Playa Flamenco (Flamenco Beach), on the small island of Culebra, which lies to the east of the main island of Puerto Rico, has a dramatic crescent-shaped white-sand beach. Culebra is accessible by ferry from Fajardo, or you can brave a small prop plane from San Juan - the way I decided to go. The waves, at least when I was there, were not conducive to floating, but the panoramic view is incredible, and as there is only one small hotel along the whole crescent, the location is as unspoiled looking as can be expected in our day and age. The sticks in the first picture formed an enclosure where sea turtle eggs were protected.
|Playa Flamenco, Culebra, Puerto Rico, with sea turtle egg enclosure|
|Another view of Playa Flamenco, Culebra, Puerto Rico|
|Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas|
|Pink Sands Resort overlooks the beautiful Pink Sands Beach on Harbour Island|
Grace Bay Beach, on Provo in the Turks and Caicos Islands, is 12 miles long and also forms a nice crescent. The waters are calm and relaxing, and diving options are available. In spite of the development along its shores, the beach is clean and the water is clear. While at this beach, I heard someone say that she felt that she "died and went to heaven." This view is from the Beaches Turks and Caicos resort.
|Grace Bay Beach, Provo, Turks and Caicos Islands|
Boquerón, also known as Cabo Rojo, is on the southwest corner of Puerto Rico. It is one of the eleven "balnearios" or public beaches on the island and has changing facilities close by. You're a short drive away from town and the view of the palm trees behind the beach is very nice.
|Boquerón, Puerto Rico|
|Sandals Montego Bay, Jamaica|
The beaches at South West Bay and Fresh Water Bay, in Providencia, a small island which is part of Colombia, don't have the prettiest sand, but they both have the huge advantage of being on an island that sees very little tourism and seems to exist in another dimension - a truly special place. In fact, when I speak about it to people, many of them don't seem to know of its existence. Add to the fact that you have to take two flights, or one flight and a catamaran, from Bogotá to get there, and it is likely that Providencia will remain tranquil.
|South West Bay (Bahía Suroeste), Providencia, Colombia|
|Fresh Water Bay (Bahía Aguadulce), Providencia, Colombia|
You can take a one-hour boat ride from Cartagena, Colombia to the area of 26 small islands called Islas del Rosario. We spent the day on this small beach located on an island in the chain called "La Media Naranja". The waters closest to the shore are crystal clear, and gradually deepen in color. We took a tour where a fresh fish dish was included for lunch.
|Islas del Rosario, Colombia|
|Store Bay, Tobago|
Cabbage Beach, also known as Paradise Beach, is on Paradise Island, Bahamas and easy walking distance from the Atlantis complex. There are waves, so it's not a gentle floating beach, but the nice white sand and the convenience more than make up for that. Atlantis, of course, has a wide variety of activities. There are two smaller beaches to the west of this one, also bordering Atlantis.
Shoal Bay in Anguilla has blindingly white sand and striking blue waters - it seems too good to be true. The island itself is flat and scrubby, highlighting the fact that the true headliner is the shoreline. Anguilla is low-key and its accommodations are on the high end in terms of price. I found the people to be extremely friendly. As one islander put it, "Here on the island, we are all as one." To get to Anguilla, it's best to fly to St. Martin/St. Maarten and take the short ferry from Marigot, on the French side. Remember that crossing over to Anguilla is visiting another country, as it belongs to the UK, and you'll be asked to show your passport.
|Shoal Bay Beach, Anguilla|
Johnny Key, a short boat ride from San Andrés, in Colombia, has nice sand but very rough waters, which don't prevent people from attempting to swim in it. The rough water, though, is a gorgeous aquamarine color, probably the prettiest color I've seen anywhere. This is a very popular excursion, and you usually will pay one price for both the boat ride and a lunch of fresh fish.
Great Bay Beach in Philipsburg, St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the island shared between the Netherlands and France, was really busy when the cruise ships pulled in. I would go there early in the morning and float in the water, avoiding the midday crowds. This beach has the advantage of being conveniently located close to the restaurants and duty-free shops, though return visitors often will speak more highly of other beaches on the island. Still, because of the convenience, I found myself coming back here. This view of Great Bay was taken near Fort Willem, on a hill overlooking the bay.
|Johnny Key, San Andrés, Colombia|
It would be difficult to argue that Negril, Jamaica does not have all that one needs to relax on the beach and in the water. For all its laid-back nature, its delights are well-organized for the visitor. Plenty of eating options, activities limited only by one's budget, and a wide variety of accommodations. Vendors can be persistent at times, but a local's advice to be polite but firm will take care of almost all situations. I didn't experience any major hassle from them, and my stay there was very enjoyable.
|Seven Mile Beach in Negril, Jamaica|
|View of Calabash Bay from the Treasure Beach Hotel, Jamaica|
Conclusions? I found myself relaxing at all of these beaches at one time or another. I could go back to any one of them and feel content. There were other Caribbean beaches not mentioned here that were also nice. Decide for yourself what you want most. Do you want a place that's convenient and has many options of things to do and places to eat? Or is a quiet place without these frills most appealing to you? You'll be sure to find a beach that suits your needs.