st lucia best caribbean islands
Get ready for paradise. | Orietta Gaspari/E+/Getty Images
Get ready for paradise. | Orietta Gaspari/E+/Getty Images

The Best Caribbean Destinations for an Easy Beach Getaway

Beach. Rum. Repeat.

It’s no secret that we at Thrillist love to travel—in fact, it’s pretty much all we do. And with every new flight, mountain summit, cocktail bar, and hotel check-in, we always learn something new. That’s why we’re in the habit of turning to our team of seasoned editors and global contributors, each with extensive boots-on-the-ground experience, to help you plan your next jet-setting adventure.

Some things are a standard across the board in the Caribbean: water that shimmers in shades of emerald and jade; palm-fringed shores shielding beaches that range from white-sand powder to golden stretches; a slower, laid-back pace of life; a steady flow of ice-cold rum cocktails. There’s a reason why these islands often top the list of world’s best beach escapes—especially since the height of season is when it’s frigid and snowing in so many other spots.

When choosing the right piece of paradise for you, there are a few things to consider: Are you looking for a place to party or do you want the beach all to yourself? Will you need a car or can you reach most places by foot (or short taxi ride)? Do you even want to leave the beach or resort at all? Luckily, we have some of these answers for you. Here are our top picks for easy beach getaways in the Caribbean that won’t require a puddle hopper and ATV to reach those picture-perfect shores.

st lucia best caribbean islands
St. Lucia easily gives French Polynesia a run for its money. | ThomasFluegge/E+/Getty Images

St. Lucia

A far cry from your typical Caribbean experience, St. Lucia’s verdant jungle covers spiny mountain peaks that look down over striking black-sand beaches. The port town of Soufrière is a great jumping-off point from which to get into the island’s hot springs, hike the trails, and climb Gros Piton, which offers sweeping views over St. Lucia and a few neighboring islands.

For an unforgettably idyllic beach day, set your sights on Anse Mamin, a strip of black sand framed by the dramatic peak of Jade Mountain on the island’s western sunset coast. It’s near the ridiculously fancy (and photogenic) Jade Mountain Resort, so everyone assumes the beach is exclusive to the hotel. They’re wrong: It’s open to all, magically secluded, and backed by shade trees and green cliffs. There’s a small burger joint on the beach that is part of the hotel, but it, too, can be enjoyed by anyone. The burgers are legendary, spoken about by locals in hushed, reverent tones. —Meagan Drillinger

british virgin islands boulders beach
One of the 20 national parks—the Baths—offers everything from hiking to spelunking. | M Swiet Productions/Moment/Getty Images

Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

If you love a good beach getaway but are a little bit over the piña colada scene, BVI could be your spot. There are 20 national parks across its 60 or so islands, but The Baths National Park on Virgin Gorda, the archipelago’s third-largest strip of sand, stands out above all else. Think lush peaks, ancient boulders, unspoiled beaches, and fantastic opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and spelunking—not to mention there’s no trace of the rampant crowds that flood US national parks like Yellowstone. There’s also Saba Rock, which is essentially a millionaire’s hangout that used to be entirely run by a pirate. Somehow lacking pretension, it’s another great mix of beach getaway-meets-off-grid adventure. You could almost swim there—it’s a 10-minute ferry from Virgin Gorda—but you might as well save your butterfly strokes for when you’re snorkeling or diving in the reefs. —Jacqueline Kehoe

sandy beach lined by palm trees
Punta Cana is one of the easiest spots to reach in the Caribbean. | Kristina Murphree/EyeEm/Getty Images

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

One of the Caribbean’s most accessible and inexpensive destinations, Punta Cana is far from a hidden gem—but it’s popular for good reason. Just a 20-minute drive from a bustling airport, this is not a Caribbean destination that requires you to take a plane to a Cessna to a water plane to a ferry to a taxi to a moto before you find your particular corner of paradise: The entire area is objectively gorgeous, complete with soft white and golden sand—and pretty much any tropical experience you desire. Your vibe will vary based on lodging, be it upscale and luxurious, laid-back and cool, active and adventurous, or romantic and honeymoon-y. Yoga, snorkeling, zip-lining, cooking classes, windsurfing, sea kayaking, golfing, great restaurants (check out local fave Bachata Rosa)—find it all, and then hop back home, easy as you like. —Katy Spratte Joyce

Hopkins Village drummers
Beachside drummers add to the fishing village’s laid-back vibes. | Roi Brooks/Shutterstock

Hopkins, Belize

In 1937, the Caribbean Afro-Indigenous Garifuna community escaped persecution in Honduras and became the first settlers in what is now known as Hopkins, Belize. The secluded fishing village, about a two-hour drive south of Belize City, gained about 200 more people when a hurricane devastated northern Belize in 1941. Today, Hopkins is a laid-back fishing village of about 1,500, lightly touched by resorts and tourists. That means uncrowded beaches where a hammock is always waiting for you in the cradle of Garifuna culture in Belize.

