Best Caribbean Beaches
Bottom Beach, Barbados
Best Caribbean Beaches listed in alphabetical order
Map Islands Information
Cheap Caribbean Tips Budget Caribbean Islands
Crime Best season Gay-friendly islands
History and culture Getting there
Sargassum seaweed 2015
A new threat to some of the world's best beaches is a stinking but irresistable invasion of Sargassum seaweed slopping onto pristine beaches across the southern USA and Caribbean, including Texas, south Florida, Mexico, Barbados, Trinidad, Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rica, Brazil and even across the ocean to Portugal, Spain, the British Isles, and Morocco.
Sargassum appears as vast mats of free-floating seaweed growing on the surface of seawater and has probably been around for thousands of years. The difference now is that it's multiplied massively and is washing up on our favourite beaches in thousands of tons.
The miles-wide masses of algae pile up on beaches and rot creating a stink and creating a home for biting sand flies as well as making the waters unpleasant to swim in.
Some blame the 2010 BP oil-spill cleanup, some say it's a a natural response to global warming, toxic waste and sewage running from rivers into the seas.
The Bottom Line
When you book your vacation/honeymoon/one-in-a-lifetime best beach experience in the Caribbean region ask the resort for clear evidence that there is no Sargassum situation there. Recent and dated photos? Refund guarantee?
It seems that some regions that are lying thru their teeth about Sargassum pollution. Hello Cancun? Anyone there? (In July Cancun workers removed 18,000 cubic feet of seaweed from the beach only to have it reappear days later). Tobago has declared a 'natural disaster' after tens of thosands of tons of seaweed coated their beaches and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic has been badly affected.
Best Caribbean Island Beaches
West Indies, Little Bay, Shoal Bay
Anguilla encompasses arguably the best beaches generally in the Caribbean, with over 30 strands of dream sands to cater to not many sun-seekers, a very laid-back charm and a growing fine restaurant scene to cater to after-sun diners.
Little Bay is a tiny half moon shaped bay with powder
sand beach and clear water is protected by high cliffs so the ambience
is tranquil and excellent for sunbathing and snorkelling. Access
is by boat only from Crocus Bay.
Nearby the two mile stretch of Shoal
Bay - which some consider to be Anguilla's
best beach, Rendezvous
Bay, or Road
Bay offer a few more
facilities and action.
Antigua, Johnson's Point (Crab Hill)
Antigua's chain of secluded coves with white soft-sand
beaches (especially in the south-west) and sensational views also offers low-stress flights from the UK, easy transfers, a good choice of hotels and masses of family-friendly activities for toddlers to teenagers. Some options include Wadadli Animal Park, a pirate experience (Black Swan), kayaking, zip-wires and plenty more.
If snorkeling is your aim, then head for Pigeon Point near Falmouth
Harbour. Topless or naked bathing are both strictly forbidden on this island. See Crime.
This famous pink sand beach on a islet of Eleuthera Island, is one of the world's most photographed beaches
and often voted as the world's best beach by various travel
a three mile stretch of powder sand named for its salmon colour
due to flecks of red plankton mixed with fine, sugar-white coral sand.
Most of the accommodation is located on the cliff behind the beach
and reached by 'Bahamas Fast Ferries' from Eleuthera.
More Bahamas information and photos
Barbados seems to be moving intelligently and inexorably away from exclusive luxury holidays to all budget vacations, with plenty of family-friendly resorts offering shallow pools, kid's clubs, flying foxes, jungle camps, pirate ships and endless water-based activities.
The island is lined with soft white sand beaches and azure seas, though calm or rough depends on their location. Barbados food is varied and delicious, the people are charming and speak English. Barbados is easily accessed by direct flights from the USA, Canada and UK.
Crane Beach (photo) is said to be
one of Barbados' - if not the Caribbean's - most beautiful beaches.
The soft white sands and bumpy azure waves are embraced by imposing cliffs but swimmers need to be ready for a bit of a battle as here the waters mix Caribbean benevolence with Atlantic fury.
More Barbados information and photos
This is a totally
laid-back seaside town with a 16 miles of pristine sandy beach on
a long, narrow peninsula in SE Belize.
It is is well worth the trip to get there (4-5 hours from Belize
City, but now daily domestic flights are available).
