When you think of a vacation, does your mind drift to white sand and clear blue water? If your perfect day starts with laying out a towel and basking in the sun, followed by thrilling watersports, and capped off with a cocktail as the sun goes down over neighboring islands in the distance, beach travel may be your thing. With winter on the horizon, tropical destinations are on everyone’s mind. Here are the top Caribbean beaches to lure you to the islands.
Barbados: Mullins Beach
Why we love it: A popular hangout on Barbados’ west coast, Mullins is the place to be and be seen on the island. The number one sport here is sunbathing, so make a day of it, then stick around for one of the area’s best sunsets created by Mullins’ west-facing position. Barbadian music icon Rihanna has been known to comb through the beach’s powder soft sand, and those are quite the footsteps to follow.
Honorable Mentions: Head to Silver Sands for the island’s best watersports. Tucked away at the southernmost part of Barbados, just past Oistins, it’s a bit of a hidden gem, but those in the know go for kitesurfing and surfing. Looking for shipwrecks? There are more than 200 at Carlisle Bay.
St. Martin: Mullet Bay Beach
Why we love it: It’s on the more casual Dutch side, and during the week, it’s a calm and quiet setting for a lazy beach day. Set up a beach chair and an umbrella (or just camp under a palm tree), and let the day pass by in front of you. Warm, calm water makes for excelling swimming conditions, yet on windy days, the current is strong enough for surfing. On weekends, it’s popular with locals, and becomes more lively.
Honorable Mentions: Though not for those looking to relax, Maho Bay provides a thrilling experience. Situated right next to Princess Juliana International Airport, unusually close-up plane-watching provides excitement overhead. Even if the prospect of loud plane engines serenading your beach day doesn’t excite you, this quirky tourist favorite is a must-try at least once.
Why we love it: Remote and undeveloped by Antigua standards, Darkwood is the type of beach you’ll only hear about from a local. It’s one of only a few beaches in the southwest corner of the island below Jolly Harbour, and that mostly keeps the crowds away. There are no resorts to be found here, so it’s simply you and the postcard-perfect white sand and clear blue water. Don’t plan much — Darkwood is for relaxing and taking it easy.
Honorable Mentions: Head to the complete other end of the island to find yourself virtually alone on the pink sand at Half Moon Bay. Or go south to snap away at Curtain Bluff, with more classic gold sand and a location, jutting out into the ocean between two bays, that make it one of the most photogenic beaches on the island.
Anguilla: Maundays Bay
Why we love it: When you’re in the mood for a little shade, perch under one of the sea grape trees at Maundays Bay, the ideal place to break away from the sunshine. Walk the platinum blonde sand, or join the troupe of travelers riding horseback right into the turquoise ocean water. Pro tip: Rent out one of the dazzling vacation homes just steps from the sand, so you can spend each and every day at Maundays.
Honorable Mentions: Out of Anguilla’s 33 beaches, the most secluded is Little Bay, a small cove next to Crocus Bay on the island’s north side. Most likely to spot a celebrity? That would be Long Bay on the west side.
St. Barts: Colombier
Why we love it: Named, of course, for Christopher Columbus, this “secret” spot is only reachable by sailing from Gustavia Harbour or via 20-minute hike. Once you get there, the sunny, breezy, palm tree-lined beach is worth every minute. Linger until sunset for one of the most romantic settings you’ll find anywhere.
Honorable Mentions: If you’re looking for a party, Nikki Beach attracts well-heeled visitors for its glamorous fashion shows and live music. For beautiful scenery and a secluded feel, lay a blanket behind the sand dunes at Saline.
Jamaica: Seven-Mile Beach
Why we love it: It’s a beach that goes on and on. As the westernmost part of the island, just north of the town of Negril, its sunsets are sublime. And the sand? Silky soft. At the end of the panoramic seven-mile stretch, majestic cliffs leads to an old lighthouse — all part of the magnificent vista. Stop in at one of the restaurants along the beach for some jerk chicken or freshly caught seafood.
Honorable Mentions: If you’re staying in Montego Bay, Doctor’s Cave Beach is a small beach that makes a big splash. Its lively vibe and multi-colored umbrellas will put a smile on your face. Frenchman’s Cove has a history: it was a celebrity hideout in the 1950s and later the site of the 1990 film Lord of the Flies.
St. Lucia: Sugar Beach
Why we love it: A picturesque location between two volcanic peaks: Gros Piton and Petit Piton. The soft sand is crystal-like, ideal for a sunset stroll. But during the day, divers and snorkelers flock here for its 1,800-foot drop to lay eyes on rare triggerfish. Plus, the Viceroy Sugar Beach Resort has some spectacular villas to choose from so you can actually stay right on the beach.
Honorable Mentions: While most of St. Lucia’s beaches are just a mile or so long (or rather, short), Reduit Beach is the outlier. Stroll along its five miles of white sand or swim in calm waters. The prettiest beach? Marigot Bay has been featured in Hollywood film shoots, such as the original Dr. Doolittle in 1967.
Turks and Caicos: Grace Bay Beach
Why we love it: It’s a no-brainer; Grace Bay is not just the top beach on Turks and Caicos, but perhaps the entire world. You know about its near-perfect blue water and powdery white sand. Its world-class water sports, like parasailing and windsurfing? That you know, too. Here’s something you may not know about this secluded stretch on Providenciales: You can take up residence on the beach for weeks at a time thanks to these luxurious vacation homes.
Honorable Mentions: While Grace Bay is busy getting all the hype, there are several other beaches on the island worth more than runner-up status. Long Bay Beach is one of TCI’s best-kept secrets — for now — and has great watersports and shipwreck dives on Provo’s east coast. Malcolm’s Road is on the secluded west coast and benefits from a nearby “wall,” which drops down 7,000 feet to offer some of the region’s best scuba diving.
Dominican Republic: Playa Rincón
Why we love it: A resort-free beach popular among locals for its lack of development, natural freshwater lagoon, and small crowds (or lack thereof), Playa Rincón is where you go to escape the hustle and bustle of the likes of Punta Cana. Sure, it’s a bit trickier to get there — it’s four hours from Puerto Plata — but it’ll all be worth it when you find your zen on this unspoiled stretch of sand.
Honorable Mentions: Okay, yes, Punta Cana is the tourist-popular mecca of the DR, but there are reasons for that: more than 20 miles of non-stop beach, a beautiful shore lined with tall coconut palm trees, and a collection of upscale resort communities.
Bahamas: Pink Sands Beach
Why we love it: The Bahamas aren’t short on amazing beaches, and Pink Sands makes all the Top 10 lists. And it’s not the only beach with a pinkish hue — but it certainly stands out from the rest for a few reasons. Its location on the small, tropical Harbor Island makes it rather quiet. Plus, the beach is extremely walkable, as even on the hottest days, the rosy sand remains cool beneath your feet. Still, you can choose to cruise down the beach on a fat-tire bicycle rented out from a beachside resort.
Honorable Mentions: Go beach-hopping on Stocking Island: Take in dramatic cliff drops at Ocean Beach on the east side, spot foot-long red starfish on Starfish Beach to the north, and watch sailboats from the sandbar at Chat N’ Chill Beach Bar & Grill on the west side.