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Caribbean Beaches


Book winter Caribbean hotels several months in advance. If you're on a tight budget try to go off season, mid April-mid Dec. May to October is the Caribbean hurricane season and though hurricanes are rare, rain is not and the humidity can be oppressive.

Crime: In the last few years, as Britain and USA have ceded control to local authorities violent crime and corruption have increased in many of their colonies and ex-colonies and local attitudes to foreigners have markedly deteriorated, including those in service industries.
Inside the grounds of all-inclusive resorts there is no problem and holidaymakers will imagine they are close to heaven, but in the real world trouble lurks.
In other words, sailing folk or low budget travellers be VERY careful and aware that outsiders are often treated with disdain, while crimes against them are likely to go unpunished.
No Worries: French and Dutch islands that still have strict law enforcement. e.g. Aruba, Curacao, Guadaloupe, St Martins. Cuba is OK [until Fidel smokes his last cigar] but take care.
And inside all-inclusive hotel resorts anywhere, usually no problem.
Worries: US Virgin islands, especially St Croix and St Thomas; Puerto Rico; Jamaica ; Barbados' Bridgetown after dark; Turks & Caicos; Dominican Republic; and Bermuda's not too secure either.

Anguilla, Little Bay
This tiny half moon shaped sandy bay is protected by high cliffs, so the ambience is tranquil and excellent for sunbathing and snorkelling. Access by a boat only.Nearby, Shoal Bay, Rendezvous Bay, or Road Bay offer a few more facilities and action.
Best mid Dec-mid Apr.

Bahamas, Harbour Island, Pink Beach
This famous pink sand beach is said to be one of the world's most photographed beaches. It's a 3-mile stretch of powder coral sand, named for its pink colour because of flecks of red coral mixed with fine sugar-white sand. Most of the accommodation is located on the cliff behind the beach, and reached by water taxi from Eleuthera.Best Dec-Apr.

Belize, Placencia
This is a totally laid-back seaside town, with a pristine sandy beach on a long, narrow peninsula in SE Belize. It is is well worth the trip to get there [4-5 hours from Belize City, but now daily domestic flights are available.
Facilities are simple but comfortable. Apart from just lying on the sand, you can do various water sports, fishing, bird watching, manatee watching [!] and jungle excursions in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. If you want more action [especially diving], try the Cayes; resort-oriented Ambergris Caye, or relatively low-key Caye Caulker. Both are good bases for diving and snorkelling off the world's second greatest barrier reef.
The best time to go is Nov - May [the dry season, but peak time]. July to November is cheaper, with a risk of storms.

Belize, South Water Caye
This is a place for sun-seekers who want to be part of marine nature. In fact, Belize is the home of the world's second longest barrier reef [180 miles from Mexico to the Sapodilla Cayes], and this tiny 12-acre island off Dangriga is a part of it. You can experience the some of the world's most exciting snorkeling, diving, and fishing there. Ambergris Caye [resort] and Caye Caulker [low-key] are also excellent places. The best time to be there is the dry season from Nov- May.

British Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda, The Baths
Palm-lined silky beaches with deep pinky-gray sands and peppermint green water [what about the purple prose?]. The Baths is one of the most popular spots in the British Virgin Islands, but can get crowded. Good for year-round swimming and snorkelling, especially going left from the beach. Generally a bit pricey. Virgin Gorda is one of the friendliest islands in the Caribbean. Best Dec-March. Avoid Sept.

Cuba, Varadero
OK, not exactly the Caribbean. Actually the adjacent Straits of Florida. 20km of clean, nearly white sand adjacent to clean, warm, nearly turquoise water. Running alongside a string of efficient upmarket hotels and a few local facilities, the beach is uncrowded. Officially foreigners must stay in hotels, which are often all-inclusive but relatively cheap. No coral in the immediate vicinity so forget snorkelling. Varadero town is not especially interesting, but a rental car or bus will get you too Havana in a couple of hours - which is very lively and fascinating in a crumbly pre-60's way. Best Dec-March. 4 days Varadero, 3 days Havana would be an excellent week.

Grenada, Carriacou, Anse la Roche
This is a must-do beach, a perfect postcard of white sand with a superb view of Union Island across the water. About 45 minute walk from Bogles but it's quite easy to get lost and it might be better to take a water taxi. There are no facilities and very few people, so take food and drink. Grand Anse Beach on the main island is also known to be one of the finest of clichéd tropical beaches in the Caribbean. Best Dec-Apr, August [because of the local regatta]. Avoid Sept.

