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 some of the Caribbean beach bars we think should be on your travel itinerary -- heck, maybe even the point of your visit in the first place!
The Soggy Dollar, Jost Van Dyke, BVI
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 nutmeg-sprinked 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.
Foxy's, Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Many of the best Caribbean beach bars are named after their long-time proprietors, and that's the case with Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke, where owner Foxy Callwood is not only omnipresent but also provides the entertainment (on guitar and vocals) and concocts the libations (homemade rum and four varieties of microbrewed beer). Foxy's is famous for having the Caribbean's best New Year's Eve party (known as Old Year's here), but you can drink, dance, dine and lime at this British Virgin Islands bar anytime -- but especially on weekends where they get their big barbecue going.
Cow Wreck Beach Bar, Anegada, BVI
A shipwreck that spilled a load of cow bones onto this beach on Anegada gave the Cow Wreck Beach Bar it's unusual name, but that's hardly the only odd thing that's washed ashore to suck down a Cow Killer punch or three from the honor bar. This being the BVI, the beach of course is gorgeous, and the Cow Wreck may be one of the few bars in the world where you can go surfcasting and catch your own dinner (or keep it simple and order the delicious conch fritters or lobster). If you overindulge or just can't get up the will to depart, you can rent one of the Cow Wreck's oceanfront villas for the night.
Iggie's, St. Thomas
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.
Shiggidy Shack, St. Kitts
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.
Le Petibonum, Martinique
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.
Da Conch Shack, Turks and Caicos
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.
If you want a "see and be seen" experience in the Caribbean, head to St. Barts. But if you want a chance to rub elbows with celebrities where nobody really cares who you are, visit Basil Charles' laid-back beach bar on Mustique in the Grenadines, where everyone from Mick Jagger to members of Britain's royal family have come in for a toot over the years. The place may not get as wild as it did in its '70s heyday, but on the bright side the food has gotten better, and you can still drink and dance above the waves into the wee hours. The annual Mustique Blues Festival, held at Basil's and featuring performers like Julien Brunetaud, is the event of the year on this tiny, tony island.
The Dune Preserve, Anguilla
Lots of beach bars have live music, but the Dune Preserve in Anguilla is one of the few in the Caribbean that qualifies as a bona fide concert venue. Owner Bankie Banx is a renowned reggae artist in his own right, and the annual Moonsplashcelebration brings in diverse acts from around the world. You can walk here from the CuisinArt resort (or after a round of golf at the neighboring Temenos course) and settle into the ramshackle, open-air bar and restaurant for a Duneshine or rum punch. If Bankie himself is performing there's a cover charge, but usually other entertainment is free.
Nippers, Great Guana Cay, Bahamas
This bright and cheerful beach bar in theOut Islands of the Bahamas is a wet and wild experience with two big beachside pools, a lively tiki bar, and hopping dance floor. The weekly (Sunday) pig roast is a can't miss, and if you're lucky you'll be in town for one of the semi-annual Barefoot Man concerts, a true "only in the island" happening where a local musician rounds up his buddies and thousands of fans flock to a tiny cay to hear the show.
The Pelican Bar, Treasure Beach, Jamaica
You can see the beach from the Pelican Bar -- but from the water side, not the shore side. What may initially appear to be a pile of woody debris washed up on an offshore sandbar near Treasure Beach is in fact one of the most unique bars inJamaica. Call in your lobster lunch in advance, then hop onto a rickety boat for the short ride out to the bar, where owner Floyd will take a break from dominos to serve you some cold Red Stripes. You can mellow out on the dock or hop into the water (it's only a few feet deep around the bar) to do some snorkeling. Since you've made it out here, be sure to leave some memento of your visit on the walls -- carved initials, a license place, articles of clothing ...
The Wreck Bar, Rum Point, Grand Cayman
Take the free ferry from the busy West Side of Grand Cayman to laid-back Rum Point, and the picnic tables at the Wreck Bar are as about as casual as it gets (other than the beach hammocks, of course). Want a break from all that Caribbean rum? Order one of the famous Wreck Bar mudslides to go along with the surprisingly sophisticated pub grub (there's a gourmet restaurant attached to the bar).
Elvis' Beach Bar, Anguilla
Elvis himself -- OK, not the "Love Me Tender" one -- tends bar at this popular beach bar in Sandy Ground. Elvis Beach Bar is appropriately built from an old boat, and Elvis' gets especially lively during NFL football games (there's a big screen TV to watch on). You can step out of the shade at the boat bar to the roof deck to work on your tan, Elvis' specialty rum punch in hand.