With endless miles of soft, sandy shoreline, the Caribbean is a beach-lover's paradise...and everyone knows it. But if you're heading to the islands looking for an unsullied spot in the sand, you needn't be disappointed. What the following beaches lack in amenities, they more than make up for in seclusion and natural beauty.
Colombier Beach, St. Barts
There are 14 beaches on St. Barts, each lovelier than the next. For most secluded, you can't beat Colombier on the island's Northwestern tip. Unless you've got a private yacht (and if you do, we should be friends), you'll have to park your car at Flamands Beach and hike in, following an old goat path. The hike takes about 30 minutes, so wear sensible shoes. When you arrive, your reward will be a lush crescent of deserted sand, and if you make friends with someone on one of the boats bobbing in the bay, you may just end up with a cocktail in hand after all.
Petit Tabac, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Choosing just one secluded beach in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is difficult, with sparsely inhabited islands and cays scattered like pearls in the Caribbean Sea, but you could start with Petit Tabac in the Tobago Cays. Only accessible by boat, you'll need your own sails. Or you join an organized day excursion, many of which incorporate visits to nearby Mayreau and Palm Island. It was featured in 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, when Johnny Depp and Keira Knightly spent a rum-fueled night in the movie stranded on its silky sands. Sign us up.
Treasure Beach, Jamaica
Well known for party destinations like Negril and Montego Bay, dig a little deeper in Jamaica and find Treasure Beach, six miles of sandy, untrammeled coastline tucked into four adjacent coves on the southern coast of the island. There are plenty of comfortable guesthouses and locally owned restaurants, many active in community- based and sustainable tourism, so you can feel good about falling off the map.
Reef Bay and Little Lameshur Bay, St. John
Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay steal all the glory on charming St. John in the USVI, but if you're looking for a little privacy head east from the main town of Cruz Bay into The Virgin Islands National Park, which covers around 60 percent of the island. Pick your way along the Reef Bay Trail, an easy 20-minute downhill walk, past petroglyphs and plantation ruins, and you'll end up at Reef Bay beach, perhaps not as dramatic as the island's showstoppers, but completely secluded and encircled by untouched green hills. Continue on the trail for another 3.6 miles if you wish to Little Lameshur Bay, another quiet stretch of sand. Just remember you've got to walk back--uphill.
Mudjin Harbour, Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos
Despite being just south of the Bahamas--at one time it actually was part of the Bahamas--mention the Turks and Caicos to many people and you'll get a quizzical "where is that?". Few visitors stray far from glorious Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales (Provo), but those who do will find sands just as soft and utterly untouched by development on Middle Caicos, the chain's largest island, but also least inhabited, with only 300 residents. Make your way to Mudjin Harbour, which is much prettier than it sounds, with a gorgeous half-moon of sand that juts out from the land and links up with an offshore cay.
Cow Wreck Beach, Anegada, British Virgin Islands
Anegada--meaning "drowned land" in Spanish--is the outlier among the Virgin Islands, US and British. While all the others are known for their hills and steep switchbacks (apply brakes liberally), little Anegada, a long ferry ride or puddle-jumper flight from Tortola, is utterly flat. Utterly flat and encircled by some of the BVI's finest, most secluded sands. Cow Wreck Beach, named for a ship laden with the animal's bones which sank in the late 19th century, is among the best, with a few rental cottages and a friendly open-air bar. Which is really all you need, anyway.
Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda
While Antigua (rightly) brags about its 365 beaches--one for every day of the year--its smaller, sparsely populated sister island of Barbuda, 25 miles north, boasts miles of nearly untouched sands. It's kind of a hassle to get there--fly into Antigua and board an unreliable ferry, or charter a plane or helicopter if you've got the cash. Once you arrive, you'll feel like the entire island is your own private beach, and it practically is. There are a few rental cottages, a few resorts, and a few restaurants. Otherwise it's just you and the frigate birds, who've got a sanctuary on Barbuda. They may be onto something.
Isla Holbox, Yucatan Mexico
Just north of the wild scene in Cancun, Isla Holbox (hol-bosh) couldn't be further away when it comes to atmosphere. The 26-mile-long island is peppered with perfect white-sand beaches, lapped by calm Gulf of Mexico waters. Nightlife consists of stargazing. And if you've got a need for speed, look elsewhere: everyone travels around in golf carts. If you time your visit right (late May-early Sept) you can snorkel with whale sharks, gigantic (harmless) plankton-eaters who congregate in the area every summer.
By Rebecca Strauss