THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS IS A CARIBBEAN BEACH

The beach has always been my happy place. The majority of my childhood was spent on the shore of Miami Beach and I learned to surf on the waves of Maui’s Ka’anapali. I got married on Smathers Beach in Key West and discovered my passion for travel on the black volcanic sands of Los Gigantes of Tenerife. Yet it’s the beaches of the Caribbean that bring me the most joy. Sparkling, tempting, sapphire-blue warm waters make the Caribbean one of the greatest travel destinations in the world. Its seemingly endless supply of powdery sand and crystal-clear water, one more beautiful than the next, combined with the warmth of the locals, the scent of coconut and the taste of rum is inimitable anywhere else in the world. After years of travel throughout the Caribbean, I embarked on my most challenging adventure: the almost impossible task of narrowing down my favorite Caribbean beaches.

St. Jean Beach — GUSTAVIA, ST. BART’S

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This is an island for beach lovers with more than a dozen distinct stretches of sand, from remote and pristine Saline Beach to see-and-be-seen Shell Beach. One of the Caribbean’s true gems, St. Barts is where Riviera chic meets Caribbean cool — and nowhere else is that unique intersection more evident than on the soft, white sands of St. Jean Beach. Not only is it conveniently steps away from fine restaurants and shopping, but it is also two beaches in one with the Eden Rock anchoring both sides. A short walk west of Eden Rock, on the edge of the shore is one of the island’s favorite bars inside the Tom Beach Hotel. This is a hidden gem that is great for people-watching over a glass of rosé.

Mullet Bay Beach — PHILIPSBURG, ST. MAARTEN

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Mullet Bay is arguably the prettiest beach on this island that is shared by two sovereign states. It fits the picture of a tropical beach: wide and flat with a stand of palm trees on the fringe. At the southern end, sea grape trees provide pleasant shade for those who are sensitive to the sun’s rays and heat. Lounge chairs and umbrellas are also available. A little snack bar cooks up hamburgers and hotdogs and serves cold beers and soft drinks, which certainly taste heavenly after an invigorating swim. The moon-shaped beach is next to the only island golf course of the same name, Mullet Bay Golf Course. Therefore, if you are an avid golfer, you may want to play a round of 18-holes before or after your beach escape to get the most out of this paradise.

Ocean Park Beach — SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

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Wedged between Condado in the west and Isla Verde in the east is Ocean Park. Although there is a South Beach-Río vibe here, this mile-long Atlantic-facing beach is relaxed, relatively low-key and decidedly Caribbean. The wide beach, lined with palm and sea grape trees, fronts a residential neighborhood of beautiful homes, free of the high-rise condos that line other San Juan beaches. A favorite for swimming, paddle tennis, and kite surfing, the beach is also a favorite spot for young and beautiful sanjuaneros to congregate, especially on weekends.

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke — TORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

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If your idea of a perfect day includes a nap in a hammock below the palm trees, then this is the beach for you. White Bay on Jost Van Dyke is the ultimate beach paradise for sunbathing and simply relaxing. The only way to get here is by high-speed boat and, once you arrive, your first item of business is to jump into the crystal clear water and swim a few feet to make it to the shore. Then, with your wet wallet, head to Soggy Dollar Bar and ask the friendly bartender to make you their most famous drink — a generous pour of Pusser’s Rum over ice combined with pineapple and orange juice, cream of coconut and topped off with grated nutmeg — known as a Painkiller. There is nothing better than toasting with friends on this charming island paradise.

Sugar Beach — CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA

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Nicknamed the “Helen of the West Indies,” not only because it was frequently fought over by Britain and France for its strategic location, but also due to its striking beauty, St. Lucia’s shores offer everything you seek for a perfect Caribbean escape. Yet, for the sweetest beach day, make the trip to Sugar Beach. With its beautiful crystal-like sand, Sugar is one of the most stunning beaches in St. Lucia where you can relax and appreciate the beauty of the Caribbean Sea with mountains on each side to frame the view. As a matter of fact, you’ll be so close to the Piton Mountains, you’ll feel as if you could touch them. Part of the beach is dominated by the Sugar Beach Resort, but the northern part of the beach is open to the public and can be accessed through the Viceroy Resort.

My list would not be complete without mentioning the icons of Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos, Cuba’s Varadero Beach and Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach — all of which hold a special place in my sun-seeking heart.

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Remembering the white sand, the blue waters and the laid back lifestyle that one can only find in the Caribbean brought back wonderful memories and a certain happiness that could only be expressed by the sounds of a steel drum — and the anticipation of returning to their shores once again.

Experience the allure of relaxing on an unspoiled beach with nothing more than sunshine on the day’s agenda on these Caribbean voyages

Written by Mari De Armas

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