The Caribbean Defined

Beaches
Beach in the Turks and Caicos
Caribbean simplicity: The Turks and Caicos (Getty)

The Caribbean is awash in fine beaches, and we won't even try to name the best. But we will flex a little scientific muscle and explain how special beaches are born. "Great white-sand beaches are usually made of carbonate, or limestone, sand...[which is] mostly supplied from offshore," says Uri Ten Brink, a Caribbean expert with the U.S. Geological Survey. "Places where the [current] carries sand onto shore will make nice beaches."

What? You haven't tracked ocean current trends over the eons? Well, alright. Here are some examples.

Turks and Caicos
These islands sit atop the Bahamas Platform, an ancient layer-cake of expired coral reef, and the result is relatively flat land mass, long stretches of gently sloping white beaches, and miles of sandy shallows that give the water a captivating effervescence. Grace Bay, a 12-mile arc of beach on Provodenciales, garners a lot of attention but is just one of many jaw droppers in the archipelago.

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. John is like a giant, three-dimensional piece to a jigsaw puzzle, where almost every nook hugs a beach that could fill up your digital camera in a day. The best of these—Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Hawksnest Bay, Maho Bay, and Caneel Bay—cradle tranquil lagoons with enchanting snorkeling opportunities. With no airport (ferries run from St. Thomas) and toned-down nightlife, St. John is one place to go when you want to leave it all behind.

British Virgin Islands
Blessed with the same geo-physical features as the U.S. Virgin Islands—tropical forested hills sweeping down to fine sand beaches—the BVIs have enough buttery coastline to satisfy all suitors, from surfers and yachties to snorkelers and rum-soaked beach bums. Among the more memorable oases of sand are Long Bay, Smuggler's Cove, and Cane Garden Bay on Tortola; The Baths, Little Dix Bay, Mahoe Bay, and Savannah Bay on Virgin Gorda; and Loblolly Bay on Anegada.

Antigua
Forget the claims that Antigua has a beach for every day of the year. You'll just go crazy trying to get another 50 weeks of vacation to visit them all. Admiral Horatio Nelson picked Antigua as Britain's Caribbean base in 1784, drawn by the cove-heavy coastline and robust barrier reefs that guarded anchorages. Those same features make for some of the most succulent beaches in the Caribbean, from Dickenson Bay to Turner's Beach to Half Moon Bay to...well, maybe you do need a few more months of vacation. An added bonus: Antigua receives a scant 45 inches of rain annually, making it the sunniest island in the Eastern Caribbean.

Other Notables:
Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Vieques (Puerto Rico), Los Roques (Venezuela)


Published: 9 Nov 2009 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in British Virgin Islands

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Rosewood Little Dix Bay
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Long Bay Beach Club
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Sebastians On The Beach

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