The food, the lush greenery, the warmth of a picture-perfect day – there are plenty of reasons to head to the Caribbean. But let’s be honest, we’re here for the beaches. The fluffy white (or sometimes pink) sand between the toes, the gentle crash of the brazenly-blue waters – it’s this dream that books the ticket.
Every country offers something unique, and everyone has their favorite. Here’s our list of the best beaches in the Caribbean.
1. Eagle Beach – Aruba
Fronting a line of low-rise resorts just northwest of Oranjestad, Eagle Beach is a long stretch of white sand that regularly makes lists of the best beaches in the world. Some areas have shade trees, and you can obtain every service you need, from a lounger to a cold drink. Eagle Beach is a leatherback-turtle nesting area, so parts of it may be closed from March to July.
2. Cow Wreck Bay – British Virgin Islands
Here’s what you’ll find on dazzling, secluded Cow Wreck beach: the most sea-green water you’ve ever laid eyes on, colorful wooden beach chairs under rustling palms, roaming cows, conch shells, a delicious bar restaurant, bathrooms and maybe even Sir Richard Branson on a kiteboard. The best way to spend the afternoon at this Anegada locale is to swim, lounge and then lounge some more.
3. Playa Sirena – Cuba
Cayo Largo's (and, perhaps, Cuba's) finest beach is the broad westward-facing Playa Sirena, where 1.2 miles of powdery white sand is wide enough to accommodate several football pitches. Tourists on day trips from Havana and Varadero are often brought here. Thanks to calm seas, nautical activities (kayaks, catamarans) are available. Set back from the beach, there's a restaurant, showers and toilets. It is the only Cayo Largo beach with shade.
4. Playa Rincón – Dominican Republic
Pitch-perfect Playa Rincón in Las Galeras on Peninsula de Semaná, with soft, nearly white sand and multi-hued water suitable for swimming, stretches for an uninterrupted 1.8 miles – enough for every day-tripper to claim their own piece of real estate.
There's a small stream at the far western end, which is excellent for a quick freshwater dip at the end of your visit, and a backdrop of thick palm forest. Several restaurants serve seafood dishes and rent beach chairs, making this a great place to spend the entire day.
Most people arrive by boat; the standard option is to leave Las Galeras around 9am and be picked up at 4pm – it’s around 20 minutes each way.
5. Grande Anse des Salines – Martinique
A perfect arc of white sand, Grande Anse des Salines is Martinique’s most beautiful beach. Palm trees lean over the ribbon of beach that shelves ever so gently into a classic turquoise sea. It's located about three miles south of Ste-Anne along the D9, and there are hundreds of parking spaces just back from the sand. Snack bars and artisan sorbet sellers provide sustenance in the shade; otherwise, it's wonderfully undeveloped – a slice of fabulously raw nature.
6. Playa Flamenco – Puerto Rico
Stretching for a mile around a sheltered, horseshoe-shaped bay, Playa Flamenco is not only one of Culebra’s best beaches but also makes a regular appearance on the world's best beaches lists.
Backed by low scrub and trees rather than lofty palms, Flamenco gets very crowded on weekends and holidays, especially with day-trippers from San Juan, so plan a weekday visit. Alone among Culebra's beaches, it has a full range of amenities.
7. Crane Beach – Barbados
Crane Beach, four miles northeast of the airport, is a hidden beach cove backed by cliffs and fronted by aqua-blue waters. An adventurous trail over rocks along the water provides access to the beach from the end of a small road less than a mile east of the Crane Beach Hotel. Parking is competitive, only three vehicles fit at the trailhead, but the sands are simply wonderful. Bring a picnic and make a day of it.
8. Sugar Beach – St Lucia
The most famous beach on St Lucia, gorgeous Sugar Beach is spectacularly situated between the two Pitons in Soufrière, ensuring phenomenal views both from the sand and in the water. Like most in the area, it was initially a gray-sand beach; the soft white sands are imported from abroad.
There are free basic public loungers at the far northern end; alternatively, when occupancy is low, you can rent one of the resort's more luxurious models.
9. Salt Whistle Bay – Saint Vincent & the Grenadines
On the northern, uninhabited side of Mayreau in SVG, you'll find Saltwhistle Bay, a double crescent of beautiful beaches split by a narrow palm-tree-fringed isthmus that seems to come right out of central casting for tropical ideals. The turquoise water laps both sides of the sandy strip, in some places only a few feet away.
Yachts drop anchor in the bay, and occasional day-trippers come ashore for a bit of lunch and a sandy frolic. A few rickety huts along the shore sell cold drinks and simple snacks as well as souvenirs to passing yachties. It's a very low-key scene.
10. Cemetery Beach – Cayman Islands
Ask a local where they like to spend a sunny day, and they will likely direct you to this gorgeous strip of sand at the northern end of Seven Mile Beach on the Cayman Islands. It's rarely crowded – not because it's haunted but because there are no big resorts in the area. You can park on the street or in the lot across from West Bay Cemetery.
11. Isaac Bay – St Croix
This secluded beach off Rte 82 in Point Udall offers no shade or facilities, and you'll have to hike about 20 minutes through the scrub to reach it, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful stretch of sand.
The Nature Conservancy manages the area as part of a preserve for green and hawksbill turtles, which are active from July to December. Snorkeling on the coral reef here is good, though be careful of the strong current.
12. Shoal Bay East – Anguilla
Idyllic Shoal Bay East – a shimmering two-mile stretch of brilliant pinkish-white sand strewn with tiny crushed shells – is still miraculously blight-free. There's a handful of small-scale resorts and villas as well as a string of laid-back beach bars along the sand, but it's surprisingly quiet, even in high season. Bring your snorkeling gear (or rent some on-site), as the glassy turquoise waters are perfect for underwater observation.
13. Half Moon Bay – Antigua
Water the color of blue curaçao laps this white crescent in the remote southeastern part of Antigua. Bodysurfers head to the south end, snorkelers to the calm waters north, and everyone meets at the two beach bars for grilled-fish lunches and rum cocktails.
14. Pink Sands Beach – The Bahamas
The powdery sand on Harbour Island shimmers with a pink glow – a result of finely pulverized coral – that’s a faint blush by day and a rosy red when fired by the dawn or sunset. It’s been called the world’s most beautiful beach by a slew of international magazines, and we won’t argue, especially when you get past the rows of blue-and-white umbrellas and loungers. Follow Chapel St or Court St to public access paths to the Atlantic side shores.
15. Grace Bay Beach – Turks & Caicos
Several miles long – the frequently boasted “12 miles” only applies if you measure the entire northern coast of Provo, which is, admittedly, one unbroken beach – this world-famous stretch of coast is powdered with white sand and close enough to the reef wall to see the Atlantic breakers. Though it’s studded with hotels and resorts, its sheer size means that finding your own square of paradise at this Providenciales destination is a snap.
16. Seven Mile Beach – Jamaica
Seven Mile Beach was initially touted on tourism posters as “seven miles of nothing but you and the sea.” True, sunbathers still lie half-submerged in the gentle surf, and the sweet smell of ganja smoke continues to perfume the breeze, but otherwise, this Negril beach has changed a great deal.
Today it’s lined with restaurants, bars and nightspots, and every conceivable water sport is on offer. It is still beautiful to behold, but if you’re looking for solitude, look elsewhere.
17. Grote Knip – Curaçao
This West End beach is a stunner. You've probably seen it on the cover of a Curaçao tourist brochure: a perfect crescent of brilliant white sand framed by azure waters and verdant hills. There are a few snack shacks and places to rent snorkel gear, but it's much less cluttered than the island's private beaches.