Nearly every edge of the more than 7,000 islands, reefs and cays is idyllic. But with so much variety, it can be difficult to pick which sandy strips to visit first. To help you choose, we ranked the best 5 Caribbean beaches. These destinations feature the sugary sands and turquoise waves that have earned the region its outstanding reputation.
1. Anguilla: Travel Tips
Compared to some Caribbean islands masquerading as tourist traps, you’ll find something a little more authentic on Anguilla. There’s an embargo on cruise ships, casinos and high-rise hotels, but a surplus of clear, coral-filled waters, unmarked and unpaved roads, and low-key beachfront villas. Pampering is also at a premium, from the grandiose resorts to the sophisticated al fresco dining. With little to do but relax, the days here are long. But once the sun does go down, you’ll be treated to one of the best live music scenes in the Western Hemisphere. Everyone from Quincy Jones to Bankie Banx and Jimmy Buffett has stopped by Anguilla’s ashen shores to perform.
How To Save Money in Anguilla
- Embrace connection flightsThere are no direct flights from the United States to Anguilla, but you could take advantage of this inconvenience and convert it to savings. You could fly to St. Martin-St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, theU.S. Virgin Islands and even Antigua or St. Kitts, and then take a regional carrier or ferry.
- Rent a villaYou’ll pay more than you would in a hotel, but you’ll be able to cook your own meals and avoid incidental hotel fees and tipping.
- Buy a good mapTaking a taxi everywhere can get expensive. You can rent a car for far less money, just study ahead of time on the best routes to take with a paper map.
Anguilla Culture & Customs
Anguillans as some of the friendliest people in the Caribbean, and the island itself is one of the more relaxed island locales you could visit. But Anguillans are also conservative and polite. Wearing beachwear anywhere besides the beach is frowned upon. The local newspaper even reminds you to “Please shop with your clothes on.” Casual attire is generally accepted everywhere, but call ahead to the fancier dining establishments to determine whether there’s a dress code.
2. British Virgin Islands: Travel Tips
The British Virgin Islands, or BVI for short, are some of the most exclusive and least developed islands of the Caribbean, but this only adds to their appeal. The resorts, villas, restaurants and other tourist attractions in this paradise are known to emphasize spare luxury over sprawling expansion, and they attract travelers with deep pockets and a love for sailing and seclusion. Many travelers who visit come by ferry boat from another Caribbean isle, especially as some find opulent exile too hard to enjoy for longer than a day or two. And some say it’s better to split your time between here, the nearby U.S. Virgin Islands and Anguilla to the east.
Others find more than enough to keep them exclusively anchored by these 60 islands and cays. On Tortola, you’ll find mountainous cliffs and chalk white beaches, characterized by changing tides and calm easterly winds. A brief sail away, sleepy Jost Van Dyke offers delicious Caribbean food and drink, one of the region’s best New Year’s Eve parties, as well as a few outdoor excursions like diving and fishing. On Virgin Gorda, you’ll find The Baths, perhaps the most picturesque shore in the British Virgin Islands, and with good reason: It offers unique grottoes amidst gigantic granite boulders (just be mindful of the daytripping crowds). For supreme seclusion, try Anegada; its slow pace, flat terrain and sparkling sand lies almost overlooked in Caribbean Sea.
How To Save Money in British Virgin Islands
- Make it a daytripStaying among the U.S. Virgin Islands is probably cheaper; staying on Puerto Rico most definitely is. The cost to take a small plane or ferry round-trip from one of those islands is significantly less than planning an entire itinerary in the British isles.
- Avoid the duty-freeLike much of the Caribbean, these islands boast duty-free deals on electronics, jewelry, liquor and perfume. But the selection is not as vast as shopping capitals like St. Thomas, USVI and St. Martin-St. Maarten.
- CarpoolKeep in mind that taxis will charge you per destination, not per person. Find some travel buddies at your hotel who are willing to take a few island tours and excursions with you and then split the cab bill.
British Virgin Islands Culture & Customs
Virgin Islanders dress casually but conservatively. Wearing a bathing suit – or even sandals – anywhere besides the beach marks you as a tourist. Most nightclubs are willing to accept you in boat shoes and a nice pair of shorts, but don’t be surprised to find the residents in slightly better attire.
3.Turks & Caicos: Travel Guide
Turks & Caicos has the perfect antidote for your hectic lifestyle; nearly abandoned, blinding-white sand fringed by shimmering azure water, colorful coral reefs, crispy conch fritters and a sleepy, light-hearted atmosphere. Even as recent years have generated more tourist activity, more chain restaurants and more commercially driven experiences, Turks & Caicos still holds tight to its reputation as an exclusive and secluded getaway. And regular vacationers to these skinny strips of white sand will tell you that they wouldn’t have it any other way.
This network of 40 islands and cays has three dominant personalities. There’s glamorous Providenciales, or “Provo,” which acts as the main port for the cruise ship crowd and site of many luxurious hotels. Laid-back Grand Turk is the historic and cultural nucleus, best seen in the Turks & Caicos National Museum or along the shores of Cockburn Town, where Christopher Columbus first docked in the Western Hemisphere. Tiny, flat Salt Cay plays host to the best dives: From here, you can explore one of the largest reef systems in the world.