Facilities are simple but comfortable, with friendly locals and
fantastic seafood. Apart from just lying on the sand, you can participate
in various water sports, fishing, bird watching, manatee watching
(!) and jungle excursions in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
If you want more action (especially scuba diving), try the Cayes: resort-oriented
Ambergris Caye, or relatively low-key Caye
Both are good bases for world-class diving and snorkelling off the
world's second greatest barrier reef.
British Virgin Islands, BVI.
Palm-lined silky beaches with deep pinky-gray
sands and peppermint green water (what about the purple prose?).
Although Virgin Gorda has no shortage of lovely beaches such as
Devil's Bay, Mahoe Bay, Pond
Bay, Savannah Bay, and Spring Bay, the Baths gets the top spot in
BVI, so it can get crowded. It's good for year-round swimming and
snorkelling, especially going left from the beach but a bit pricey.
Virgin Gorda is one of the friendliest islands in the Caribbean.
More BVI information and photos
British Virgin Islands, Jost Van Dykes Island, White Bay
Photogenic, unspoilt and white-on-white,
the beach on tiny Jost Van Dykes island
5 miles west of Tortola, was a secret until recently but now some
major publications are raving about it, and it has been selected
as one of world's top ten best beaches.
There is also fabulous snorkelling from the islet off the southeast
of Jost Van Dykes
Sandy Cay and the more remote Sandy
Spit Beach as well.
Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman, Seven Mile Beach
Seven Mile Beach (well, to be honest, it's actually 5.5 miles long and also known as West Bay Beach) is the big one that everyone wants to shuffle their toes in en route to the clear, tranquil water above the gently shelving sandy bottom. It's a magnificent stretch of groomed, powder white sand that, if you can afford it, you should hug close and never let go. Oh, that's too bad, can't stay for ever? Never mind. Back to work after a quick snorkel.
More Grand Cayman information and photos
Varadero is not technically the Caribbean, actually the Straits of Florida, but but it's near enough. 20km of clean, creamy, uncrowded
sand adjacent to clean, warm
water runs alongside a string of relatively cheap all-inclusive hotels and a
few local facilities. There is no coral in the immediate vicinity
so forget snorkelling but other marine activities are plentiful.
Varadero town is
not especially interesting but a rental car or bus will get you
too Havana in a couple of hours. Havana is very lively and fascinating in a crumbly pre-60's
way and definitely the best exotic culture in the Caribbean. Four days in Varadero and three days in Havana would be an
excellent week's holiday.
More Cuba information and photos
Not to be confused with much bigger Dominican Republic (it's near Guadeloupe and Martinique in the east, whereas DR is a package destination in the central Caribbean near Cuba), Dominica specialises in activities and not just kid's stuff. Possibilities range from whale-watching, kayaking and scuba to mountain-biking trails, jungle rainforest canopy tours and superb hiking routes that supply delightful rest-stops en route, such as spas, mud-baths and cave swimming.
The most extreme trekking on offer is the 115 mile (184 kms) Waitukubuli National Trail.
Punta Cana beach, Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic, many Blue Flag beaches
DR is the best budget Caribbean island, with Jamaica cool running up. Dom Rep is low cost due to many all-inclusive resorts catering mainly to families, low labour costs and plenty of fertile land to grow produce, rather than import just about everything like most Caribbean islands.
Apart from its excellent beaches, massive size and cheap prices, the Dominican Republic also hosts an unequalled variety of things to do inland when the sun and sand gets just too much.
More Dominican Republic information, map and photos
Grenada, Carriacou, Grand Anse, Magazine Beach, La Sagesse
Grenada not only hosts spectacular powder-sand beaches serviced by friendly little restaurant/cafés but is also fond of activities so perfect for those make-work holiday folk who can't just lounge on the sand or flop in the water for a week.
Anse la Roche is a must-see beach, the classic image of fantasy sand with a great view of Union Island across the water. It's a 45 minute walk from
Bogles village but it's quite easy to get lost and it might be better
to take a water taxi. There are no facilities and very few people,
so take food and drink.
Grand Anse is the place for action, Magazine Beach is the one for boulder-scattered classic Caribbean style and La Sagesse for Caribe au naturel.
Grande-Terre, (West Indies), Sainte
Guadeloupe is an up and coming destinations
for Europeans. It's still only moderately touristy and has very
good reputation for spicy French-Creole cuisine. The coastline
is rugged and the fine sandy beaches are relatively quiet.
