It’s that perfect confluence: breathtaking beaches, walkable streets, buzzing dining scenes, vibrant communities, all in one place. The Caribbean’s best beach towns are destinations in their own right, where you can come for a day or for a week and immediately fall into the rhythm and the culture of the place.
This year’s list of our top beach towns to visit has some old favorites and some new additions you may not have journeyed to before.
Here are the must-visit Caribbean beach towns for 2023.
Speightstown, Barbados If you haven’t ventured to the north of Barbados, you’ve missed out on a very different, very wonderful corner of the island. And its epicenter is Speightstown, the island’s second largest “city,” where a row of bars, shops, gourmet markets, seafood spots line a series of picture-perfect strands of sand. Speightstown is walkable, fun and a portal into the unique charm of the north. It’s also home to some seriously good hotels, from Cobblers Cove to the lovely St Peters Bay. A must: the first thing you need to do when you get here is head for Jordans Supermarket just after twilight. It’s there that you’ll find the best fish cakes in the Caribbean, usually served on a fold-up table in front of the entrance. Just thank us later.
Portsmouth, Dominica Dominica is known better for its rainforests and its waterfalls than its beaches; but this northern town has been the center of the island’s tourism renaissance, thanks, first, to the debut of the world-renowned Secret Bay luxury resort and, more recently, the debut of the Eastern Caribbean’s first Kempinski hotel. Journey here and you’ll find a peaceful, laid-back beach town with some wonderful local eateries (we love the Purple Turtle Beach Club and Infinity, among others) and a must-visit attraction: the island’s Cabrits National Park. A must: stay at Secret Bay, one of the great resorts anywhere in the world, one that is also quintessentially, magnificently, Dominican.
Grand Case, St Martin What if you took a few dozen of the best restaurants in the Caribbean and put them all on one street? Well, that’s pretty much the story in this classic beach town in St Martin where a single boulevard features a jaw-dropping assortment of world-class restaurants, all set perched right above the edge of the beach. Whether you’re at fine-dining hotspots like Le Pressoir and Bistrot Caraibes or signature food shacks like the famous Lolos, every day here is a culinary adventure. The town is also blessed with a lovely collection of boutique hotels like (the newly rebranded) La Plage LTC, Love Hotel and, just down the road, the marvelous Grand Case Beach Club. A must: dinner at Le Pressoir.
Red Hook, St Thomas If you only pass through here to take the ferry to St John, you’re doing it wrong. This fun-loving town on the east end of St Thomas has the island’s greatest concentration of bars and eateries, most notably the outstanding Three Palms and The Easterly (although good luck getting a table at the latter). It’s all set around the stunning sands of Vessup Bay and nearby Muller Bay. A must: dinner on the deck at 3 Palms.
Terre de Haut, Guadeloupe Most travelers don’t realize that Guadeloupe is actually an archipelago, with two “main” islands, Basse Terre and Grande-Terre, and smaller islands like Marie-Galante, La Desirade and the tiny islands of Les Saintes. It’s in Les Saintes where you’ll find one of our favorite beach towns anywhere, the central town of the island of Terre de Haut. This little town, part of what’s sometimes called a “mini St Barth,” has a central boulevard filled with little restaurants, boutique hotels and bars, including several perfect for an afternoon ti’ punch. You can spend the day here on the ferry from the “mainland” — or you can spend a glorious long vacation, too. A must: rent an electric cart and explore the hills.
Negril, Jamaica The cliffs, the sand, the beach shacks, the vibe. There’s still nothing quite like Negril, Jamaica’s most famous beach town and a marvelous marriage of vibrance and serenity. Whether you’re in the heart of always-hopping Seven Mile Beach or spending your days at one of the town’s cliffside oases, you will find an energetic, dynamic, authentic place that instantly calls to your soul. A must: evening cocktails on the beach at Miss Lily’s followed by dinner at the Rockhouse’s Pushcart restaurant.
Frederiksted, St Croix It was nearly 30 years for this city without a new hotel until The Fred opened its doors here in 2017. Now, the Fred is a part of a new dynamism in this historic St Croix town, with new cafes, new shops, new food hotspots and bars and a renewed commitment to its fascinating history. A must: blackened mahi tacos at Louie & Nacho’s Beach Bar.
Le Carbet, Martinique It’s just an added that the world’s most sought after rum distillery, Rhum Neisson, is right across from the beach here. But the rum is just part of the landscape of this lovely fishing village that, in recent years, has turned into Martinique’s must-visit beach destination. Beach bars, bungalows, ultra-fresh fish, it’s all here (along with the beach bar Mecca called Le Petibonum). There’s even a new hotel, the residence-style Madicreoles retreat. A must: a tour at Neisson followed by lunch at Le Petibonum.
Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI It’s a shame that Tortola is still seen by many travelers as a jumping-off point for visiting the rest of the British Virgin Islands. Because Tortola is a jewel of a destination, from its spectacular beaches to its phenomenal dining scene. It’s also home to a memorable beach town: Cane Garden Bay, a seafront stretch on the northwestern coast of Tortola. CGB is home to an army of great beach bars and some funky, creative hotels (we’re rather fond of Myett’s and the brand-new Quito’s). A must: taste Arundel rum at the Callwood Rum Distillery.
Bodden Town, Cayman Islands This onetime capital of the Cayman Islands is still something of a secret for most travelers, who tend to concentrate in the greater Seven Mile Beach area. But journey eastward to this historic beach town and you’ll be rewarded with a slice of authentic Caymanian culture, some lovely stretches of beach and even some charming little boutique hotels like the Turtle Nest Inn. A must: buy some locally-made soap at Beach Bubbles.
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