The Best Beaches in the Caribbean

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As soon as the holidays are over, we reach a point in the new year affectionately known as the "Winter Blahs." No fun holidays to plan for (unless you're REALLY into President's Day) and no fun stuff to do outdoors that doesn't involve 40 layers of thermal underwear (unless you live in Florida). It's the time of year when people start using a lot of work hours looking for somewhere, anywhere, to go that's warmer than where they currently are.

And the easiest somewhere for East Coasters/Midwesterners- other than one of one of these popular Florida beaches-- is usually the Caribbean Sea and its bevy of tropical paradises. White sand, turquoise water, jealous Facebook friends -- what more could you ask for? (International roaming charges be damned!) But which beaches will ensure you post the most envy-inducing pics on social media? These 14, of course -- the best beaches in the Caribbean.

Credit: Flickr/Bruno

Why it made our list:Thanks to the embargo (or not thanks, depending on how you look at it), Cuban resort towns boast the same fine white sand beaches and clear waters as other Caribbean destinations, but with fewer people and a more authentic feel. The best in Cuba is Varadero, where the 10-mile beach is lined with over 20 hotels that cost a fraction of what similar resorts on other islands would.
Bonus: Just off the beach is a chain of untouched keys with explorable caves; you can visit via a short boat ride.

Maho Beach
St. Maarten
Why it made our list: It's the beach where planes fly 10 feet above your head. Peace and quiet? No. An experience you won't get anywhere else in the world? Absolutely.
Bonus: The best time to enjoy the near-death experience of a 747/Airbus landing or taking off on top of you is at 2pm or 4pm, when those particular planes arrive and depart, respectively.

White Bay
Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Why it made our list: It's one of the 25 most beautiful beaches in the world to start with. But in the British Virgin Islands, it's also the beach with the easiest access to bars, restaurants, and other activities you'll want to engage in when lying on perfect white sand gets old.
Bonus:One of those bars is the Soggy Dollar where the Painkiller was invented.

Playa Negra
Vieques, Puerto Rico
Why it made our list: It's hidden, remote (you've gotta hike through unmarked wilderness and cross a stream to get there), and, oh yeah, it's a freaking blank sand beach in the decidedly un-volcanic Caribbean.
Bonus: The black sand is actually volcanic rock sediment that washes on shore when it rains. The stuff is so metallic it will stick to a refrigerator magnet.

Credit: Wikipedia by Chris Fitzpatrick

Why it made our list:It's about as close as you can get to stepping out of the jungle and on to the beach as you can get in the islands; dense tropical cliffs stretch right up to the sand and palm trees. Plus, the beach manages to strike a rare balance between keeping it local/authentic while still catering to tourists.
Bonus:Hit up Richard's Bake & Shark to try Trinidad and Tobago's national dish, the, well, bake and shark. Yep, it's deep-fried shark stuffed in deep-fried dough, and it's a totally good-for-you cultural experience.

Buck Island
St. Croix, USVI
Why it made our list: Not that St. Croix is exactly overcrowded and full of tourists, but if you REALLY want the "alone on a deserted island" experience this national preserve, 30 minutes by boat from the main island, has perfect beaches and a stunning view of St. Croix.
Bonus: It's one of the top snorkeling spots in America. If you're ambitious enough -- and the weather cooperates -- you can fish-gaze around the entire island.

The Baths
Virgin Gorda, BVI
Why it made our list: The Baths is an entire landscape of giant, volcanically formed boulders that create dozens of grottoes and pools in which to play. A brief hike also leads to a completely private one, if you'd like to share an intimate moment.
Bonus: If giant boulders aren't your idea of a perfect beach, it's only a short (and pretty spectacular) hike through The Baths National Park to the beaches of Devil's Bay and Spring Bay; both of which are more the white-sand-and-blue-water variety.

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