Good beaches with soul-warming sun, crystal-clear waters, and fragrant sea air can be found on virtually every island of the Caribbean, with the possible exceptions of Saba (which has rocky shores) and Dominica (where the few beaches have dramatically black sands that absorb the hot sun).
- Shoal Bay (Anguilla): This luscious stretch of silvery sand helped put Anguilla on the world-tourism map. Snorkelers are drawn to the schools of iridescent fish that dart among the coral gardens offshore. You can take the trail walk from Old Ta to little-known Katouche Beach, which provides perfect snorkeling and is also a prime site for a beach picnic under shade trees.
- Antigua: Legend has it that there is a beach here for every day of the year. Antiguans claim, with justifiable pride, that their two best are Dickenson Bay, in the northwest corner of the island, and Half Moon Bay, which stretches for a white-sandy mile along the eastern coast. Most major hotels open directly onto a good beach, so chances are good yours will be built on or near a strip of sand.
- Palm Beach (Aruba): This superb white-sand beach put Aruba on the tourist map. Several publications, including Condé Nast Traveler, have hailed it as one of the 12 best beaches in the world. It's likely to be crowded in winter, but for swimming, sailing, or fishing, it's idyllic.
- The Gold Coast (Barbados): Some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean lie along the so-called Gold Coast of Barbados (now often called the Platinum Coast), site of some of the swankiest deluxe hotels in the Northern Hemisphere. Our favorites include Paynes Bay, Brandon's Beach, Paradise Beach, and Brighton Beach -- all open to the public.
- Cane Garden Bay (Tortola, British Virgin Islands): One of the Caribbean's most spectacular stretches, Cane Garden Bay has 2km (1 1/4 miles) of white sand and is a jogger's favorite. It's a much better choice than the more crowded Magens Bay beach on neighboring St. Thomas.
- Seven Mile Beach (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands): It's really about 9km (5 1/2 miles) long, but who's counting? Lined with condos and plush resorts, this beach is known for its array of watersports and its translucent aquamarine waters. Australian pines dot the background, and the average winter temperature of the water is a perfect 80°F (27°C).
- The Dominican Republic: There are two great options here: the beaches of resort-riddled Punta Cana at the easternmost tip of the island, or those at Playa Dorada along the northern coast, which fronts the Atlantic. Punta Cana is a 30km (19-mile) strip of oyster-white sand set against a backdrop of palm trees, and Playa Dorada is filled with beaches of white or beige sands.
- Grand Anse Beach (Grenada): This 3km (2-mile) beach is reason enough to go to Grenada. Although the island has some 45 beaches, most with white sand, this is the fabled one, and rightly so. There's enough space and so few visitors that you'll probably find a spot just for yourself. The sugary sands of Grand Anse extend into deep waters far offshore. Most of the island's best hotels are within walking distance.
- Seven Mile Beach (Negril, Jamaica): In the northwestern section of the island, this beach stretches for 11km (6 3/4 miles) along the sea and is backed by some of the most hedonistic resorts in the Caribbean. Not for the conservative, the beach also contains some nudist sections, along with bare-all Booby Cay offshore.
- Diamond Beach (Martinique): This bright-white beach stretches for about 10km (6 1/4 miles), much of it developed. It faces a rocky offshore island, Diamond Rock, which has uninhabited shores.
- Luquillo Beach (Puerto Rico): Luquillo, 48km (30 miles) east of San Juan, is a vast sandy beach opening onto a crescent-shaped bay edged by a coconut grove. Coral reefs protect the crystal-clear lagoon from the often rough Atlantic waters that can buffet the northern coast. Much photographed because of its white sands, Luquillo has a snack bar, picnic areas with changing rooms, lockers, and showers.
- St-Jean Beach (St. Barthélemy): A somewhat narrow golden-sand beach, St-Jean is the gem of the island, reminiscent of the French Riviera (though you're supposed to keep your top on). Reefs protect the beach, making it ideal for swimming.
- St. Maarten/St. Martin: Take your pick: This island, divided about equally between France and the Netherlands, has 39 white-sand beaches. Our favorites include Orient Beach (clothing optional), Pinel Island, Long Bay, and Friar's Bay on the French Side; and Dawn Beach, Mullet Bay Beach, Maho Beach, and Great Bay Beach on the Dutch side.
- Canouan (The Grenadines): Most of the other beaches recommended in this section may be crowded in winter. But if you're looking for an idyllic, secluded stretch of perfect white sand, head for the remote and tiny island of Canouan, one of the pearls of the Grenadines, a string of islands lying south of its parent, St. Vincent. You'll have the beaches and the crystal-clear waters to yourself, even in winter.
- Tobago: For your Robinson Crusoe holiday in the southern Caribbean, head to the little island of Tobago. Even Trinidadians fly here on weekends to enjoy the beach life. It doesn't get any better than Pigeon Point, a long coral beach on the northwestern coast. Other good beaches on Tobago include Back Bay (site of an old coconut plantation) and Man-O-War Bay, with a beautiful natural harbor and long stretch of sand.
- Grace Bay Beach (Providenciales, Turks and Caicos): These 20km (12 miles) of pale sands are the pride of Provo; the beach has been named the "World's Leading Beach" at the World Travel Awards for 4 years running. It's such a spectacular setting that increasing numbers of resorts have sprung up along the shore. A couple of miles out from the northern shore, the beach is fringed by a reef with fabulous snorkeling.
- Trunk Bay (St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands): Protected by the U.S. National Park Service, this beach is one of the Caribbean's most popular. A favorite with cruise-ship passengers, it's known for its underwater snorkeling trail, where markers guide you along the reef just off the white sands; you're sure to see a gorgeous rainbow of tropical fish.
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.