Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Best Beaches on Western Caribbean Cruises

Seven Mile Beach
Seven Mile Beach. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Anyone who wants a beach break on a western Caribbean cruise will have an easy time choosing which one to take.

Nearly all western Caribbean cruises visit some or all of three main islands: Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Jamaica. Three- to five-day cruises may not visit all three, but longer cruises often do. Those three destinations happen to have the best beaches in the region.

Only one has a major beach nearest the cruise port. It’s Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman. It is a short taxi ride, a long walk from the pier or a longer walk (or even a taxi ride) for anyone who wants to get away from the crowds.

So if there is a best beach for cruise visitors in the western Caribbean, it is an easy one to pick. Otherwise, cruise passengers more often will need to take a taxi, rental car or excursion bus to reach other good beaches.

Cozumel is the next best choice for a beach shore excursion. This large Mexican island across the water from Playa del Carmen is known for its coral reefs, snorkeling and scuba diving.

The best beaches for activities are often parks such as Chankanaab Natural Park that have entrance fees but include much more than just the beach. For example, Chankanaab, which claims to be the most popular attraction on the island, also offers dolphin and sea lion shows, restaurants, snorkeling along a massive coral reef and other activities.

Entrance prices for anyone who goes there on their own start at $26 for adults, but they also have to pay for transportation. Shore excursion prices including transportation and other amenities such as lunch start at about $70.

Jamaica is less popular with western Caribbean cruises than Grand Cayman or Cozumel. It has two fairly active ports at Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Doctors Cave Beach is the best option for Montego Bay. It’s 15 minutes north of the cruise port.

Many of the best beaches at Ocho Rios have resorts in front of them. Some tour operators offer excursions to resort beaches, some of which are 10 to 15 minutes from the cruise port.

Central America Beaches

Mahogany Bay Beach
Mahogany Bay Beach. © Scott S. Bateman

Western Caribbean cruises often visit the Honduran island of Roatan especially if the cruises are six days or longer.

Roatan has two cruise ports. They are a big one at Coxen Hole and a private one at Mahogany Bay. Coxen Hole doesn’t have beaches near the cruise port. Shore excursions often go about a half hour to West Bay Beach, the most famouos on the island. Visitors to Mahogany Bay have a small one that is about a 10-minute walk from the pier.

Less often, cruises visit other Central American countries that face the Caribbean Sea, such as Belize, Costa Rica and Panama. But these destinations are better for Mayan ruins and ecotourism attractions such as ziplining through rainforests or floating through underground rivers like the one in Belize.

Although some beach shore excursions are available, none of the beaches are within walking distance of the cruise ports. Neither do the shore excursion beaches live up to the size and quality of the beaches on Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

Smaller Port Beaches

Cruises sometimes visit two smaller Mexican ports. They are Costa Maya and Progreso.

Costa Maya has one decent beach about 10 minutes away in the small Mexican resort town of Mahahual. The beach is narrow and the sand is average. Progreso has a beach right by the cruise docks.

Anyone who takes a western Caribbean cruise and hopes to go on a beach shore excursion should put Grand Cayman and Cozumel at the top of the list.