Anne town is the prettiest village in Guadeloupe and the beach
is the finest while Plage de la Caravelle is also excellent
but access is only through Club Med.
7 mile beach in Negril, Jamaica
Jamaica, Negril Beach
Jamaica has a name for three things, partying, nude sunbathing and crime. Locals love to dance, the music is irresistible (well, unless you dislike Reggae or Ska) and beach parties happen in brilliant locations all over the island, as well as more formal world music festivals such as Reggae Sumfest in Montego bay. There's nothing quite like a few rum 'n' cokes or Red Stripes on a perfect beach at sunset, shack-fried fish and a wobbly shuffle on powder sand to live Ska.
Looking for a nudist paradise? Negril
Beach is the one for you if you can cope with the crowds and some
local harassment. Otherwise the beach is Jamaica's prettiest with
a laid-back atmosphere. It's much less busy than the famous Seven
Long Bay Beach Park at northern end
of Negril Beach is a bit more tranquil as is Bloody
Bay Beach further along. There are reports of occasional
thefts and mugging.
As for crime, it's easy enough to avoid if you take local advice (i.e. from hotel staff), leave valuables in your safe and stay away from shanty towns. See Crime.
More Jamaica information, map and photos
Martinique (France), Le Diamant (Diamond Beach)
Les Salines in Ste-Anne is
the finest beach on the South Loop and the only gay friendly beach
in Martinique but six mile long Diamond Beach is the best, with
a good view of Diamond Rock island offshore which some say is one of the Caribbean's
most beautiful diving sites.
Martinique's French ambience is an interesting change from the usual
US/British style Caribbean. In
fact it is a part of France and the European Union so the currency
is conveniently the Euro!
Local restaurants serve superb French-Creole cuisine.
Nevis, Pinney's Beach
Nevis is a tiny, glamorous yet unspoiled dot of of volcanic stardom, with a handful of very exclusive luxury hotels (e.g. Four Seasons Resort) looking after celebrities, while locals continue to serve 'killer bee' cocktails on the public beach and act as if Beyoncé is a nobody.
Playa Flamenco, with Sherman tank, Culebra Island, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico, Culebra Island, Playa Flamenco
If all you need is sun, sand, and tranquility in Caribbean, head
to Culebra (meaning Snake), located
partway between Puerto
Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Because it has been kept as a nature reserve the wide sandy beaches
- especially Playa Flamenco - are
in excellent condition, with only very discreet development and a couple of indiscreet yank tanks!
Culebra is good for snorkelling, bird watching and has
one of the Caribbean's most substantial turtle nesting sites too.
There is an hour ferry service from Puerto Rico's Fajardo port and flights
from various airports. More Culebra Island information
Alternatively Puerto Rico's main island has excellent beaches, especially
at the family friendly Boqueron in
Puerto Rico map, information and photos
Lucia, Gros Islet
St Lucia has developed a reputation as the best party island in the Carib zone, with Friday night beach raves happening in several locations though the original Jump Up Party at Gros Islet is - for the moment - the best. With a mass of good value dining places springing up all over don't go for all-inclusive holidays on this island. StLuciaNow.
Vincent and the Grenadines, Palm Island, Casuarina Beach
Casuarina is the prettiest of four beaches on this privately-owned
Caribbean island (originally known as Prune Island), with hundreds
of coconut palms surrounded by coral reefs.
Stay at the very private all-inclusive resort - the
Grenadines' finest - or dine at their restaurants; reservations
It's about a mile from Union Island.
Englishmans Beach, Tobago.
Photo by Colin Campbell
Tobago, Englishman's Bay
Englishman's Bay beach is a lovely, isolated spot with foot-friendly sand, gentle seas, plenty of shady palms and thick forest all around, all at peace other than the occasional squawk of green parrots. This beach has an authentic desert island feel which is boosted by the lack of facilities - apart from a couple of food and drink stalls under the trees. Bring snorkel gear, perhaps a bottle of rum and other bare necessities and enjoy a dream beach before inevitable development, it's magical!
More Tobago information, map and photos
and Caicos, Provo
Island, Grace Bay
The American astronaut John Glenn said that
it must be paradise when he spotted the 40 Turks and Caicos coral
islands from space.