The Lebeha Drumming Center teaches local percussion ways and then takes you out onto the beach for drumming and dance. Just a short drive away, experience some of the best of Belize, including the chance to rappel down a waterfall at Mayflower Bocawina National Park or walk among big cats at the world’s only jaguar preserve, Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Though you’d be forgiven for skipping the adrenaline and settling into the rhythms of Hopkins's beaches for the long haul. —Jennifer Billock

dominca jungle and beach
Champagne Reef—named after the volcanic bubbles—is one of the most famous dive sites on the globe. | Bob Krist/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Champagne Reef, Dominica

Tiny, mountainous Dominica is covered in craggy mountains and lush forests that reward visitors—those who know well enough to actually visit—with a wealth of waterfalls, jaw-dropping hikes, hot springs, and beaches both rocky and sandy. But it's what's beyond the shoreline—and below the surface—that truly makes the mind reel.

Throughout Champagne Reef, submerged geothermal springs release curtains of volcanic gas. One of the world’s most famous and unusual dive sites, which some liken to swimming through a giant flute of Champagne thanks to all the volcanic bubbles, Champagne Beach attracts swimmers, snorkelers, and scuba divers of all skill levels to the warm, shallow waters. Admire the vibrant colors of hard coral, barrel sponges, and fish, then trace the topography down to the oceanic pinnacles and other volcanic rock formations of the Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve. Even above water, there is seemingly no end to the jaw-dropping discoveries. —Amanda Castleman

windsurfer in cinnamon bay st john
All of the shores are pretty calm here, but Cinnamon Bay is especially quiet | cdwheatley/E+/Getty Images

Cinnamon Bay, St. John

With two-thirds of the island of St. John protected as national parkland, there’s not a hint of the waterfront overdevelopment often rampant in the Caribbean anywhere near a port or airport. But what makes Cinnamon Bay so ethereal is that it’s an especially quiet beach on an island with nothing but tranquil shores.

Here, you’ll find even fewer visitors than at nearby Trunk Bay. This means untouched beaches with soft white sand, crystal-clear blue waters, and swaying palm trees that are all yours at the end of your journey. If computer wallpaper fodder levels of natural beauty aren’t enough to entice you, the calm bay-facing sea here makes it perfect for everything from swimming and snorkeling (be sure to look for the sunken airplane) to kayaking and windsurfing—and nearby historic sugar plantation ruins make for an easy hike that will get you out of the water for a minute. —Zach Mack

beach chairs in mexico
This is the opposite of Tulum. | Simon McGill/Moment/Getty Images

Costa Maya, Mexico

Beautiful Tulum has become synonymous with luxe glossies and #vacationgoals. But if you want to get a glimpse into what Tulum used to be like, all you have to do is keep driving south—way, way south. Like to the border of Belize. Here, you’ll find a sugary stretch of Mexican coastline called the Costa Maya that’s anchored by the town of Mahahual. The vibe is straight-up dreamy, with miles of undeveloped powdery sand fringed in green palm trees. Mahahual is that Mexico beach town that Mexicans escape to when Playa del Carmen and Tulum become too “stressful.” Decompress here at boutique eco-hotels, beachfront guesthouses, and bohemian beach bars that are actually boho, minus the chic—or the Tulum prices. —Meagan Drillinger

turquoise sea white sand beach turks and caicos
Cliffside villas? Check! | Rock House

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

The island of Provo (as the locals call it) is a little too easy to reach. From Miami, it’s less than two hours (and there are plenty of nonstops from all around the US), and once you arrive, the ride to the world-famous Grace Bay Beach—which stretches seven miles—is a mere 15 minutes. The term powder-like sand was probably first coined here, since every shore sports the same fine, snow-white sand—but some are more of a mission to reach, and therefore much less crowded. The majority of resorts line Grace Bay Beach, but keep driving to the eastern edge, and the coast gets more untamed as you reach Leeward, which is framed by a natural limestone border that separates the rolling waves from the villas only slightly hidden from sight on shore. You’re also more likely to see yachts than tour boats cruising by (don’t worry, if Drake is somewhere in the area, all of the locals will be sure to fill you in on his whereabouts). So much attention is focused on the water here—photos just don’t capture how blue it is—so the world’s third-largest coral reef system, just off the north shore, is still something of a secret (surprising since it spans an impressive 70 miles of reef and wall).

