The 16 Best Beaches in the Caribbean Islands
By Christina Paulette Colon, Alexis Lipsitz Flippin, and John Marino
Beaches with crystal-clear waters, soul-warming sun, 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 heat from the sun). But you knew that, right? The question is: Which islands have the very best beaches? These are our picks.
Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales (Turks and Caicos)
These 20km (12 miles) of pale sands are the pride of Providenciales; the beach was 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 superb snorkeling.
Canouan, The Grenadines
Most of the other beaches recommended in this slideshow 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 St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a string of islands so pristine looking they were used as the setting for much of the film "Pirates of the Caribbean." You’ll have the beaches and the crystal-clear waters to yourself, even in high season.
Palm Beach, Aruba
This splendid white-sand beach is Aruba's biggest draw. Several publications, including Condé Nast Traveler, have hailed it as one of the 12 best beaches on the planet. Palm Beach is likely to be crowded in winter, but for sailing, swimming or fishing, it’s idyllic.
The Gold Coast, Barbados
Some of the loveliest 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 luxury hotels in the Northern Hemisphere. Our favorites include Brandon’s Beach, Paynes Bay, Paradise Beach, and Brighton Beach—all open to the public.
Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
A much better choice than the more crowded Magens Bay beach in neighboring St. Thomas, Cane Garden Bay on Tortola is one of Caribbean’s most spectacular strands. It offers 2km (1 1/4 miles) of white sand, making it a jogger’s favorite.
Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
So, it’s really about 9km (5 1/2 miles) long, but who’s counting? Lined with plush resorts and condos, Seven Mile Beach is known for its array of watersports and its translucent aquamarine waters. The average winter temperature of the water is a perfect 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) and Australian pines dot the background.
The Dominican Republic
There are two top options here: the beaches of resort-riddled Punta Cana at the easternmost tip of the island, or those at Playa Dorada (pictured) 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
The sugary sands of the 3km (2 mile) Grand Anse extend into deep waters far offshore. Although the island has about 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 likely find a spot just for yourself. Most of the island’s best hotels are within walking distance.
Seven Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica
In the northwestern section of the island of Jamaica, this beach stretches for 11km (6 3/4 miles) along the ocean and is backed by some of the most hedonistic resorts in the Caribbean. Not for the conservative, the beach also is home to several nudist sections, along with bare-all Booby Cay offshore.
Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico
Luquillo, 48km (30 miles) east of San Juan, is a handsome and 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 waves that can buffet the northern coast. Much photographed because of its white sands, Luquillo has picnic areas with changing rooms, a snack bar, lockers, and showers.
St.-Jean Beach, St. Barthélemy
A somewhat narrow golden-sand beach, St.-Jean is the star 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: St. Maarten/St. Martin, divided about equally between the Netherlands and France, has 39 white-sand beaches. Our favorites include Pinel Island, Orient Beach (clothing optional),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.
For a 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 strand on the northwestern coast. Other terrific 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.
Shoal Bay, Anguilla
This luscious stretch of silvery sand put Anguilla on the world-tourism map. Snorkelers are lured by the schools of iridescent fish that dart among the coral gardens offshore. Take the trail walk from Old Ta to little-known Katouche Beach, which provides topnotch snorkeling and is also a prime site for a beach picnic under shade trees.
Antiguans say that there is a beach on Antigua for every day of the year. And they claim, with justifiable pride, that their two best are Half Moon Bay, which stretches for a white-sandy mile along the eastern coast and Dickenson Bay, in the northwest corner of the island. Most major hotels open directly onto a lovely beach, so chances are good yours will be built on or near a strip of sand.
Trunk Bay, St. John (U.S. Virgin Islands)
Protected by the U.S. National Park Service on St. John, this beach is one of the Caribbean’s most beloved. 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 spectacular rainbow of tropical fish.
Diamond Beach, Martinique
Martinique's dazzling 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.