Guadeloupe, Grande-Terre Island, Ste-Anne Beach
Guadeloupe is one of up and coming destinations for Europeans this year. It's still less touristy and has very good reputation for French Creole cuisine [spicy].The coast line is rugged and the fine sandy beaches are relatively quiet. Ste-Anne town is the prettiest village in Guadeloupe, and the beach is the finest. The Plage de la Caravelle is also good but access is only through Club Med. Best Dec-Apr, but you can expect showers in Dec-Jan.

Martinique, Le Diamant [Diamond Beach]
Les Salines in Ste-Anne is the finest of the South Loop, and the only gay beach in Martinique, but the 6 and half mile Diamond Beach is the best, with a good view of offshore Diamond Rock island. Martinique's French ambience is an interesting change from the usual US/Brit style Caribbean. Local restaurants serve superb French-Creole cuisine. Best Nov. & Dec [before Christmas], the peak is mid Dec-mid Apr. You can expect showers Dec-Jan.

Puerto Rico, Culebra Island, Playa Flamenco
If all you need is sun, sand, and tranquility in Caribbean, head to the little-known Culebra, located halfway between Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Because it has been kept as a nature reserve the wide sandy beaches, especially Playa Flamenco, are in excellent condition, with very discreet development. It is excellent for snorkelling, diving and birdwatching and has one of the Caribbean's most substantial turtle nesting sites too.
There is an hour ferry service to Dewey from Fajardo, and flights from Fajardo and San Juan.Alternatively Puerto Rico's main island has excellent beaches, especially at the totally undeveloped Boqueron in the SW.
The best time is Dec - April, peak season. The stormy season is May - Nov, though they are infrequent.

Tobago, Englishman's Bay
Tobago is one of the hippest destination for celebrities and rich stiffs due to some new and stylish boutique hotels. Diving is also becoming well-known here, like at Pigeon Point beach, but for escapism Englishman's Bay is the one - sheltered by palm-jungle, it has a white sand beach with very little development. This secluded beach is good for year-round swimming and snorkelling, though as usual Dec- April is best, busiest and most expensive. Avoid Sept.

Turks and Caicos, Provo Island, Grace Bay
The American astronaut John Glenn said that it must be paradise when he spotted the 40 Turks and Caicos coral islands from space.
Grace Bay's 12 mile stretch of sand is white and fine as baby powder, the water is turquoise, calm - protected by a barrier reef - and safe for swimming. The beach is part of a national marine park so developement is strictly controlled, as are motorised water sports, though some still think Grace Bay is overdevleoped and metamorphosing into a fast food paradise.
Hotels are widely dispersed and are expensive, as are restaurants.
The weather is not as intense as other Caribbean islands. Best Dec-Apr.

Venezuela, Islas Los Roques
Long stretches of white sandy beaches bordered by palms, and 20 km of coral reef with crystal-clear water - part of Venezuela's loveliest marine park. Good for snorkelling, diving and fishing, but very little shade. The main island, Gran Roque has an airport and other facilities. The rainy season is June-Nov. Best Dec-May.

St Vincent and the Grenadines, Palm Island, Casuarina Beach
Casuarina is the prettiest of four beaches on this privately-owned Caribbean island [also known as Prune Island] surrounded by coral reefs. About a mile from Union Island. Best Dec-Apr.

The US Virgin Islands, St John, Trunk Bay
Trunk Bay, regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world is often over-crowded but still glorious, and excellent for swimming, snorkeling and diving. It also hosts the world's first marked underwater trails [National Park Underwater Trail] near the shore, and the place is one of the best snorkeling spots in the Caribbean. Local people are friendly and appreciate tourists. Best Dec-Apr.

The Gay Life: some Caribbean islands are more receptive to gays and lesbians than others.
Glad to be Gay: [US] Puerto Rico, St.Thomas, St John, St Croix. [French] St Barts, St Martin, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Bonaire. Coming out - Aruba, arriba!
Anti-Gay: Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Barbados, Curaçao.

Runner's-Up Best Caribbean Beaches: Guadalavaca, Caya Levisa, Cuba ; Negril or Seven Mile Beach, Jamaica; Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, Playa Grande or Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico; Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda.


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