The island is small, so there’s only a handful of spots that you’ll want to add to your list while you’re there—da Conch Shack and Bugaloo’s being two of the top. If you’re visiting on a Thursday, join the locals around vats of boiling lobster at Bight Park during the weekly Fish Fry, where reggae bands guarantee a dance party will ensue. And when you’re ready to call it a night, post up in the island’s first cliffside resort, boutique Rock House, designed to be a Caribbean Capri—with villa-like homes (complete with outdoor showers and private infinity pools) perched over the water. —Lane Nieset

florida keys road
Half the fun is the drive to the southernmost point. | Artur Debat/Moment/Getty Images

The Florida Keys

Conchs—the eccentric Key West locals—say that hurricanes blew away all the churches but left the bars standing. And while the Conch bars absolutely must be explored, the Keys offer so much more than a debauched trip down Duval Street. Stretching nearly 150 miles, the Keys are teeming with history, mystery, wildlife, and weirdos. Home to the only coral reef in the continental US—one of the most delicate, diverse, and important ecosystems in the world—it’s a national treasure to be savored and preserved. At the end of the road is Key West, a place both tacky and elegant. An iconic LGBTQ+ destination, Key West has also been a community for many of America's greatest writers. Hemingway, yes, but also Elizabeth Bishop, Wallace Stevens, Tennessee Williams, and Joy Williams, who wrote a guide to the Keys that remains one of the best pieces of travel writing in existence. Oh, and it’s also said to be extremely haunted. Which, here, is actually part of the charm. —Bison Messink

boulders in the caribbean sea
The Glass Window Bridge is color blocking at its best. | Sylvain Sonnet/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Eleuthera, Bahamas

Eleuthera isn’t for everyone. There are no major hotel chains, only a handful of good restaurants, and no nightlife to speak of. Instead, there’s quietly swaying palms, secluded snorkeling, and clear water stretching over pink-tinted sands. The long, slender island—one of 30 inhabited islands (out of 700 total) in the Bahamas—is home to one of Earth’s unique vantage points: the so-called Glass Window Bridge. Here, you can stand on a strip of land just 30 feet wide, overlooking the dark depths of the Atlantic Ocean to one side and the turquoise glow of the Caribbean Sea to the other. Ponder the mysteries of both bodies of water while you wonder why more people haven’t flocked here—then be thankful that they haven’t. —Dana Freeman

varadero cuba beach best caribbean
This barrier island is one of Cuba’s most popular beach destinations. | Walter Bibikow/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Varadero, Cuba

The most popular beach destination in Cuba, Varadero is a long barrier island that juts off the northern coast of Cuba two hours east of Havana and dishes up the powdery white sand and turquoise waters of your tropical dreams. Playa Azul is the main place to relax, from which you can head out on a catamaran cruise or just sip a coco frio in the shade of a palm. All-inclusive resorts line the shore, but opt for a casa particular (room in a private home) to put more money directly into the hands of the locals, who are just as curious and eager to meet Americans as you are to meet them. When it’s time to party somewhere other than the beach, The Beatles Bar goes off with live rock bands, mojitos, and the smooth, smooth dance moves for which Cubans are famous. —Terry Ward

antigua beach
One beach for every day of the year. | Roberto Moiola/Sysaworld/Moment/Getty Images

Carlisle Bay, Antigua

Antigua claims to have 365 beaches in its 108 square miles—one for every day of the year, the locals will happily tell you. And while you’ll get about as many answers when you ask said locals for the “best” on the island as you will asking New Yorkers where to get the “best” slice of pizza, it’s hard to beat the combination of seclusion, scenery, snorkeling, and pristine water you’ll find in Carlisle Bay.

This little cove tucked along Antigua’s southwestern shore is surrounded by lush rainforest, creating a perfect emerald wall around your little semicircle of paradise. The soft golden sands give way to pristine turquoise waters, and if you’re up for a swim, you can head out to a small beach around the bend that’s even more secluded. There, you’ll find a coral reef only a few feet offshore, where you can spend a couple of hours snorkeling before retreating to a slice of sand that feels a world away. The beach is bordered by the Carlisle Bay resort, and if you want the seclusion to last, it’s an ideal place to post up for the week. —Matt Meltzer

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