Chances are, there’s one “must-do” on your Caribbean cruise, and that’s … to hit the beach. Good thing there are plenty of gorgeous strands throughout the islands. Here, our favorite picks in the top 15 ports:
1. Sapphire Beach
Plenty of passengers will head to heavily touristed Magens Bay, but the shallow, large reef at Sapphire Beach provides better snorkeling opportunities and smaller crowds. Plus, the views of St. John are a Pinterest page’s dream. The public beach is in front of the Sapphire Beach Club & Resort — you can pay a nominal fee for access to beach chairs and facilities, including showers.
2. Tabyana Beach
While divers go on day trips in the deep, many beach-loving cruisers simply walk a few steps to Mahogany Beach, right near the port. As a result, the strand can get crowded fast, making Tabyana a better choice. Thanks to its proximity to the world’s second largest reef system, there’s great snorkeling here.
3. Cupecoy Beach
Cupecoy sees a good mix of tourists and locals, many of whom also peddle beach chairs, umbrellas, beer, and soft drinks to visitors. A few things to remember: The northwest side of the beach is clothing-optional, the whole area is gay-friendly, and the waves can be rough on weak swimmers. Also, leave enough time to fight the afternoon traffic back to the ship.
4. Palm Beach
Once dominated by high-rise hotels, Palm Beach has now become Aruba’s “it” location, thanks to an influx of restaurants, shops, and clubs. You can also sign up for a day pass to a hotel and, best of all, you can forgo the expensive cab ride with an easy trip on the public bus.
5. Cockleshell Bay
Located 10 miles away from the high-rise resort area, this beach features a small number of food and drink vendors, but getting away from the crowds makes up for the lack of luxuries. Our advice: Be sure to negotiate a return ride on the way there.
6. Blue Bay
This is one of Curacao’s most popular and largest beaches, but it’s equipped to handle crowds. The entrance fee is $8 but finding your own spot of sand or shade — if you prefer to dodge the intense midday rays — isn’t a problem, and the snorkeling is top-notch here.
7. Rum Point
Skip the overcrowded Seven Mile Beach and hang out on the north shore instead, where you can order a cocktail in one of the Wreck Bar’s hammocks. It’s best to sign up for a trip to Rum Point through Red Sail Sports, as the beach is about an hour drive from the cruise port.
8. Brandons Beach
This is one of the most popular strands on Barbados’s famed “Platinum Coast.” It’s also where many cruisers head, since it’s not far from the port, but it’s still your best bet. You can actually walk to Brandons Beach from the port, but if it’s too hot, take a five-minute taxi ride.
9. Cane Garden Bay
There’s over a mile of sand to play in at this popular beach, which is lined with authentic West Indian restaurants. Water sports include windsurfing, and you can join the locals jogging along the curved shoreline. Your ship will offer a tour, but if you want to go solo, hop in a taxi for the 15-minute (roller coaster-style) ride.
10. Governor’s Beach
This beach is close to the port and has an energetic vibe, which is unusual on this quiet island. There’s plenty to do, from Hobie Cat® sailing to snorkeling the small reef. Beach chairs and umbrellas are also available for a fee. It’s an easy 10-minute walk from the port to the beach — if you take a taxi, you’ll probably regret the expensive, two-minute drive.
11. Turtle Beach
Turtle Beach is bigger than Mallards, closer to the cruise port, and offers a wide range of water activities. Yes, it’ll probably be crowded, but it’s easy to find a spot to rent a beach chair. Vendors hawk water skiing, scuba diving, and banana boat trips. And, if you want to shop, a mall is right behind you. A short, 10-minute walk from the port, this beach has a $3 entrance fee.
12. Cable Beach
While many cruisers flock to the Atlantis Resort, four-mile Cable Beach is less busy but still offers a great time for day-trippers without breaking the bank. Plenty of hotels offer cruisers day passes, or you can sign up for moderately priced fishing, diving, and scuba packages. It’s an easy bus ride to many of the hotels along Cable Beach from the cruise port.
13. Galley Bay Beach
St. John’s, Antigua
Of the island’s 365 beaches — that’s its claim, and it’s sticking to it — this convenient one feels surprisingly quiet. The long, thin strand is pristine, and you can snorkel, swim, or kayak in the clear, warm water. From February through July, sea turtles lay eggs here, and the hatching is a sight to behold.
14. Isla Verde Beach
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Isla is in front of the high-rise hotel section but is divided into several parts; we’re partial to the quiet, family-friendly area near Ocean Park. Just consider yourself warned: Saturdays and Sundays are huge beach days for locals, so you’ll run into crowds on the weekends. You’ll have no trouble finding a taxi in either direction.
15. Aquasol Beach
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Just a short walk from MoBay’s popular Gloucester Avenue, Aquasol — also known as Walter Fletcher Beach — is more of a water park than just a beach, and families come here to play on banana boats and jump on sea trampolines. Taxis line up at the port to drive the 10-minute ride.