Caribbean Beaches: 9 Secret Shorelines

The beach on Happy Bay in St. Martin. puroticorico
By Alexis Flippin

Quiet, secluded, and often off the beaten path, these powdery treasures are for those island lovers for whom the beach is the thing. Ultra-romantic and blessed with natural good looks, these hidden Caribbean beaches are so serenely idyllic you can almost, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, hear the mermaids sing.

Photo Caption: The beach on Happy Bay in St. Martin.
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The beach of La Blanquilla in Venezuela. Danny86
Day-tripping castaways can swim and snorkel the sparkling coves of the "white island," one of Venezuela's remote Federal Dependencies (offshore islands) in the western Caribbean. No one lives here but the Guardia Costera (Coast Guard), wild donkeys, and the occasional fisherman, boater, or tour group on a desert-island sojourn. With alabaster beaches and tranquil seas, it's a favorite anchorage for cruisers. Divers can explore the undersea wall 65 feet offshore, encrusted with rare black coral. A good way to see La Blanquilla, 70 miles northwest of Margarita Island, is by chartered boat. Explore Yacht Tours (tel. +58 212-2842015; www.explore-yachts.com) is a Caracas, Venezuela
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Smuggler's Cove, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. tavarua
It's a bumpy ride by four-wheel-drive or a leisurely stroll down a long dirt road to this quiet, secluded beach on Tortola's West End. But it's worth every bead of sweat once you reach this creamy crescent of sand. The sapphire seas at Smuggler's Cove are warm, clear, and practically ripple-free. Sip a frozen drink at the only commercial enterprise in sight, the ramshackle Smuggler's Cove beach bar, where you can rent beach chairs and snorkel equipment to putter about the coral reef 100 feet offshore. Sit back and toast to the island of Jost van Dyke across the seas.

Photo Caption: Smuggler's Cove, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
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Gold Rock Beach on Grand Bahama Island. zanzibar123
Escape to Grand Bahama Island's secluded Lucayan National Park, where wooden walkways lead through a dense mangrove swamp to one of the Bahamas' most fetching beaches. At Gold Rock Beach, luminescent seas recede at low tide to reveal soft rippled sand. Wade in the pink-tinged shallows and spy stingrays gliding along the sandy bottom. Admission to the national park is $5, and the beach has no facilities to speak of (bring your own food and beach paraphernalia), but this hidden gem is worth the extra effort.

Photo Caption: Gold Rock Beach on Grand Bahama Island.
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Orchid Beach (Playa La Plata) in Vieques, Puerto Rico. petithiboux
Vieques has so many untrammeled beaches that you can probably find seaside serenity most anywhere you lay your towel. But if you're dreaming of a sweet patch of sand that's truly off the beaten path, head to Orchid Beach (Playa La Plata). The most eastern beach inside the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is accessible by boat or by driving along the road that runs along Ensenada Honda, the island's largest bay. The blue seas of Orchid Beach have a dazzling clarity -- that and a marine-rich reef make it ripe for snorkeling.

Photo Caption: Orchid Beach (Playa La Plata) in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
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Joe Grant Cay in Turks & Caicos. Amphibious Adventures
Recently snatched from the jaws of a five-star resort development, Joe Grant Cay is a castaway fantasy come to life. A tiny uninhabited cay sandwiched between the islands of Middle Caicos and East Caicos, Joe Grant Cay has a sheltered harbor on its leeward side and a cinematic sweep of ivory sand on its windward side. You can take a day trip exploring the sparkling reefs off Joe Grant Cay with Amphibious Adventures (www.amphibiousadventures.org) and even circumnavigate the island in a small boat or kayak.

Photo Caption: Joe Grant Cay in Turks & Caicos.
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The beach on Happy Bay in St. Martin. mattohara
Tucked between Grand Case beach and Friar's Bay, Happy Bay (Anse Heureuse) is a tranquil and relatively undiscovered spot, where you can snorkel bottle-green seas or exult in the wide expanse of tawny sand. Happy Bay owes its breezy seclusion to its (relative) inaccessability: You'll have to park your car at Friar's Bay and take a 15-minute walk over a hill and along a stone footpath to reach the beach. You'll also have to bring along your beach stuff with you, including food and drink. Other than the occasional wandering vendor, Happy Bay has no amenities.

Photo Caption: The beach on Happy Bay in St. Martin.
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Colombier Beach in St. Barts. poolman
Challenging to reach but well worth the effort, this gorgeous half-moon cove is accessed by boat or by hiking a rugged goat path from Colombier peak or Petite Anse, a 30-minute walk. The lookouts along the way are breathtaking, with green hills rising above a cove dotted with sailboats. Once you're there, you can swim in the calm turquoise seas or snorkel along the rocks. These are moneyed surrounds: Locals call the beach Rockefeller's Beach -- the 1950s-era Rockefeller compound crowns the promontory overlooking the sea.

Photo Caption: Colombier Beach in St. Barts.
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Coco Point in Barbuda. sydneyfernandes
Fifteen miles long by five miles wide, Barbuda is home to just 1,200 inhabitants. But this little gem of an island has some of the prettiest beaches in the Caribbean, including this pink-sand pearl on the island's southern coast. Yes, a small lodge fronts one stretch of beach, but the rest you may have all to yourself. Wade in the sparkling jade shallows or dig your toes in the ridiculously soft sand.

Photo Caption: Coco Point in Barbuda.
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Lameshur Bay Beach in St. John. bartzoni
You'll have to drive a steep and bumpy dirt road to get here, but once you do, you can park your vehicle close to the beach. Explore the nearby ruins of an old plantation that was razed in a 1733 slave revolt or hike through open forest on the Lameshur Bay Trail (keep an eye out for mongoose). Or simply snorkel right off the sand-and-cobblestone beach in the crystalline seas.

Photo Caption: Lameshur Bay Beach in St. John.
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