Plage de la Perle, Guadeloupe. Photograph: Alamy
Winning tip: Plage de la Perle, Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe consists of two islands, together shaped like a butterfly. Grande-Terre in the east is flat, with white-sand beaches, and resorts. Basse-Terre on the west is an active volcano – lush, mountainous and less populated. A turn off the road round Basse-Terre in the commune of Deshaies brings you to Plage de la Perle, an arc of golden sand. It is more intimate and laid back than its better-known neighbour Plage de Grande Anse. It is never busy, although it is a favourite with the locals at the weekend. Uprooted palm trees, driftwood and coral left behind by the surf make it feel like a castaway beach but there are a couple of beach bars under the palm trees.
Regular buses run from San José to the little town of Cahuita, in the south-eastern corner of Costa Rica. Through the village is Cahuita national park, which runs along the coast. Where the jungle stops, the beach and clear waters begin. A well-laid path winds through the forest, on to the beach, and back into the undergrowth again. Follow the sounds of howler monkeys, and watch them play in the tree tops, sit on the white sand, take a dip in the sea, then keep on walking. At the end of the trail (about 10km) is a wooden restaurant with a swimming pool and outdoor showers.
Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
This beach at Great Harbour is home to one of the BVI’s most famous entertainers – Foxy, known for his storytelling calypso songs and his non-PC jokes. His bar and restaurant (pictured) is a fixture on the charter yacht circuit. Every New Year’s Eve thousands of revellers join him for his famous “Old Year’s night” party, complete with cocktails, limbo dancing and fireworks. Foxy has travelled the world but has returned to his roots on the best beach in town!
Bayahibe beach, Dominican Republic
Bayahibe beach is simply beautiful, with white sand, rimmed by lush vegetation, gently sloping into the sea. Frigate birds soar across the wide skies and pelicans float over myriad sea life – perfect for the casual snorkel swimmer. As the sun goes down the scent of chargrilled lobster with fried plantains drifts in from the nearby village. The finest lobster isn’t found in the smart overpriced restaurants, but in turquoise shacks with barbecue pits out front.
Cayo Paredón, Cuba
On the north coast of Cuba, near popular Cayo Coco, is the tiny island of Cayo Paredón Grande. It has abundant birdlife, a charming lighthouse and a beach that stretches forever. Crystal-clear water? Check. Pristine white sand? Check. Facilities? None. There’s just wilderness and solitude.
Maracas beach, Trinidad
The drive through mountains to Maracas gears up the anticipation, so that with your first view of the sea you already feel peace of mind. Make it a priority to try the street food known as bake and shark. The deep-fried shark, served in fried bread, comes with an array of condiments – from lettuce and tomato, to my favourite: fresh pineapple slices, mango salsa, a dash of scotch bonnet pepper sauce and tamarind sauce. It’s the sort of delicacy that it’s worth driving to the beach for even when it’s raining.
Pirate’s Bay, Tobago
Tobago is blessed with many beautiful beaches but Pirate’s Bay stands out. On the quieter northern side of the island, it is a 10-minute walk from the village of Charlotteville. Make your way along a dirt track and through coconut trees until the horseshoe shape of a bay appears. Remarkably, for such beauty, the white sands are often empty apart from the odd local selling mangoes.
Pigeon Point, Tobago
This unbelievable beach is a stone’s throw from the airport, which means you could walk to paradise with wheelie luggage in tow. Many travellers have been left breathless trying to photograph the electric sunsets. But Pigeon Point’s true beauty is that it is a beach for everyone. On any day, one can see couples canoodling in the waves, local families sharing pots of home-cooked lunch under thatched huts, friends sharing cold beers by a bar and adventure seekers stand-up paddle boarding in the bay.
The best beach I have ever been to: pure white sand and turquoise sea. Bars and restaurants next to the beach serving cocktails at sunset. It was peaceful – with only a handful of tourists. The best thing about this beach was the sunset at the end of the day and watching the fishing boats returning – paradise.
Nisbet Plantation beach club, Nevis
There is a permanent breeze at Nisbet, on the north side of Nevis, and it’s a lovely plantation with a wonderful avenue of coconut trees. Three great ways of dining and zingy cocktails that have never disappointed. Cute little rooms in the grounds make it very romantic.
+1 869 469 9325, nisbetplantation.com, half-board doubles from $ 415