Grace Bay's 12 mile stretch of sand is white and fine as baby powder,
the water is turquoise, calm - protected by a barrier reef - and
safe for swimming. The beach is part of a national marine park so
development is supposed be controlled, as are motorised water sports,
though some think Grace Bay is both overdeveloped and overrated
and metamorphosing into a junk food paradise.
Hotels are widely dispersed and expensive as are restaurants, but they do offer fantastic spa treatments.
For even more expensive and secluded celebrity hotels, try the two
islands of Parrot Cay or
Pine Cay. See Crime.
Trunk Bay is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful beaches
in the world but is often over-crowded, especially on days when cruise
ships lurk in the port, but still glorious and excellent for swimming,
snorkeling and diving.
The bay also hosts the world's first marked underwater snorkeling
trails (National Park Underwater Trail) near the shore, and is one
of the best snorkeling locations in the Caribbean.
Local people are generally friendly and appreciate tourists. An entry fee
More St John information and photos
Venezuela, Islas Los Roques
Long stretches of white sandy beaches bordered
by palms and 20 km of sensational coral reef with crystal-clear
water, this is part of Venezuela's loveliest marine park and excellent
for snorkelling, diving and fishing but offers very little shade.
Los Roques can be visited as a day-trip from Isla Margarita or Caracas
(the Venezuelan capital) by air; otherwise stay on the main island,
Gran Roque, where there is the airport and other basic facilities.
Best Caribbean Beaches
Palm Beach, Aruba;
The Gold Coast, Barbados;
Pink Beach, Barbuda;
Guadalavaca, Caya Levisa, Cuba;
Seven Mile Beach, Jamaica;
Beach, St. Barthélemy;
Playa Grande or Punta Cana, Dominican
Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico;
Dawn Beach, Maho Bay Beach,
Mullet Bay Beach, and Great Bay Beach, St. Martin (St. Maarten);
Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda;
Deadman's Bay, Peter Island, BVI.
Some Caribbean islands are more receptive to LGBT visitors (gays/lesbians etc.) than
Glad-2-B-Gay: Puerto Rico, (San Juan is famously lively), St. Thomas, St John, St Croix (all US Territory so discrimination is barred by law).
(French) St Barts, St Martin/Maarten, Guadeloupe, Martinique, plus Bonaire and Curaçao. Coming out - Aruba, arriba!
No-way-Gay: Jamaica (seriously bad attitude there), Grand Cayman, Barbados (just old-fashioned).
Eagle Beach in Aruba. Photo by Rumblebee.
Getting to the Caribbean from the USA/Canada
n.b there are currently no flat rate air passes.
Unlike trips to Hawaii the Caribe can be reached easily and quickly from much of the USA. Most of the islands take 3-6 hours from the US east coast but flights to the Bahamas for example, while not exactly the Caribbean, but it might as well be, take just 35 minutes from Miami or from 2.5 hours from New York.
One of the cheapest and easiest flights is to Puerto Rico, where passports are not required for US nationals, although ID is necessary. Puerto Rico offers a kind-of American lifestyle but with a lot more sunshine and beaches so makes an easy vacation, but San Juan aiport
also does good connections to other islands.
Another popular, cheap flight destination is Jamaica where the culture is boisterous, the language is English, the costs are low, the beaches are magnificent and multiple airports receive flights from multiple US cities. Jamaica is another useful transit or island-hopping point.
Budget Caribbean flights can also take you to Aruba, an island that offers the best beaches and weather in the summer/late summer, is not as expensive as you may think and also does a good line in connecting flights. Curacao is another south Caribbean island with fine summer climate, good airline connections, pretty nice beaches, decent diving, good snorkeling and an inexpensive living costs. Cheap USA flights.
Cuba is sadly not an easy holiday destination for Americans as flight bookings from USA are still under embargo and US flights cannot land there. Cuba is a fascinating country with an incredible environment, brilliant joie de vivre and some excellent beaches, so if you are interested fly there with a non-US airline such as Mexican or Dominican.
Getting to the Caribbean from the UK
n.b there are currently no flat rate air passes.
Both British Airways and Virgin make scheduled, direct flights to various destinations in the Caribbean, while Thompson and Monarch do charters. Charter packages are the economical way to travel and don't have to be downmarket, there are plenty of upscale package deals out there if you do your research.
