRET BEACH Englishman’s Bay on the island of Tobago offers an unspoiled arc of honey-coloured sand. This heavenly spot is reached through a tunnel of bamboo. Great snorkelling can be found at each end by the craggy rock outcrops.