How To Save Money in Turks & Caicos
- Pack an umbrellaHotels and airlines slice their prices by as much as 40 percent during the islands’ rainy season (June to November).
- Stay on a Turks islandThe inns and guesthouses Grand Turk and Salt Cay are generally more budget friendly than the boutique resorts on Providenciales, Pine or Parrot cays.
- Book earlyIf you do want to visit during the peak season, booking a year in advance can mean substantial savings on your hotel bill.
Turks & Caicos Culture & Customs
Residents of the Turks & Caicos frequently refer to themselves as “belongers,” but ex-pats and visitors feel welcome — especially as English is the official language and the U.S. dollar (USD) is the official currency.
Beachwear is generally only accepted on the shore, and even then, you’ll notice many residents wearing shorts over their swimwear. Wearing your swimsuit (and even flip-flops) away from the beach and pool area may mark you as a tourist.
Hotels require a service charge that’s usually 15 percent — be sure to clarify whether or not it’s automatically included in the bill.
4. U.S. Virgin Islands: Travel Guide
The U.S. Virgin Islands are “America’s Caribbean Paradise”— the place to see moko jumbies dance at a Carnival parade, hear the lilting patois of a Creole dialect or smell the spices in a saltfish pate (all without losing cell phone reception). You can visit either St. Thomas, St. John or St. Croix, or better yet, spend a little time on all three islands. That way you’ll get plenty of pampering, undisturbed nature and colonial history jammed into one vacation. And bonus: you can pay for everything with U.S. dollars.
Each island offers something different. Called “Rock City” for its hilly, craggy horizon, St. Thomas is known for luxury — from the mega-yachts moored in the harbor to the high-end storefronts along Main Street. Located a short ferry-ride east, St. John appeals to honeymooners and nature lovers, with more than 7,000 acres of dedicated parkland plus surrounding pristine beaches. Way down south in the Caribbean Sea, less-visited St. Croix has sugar cane plantations and rum distilleries that offer a glimpse into both the past and the present of the Virgin Islands.
How To Save Money in U.S. Virgin Islands
- Book earlyIt’s possible to secure a good deal at one of the USVI’s four-star hotels in the peak season, but you should start looking for a room up to a year in advance.
- Visit in springApril and May hotel rates are lower, plus you’ll get your Caribbean vacation in before the sticky, wet summer.
- Take an Eastern Caribbean cruiseSt. Thomas one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean, and the top cruises generally dock for up to eight hours. That’ll give you time to explore Rock City or even take a ferry to St. John.
U.S. Virgin Islands Culture & Customs
Similar to the residents of other Caribbean islands, Virgin Islanders dress casually but conservatively. Wearing a bathing suit — or even sandals — anywhere besides the beach marks you as a tourist.
Since these islands are territories of the United States, their currency is the U.S. dollar. Overall, tipping etiquette is the same in the Virgin Islands as in other parts of the United States; 15 to 20 percent is considered the standard, but more is appreciated for exceptional service.
5. Cayman Islands: Travel Tips
The charming Cayman Islands continue to be a coveted Caribbean getaway for both adventurous and more immobile travelers. Gorgeous barrier reefs call to divers as the rum punch calls to the beach bums. Honeymooners hike through the 200-year-old Mastic Trail as parents take their children for interactive swims at Stingray City. Whichever way you choose to mellow out, the Cayman Islands can oblige.
The Cayman Islands are an archipelago of three islands, lying 90 miles south of Cuba. The largest, Grand Cayman, is full of gargantuan resorts with all-inclusive options, perfect for those who prefer pre-planned itineraries and don’t mind sharing the sights with cruise crowds. For freewheeling vacationers, the less-traveled Cayman Brac and Little Cayman offer some of the best diving in the Caribbean.
How To Save Money in Cayman Islands
- To dive or not to diveEquipment rentals for diving and snorkeling are expensive, but half- to full-day sails with ferry companies can be more affordable alternatives.
- Summer in CaymanTo get the best prices, plan a trip for early spring or summer, when hotel rates are up to 50 percent cheaper.
- Beachcomb for souvenirsSeashells are popular mementos, but save yourself some dough by searching the beach on your own.
Cayman Islands Culture & Customs
Take note of the Cayman Islands’ dress code; swimsuits are OK on the beach or cruise ship, but you should dress more formally off the beach and in town.
The official currency of the Cayman Islands is the Cayman Islands dollar, which is roughly equivalent to the U.S. dollar. Since the Cayman Islands dollar to U.S. dollar exchange rate can fluctuate, be sure to check what the current exchange rate is before you go. However, U.S. dollars are pretty readily accepted in the Cayman Islands, as are major credit cards.
As for tipping, restaurants usually expect a 15 percent tip, though check the bill carefully because gratuity might already be added. Taxicab drivers anticipate anywhere from a 10 to 15 percent tip. Note that the service charge at hotels is usually included and ranges from 6 to 12 percent.