With the clearest water in the Caribbean, these beaches are even more of a draw, with their soft, white sand, turquoise water, and vibrant reefs. There are very few places in the world where the aquamarine of the shallows is so intense, or the deeper sea quite such a captivating shade of glittering sapphire.
Whether you want to try scuba diving, view marine life from the surface with a mask and snorkel, or even stay dry in a glass-bottomed boat, you’re spoiled for choice.
Devil’s Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
The horseshoe of white sand and clear cyan sea of Devil’s Bay in the British Virgin Islands can be reached via The Baths, a stretch of massive, tumbled granite boulders, or via a 15-minute trek across scrubland from the parking lot.
Once you’re here, the rewards are great, with colorful corals easily accessed from the beach. This is one of the best places to swim in the world, so bring an underwater camera to capture both the clamber through The Baths and the vibrant marine life of Devil’s Bay itself.
Eagle Beach, Aruba
Eagle Beach in Aruba is famous for its fofoti trees, with their curiously twisted trunks. The trees always grow in the direction of the wind and are a symbol of the island.
They make a stark contrast against the dazzling white sand and the deep sapphire-blue of the sea; little surprise that this is one of the most photographed beaches in the Caribbean.
Wade into the sea and you’ll be amazed at the clarity of the water. Don’t be surprised if a sea turtle glides beneath you while you’re swimming; there are four different species that nest here, so they’re often spotted.
Otherwise, Eagle Beach has a laid-back vibe, with watersports concessions and plenty of restaurants nearby for a snack, overlooking the sparkling water.
Te Amo Beach, Bonaire
There’s a reef right in front of Te Amo Beach in Bonaire, located to the south of the capital, Kralendijk.
This is one of Bonaire’s best beaches for snorkeling. With water as clear as this, you’ll be astounded by the colorful coral and the dozens of species of fish here, from striped sergeant majors to shimmering parrotfish, yellow butterflyfish, and vibrant damselfish.
Look out for boulder star coral, brain coral, and delicate sea fans, particularly close to the drop-off beyond the reef. It’s worth taking an underwater camera to Te Amo to capture this dazzling and mysterious world.
Crane Beach, Barbados
Somewhat unromantically, this pink sand beach gets its name from the crane that sits on top of the cliff behind the beach, once used for loading ships.
Industrial equipment aside, Crane Beach in Barbados is often voted among the most beautiful in the world, thanks to its wooded cliffs, swaying coconut palms, and the delicate shade of its pinky-yellow sand.
A reef creates a barrier offshore, so the swimming conditions in the crystal-clear water are good, although the water here can get a little choppy for novice snorkelers. Splashing around in the shallows is always fun, too.
Carlisle Bay, Barbados
The wide sweep of Carlisle Bay actually encompasses several beaches in Barbados, including the shoreline of the capital, Bridgetown. The waters here are shallow, and despite the presence of the small city nearby, blissfully clear.
Everything happens at Carlisle Bay, where many visitors enjoy long, happy days at The Boatyard, a cheerful hub for snacks, cocktails, watersports rentals, and admiring the gleaming yachts that bob in the harbor.
The bay has actually been developed into a marine park, and with six wrecks, it is known as one of the best spots for diving and snorkeling in Barbados.
As sunlight filters down through the clear water, you can see Berwind, a French tugboat that was sunk in the First World War. You’ll also see the drug boat Eillon, sunk to create the marine park in the 1990s, and Bajan Queen, which was Bridgetown’s first tug built in the 1960s.
All of these ships, along with their assorted anchors and cannons, are fascinating to view. Since the creation of the park, they have been colonized by a fantastic variety of marine life. You could see octopus, squid, fearsome moray eels, rays that shimmy across the sand, and tiny seahorses.
Punta Sur Eco Beach Park, Cozumel
Punta Sur Eco Beach Park in Cozumel is as heavenly as Caribbean beaches come. The long curve of white sand is colonized by bottle green scrub, which protects the Colombia Lagoon on one side and is pounded by waves on the other.
In this 1,000 hectares of protected habitat, you could spot sea turtles as well as gardens of colorful sea fans that thrive on the reef here.
Climb the Celarain Lighthouse for views across the beautiful Cozumel beach, or take a tour of the lagoon, where you can look for reclusive crocodiles in their natural habitat.
Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
One of the best-known features of Grand Cayman, Seven Mile Beach is a long crescent of coral sand lapped by clear turquoise water. Little wonder that the beach is constantly voted one of the finest in the Caribbean.
Although it’s not exactly seven miles long, the beach has enough different sections to have appeal for all sun and sea lovers.
One of the best beaches in Grand Cayman is Cemetery Beach, located at the northern end (named because there’s an old cemetery nearby). It has some of the clearest water imaginable and a thriving reef about 60 yards from the beach at 20 feet deep.
