Anguilla, West Indies, Little Bay, Shoal Bay:
Anguilla encompasses arguably the best beaches generally in the Caribbean, with over 30 strands of dream sands to cater to not many sun-seekers, a very laid-back charm and a growing fine restaurant scene to cater to after-sun diners.
Little Bay is a tiny half moon shaped bay with powder sand beach and clear water is protected by high cliffs so the ambience is tranquil and excellent for sunbathing and snorkelling. Access is by boat only from Crocus Bay.
Nearby the two mile stretch of Shoal Bay - which some consider to be Anguilla's best beach, Rendezvous Bay, or Road Bay offer a few more facilities and action.
Antigua, Johnson's Point (Crab Hill):
Antigua's chain of secluded coves with white soft-sand beaches (especially in the south-west) and sensational views also offers low-stress flights from the UK, easy transfers, a good choice of hotels and masses of family-friendly activities for toddlers to teenagers. Some options include Wadadli Animal Park, a pirate experience (Black Swan), kayaking, zip-wires and plenty more.
If snorkeling is your aim, then head for Pigeon Point near Falmouth Harbour. Topless or naked bathing are both strictly forbidden on this island. See Crime.
Bahamas, Harbor Island, Pink Sand Beach:
This famous pink sand beach on a islet of Eleuthera Island, is one of the world's most photographed beaches and often voted as the world's best beach by various travel publications.It's a three mile stretch of powder sand named for its salmon colour due to flecks of red plankton mixed with fine, sugar-white coral sand.
Most of the accommodation is located on the cliff behind the beach and reached by 'Bahamas Fast Ferries' from Eleuthera.
Barbados, Crane Beach:
Barbados seems to be moving intelligently and inexorably away from exclusive luxury holidays to all budget vacations, with plenty of family-friendly resorts offering shallow pools, kid's clubs, flying foxes, jungle camps, pirate ships and endless water-based activities.
The island is lined with soft white sand beaches and azure seas, though calm or rough depends on their location. Barbados food is varied and delicious, the people are charming and speak English. Barbados is easily accessed by direct flights from the USA, Canada and UK.
Crane Beach (photo) is said to be one of Barbados' - if not the Caribbean's - most beautiful beaches. The soft white sands and bumpy azure waves are embraced by imposing cliffs but swimmers need to be ready for a bit of a battle as here the waters mix Caribbean benevolence with Atlantic fury. More Barbados information and photos
This is a totally laid-back seaside town with a 16 miles of pristine sandy beach on a long, narrow peninsula in SE Belize.
It is is well worth the trip to get there (4-5 hours from Belize City, but now daily domestic flights are available).
Facilities are simple but comfortable, with friendly locals and fantastic seafood. Apart from just lying on the sand, you can participate in various water sports, fishing, bird watching, manatee watching (!) and jungle excursions in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
If you want more action (especially scuba diving), try the Casey: resort-oriented Ambergris Caye, or relatively low-key Caye Caulker. Both are good bases for world-class diving and snorkeling off the world's second greatest barrier reef.
British Virgin Islands (BVI), Virgin Gorda, The Baths
Palm-lined silky beaches with deep pinky-gray sands and peppermint green water (what about the purple prose?).
Although Virgin Gorda has no shortage of lovely beaches such as Devil's Bay, Mahoe Bay, Pond Bay, Savannah Bay, and Spring Bay, the Baths gets the top spot in BVI, so it can get crowded. It's good for year-round swimming and snorkelling, especially going left from the beach but a bit pricey. Virgin Gorda is one of the friendliest islands in the Caribbean.
British Virgin Islands, Jost Van Dykes Island, White Bay:
Photogenic, unspoilt and white-on-white, the beach on tiny Jost Van Dykes island 5 miles west of Tortola, was a secret until recently but now some major publications are raving about it, and it has been selected as one of world's top ten best beaches.
There is also fabulous snorkelling from the islet off the southeast of Jost Van Dykes Sandy Cay and the more remote Sandy Spit Beach as well.
Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman, Seven Mile Beach (well, to be honest, it's actually 5.5 miles long). Seven Mile Beach (also known as West Bay Beach) is the big one that everyone wants to shuffle their toes in en route to the clear, tranquil water above the gently shelving sandy bottom. It's a magnificent stretch of groomed, powder white sand that, if you can afford it, you should hug close and never let go. Oh, that's too bad, can't stay for ever? Never mind. Back to work after a quick snorkel. More Grand Cayman information and photos.
Varadero is not technically the Caribbean, actually the Straits of Florida, but but it's near enough. 20km of clean, creamy, uncrowded sand adjacent to clean, warm water runs alongside a string of relatively cheap all-inclusive hotels and a few local facilities. There is no coral in the immediate vicinity so forget snorkelling but other marine activities are plentiful.
Varadero town is not especially interesting but a rental car or bus will get you too Havana in a couple of hours. Havana is very lively and fascinating in a crumbly pre-60's way and definitely the best exotic culture in the Caribbean. Four days in Varadero and three days in Havana would be an excellent week's holiday. More Cuba information and photos
Not to be confused with much bigger Dominican Republic (it's near Guadeloupe and Martinique in the east, whereas DR is a package destination in the central Caribbean near Cuba), Dominica specialises in activities and not just kid's stuff. Possibilities range from whale-watching, kayaking and scuba to mountain-biking trails, jungle rainforest canopy tours and superb hiking routes that supply delightful rest-stops en route, such as spas, mud-baths and cave swimming.
The most extreme trekking on offer is the 115 mile (184 kms) Waitukubuli National Trail.