The Caribbean is famous for having some of the best beaches in the world — and for good reason. From the Dominican Republic to Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, Curaçao and the 11 other island nations that are found in the Caribbean along with North, Central and South America, travelers are guaranteed to find their piece of beach paradise — especially in these 5 best Caribbean islands perfect for your next vacation.
We rounded up some of the best Caribbean islands (and their beaches!) you can visit along with some standout activities once you’re island bound, regardless of whether you are looking for the latest outdoor adventures or just want to soak up the sun on the sand.
5 perfect Caribbean island escapes for 2022
While Curaçao may appear small with a population of just over 155,000, it has some of the best beaches and scuba diving spots in all the Caribbean. Grote Knip beach on the northern end of the island has made it into top Caribbean beach lists, like Lonely Planet’s, multiple times.
Grote Knip beach provides a picturesque environment that is often shown on brochures and in ads. It also has many snorkeling opportunities, but if scuba diving is more for you then a small drive to East Point, Eel Valley or Jan Thiel Bay. Alternatively, contacting one of the local dive companies will guarantee you find a great diving spot off the island or the nearby reef. There are literally dozens, if not hundreds, around the small island.
And even though Curaçao is relatively small, the combination of remoteness with luxury hotels is memorable, so be sure to check out some resorts in Curaçao. Many resorts can give you unique dining, diving and outdoor exploring experiences with luxurious facilities and equipment, streamlining every step in your journey.
If an even smaller island appeals to you more than bustling, crowded beaches, then Anguilla might do the trick. Anguilla has a local population of just over 15,000, and a total length of just 16 miles, so everything it offers is at your fingertips.
The best beach in Anguilla is called Shoal Bay, a two-mile stretch of powdery-white sand lined by several bars and restaurants that make the most of the ocean view. For divers, this island has seven marine parks and a double-reef system that is not only home to lots of coral and ocean life, but several historic shipwrecks as well. Stoney Bay Marine Park is where you will find the wreck of an 18th-century Spanish galleon that is a favorite among regular divers.
For something more family-oriented, check the southern end of the island for the Anguilla Watersports water park that has exciting inflatable obstacles laid out on the water in Cove Bay. They also run a series of paddleboarding, kite surfing, kayaking and hiking services for anyone seeking an adventure.
The Riviera Maya, Mexico
The Caribbean often reminds people of relaxing on a warm island in the ocean. However, it also includes parts of Southern Mexico and Central and Southern America as well. The Mayan Riviera is a stretch of coastline that runs along the Eastern edge of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and has a vibrant nightlife, a range of quality restaurants, all-inclusive hotels and many ancient Mayan ruins dotted along the coast.
In this part of Mexico, Soliman Bay is one of the best-regarded beaches–although there is a lot of stiff competition. Located just north of Tulum, visitors to Soliman Bay also find themselves near multiple cenotes, which are sinkholes full of extremely clean fresh water that offer alternative swimming options.
Just a couple of miles to the south on the Tulum beaches you will also find the Tulum beach ruins, notably El Castillo and the Templo del Mar, which are ancient Mayan stone structures that overlook the idyllic beaches and ocean to give you a view into the history of the area.
Most lists and conversations regarding the Caribbean cannot avoid mentioning Jamaica. Here, visitors can choose from a wide range of stunning beaches that offer swimming, snorkeling, and diving opportunities, as well as luxury or family-oriented accommodation, jungle and river experiences with waterfalls, and access to a unique and colorful culture with amazing food.
And although many guides will recommend Seven-Mile Beach or Boston Bay as must-see locations, Frenchman’s Cove beach on the North-Eastern edge of the island gives visitors a much quieter and more relaxed environment at the right time of day. A river runs down to the beach into the ocean here, which might explain how the water stays crystal clear while the beach itself sits in a bowl-like shape surrounded by dense trees for an enclosed appearance.
Cuba is likely the most colorful and stylish of all the Caribbean nations today thanks to its interesting history and how it has preserved its past, whether it’s the old but well-maintained classic cars that roam the Cuban streets or the colonial buildings juxtaposed with palm trees lining the beaches.
Like every other Caribbean nation, Cuba, one of our favorite and best Caribbean islands, has many excellent beaches and towns to offer visitors. However, the most notable place to soak up the sun and play in the surf is Varadero Beach. Varadero Beach is part of a peninsula that juts from the north of the island connected to the mainland by a drawbridge. Along with extremely clear water and a range of fishing and diving spots, the peninsula has many grand hotels and restaurants lining the waterfront and gives visitors easy access to the local ecological park, the Ambrosio and Musulmanes caves, and Josone park with flower gardens and a lake for paddling.
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