If you thought all beaches were created equal, think again. Sure, some travelers prefer the party scene but for beach aficionados, it’s that quieter nook that is worth seeking out. What the smaller out-of-the-way beaches lack in amenities, they more than make up for with countless miles of buttery sand and surfer-ready waves. Plant your sun lounger by the water’s edge and make a beeline to the Top Ten Secret Beaches in the Caribbean and try not to let the cat out of the bag.
Antigua: Rendezvous Bay Beach
If you have a hankering for a tight-lipped beach rendezvous, give the aptly named Rendezvous Bay Beach a try. One of 365 beaches on the island, the peaceful sliver located within the national park is framed by green hills and tucked away in an out-of-the-way cove on the south coast.
It may be tricky to find, but with your eye on the prize, the 40-minute trek along a footpath from Fig Tree Hill, English Harbour or a boat ride from English Harbour is well worth the effort for crystal-clear bay water and cinematic sunsets. Not far from the beach, Fig Tree Studio Art Gallery in the heart of the rainforest sells an intriguing collection of Caribbean art.
More information: visitantiguabarbuda.com
Sint Maarten: Mullet Bay
On the Dutch side of the dual-nation island, Mullet Bay is a word-of-mouth beach without a lot of guidebook hype. A pretty palette of teal blue and talc white, the long sandy ribbon on the southwest coast is dotted with palms and sea grape trees and the go-to for surfers and swimmers who covet beaches without a lot of tourists.
Offering no frills apart from polite vendors hawking cold beer and rum punch, the beach is easy to find off Rhine Road near the island’s only golf course. On weekdays, there’s plenty of prime real estate on the sand while the weekend vibe is livelier with locals playing volleyball, party catamarans skirting the shoreline and fishermen on the jetty 50 yards from shore ready to land the big one.
More information: vacationstmaarten.com
British Virgin Islands
On the northwest coast of Anegada and a 10-minute car ride from the only coral island in the British Virgin Islands’ volcanic chain, Loblolly Bay is a blinding white beach protected by Horseshoe Reef, one of the largest in the Eastern Caribbean.
Taking the 75-minute ferry ride north from Tortola, the largest and capital island, to Anegada, whose population of 334 lucky souls – give or take – and a 10-minute drive to the beach means there will be fewer crowds to contend with as you enjoy the 11-mile coastline and the 50-foot walkout to the ocean.
A bonanza for bone fishermen and nirvana for scuba divers, the east end is home to springs bubbling from coral beds and gigantic piles of conch shells that were once pirates’ treasures. For foodies, a surplus of lobsters inspires the annual Lobster Festival this year on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
More information: bvitourism.com
You have two choices; either you scale the cliff or hop a boat from Crocus Bay. Yes, it may be hard to find but Little Bay Beach is a sandy secret worth discovering. Tucked away with ridiculous views of just about everything, the unspoiled spit is where NBA superstar LeBron James jumped from the limestone cliffs during his family vacation last year.
A favorite unsullied spot on the sand, it’s a blink-and-you-miss-it beach that is the island’s least crowded and primo for those who like to snorkel. Keep your eyes open and your camera ready as graceful pelicans fly from the beach to the sea and back.
More information: ivisitanguilla.com
Turks and Caicos Islands
Stretching for three miles along the southeast coast of Providenciales, Long Bay Beach is a world away and a short drive from the more popular Grace Bay Beach. A good bet for families, the water is so clear and shallow, you can easily walk (or ride a horse) hundreds of feet beyond the shoreline.
Visible from the beach, the grounded wreck of a freighter that was destroyed during Hurricane Francis in 2004 is a guaranteed conversation starter. Courtesy of the easterly trade winds, the beach is catnip for kiteboarders and stand-up-paddle boarders’ and well worth a return visit at night when the moonscape reflected on the still water is mystical.
More information: turksandcaicostourism.com
Less than an hour from beaches that front the big resorts, Baby Beach is a delightful half-moon in an unruffled sheltered lagoon. In Seroe Colorado on the southeast tip of the island, the beach is like a giant kiddie pool invites with water so shallow young swimmers can wade out quite a distance and still touch the bottom with their feet as the grownups take five under a Tiki hut-like palapa.
Uncrowded above the waves, down under is busy with a kaleidoscope of barracuda, parrotfish and squid that hang out towards the inlet. Cheap and cheerful, Big Mama Grill serves up the best red snapper curry on the sand.
More information: arubatourism.com
Doctor’s Cove Beach on the Hip Strip in the heart of Montego Bay dates back to 1906 when Dr. Alexander James McCatty opened one of Jamaica’s first bathing clubs. Today, the bath-warm water with a year-round temperature between 78 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit and curative powers that reputedly ease ailments like arthritis is still the perfect prescription for relaxation and the favorite sandy stretch of locals and savvy tourists who know a good beach when they find one.
Since the beach is part of the Montego Bay Marine Park, beachgoers have access to a boatload of water sports while a multi-colored underwater awaits the snorkelers in the crowd. There are plenty of restaurants and bars on the strip; however, a picnic on the sand is the real deal on a sunny afternoon.
More information: visitjamaica.com
Sitting pretty on the west coast, Playa Kenepa is the Bentley of beaches with cliffs that shade the cove and warm waves that keep a beat with the coconut palms. Inviting with sugar-white sand, the small beach has a funkier vibe than the bigger beaches on the more touristy side of the island. Party-hearty daredevils jump from the peaks, snorkeling is sublime and vendors dish up big plates of yummy island food.
More information: curacao.com
It’s no surprise that the best-kept beach secret is on the smallest of the three Cayman Islands, where the maximum speed limit on the island is 50 mph and iguanas have the right of way. The easternmost point of Little Cayman is where you’ll find Point of Sand, the prettiest sandy perch this side of a postcard.
The water is ankle-deep for the first 15 feet and gradually drops off making the beach ideal for snorkeling, swimming and staying cool on under the midday sun. Accessible by car or scooter, the water is home to the queen conch and at least a dozen varieties of reef fish.
More information: visitcaymanislands.com
Despite its name, Pigeon Island is connected to the mainland and there’s nary a pigeon in sight although a variety called the common wood pigeon once lived there, hence the island’s name. A placid alternative to Reduit Beach across the Bay (you can catch a water taxi to Pigeon Island from Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay Village), the beach is inside the national park on the northwest coast.
On the southern side of the park, just inside the entrance, two petite sandy strips are standouts for swimmers and sunbathers who also rave about the bites and beverages at Jambe de Bois, a rustic waterfront café.
More information: stlucia.org