Avoid flights with stops or plane changeovers as the trip is long enough at best (8-9 hours) without any interruptions, let alone having to overnight. This is especially so for the return journey which will almost certainly be a night flight. Cheap UK flights.
Island hopping by plane is an easy and inexpensive way to visit other islands if you get bored but note that island time can be over-relaxed and not necessarily in sync with international time so don't book flight connections too close together. Missing a London flight due to a late-arriving island-hopper could be a pricey error.
• keep island hopping to the minimum to avoid timing or bureaucracy stress.
always allow lots of time to do anything vaguely bureaucratic.
be patient in any kind of dealings with Caribe people, urgency is not in their DNA.
never plan tight connections with international flights if you're relying on local transport to get you to your departure point.
LIAT fly to 21 destinations
San Juan, Tortola, St Thomas, St Croix,
Anguilla, St Maarten, St Kitts, Nevis, Antigua,
Martinique, St Lucia, Barbados,
St Vincent, Grenada, Trinidad,
Santo Domingo and Curacao.
CaribJet are the UK specialist for LIAT flights in the UK.
InselAir connects the 6 Dutch Caribbean islands. CaribJet can book e-tickets for the following destinations. Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba, Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), Las Americas, Kingston, San Juan, Phillipsburg St Maarten, Paramaribo, Miami.
Short distance inter-island travel is not common (apart from yachties enjoying a sailing vacation) but possible by ferry between some nearby islands, with some boats navigating around BVI,
Antigua and Granada, as well as to/from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica.
The best season for a Caribbean beach holiday
December to May are usually the
best months in the Caribbean while May is the favourite low-cost
month as accommodation charges multiply mid-December to
April but the weather remains fine through May - hopefully.
The hurricane season runs from August
thru October but the rainy period lasts May to December, except for the Dutch ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) which are below the hurricane belt and consequently have better summertime/autumn weather conditions and practically 12 months availability (though November-January can be a little cloudy and damp). Tobago's season is a little different too, with best months being January to June.
Around Christmas/New Year (last 2 weeks of December
and first 10 days of January), a week either side of Easter
and during North American College breaks is the very busiest and most costly time to travel to and stay in the Caribbean.
Stormy weather: August to early October is the normal peak hurricane season (78% of tropical storms; 87% of the "minor" hurricanes; 96% of the "major" hurricanes) but though hurricanes are rare, rain is not, the humidity can be oppressive and stormy,
water may be rough and unclear for scuba or snorkelling and beaches garbed in seaweed.
However, you could also consider the southern sector of the Caribbean which is effectively below the hurricane belt. e.g. Trinidad & Tobago, and the three Dutch islands off the north coast of South America.
Many Caribbean resorts, restaurants and other services are limited
or shut down completely from September to end of November.
(!) Sand drifting across from Africa can create hazy conditions
mid-May to mid-June.
Bermuda's not in the Caribbean, but the best time to visit the island - about 1,000 miles off the Florida coast in the Atlantic - is in the summertime. From June to October, the pink-sand beaches sprawl in temperatures of around 30C, with long daylight hours, low rainfall and warm seas around 25C.
Strictly speaking the Bahamas are also not in the Caribbean, though they're close, with the nearest island - Bimini - just 53 miles (81 kms) away from Miami, though the main island is around 190 miles away.
English Harbour, Antigua
There's plenty of availability of all sizes of sailing or motor yacht rentals in the area, as weather conditions are superb outside the hurricane season and the variety of attractive islands and dazzling, easy-anchor bays is staggering.
One popular and relaxing option is to join a charter group of small yachts with a professional captain and fixer who then leads the flotilla on island-to-island jaunts, finds the best mooring spots, advises on best sailing techniques, rigging, snorkelling, beach activities and best places to eat and drink onshore if required.
Although flights to the Caribbean are not cheap from Europe and boat rentals hardly cheap, the savings on accommodation and eating out are enormous and the island-hopping fun and fascinating.
Best Budget Caribbean Islands Sailing BVI
Dominican Republic Jamaica Barbados Cuba Tobago
Aruba Bonaire Curaçao Puerto Rico Grand Cayman
British Virgin Islands Tortola Virgin Gorda
US Virgin islands St Thomas St John
Sailing BVI 5 Caribbean Dive Sites
Cuban Beaches Mexican
The World's Best Beaches by month
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