Palm trees swaying over white-sand beaches, teeming reefs just a flipper kick from the shore and killer rum cocktails brought right to your lounge chair – this is the Caribbean, everyone’s favourite tropical fantasy. With sun, sea and sand aplenty, it’s the ultimate place to lie on the beach and unwind. Finding a beach that suits your tastes shouldn’t be hard, given that the shores can be as varied as the islands themselves, but to get you started, here's our pick of the 10 best beaches in the Caribbean.
1. Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
Lovely strands of coast like this lengthy one help make the Cayman Islands known for more than just offshore banking. Actually only five and a half miles long, its wide powder-soft sands that curl around the west side of the island, with generally calm, warm and crystal-clear waters offshore make it one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, hands down. The slope heading out to sea is an easy and gradual one, ideal for swimming or just wading.
Seven Mile Beach is actually between five and six miles long
2. Pink Sand Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas
The spectacular Pink Sand Beach runs the length of the Atlantic side of the small Harbour Island, two miles off the northeast side of Eleuthera. Tourism is more prevalent on this tidy green island, but it won’t stop you enjoying the beauty of the beach’s famous pink sand.
The pink sands beach on Harbour Island © Beetroot Studio/Shutterstock
3. Half Moon Bay, Antigua
Antigua is said to boast 365 beaches – one for every day of the year. Frankly, you’re spoilt for choice here as many could be considered the best beaches in the Caribbean. One of best stretches of inviting sand, and prettiest spots on Antigua, is Half Moon Bay. This half-mile semicircle of white-sand beach partially encloses a deep-blue bay where the Atlantic surf normally offers top-class body-surfing opportunities.
Half Moon Bay is a great beach not only for sunbathing but also body-surfing
4. The Baths, Virgin Gorda
A bizarre landscape of volcanic, house-sized boulders stretching from wooded slopes behind the beach and into the clear aquamarine sea, this otherworldly playground of grottoes, caves and pools is unmissable. The snorkelling is excellent although, not surprisingly, it can get very crowded in high season.
The Bath's huge boulders
5. Eagle Beach, Aruba
Aruba’s best beaches are found on the northwest side of the island, where seven kilometres of fine white sand and turquoise waters stretch between Eagle Beach and Palm beach. Eagle Beach is the largest and most popular on the island, with plenty of shade and watersports aplenty.
The perfect white sand of Aruba's Eagle Beach © David P. Smith/Shutterstock
6. Playa Rincón, Dominican Republic
A clear contender for the island’s best beach, Playa Rincón boasts three kilometres of sand backed by a coconut forest of swaying palms. It's also one of our top 14 things not to miss in the Dominican Republic.
Playa Rincón is one of our things not to miss in the Dominican Republic © Klemen K. Misic/Shutterstock
7. Negril beach, Jamaica
Jamaica’s shrine to permissive indulgence, Negril metamorphosed from a deserted fishing beach to full-blown resort town in little over two decades. If you’re after some time to yourself, this might not be the beach for you, but you can’t beat watching the sun go down here with a cocktail in hand - if that doesn't qualify for one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, we don't know what does.
Watching the sunsets here with a cocktail is the best way to experience Negril beach © Debbie Ann Powell/Shutterstock
8. Puerto Mosquito, Vieques, Puerto Rico
One of the highlights of any visit to Puerto Rico is a night-time trip to La Reserva Natural de la Bahía Bioluminiscente at Puerto Mosquito (or just “bio bay”), said to contain the highest degree of bioluminescence in the world. This shallow-water mangrove lagoon shelters trillions of microscopic dinoflagellates, which light up in self-defence when disturbed. It’s one of the wonders of the natural world.
At night, you can witness surreal bioluminescence from microscopic creatures © Danita Delmont/Shutterstock
9. Les Salines, Martinique
The stupendous Grande Anse Des Salines is often considered Martinique’s best beach, and with good reason: its pristine white sands trim an azure bay framed by swaying palm trees. Should you get bored with sun-worshipping, the sand is backed by a natural salt pond, after which the beach is named, and borders a desolate petrified forest; both make good side-explorations.
White sand, swaying palms, Les Salines in Martinique offers the lot © Stefano Zaccaria/Shutterstock
10. Bathsheba, Barbados
If you’re after surf rather than sunbathing, the crashing waves in the “soup bowl” at Bathsheba make this an ideal spot year-round. Picturesque, easy-going and caressed by Atlantic breezes, this has long been a favoured resort for Bajans, though surprisingly few tourists visit. Unfortunately the currents make it a dangerous place to swim, but the attractive golden beach is pleasant to walk along.
Bathsheba is one of the only places you can surf in the Caribbean
Top image © Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock