The Caribbean refers to a chain of over seven hundred island nations, islets, reefs, and cays washed by the Caribbean Sea. These islands and cays are located close to the Equator in the northwestern hemisphere, allowing them to share a delightful 80° climate or hotter on most days of the year. Each year, droves of tourists flock to the Caribbean to experience the delightful melting pot of food, sights, and sounds that are uniquely Caribbean, as well as to enjoy the tropical maritime climate–especially during cold snowy winters up north.
Many Caribbean nations utilize the year-round sun, sand, and sea as a major marketing tool for potential and returning tourists, but the beaches advertised in the travel brochures are often crowded and over-commercialized.
Check out these underrated Caribbean beach towns for an authentic island experience and a richer connection to the culture.
Port Antonio, Jamaica
Port Antonio is a small coastal town on Jamaica’s northeastern coast that is home to a little over 12,000 residents. The town is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Blue Mountains on its southern end, which produces the world-renowned Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee on its steep hillsides. Port Antonio is home to some of the Caribbean’s best white-sand beaches, such as Winnifred Beach, San San Beach, and Frenchman’s Cove.
The Boston Jerk Center lies on Boston Beach in Port Antonio and is said to serve the island’s best jerk, as the style of jerking meat originated in the nearby hills. Boston Beach is an excellent spot for surfing, and the charming markets and tropical fruit stalls are sure to keep one busy. Port Antonio is a stomping ground for the world’s wealthiest vacationers but remains affordable and practical for budget travelers with numerous hostels, small guesthouses, and boutique hotels. If one ever tires of the beach in this coastal town, the dreamy rainforests, rivers, and lagoons beckon. Bamboo raft on the Rio Grande and explore remote waterfalls in the Upper Rio Grande Valley, less than thirty minutes drive from the town center.
This endearing colonial beach town is located on the Dutch-speaking island of Curaçao. Unlike the expansive white-sand beaches which typically land on Caribbean postcards, Willemstad’s beaches are located in intimate, secluded coves and inlets. Some have facilities that attract a small user fee, such as at Mambo Beach, while others remain wild and free with lots of personality.
Blue Bay Beach offers water sports and activities such as snorkeling, fishing, catamaran sailing, and kayaking that can be arranged at dive shops on the beach. You need not have your own equipment. You may spot sea turtles, squid, octopus, and scores of fish as you snorkel in Curaçao’s azure waters. Purchase delicious seafood on the beach, which is prepared from the day’s catch, or take a day trip into town to explore the restaurants, markets, and Ostrich Farm.
Also, be sure to check out the Queen Emma Swinging Bridge and take a photograph with the town’s iconic cotton candy-colored buildings as your backdrop.
Trinidad is the larger of the two islands that comprise the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Instead of merely transiting through Trinidad to get to Tobago, leave the Piarco International Airport and spend a few days in the Trinidad north coast beach towns of Maracas Bay and Las Cuevas. These beaches are mainly popular with the local crowd but are home to the country’s best bake and shark–a popular Trinidadian street food that consists of deep-fried shark meat sandwiched by a fluffy flatbread and condiments of your choice.
The waves are rough compared to other beaches on this list but offer excellent surfing and bodyboarding opportunities. Venture a bit further along the North Coast Road to the sleepy beach town of Blanchisseuse. Blanchisseuse bears testimony of a time when northern Trinidad was occupied by the French. The beach is located on an expansive stretch of white sand dotted with attractive coconut trees. Outside of Carnival season, Trinidad is not as heavily visited as other islands on this list, which means that you can explore without beach peddlers trying to sell you souvenirs. Also, all beaches in Trinidad are free for locals and foreigners alike. Feeling adventurous? Explore the nearby Paria and Avocat Waterfalls.
True Blue, Grenada
True Blue is a tiny beach town located on Grenada’s south coast where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. This secluded town features a popular marina and dive shop. Fine restaurants, shops, commercial centers, and the best Grenadian south coast beaches, such as Grand Anse Beach, are all within a one-mile radius.
The island’s only international airport is located less than a mile and a half away from True Blue, which makes getting around a breeze. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a 30-minute cab ride from True Blue to catch Osprey Lines Ltd. ferry to the other two islands that make up the Grenadian tri-island state, namely Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Time your visit well and check out the annual 6-day Grenada Chocolate Festival in May. Shuttles to the festival depart from True Blue. Also, have you ever thought about studying in paradise? St. George’s University, a private medical school, and international university situated on the True Blue Peninsula, could turn that dream into reality.
Freetown is a sleepy town on Antigua’s southeastern coast, which is home to the beautiful pink sands of Half Moon Bay Beach. The sand at this beach gets its pink hue from crushed coral. This charming beach lacks standard beach infrastructure, so carry everything with you when visiting, such as food and drink. From Half Moon, you can walk to other popular beaches, like Exchange Bay Beach. If you feel up to it, rent a car or take a taxi from Freetown to check out other attractions within a 10-mile radius, such as Antigua’s Donkey Sanctuary, Stingray City, and the Devil’s Bridge National Park in Willikies. One can never grow tired of the beach in Antigua. Antiguans quip that the island has 365 beaches, one for every day of the year.
Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
Rodney Bay is a beach town located on St. Lucia’s northwestern coast in the Gros Islet District. The town has a busy marina, an active nightlife scene, and popular white-sand beaches such as the Reduit and Pigeon Island Beaches. Check out the street party, which happens every Friday night in Rodney Town and features live deejays playing zouk, reggae, rhythm and blues, and calypso. A 2-mile drive takes you to Donkey Beach for a more secluded beach vacation. You can even continue further south to the remote Grand Anse Beach to hopefully spot St. Lucia’s sea turtles. Also, the dramatic Gros and Petit Piton volcanic peaks on St. Lucia’s southern coast make for another delightful day trip from Rodney Town.