Is it even possible to visit the Caribbean without a stop at a beach bar? Not in our humble opinion. Beach bars are the epitome of the mellow Caribbean vibe, a distillation of sun, sand, rum, reggae, and the untamed personalities that make island life the best. Here's a dozen and more of the Caribbean beach bars that should be on your travel itinerary -- heck, maybe even the point of your visit in the first place!
For decades, BVI boaters have been wading ashore on Jost Van Dyke with pockets full of sodden cash to seek refreshment at the Soggy Dollar Bar, famous for inventing the Painkiller rum cocktail. Down a couple of these coconutty concoctions and suddenly that ring game either becomes a cinch or the biggest challenge since trigonometry, depending on how the buzz hits you. Best to grab a bite to eat while you are here (three meals are served daily), and if you overindulge you can ask about a room at the adjoining Sandcastle Hotel.
Constructed largely of driftwood and other odds and ends, the Bomba Shack is held together in part by a collection of donated bras, panties, and other "unmentionables" from guests past and present. Yes, this Tortola bar is an adults-only place, and the party really gets going on nights when the moon is full and Bomba's (possibly psychadelic) mushroom tea starts flowing. Rum, dancing, live bands and Bomba himself add to the fun.
Located next door to the Bolongo Bay resort, Iggie's is the best beach bar on St. Thomas and also quite convenient to the hotels of Charlotte Amalie. This is a bona-fide restaurant as well as a bar, featuring an excellent Caribbean buffet during the weekly Carnival night that includes moko jumbies, fire walkers, live calypso bands, and more. But Iggies' real claim to fame is that it hosts live music every night of the year, ranging from local acts to surprise guests like Stevie Wonder.
Sunshine's is the most famous bar on the quiet island of Nevis, a focal point for local nightlife as well as a magnet for visitors, including those staying at the luxurious Four Seasons Nevis Resort next door. Sunshine's is far from posh -- the main building houses a restaurant where you can plop onto a weatherbeaten couch and order a burger or some local fish, and there are several covered pavilions to provide shade when you want to sit closer to the water and sip on one of Sunshine's famous Killer Bees, a rum punch made with local moonshine. Have a few of these and you'll be sleeping on the beach -- not a bad thing, since Pinney's Beach is Nevis' longest and prettiest stretch of sand.
Frigate Bay in St. Kitts is home to a cluster of lively beach bars -- all within walking distance of the St. Kitts Marriott Resort -- but the most famous is Mr. X's Shiggidy Shack, known for its grilled lobster and lively mix of college students, expats, tourists and locals. The shack is open daily from 10 a.m. on, but heats up at night with a Thursday night bonfire, live music on Fridays, and karaoke on Saturday nights.
Rincon is the surfing capital of Puerto Rico -- if not the entire Caribbean -- and no surf town would be complete without a cool surfer bar. With two decks and its feet firmly planted in the sand, Tamboo is the place to come after a day of surfing the Pointe to unwind with a cold Medallia or mojito. The sounds of Latin music fill the air as the sun sinks down and whales glide silently across the horizon -- perfect.
Chef Guy Ferdinand -- a.k.a. "Chef Hot Pants" -- is the main attraction at the rare beach bar where the food, not the drinks, are the main draw. That's not to say that you can't get a good drink here: after all, Martinique is part of France, so of course the wine list is fabulous, and there's also local rhum agricole and Biere Lorriane to consider. But that's just a prelude to fine French dining on the beach, from escargot to filet mignon to the freshest local fish and lobster. All served under a simple canopy in the sand and just steps from the bar's private beach chairs, cabanas, and the crashing surf.
People travel to the island of Roatan (off the coast of Honduras) to truly get away from it all, but when you want to get away from it all ON Roatan, you head to Sundowner's. Located on Half Moon Bay Beach on Roatan's West End, Sundowner's has most of the attributes you want in a beach bar: cheap drinks, good food, mellow waters, plenty of room to spread out to work on your tan, and character galore. Settle under a palapa and sip a frozen Monkey Lala while the sun sets over the Caribbean, surrounded by friends old and newly made, and you'll be channeling the true spirit of the islands.
This Jolly Beach hot spot is known for its great burgers and sundowners after a day spent lolling in the sand. If you are an early beach person, Castaway's serves breakfast daily, and while you'll find plenty of Caribbean food on the menu, they also serve Chinese cuisine some nights. Take in the spectacular sunset and settle in for a laid-back evening of fun Antigua style, including the weekly Friday bonfire.
Cracked conch is the speciality of the house at Da Conch Shack, a Turks and Caicos gathering place that has managed to maintain its authentic aura despite the rapid development of Providenciales in recent years. This Blue Hills Beach bar and restaurant serves a mean rum punch alongside off-the-boat fresh seafood -- well worth the drive out to settle in on one of the picnic tables in the sand for lunch, dinner, or just people-watching with drink in hand.