September 18, 2021

Beach Browsing Part 2

 

Valley Church Bay, Antigua

There’s more to the Caribbean than sun and sand, but sometimes that’s exactly what we’re looking for. Whenever I’m seeking to escape the greyness of a Vancouver winter, my thoughts turn to visions of a tropical beach lapped by a warm turquoise sea and fringed with swaying palm trees.

On a recent Caribbean cruise, my family and I focused on finding each island’s best beaches. This proved to be a pleasant but somewhat challenging task. For example, Antiguans claim their island has 365 beaches – one for every day of the year. But we were there for only a day. So we hired a taxi driver named Hercules to take the four us on an island tour. We travelled from one end of the island to the other, checking out as many beaches as time allowed.

Our first stop was Dickenson Bay, which is a popular beach for cruise passengers.  There’s lots going on here with its resort facilities, watersports equipment and boat tours.  We found it a bit too busy for our liking, so we hopped back into our taxi and drove clear across the island to Half Moon Bay on the island’s east coast. This circular-shaped beach was nearly deserted but it no doubt fills up with local families on the weekends. An Atlantic surf rolls into this breathtaking bay but a reef protects the north side of the beach, providing sheltered water for swimming and snorkelling.

The bay was quite breezy that day, so we decided to head to the island’s southwest coast where some of Antigua’s most beautiful beaches awaited. Winding our way along narrow roads, past West Indian villages and country churches, we stopped several times to check out some of Hercules’s favourite beaches, including Pelican Beach and Turners Beach near Johnsons Point. But the beach we decided to stop at for a swim was Valley Church Bay. While Hercules chatted with other taxi drivers in the parking lot beside The Nest Bar & Restaurant (popular with locals and tourists) we headed to the far end of the beach, well away from the rental beach chairs, and found a quiet spot to enjoy the sun, sand and swimming. This was indeed a beautiful beach but we weren’t finished looking.

After our refreshing beach break, we climbed back into the taxi and made one last detour before returning to the cruise port. We headed to the end of a peninsula where Hawksbill Bay contains a series of beach-lined coves, the first overlooked by a resort, the last secluded enough for sunbathing in the buff. From here we carried on to our final stop at Deep Bay where the Royal Antiguan Resort overlooks a crescent-shaped beach. This, we all agreed, was one of the best beaches on Antigua and only 10 minutes by taxi from the cruise port.

Enterprise Beach, Barbados

Barbados is another island with a vast variety of beaches to choose from, but at this port of call I knew where we wanted to go before we even got off the ship. Taxis were lined up outside the cruise terminal and we were approached by several drivers all talking at once. Then a young man named Ryan took charge of the situation and we were soon being escorted to his taxi for the drive to Enterprise (Miami) Beach. This beach, near the town of Oistins on the island’s southeast coast, is a favourite with local families and had been recommended to us by a friend.

A point of land shelters one section of Enterprise Beach from waves, making it ideal for children. Nearby is a permanently parked bus that’s been converted into a concession. Beach chairs can be rented along the main stretch of sand, where shade is provided by trees bordering the beach. Hawkers don’t bother people sunbathing here because the local vendors set up their crafts stalls in designated areas.

We had a thoroughly relaxing time at this beach and had arranged with Ryan to pick us up at an appointed time, which he did. The fare was $15 per person roundtrip and he gave us a mini-sightseeing tour on the way back to the ship.  I left Barbados, as I always do, with a positive impression of this British-flavoured island and its beautiful beaches.

More inviting beaches are found in the U.S. Virgin Islands where St. Thomas, one of the most-visited of the Caribbean islands, is well set up for cruise passengers. Taxis are plentiful and not only are there numerous beaches a short drive from the cruise port, the neighbouring island of St. John is home to several stunning beaches, including famous Trunk Bay. However, if you prefer to maximize your beach time while docked at St. Thomas, hop in a taxi and head straight to Magens Bay.

The first time I laid eyes on Magens Bay was from the lookout at Drake’s Seat.  From this hilltop vantage, the U-shaped bay is a stunning sight, its mile-long ribbon of powdery white sand backed by verdant parkland donated to St. Thomas in 1946 by local resident Arthur S. Fairchild. Up close, the beach is even more beautiful, its turquoise water as calm as a South Seas lagoon and crystal clear.

Magens Bay, St. Thomas

Admission to Magens Bay Park is $4 per adult (half that for teenagers and free for children under 12). The park’s 68 acres of coconut groves, mangroves and wetlands contain a nature trail leading down to the beach. Beside the beach are changing rooms with showers. Lounge chairs, snorkel gear and floating mats can be rented, as can paddle boats, sailing dinghies and kayaks. Watching over the swimmers are certified lifeguards. If you get hungry or thirsty, you can grab something to eat or drink at the concession and enjoy it at one of the shaded picnic tables.

The one drawback to Magens Bay is that it can get crowded, especially if there are three or four ships in port. But the beach is long and, like most Caribbean beaches, is fairly quiet in the morning, which is the best time to enjoy its pristine beauty.

About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.