White sand, turquoise water, jealous Facebook friends — what more could you ask for? (International roaming charges be damned!) But which beaches will ensure you post the most envy-inducing pics on social media? These 13, of course — the best beaches in the Caribbean.
Why it made our list: It’s the beach where planes fly 10ft above your head. Peace and quiet? No. An experience you won’t get anywhere else in the world? Absolutely.
Bonus: The best time to enjoy the near-death experience of a 747/Airbus landing or taking off on top of you is at 2pm or 4pm, when those particular planes arrive and depart, respectively.
Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Why it made our list: It’s one of the 25 most beautiful beaches in the world to start with. But in the British Virgin Islands, it’s also the beach with the easiest access to bars, restaurants, and other activities you’ll want to engage in when lying on perfect white sand gets old.
Bonus: One of those bars is the Soggy Dollar, where the Painkiller was invented
Why it made our list: It’s hidden, remote (you’ve gotta hike through unmarked wilderness and cross a stream to get there), and, oh yeah, it’s a freaking black sand beach in the decidedly un-volcanic Caribbean.
Bonus: The black sand is actually volcanic rock sediment that washes on shore when it rains. The stuff is so metallic it will stick to a refrigerator magnet.
Why it made our list: It’s about as close as you can get to stepping out of the jungle and on to the beach as you can get in the islands; dense tropical cliffs stretch right up to the sand and palm trees. Plus, the beach manages to strike a rare balance between keeping it local/authentic while still catering to tourists.
Bonus: Hit up Richard’s Bake & Shark to try Trinidad and Tobago’s national dish, the, well, bake and shark. Yep, it’s deep-fried shark stuffed in deep-fried dough, and it’s a totally good-for-you cultural experience.
St. Croix, USVI
Why it made our list: Not that St. Croix is exactly overcrowded and full of tourists, but if you REALLY want the “alone on a deserted island” experience this national preserve, 30 minutes by boat from the main island, has perfect beaches and a stunning view of St. Croix.
Bonus: It’s one of the top snorkeling spots in America. If you’re ambitious enough — and the weather cooperates — you can fish-gaze around the entire island.
Virgin Gorda, BVI
Why it made our list: The Baths is an entire landscape of giant, volcanically formed boulders that create dozens of grottoes and pools in which to play. A brief hike also leads to a completely private one, if you’d like to share an intimate moment.
Bonus: If giant boulders aren’t your idea of a perfect beach, it’s only a short (and pretty spectacular) hike through The Baths National Park to the beaches of Devil’s Bay and Spring Bay; both of which are more the white-sand-and-blue-water variety.
Why it made our list: We’ve already told you that the best beaches in the DR are in the not-nearly-as-blown-up north, and of those, the cream of the crop are in the former fishing village of Las Terrenas. And then, the most isolated and dramatic of THOSE beaches is the one locals call “El Coson.” So think of this stretch of sand as the best of the best of the best.
Bonus: Sure, you CAN make the long walk through the beachside jungle from the town of Las Terrenas. But wouldn’t it be more fun (and faster) to jungle-hop on an ATV? Of course it would, and we can book that for you.
Turks and Caicos
Why it made our list: To be honest, you could pretty much put any beach in Turks and Caicos on a list of the best in the Caribbean, but the turquoise-water star of this island chain is Grace Bay. Home to most of the major resorts in Providenciales, it’s also a launch site for the best diving in the islands.
Bonus: If lying on the beach makes you antsy and you’re NOT scuba certified, head to the Coral Gardens snorkeling park — you’ll see marine life just as amazing as that 80ft down.
St. John, USVI
Why it made our list: It’s a perfect stretch of white sand in Virgin Islands National Park. Completely devoid of development, it allows visitors the chance to experience a truly natural Caribbean beach.
Bonus: Except… when the cruise ships are docked in St. Thomas. Also known as: the time you don’t want to be there. Hundreds of tourists take the ferry to St. John and the beach at Trunk Bay gets crowded. On a “no ships” day, though, it’s quiet and the snorkeling trail is easier to explore. Consider yourself warned.
Why it made our list: The alarmingly calm seas here make it one of the best places in the Caribbean for water sports. Plus, Aruba is outside the hurricane belt so you can visit late in the summer without concern of getting stuck in your hotel’s bathtub for three days.
Bonus: The heart or Aruban nightlife is right along the strip adjacent to the beach, which means nights on the sand are often more interesting than the days.
Why it made our list: Exuma has all the beauty of other top Bahamian spots without the strip of hotels, so you can enjoy the beach in peace and quiet. Or at the very least, only have to share it with those famous swimming pigs.
Bonus: Take a short walk to the “washing machine,” a private cove where the tides meet and swish you around like last week’s gym clothes.
Why it made our list: Yes, yes, we realize that Bermuda isn’t technically in the Caribbean but close enough, right? And the combination of pink sand and limestone formations is something you won’t see anywhere else.
Bonus: This beach can get unpleasantly crowded with tourists when the cruise ships come in, so take a short walk to either Port Royal Cove or Peel Rock Cove and find yourself in an almost-private grotto.