Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Caribbean's Top Ten Hidden Beaches

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
More than two-thirds of St. John is protected under the Virgin Islands National Park, including the entire north coast where the island's best beaches are located. Most have creamy white sand, crystalline water, and stunning views of nearby islands. A rental car makes beach hopping easy and fun, especially if you're looking for a private hideaway. (Be sure to grab a beach and snorkeling map at the national park service office.) Francis Bay sees relatively little traffic, especially on weekdays, and is long enough that even on busy days you'll have plenty of room to stretch out.

 La Sagesse Bay, Grenada
Grenada's best beach is Grand Anse Bay, with its long, curving beach backed by tall coconut trees and a view of the mountains beyond. However, it's also home to the island's biggest resorts, and doesn't really qualify as a secluded beach destination. For solitude, head to scenic La Sagesse Bay, about ten miles east of Grand Anse, where palm trees shade a curl of firm, white sand, exuding a quiet, secluded charm. Rocky headlands nearly pinch the bay shut, making the surf consistently mellow. La Sagesse's only development is an attractive hotel and nature center with a restaurant and bar, and several hiking trails leading to even more secluded bays and beaches.


Half Moon Bay, Antigua
Half Moon Bay, a beautiful semicircle of white sand and emerald water, may be the finest of Antigua's 365 beaches, yet it's also one of the least crowded. The lone resort located there closed after a hurricane in 1995 and has yet to reopen, and it's not uncommon to find just a handful of people on the entire half-mile stretch of sand. Half Moon Bay faces the Atlantic, so expect gustier winds and bigger surf than elsewhere (in fact, it's a favorite spot for windsurfers and kiteboarders). That said, the shore curls around so that the north end is shielded from the open ocean, an area with excellent snorkeling opportunities. A small beach bar serves drinks and rents beach gear (and has a bathroom), but it's a good idea to bring some provisions of your own, in case it's not open.

 Harbour Island, Eleuthera, Bahamas
Why settle for white sand when you can have pink? Pink beaches are found in several places in the Caribbean, but nowhere more famously or elegantly than on Harbour Island, where the sand shimmers like strawberry icing—the color comes from the shells of microscopic marine organisms. The aptly named Pink Sand Beach stretches most of the island's three-mile eastern shore, where sunrises are spectacular and an offshore coral reef tempers the surf. Harbour Island is far from deserted, and even further from budget-friendly, but the beachfront development is mostly exclusive boutique hotels and private estates, so it rarely feels crowded.

 Las Galeras, Dominican Republic
The land of Carnival, baseball fanatics, and all-inclusive resorts may seem like an unlikely place to look for secluded beaches, but that's exactly what you'll find outside the small town of Las Galeras in the northeastern Samaná Peninsula. A short boat ride (or jarring jeep trip) gets you to Playa Rincón, an undulating two-mile beach, with light golden sand and multi-colored water. A handful of simple restaurants serve drinks and fresh seafood, but packing your own lunch frees you to stroll the beach in search of your own little patch of paradise. Las Galeras is the jumping-off point for other secluded beaches, including Playa Frontón, another classic Caribbean beauty, and Playa Madama, which occupies a narrow slot in the area's dramatic shoreline. Both beaches have excellent snorkeling and can be reached by foot or boat.

 Mayreau, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Continuing south down the Grenadines, the island of Mayreau is even smaller and less populated than Canouan, with a no-name village of around 300 people, and just one upscale resort. The resort is located at Saltwhistle Bay, an idyllic curve of powdery white sand shaded by palm trees at the north end of the island. The bay faces west, and its calm leeward waters make it a favorite anchorage for yachters. If the beach there ever gets crowded—a rare but occasional occurrence—paths lead a short distance to the island's windward side, where a long-deserted beach is great for beachcombing. Just east of Mayreau are the Tobago Cays, five uninhabited and impossibly beautiful islets with lovely beaches and terrific snorkeling, a must-do day trip for anyone staying on Mayreau.


 Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
There are two types of isolation to be had on the island of Canouan, about midway down the Grenadines. There's ordinary isolation—staying in a low-key hotel or villa and visiting low-key beaches like Glossy Bay or Friendship Bay. Or you can enjoy some "luxury isolation" at the super-deluxe Canouan Resort at Carenage Bay, which occupies most of Canouan's northern end. The resort's seven private beaches give you plenty of options for enjoying peace and quiet, without the privations of a completely deserted seashore. Mahault Bay (a.k.a. "Maho Bay") is the most famous and secluded spot, where the sand is ivory, the water sapphire, and clothing optional.

 North Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands
You've probably seen pictures of Providenciales and its stunning Grace Bay beach, a 12-mile stretch of sand that's often voted one of the Caribbean's best beaches. But Grace Bay has hotels, resorts, and condos practically end-to-end. North Caicos Island, just a half-hour ferry ride or ten-minute flight away, receives only a fraction of the visitors. Along the northern shore are Whitby Beach (home to several appealing beach hotels), Pumpkin Bluff Beach, and Horse Stable Beach; together, they offer miles of empty white sand and extensive shallows that are great for snorkeling. North Caicos is also known for its bird watching, with a huge flamingo colony and rare whistling ducks.

 Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla
Anguilla is truly a beach-lover's paradise, with dozens of first-class beaches from which to choose. For peace and quiet, try Rendezvous Bay—with just three resorts on two glorious miles of silky, white sand, you'll have no trouble finding a secluded spot to lay out your towel, soak up some sun, and enjoy the view of nearby St. Martin. Rendezvous Bay also is home to The Dune Preserve, a bar/restaurant/club run by local reggae star Bankie Banx, and one of the island's most unique (and agreeable) watering holes. Of course, no trip to Anguilla would be complete without a stop at Shoal Bay East, widely considered to be one of the world's best beaches. It can get quite crowded in the midsection, where all the hotels and shops are located, but it has long empty stretches on either end.

1 comment:

  1. Half moon bay is the most beautiful beach in the world. Number 1 in the world