Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Best Beaches for Eastern Caribbean Cruises

Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach. © 2021 Scott S. Bateman

The best eastern Caribbean cruise beaches have just a few traits in common. They are near the cruise ports, offer great amenities and of course have beautiful sand.

But not every beach near the cruise port is worth visiting. The majority require some form of transportation to reach them, which means either an expensive taxi, rental car or excursion bus.

Most eastern Caribbean cruise passengers are unlikely to go on a beach shore excursion at every port of call. So it makes sense to identify the best two or three options (at most) and let passengers choose their favorites based on available time and desire to see and do other attractions.

Most Convenient Beaches

Only a few major beaches are within walking distance of their cruise ports. My personal favorite is Great Bay Beach at the Philipsburg cruise port in St. Maarten.

Great Bay Beach is right in front of the boardwalk and city. Cruise visitors can walk there in about 10 to 15 minutes. Otherwise, they can take a quick water taxi.

San Juan has a beach within a long walk—about one and a half miles—from the Old San Juan cruise piers. It is the small Escambron Beach.

A few smaller cruise ports have beaches available within walking distance, although not every eastern Caribbean cruise visits them. They include Turks and Caicos, La Romana and the various private islands in the Bahamas owned by the cruise lines.

So for good beaches within walking distance, Great Bay is one of the better choices. But it isn’t necessarily the best beach to visit. Just one of the most convenient.

Best Beaches for Shore Excursions

Orient Beach
Orient Beach. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Cruise lines market shore excursions to beaches by contracting with reputable excursion operators on the islands. Beach shore excursions are among the least expensive excursions to buy.

The least expensive beach excursions usually offer just transportation and possibly an umbrella and chair. Prices usually start around $40 to $50 depending on sail date, amenities, amount of time at the beach and travel distance to the beach. The amount of time at the beach usually ranges between two and four hours.

Even though Great Bay is one of the best beaches on an eastern Caribbean cruise within walking distance of the cruise port, it is not the best beach on St. Maarten. It also is not the most interesting beach.

Orient Bay on the French side of the island is one of the most famous beaches in the Caribbean. We found out why on our visit. The beach is wide, long and filled with white sand.

Shore excursions often combine Orient Bay Beach with Maho Beach in the same four- to five-hour tour. Maho Beach is one of the most interesting beaches in the entire Caribbean because it is right by the landing strips at Princess Juliana International Airport. Visitors on the beach get blasts and sometimes knocked down from the engines of landing jets.

Other famous shore excursion beaches in the eastern Caribbean include Cane Garden Bay at Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and Magens Bay at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Magens Bay is another famous option and requires a 20-minute taxi ride to reach it.

Visitors to St. Maarten with enough time on their hands may want to take a quick ferry over to Anguilla for some truly beautiful beaches.

Beaches for People Short on Time

Not everyone wants to spend four to five hours going to major beaches because of a shore excursion timetable. They also may not want to spend shore excursion prices and instead take a cheaper taxi (usually).

A flexible alternative for some cruise port visitors is a taxi to a decent nearby beach. Is there a reason to worry about getting back to the docks on time?

If the beach is active enough, the taxi driver will wait at the beach (ours did) or provide a phone number. Other taxi drivers also wait at the beach to pick people up who are ready to go back.

Antigua is known for having 365 beaches or one for every day in the year. Fort James Beach, only 10 minutes from the cruise port, is one that works for people who want quicker beach visits.

Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island is about 12 minutes from the cruise port. The fact that it is on Paradise Island means beach visitors can also take advantage of the Atlantis attractions. The famous Cable Beach is less than 15 minutes east of the port.

St. Lucia has the small Vigie Beach, only five minutes from the cruise port. It also has the larger and more popular Reduit, about 20 minutes away. St. Kitts has Frigate Bay, about 10 minutes away.

Note that taxi rates vary by island. In some cases, the rates are set. Always ask for the rate before getting into the cab.

As only one example, the rate from the Antigua cruise port to Fort James Beach is $16 one way for four people at the time of this writing. Round trip, that $8 per person. By comparison, a typical shore excursion will cost at least $40 per person.