Bermuda is one of the world's leading beach resorts. It boasts kilometers of pink shoreline, broken only now and then by cliffs that form sheltered coves. Many stretches have shallow, sandy bottoms for some distance out, making them safe for children and nonswimmers. Some beaches (usually the larger ones) have lifeguards; others do not. The Parks Division of the Department for Agriculture and Fisheries supervises public facilities. Hotels and private clubs often have their own beaches and facilities. Even if you're not registered at a hotel or resort, you can often use their beach and facilities if you become a customer by having lunch there.
You'll find dozens of spots for sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing; here's a list of the island's most famous sands, arranged clockwise beginning with the south-shore beaches closest to the City of Hamilton.
Don't Get Burned: Smart Tanning Tips -- Nobody is completely safe from the sun's harmful rays: All skin types and races can burn. To ensure that your vacation won't be ruined by a painful sunburn, be sure to wear a strong sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays at all times (look for zinc oxide, benzophenone, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide, or avobenzone in the list of ingredients). Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Keep infants under 6 months out of the sun completely, and slather older babies and children with strong sunscreen frequently.
If you do get a burn, aloe vera, cool compresses, cold baths, and benzocaine can help with the pain. Stay out of the sun until the burn is completely gone.
One of the most consistently popular beaches in Bermuda, Paget Parish's Elbow Beach incorporates almost 1.5km (1 mile) of (occasionally interrupted) pale pink sand. Private homes and resort hotels dot the edges. Because protective coral reefs surround it, Elbow Beach is one of the safest beaches on the island -- and it's the family favorite.
Bermuda's government provides lifeguards as a public service. The Elbow Beach Hotel (tel. 441/236-3535; www.mandarinoriental.com/bermuda) offers a variety of facilities and amenities free to hotel guests, but they're off-limits to others. Amenities and facilities include sun chairs, cabanas, changing rooms, showers, restrooms, and beach towels distributed three times a day by beach attendants who are trained in water safety and lifeguard techniques. The on-site Dive Shop also rents paddle boats and sea kayaks for $30 per hour for a single, $40 per hour for a double, and snorkeling equipment ($20 per hour) to anyone on the beach. Take bus no. 2 or 7 from the City of Hamilton. For more information, see www.divebermuda.com.
This Warwick Parish public beach has no problem with overcrowding during most of the year; it's in a remote location, at the bottom of a steep, winding road that intersects with South Road. Many single travelers and couples head here to escape the families that tend to overrun beaches, such as Elbow Beach, in the high season. We prefer this beach for many reasons, one of them being that its cliffs are home to nesting Bermuda longtails, also known as white-tailed tropic birds. Astwood Beach has public restrooms but not many other facilities. An added advantage is nearby Astwood Park, a favorite picnic and hiking area. If you prefer your beaches small and secluded, head here. Take bus no. 2 or 7 from Southampton.
Warwick Long Bay
Like Astwood Cove, this is one of the best places for people who want to escape the family crowds and find solitude. Unlike the sheltered coves of nearby Chaplin and Horseshoe bays , this popular beach features the longest uninterrupted stretch of pink sand on the island. This expanse is conducive to social interaction, but also offers plenty of space to stretch out solo -- it all depends on what you prefer. Against a backdrop of scrubland and low grasses, the beach lies on the southern side of South Shore Park, in Warwick Parish. Despite the frequent winds, the waves are surprisingly small thanks to an offshore reef. Jutting above the water less than 60m (200 ft.) from the shore is a jagged coral island that, because of its contoured shape, appears to be floating above the water's foam. There are restrooms at the beach's western end, plus lots of parking, but no other facilities. There are no lifeguards because the undertow is not very strong. Take bus no. 7.
This Warwick Parish beach has the feel of a secret hideaway, thanks to pink sands, gentle waves, and calm waters. It's only 9m (30 ft.) wide where the horseshoe-shaped bay opens to the ocean. Adjacent to the much larger and more popular Warwick Long Bay, it's excellent for snorkeling -- the water is about 2m (6 1/2 ft.) deep for a long way out into the bay. There are no buildings along the water, adding to the feeling of seclusion and peace. There are no facilities here, but it's close enough to Warwick Long Bay to walk over and use their restrooms if necessary. Take bus no. 7.
Near Jobson's Cove in Warwick Parish, Stonehole Bay is more open and less sheltered than Jobson's, with a sandy shoreline that's studded with big rocks. It's almost never crowded, and wading is safe even though strong waves sometimes make the waters cloudy (so they're less than ideal for snorkeling). There are no facilities at Stonehole Bay. Take bus no. 7.
Straddling the boundary between Warwick and Southampton parishes, this small but secluded beach disappears almost completely during storms and exceptionally high tides. Geologists come here to admire the open-air coral barrier that partially separates one half of the beach from the other. Chaplin Bay, like its more famous neighbor, Horseshoe Bay , lies at the southern extremity of South Shore Park. From Chaplin, you can walk over to use the facilities and equipment at Horseshoe, but you'll enjoy more solitude here than at the more active Horseshoe Bay. Take bus no. 7.
