There are many reasons why the Caribbean is one of the world’s most popular cruise destinations—sunny weather and access to multiple islands and cultures, among them—but the main attraction for a lot of cruisers is the region’s truly spectacular beaches. From sparkling white to champagne-hued to blush pink, Caribbean sands invite visitors to soak up the sun, enjoy a swim or snorkel, sip tropical cocktails or try an exciting new watersport. With just 8-10 hours in port, passengers want to make the most of their beach time, so here’s a look at 10 cruise ports in the Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Bermuda that offer the easiest access to the beach.
This article includes:
- The most popular cruise port destinations
- The cruise ports with the best beaches
- Which beaches to visit before and after a cruise
- 10 cruise ports that offer easy access to a beach
Nassau is a beach-lover’s dream port, with options for every kind of toes-in-the-sand experience—from a walk-to beach to one curated specifically for tourists. The former is lively Junkanoo Beach, located just past the Colonial Hilton about 15 minutes’ by foot from the cruise terminal. The latter is Blue Lagoon Island (aka Salt Cay), a popular excursion for families, reached via a 25-minute, high-speed catamaran ride and featuring a Dolphin Encounter, watersports, snorkeling, and a beach bar. Other options: book a day pass to Atlantis resort on adjoining Paradise Island for access to its white-sand beach and Aquaventure water park or take a 10-minute taxi ride to the two-mile public stretch of neighboring Cabbage Beach. It’s also just a 10-minute ride west of the port to Nassau’s popular Cable Beach, where you’ll also find restaurants and beachside shops.
Another top option for cruisers eager to hit the sand is the sunny Southern Caribbean island of Aruba, where a port call on Oranjestad offers easy access to several top strands. The closest one is sublime Eagle Beach, located less than three miles by taxi or bus from the cruise terminal and often rated as one of the world’s best beaches. Adjacent Manchebo Beach is awesome, too. Those seeking a lively vibe can head just five minutes further west to Palm Beach, where two miles of pristine sand and calm water are backed by high-rise resorts, beach bars and a shop-lined pedestrian walkway.
George Town, Grand Cayman
Its name offers a huge clue that Seven Mile Beach will satisfy not only beach-goers who love to sun and swim, but also those who enjoy a beach walk with dazzling sea views. And while this slender crescent isn’t quite as long as its name implies (it’s actually closer to 6 miles), there’s plenty of space to wander, with resort restaurants and beach bars for refueling and parasailing for a bird’s eye view. Best of all, Seven Mile Beach is just 8-10 minutes by taxi (or local bus to the “public” section known as Governor’s Beach); there are also several public access points between resorts marked by signs. The southern end (closest to George Town) is narrow and low-key, while the central stretch between the Westin and Ritz-Carlton is widest and offers access to watersports.
For anyone seeking to simply stroll off the ship and onto the beach, Grand Turk in Turks & Caicos should be on their itinerary. Sunray Beach is right next to the cruise center, but understandably, it can get crowded. Luckily, Governor’s Beach, known for its pale peach hue and placid turquoise water, is located just a mile to the north. There are no sidewalks along the road, so care should be taken while walking until reaching an access point for the beach. Another option is a taxi (under $5 each way) or renting a vehicle (golf cart, 4x4 buggie or car) for the entire day to enjoy the beach as well as explore Grand Turk.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Dutch St. Maarten may be known for its duty-free shopping, especially in the bustling blocks around the cruise port in Philipsburg, but anyone seeking great sand also doesn’t have to go far. Great Bay Beach is only about a mile away, so it’s walkable (but taking a water taxi is also an affordable option) and it features a promenade with shops and restaurants. Little Bay Beach, next door, is quieter. If you live life out loud and want to know what it’s like to stand beneath a landing jet (warning, the flying sand stings!), hop a taxi to Maho Beach, located at the end of the runway at Princess Juliana International Airport. And if a trendy European-style beach experience appeals, rent a car or taxi and head to legendary Orient Bay Beach, about 30 minutes away on the French side of the island.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The cruise port in Old San Juan offers direct access to the cobblestone streets, shops, and restaurants of this colonial city, but a beautiful beach is also just a quick, 2.5-mile taxi-ride away. Enjoy a morning of sunning and people-watching on the sands of Condado, where lively, walkable Ashford Avenue is home to iconic beachfront hotels and plenty of restaurants and bars. Those who prefer to spend time in the water (Condado is known for its strong and sometimes dangerous undertow) can head about four miles further east to resort-lined Isla Verde, which is better suited for swimming.
Kings Wharf, Bermuda
While Bermuda isn’t technically in the Caribbean—it’s in the Atlantic, about 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina—it is a popular cruise destination and is home to some truly amazing beaches. The closest to the King’s Wharf cruise dock is white-sand Snorkel Park Beach, which while man-made and not free (there’s an admission charge) requires just a quick walk and offers snorkeling, watersports and family fun. If pink sand is why you cruised to Bermuda, you’ll find it at Somerset Long Bay Beach, a quiet crescent (but the sea bottom here can be rocky not sandy) about three miles away, while world-famous Horseshoe Bay Beach, located about six miles from port, has it all: postcard-perfect beauty, restrooms, and food concessions.
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
St. Thomas actually has two cruise ship docks—the original, Havensight, is a 5-10-minute taxi ride from duty-free mecca Charlotte Amalie while the newer Crown Bay is a bit further away—and visitors who don’t want to shop generally head to the beach or book a snorkel excursion. A popular option is horseshoe-shaped Magens Bay Beach, without question the island’s most beautiful. It’s three miles north of Charlotte Amalie by taxi or rental car. Lindquist Beach in the East End is also stunning. Those seeking the ultimate in photogenic beaches can also hop the ferry from Red Hook for a 15-minute ride to St. John, where world-famous Trunk Bay (especially if you love to snorkel), Hawksnest Beach (close to the ferry in Cruz Bay) and Maho Bay Beach (home to sea turtles) are among more than a dozen spectacular white-sand beaches.
Passengers heading ashore in Bridgetown, Barbados have several easy options. They can walk about 20 minutes to one of the island’s best strands, Brandons Beach, where the main pastime is sunning and swimming (no watersports are available) and dining at a beachfront restaurant. Neighboring Brightons Beach is a quiet, relaxing haven where sea turtles are known to nest. Also walkable (about 1.5 miles from the cruise terminal) is the livelier Pirate’s Cove & Boatyard with its beach bars, jet skis and ocean trampolines.
Cruise Lines’ Private Islands
There’s something incredibly relaxing about a day at the beach—and cruise lines know this—so they’ve developed their own private islands, mostly in the Bahamas, where passengers can chill out in a cabana, snorkel, or stand-up paddleboard, and even scream their way down spiraling waterslides or steep zip lines. On a Royal Caribbean cruise, you’ll visit the mega-private-island Perfect Day at CocoCay, home to multiple beaches as well as pools and waterparks. Disney calls on Castaway Cay, which is as cheery and pristine as its theme parks, while Holland America and Carnival visit 2,400-acre Half Moon Cay with its white-sand crescent beach, vibrant cabanas, bike paths, and horseback riding. Norwegian has two private islands, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas and Harvest Caye in Belize (both offering watersports, zip lines and beach bars), while Princess Cays offers beach bungalows and watersports.