1 September 2015 by Bert Hyett
The Caribbean is synonymous with beach holidays and there are exceptional examples of pure white sand and crystal clear waters throughout the region, meaning that wherever you touch down, you'll be able to find space on which to kick off your shoes and throw down your towel.
Most people on a Caribbean holiday have hundreds of beaches to choose from. But where do you head when the standard is so high and there's an abundance of great options available? If you're after the best of the bunch, browse our round-up of the most desirable places to indulge your inner Robinson Crusoe.
Along with coral-encrusted islets that are ideal for snorkelling and swimming, Anguilla is home to Shoal Bay, a wide, soft swathe of sand on the northeastern coast that's over a mile long and which ranks as one of the best beaches in the entire eastern Caribbean. Head to either end of the beach to avoid the crowds that sometimes congregate in the midsection, where the hotels and beach bars are located.
Stay: Cap Juluca, Anguilla
Although legend has it that there's a beach on Antigua for every day of the year, Dickenson Bay, a long, wide stretch of gently shelving sand in the northwest corner of the island demands more than just 24hrs of your time, as does gorgeous Carlisle Bay. Half-Moon Bay covering a sandy mile of the south coast is a bit more blustery but has bigger waves for windsurfers and kitesurfers to catch, whilst snorkellers are catered for at the sheltered north end of the curving beach. Can't make up your mind? Solve the problem by staying at Curtain Bluff where you have access to a wonderful, calm Caribbean beach on one side and a delciously windblown and wild Atlantic beach on the other.
Pink Sands Beach, on Eleuthera, blushes in the setting sun, making it extraordinarily beautiful. Safe snorkelling and sheltered swimming are a bonus. Elsewhere there's great diving off the barrier reef by Andros, the third largest reef in the world. For ultimate luxury though, head to the Ocean Club on Paradise Island.
Stay: Ocean Club, Barbados
The island's Gold Coast is home to some splendid beaches and some correspondingly expensive luxury hotels. Brandon's Beach, Brighton Beach and the aptly named Paradise Beach are all first class. Mullins Beach also has all the elements of a great day by the sea, while Crane Beach on the southeast coast is everything a Caribbean beach should be and Cobblers Cove on the west coast combines a luxurious Relais & Chateaux hotel with a beautiful beach.
Elbow Beach and Horseshoe Bay are well-established and delightful in their own right but neighbouring Warwick Long Bay is better. There's good snorkelling at Tobacco Bay and wreck diving all around the island. For discerning couples looking for an exclusive break, Cambridge Beaches can't be beat.
Smuggler's cove on Tortola Island is one of the finest stretches of sand here. On the same island, Cane Garden Bay covers more than a mile and is an excellent alternative. Across the channel from Tortola lies a private island resort that's ideal for people looking to be shipwrecked in style.
Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman may come up short of its title length, it's only about five and a half miles long, but the enormous crescent, backed by pine trees, where the water in winter touches 27°C, is still superb, especially if you're looking for watersports.
Varadero is one of the largest and most spectacular expanses of beach in the Caribbean, although Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria are less populated and more exclusive because of it. Deep sea fishing, snorkelling, diving and sailing are all popular activities, while others choose to simply relax with a rum cocktail.
Stay: Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba
Playa Bonita has quiet, palm-fringed space on which to unwind, whilst Punta Cana on the eastern edge of the island has 19 miles of milky sand set against a lush background of trees and swaying coconut trees.
Of the 45 beaches on Grenada, Grand Anse Beach is a picture perfect playground two miles long. Soft sand, backed by tall coconut trees, slips into the serene sea, which drops away steeply. Overlooking the beach stands the stunning boutique resort of Mount Cinnamon. For a more remote retreat though, try La Sagesse Bay, ten miles east, which has a secluded charm.
Stay: Mount Cinnamon, Grenada
The beautiful Boston Bay Beach is quieter than better-known Montego Bay and is more laidback, if at all possible. If you're after something a little livelier and more hedonistic though, Seven Mile Beach in the northwestern corner of the country is the place to base yourself; there's a wide range of activities on offer and a liberal attitde that includes a 'clothing-optional' policy. Round Hill is also renowned for its facilities, water skiing, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing.
Anse Cochon is a strand of sand that gives way to the island's dramatic interior. Small and secluded, the beach is a favourite with divers, who come to explore the calm waters offshore. The exclusive Rodney Bay area is also home to some superb beaches.
Englishman's Bay on the leeward side of Tobago is the jewel in the crown here with rainforests reaching right down to soft sands. Locals tend to head to Pigeon Point, although Back Bay and Man-O-War Bay are also brilliant. The Coco Reef Resort, on the stunning southwest coast perfectly captures the island's laid-back ambience, with a white sand beach backed by 10 acres of tropical gardens.
Stay: Coco Reef, Tobago
A bountiful barrier reef, coupled with calm, clear water and classic sand beaches make these islands an obvious choice. Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales may even be the best beach in the world, although nearby Taylor Bay runs it close.
If you want the best diving and underwater adventures, head to Trunk Bay Beach on the island of St John; follow an underwater sea trail here to discover the treasures sunk below the waves. You also have the luxuriant Virgin Islands National Park, which covers two-thirds of the island, to play in.