Horseshoe Bay Beach
With its long, curved strip of pink sand, Horseshoe Bay, on South Road in Southampton Parish, is one of Bermuda's most famous beaches. That means it's likely to be crowded, especially if cruise ships are in port. Although families flock here, Horseshoe Bay isn't the safest beach on Bermuda. Don't be fooled by the seemingly smooth surface; there can be dangerous undercurrents. If you're using the beach after a storm, be especially careful that you don't encounter a Portuguese man-of-war -- they often wash up here in greater numbers than elsewhere on Bermuda.
One advantage this beach has over others is the Horseshoe Bay Beach Cafe (tel. 441/238-2651), which offers changing rooms, toilets, beach-gear rentals, and showers. It also serves snacks and sandwiches daily from 9am to 5pm. A lifeguard is on duty from May to September. Insider's tip: When you tire of the crowds at Horseshoe Bay, take one of the little trails that wind through the park nearby; they'll lead you to secluded cove beaches that afford more privacy. Our favorites are Port Royal Cove to the west, and Peel Rock Cove and Wafer Rocks Beach to the east. You might also sneak over to Chaplin Bay to the east . Take bus no. 7.
This beach off West Side Road lies along Bermuda's southwestern edge, at the point in Southampton Parish where the island hooks off to the northeast. The waves pound much of the shore mercilessly, but rows of offshore reefs shelter Church Bay. Marine life abounds in the relatively calm waters, much to the delight of snorkelers. If you're just planning to lounge in the sun, this is a great place: The beach offers unusually deep pink sands. There are toilets at the top of the hill near the parking area, and a concession stand (May 1-Oct 31 Mon-Sat 10am-5pm) sells soda and chips, and rents out masks and fins for snorkeling. Take bus no. 7 or 8.
Somerset Long Bay
When offshore storms stir up the waters northwest of Bermuda, the water here is unsafe for swimming. Because its bottom isn't always sandy or of a consistent depth, many people find Somerset Long Bay better suited to beachcombing or long walks than to swimming. Nevertheless, many single travelers favor this beach when they're looking for seclusion. The undeveloped parkland of Sandys Parish shelters it from the rest of the island, and the beach's crescent shape and length -- about .5km (1/3-mile) -- make it unusual by Bermudian standards. It has restrooms and changing facilities. We think this is one of the best places on Bermuda to watch the sunset. A plus is the beach's proximity to the Bermuda Audubon Society Nature Reserve (www.audubon.bm), where you can go for long walks and enjoy moments of solitude -- except on weekends, when family picnics abound. Take bus no. 7 or 8.
This beach of abundant pink sand is suitable for both families and those seeking solitude. Because it's not well-known, it's unlikely to be crowded, and its calm, shallow basin makes it safe for swimming. Off North Shore Road in Hamilton Parish, Shelly Bay lies in a cove whose encircling peninsula partially shelters it from mid-Atlantic waves. There are trees to sit under when the beach gets too hot, and the beach house rents snorkeling equipment, lounge chairs, beach towels, and other items; there are also public restrooms. Buses from the City of Hamilton heading east along the north shore, primarily no. 11, stop here.
Tobacco Bay, Achilles Bay & St. Catherine's Beach
St. George's Island's beaches include Achilles Bay, Tobacco Bay, and St. Catherine's Beach (formerly known as the Club Med beach), all of which are sandy, with water so clear you can see to the bottom of the ocean floor.
Lovely Tobacco Bay is an East End family favorite. It's the most popular beach on St. George's Island, especially among those who come for the day to visit the historic town of St. George. With its broad sands, Tobacco Bay resembles a south-shore beach. Its pale pink sand lies within a sheltering coral-sided cove just a short walk west of Fort St. Catherine and St. Catherine's Beach. The major disadvantage here is that the beach is likely to be overrun with cruise-ship passengers; when they're in port, you may want to seek more secluded beaches such as St. Catherine's. You can sunbathe here and even go for a swim, but don't venture out too far; the currents are dangerously strong, and a lot of seaweed washes up on the shore.
Look for the Tobacco Bay Beach House (tel. 441/297-2756) in Naval Tanks Hill, St. George, which has toilets, changing rooms, showers, and a snack bar. At beachfront kiosks, you can rent flotation devices and snorkeling gear for $10 (per hr. or $25 per day) from May to September. Stands also sell cold sodas and sandwiches (tuna, grilled cheese, hamburgers, hot dogs, and the like). Take bus no. 10 or 11.
John Smith's Bay
This is the only public beach in Smith's Parish. It's more popular with residents of Bermuda's eastern end than with visitors, who often don't know about it. It's ideal for those seeking solitude. Long, flat, wide, and rich with pale pink sand, this beach has a lifeguard daily from 10am to 6pm May 24 to mid-September. Some shallow areas are perfect for snorkeling; however, the bay occasionally experiences rip currents. There are toilet and changing facilities. Take bus no. 1.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.