As such, it’s not a place for novice snorkelers, but for confident swimmers who like to dive down. Since this is home to some of the clearest water in the Caribbean, the expedition is more than worthwhile.
Grand Anse Beach, Grenada
Close to the capital of Grenada, St. George’s, Grand Anse is a long sweep of sheltered white coral sand on the island’s southwest coast, lined with resorts and restaurants. There’s a local craft market, and watersports concessions offer everything from waterskiing to banana boat rides.
One of the big attractions here is some of the clearest water in the Caribbean, the pristine sea floor sloping away gently at first and dropping off into navy blue depths. But even 90 feet from the shore, the visibility is exceptional and the sea teeming with life.
Advanced scuba divers come here to dive one of the largest wrecks in the Caribbean, the 1960s cruise ship Bianca C. Nurse sharks, rays, barracuda, and coral have made the wreck their home.
Read: Best Beaches in Grenada
Cane Bay Beach, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Cane Bay Beach owes much of its popularity to the clarity of the water; there’s some of the best shore diving and snorkeling in the U.S. Virgin Islands here.
Just 150 yards from the shoreline, the Cane Bay Wall drops off in around 35 feet of water, visible and accessible to snorkelers. It plunges down to 3,000 feet, making it one of the best spots for scuba diving in the Caribbean.
Of course, you can simply relax on the soft sand, try beach volleyball, or bask in the turquoise shallows, gazing up at a cloudless sky.
Buck Island, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Buck Island Reef National Monument off St. Croix offers all manner of laid-back beach activity, from hiking and birdwatching to swimming in the glass-clear shallows, snorkeling, and diving.
Because the island is a conservation area, you’ll find it spotless, with strict rules about what you can or can’t do, take, or leave.
This is one of the best islands for snorkeling thanks to the clarity of the water, with coral grottos to explore, none of them deeper than 12 feet.
Follow the underwater trail with a guide, looking at the interpretative signs and keeping watch for bright blue tangs, yellow butterflyfish, sea turtles, and even juvenile reef sharks.
The diving here is suitable for novices, too, with impressive formations of elkhorn coral at just 30 to 40 feet down.
Once you’ve had your fill of the water, follow one of the marked hiking trails through pigeon-berry and turpentine trees.
Hike up from West Beach to the observation point and look down on the aquamarine shallows, falling away to the shadows of the Caribbean reefs. Further out, it drops off into the unimaginable depths of the Puerto Rico Trench, which bottoms out at 5,000 feet.
Grand Case Beach, St. Maarten
It’s always worth making the trip to Grand Case, on the French side of St. Maarten, for a little slice of France in the patisseries and designer shops, as well as the finest dining on the island.
The beach, too, is a big attraction, with wonderfully clear water and white sand. If you’re not a diver, take a glass-bottomed boat trip to nearby Creole Rock and gaze down in wonder at the teeming activity beneath you.
Sea turtles and eagle rays are common here. Pelicans inhabit the rock, too, so watch out for them diving for fish.
Back ashore, relax on a lounge chair and gaze at views of Anguilla on the horizon, or stroll the length of one of St. Maarten’s best beaches looking for sea glass that’s washed up here.
Honeymoon Beach, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Fringed by coconut palms, the white sand Honeymoon Beach is one of the best beaches in the USVI, located on sleepy St. John.
A shallow reef just offshore has excellent visibility and a healthy population of fish, rays, and sea turtles. There are kayaks and paddleboards to rent, as well as beach chairs and snacks.
Wear closed-toe shoes for the rocky hike to the beach. Or if you’re starting your journey from neighboring St. Thomas, consider a catamaran tour to the beach, which gives you a chance to enjoy sailing, snorkel in the silky, clear water, and enjoy a few rum punches on the journey back.
Ffryes Beach, Antigua
Antigua is fringed by what’s reckoned to be 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. Ffryes Beach has to be one of the most picturesque, the perfect combination of white sand, turquoise shallows, and low-lying hills covered with bottle-green shrubs and sea grapes.
The clarity of the water around the rocks to the north side of Ffryes Beach makes snorkeling here first-rate. The waters are calm, with a gently shelving sea floor.
Even if you don’t plan to snorkel in Antigua, this is the perfect place to splash around in the gentle waves.
Blue Bay Beach, Curaçao
Blue Bay Beach in Curaçao is located near the fishing village of Sint-Michiel, is often as busy as the sand here is soft and white. There’s a gentle gradient as the sea floor slopes away, making this a popular spot with families. The water, too, is enticing and clear as glass.
Blue Bay Beach has plenty of facilities, from watersports rentals to umbrellas and a bar. But the real attraction is the offshore reef, just five minutes’ swim from the shore, with coral in every color of the rainbow and shoaling tropical fish. Little wonder that this is a popular spot for novice divers.
If you are joining a dive, you’ll be dazzled by the corals a little further beyond the reef. They cover the whole ocean floor, with coral heads interspersed with colorful sponges and sea fans.
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