A sojourn to the Southern Caribbean islands is often a throwback in time. Many say these are the authentic West Indies. The geography is usually hikeable verdant rainforests, desert terrain and distinct volcanic rock formations. There's a slower pace of life and often a lack of modern-day distractions, which means many visitors arrive for an off-the-beaten path escape.
Entertainment centers around liming -- hanging around a bar, beach, or pool chatting about everything and nothing at all. Life can be quiet on the smaller islands, but the major ones can put on quite a show, especially during festival and carnival seasons.
Want this kind of nirvana? Here are nine of the Southern Caribbean's Best Beach Escapes.
--By Chanize Thorpe, Cruise Critic contributor
Hadikurai Beach (Aruba)
This 20-mile isle's pride and joy is its windsurfing culture. Nowhere is it more evident than Hadikurari Beach, aka "Fisherman's Huts." There, the strong winds attract windsurfers and kiteboarders, both experienced and beginners. The area is shallow, so it's the right place to get lessons, and there are plenty of vendors to teach you how to get started. (During July's windsurfing tournaments, get there early to claim your spot.) While the shoreline is a bit rocky, the water is pretty clear, and it makes for a good snorkel spot.
Eagle Beach (Aruba)
Eagle Beach, one of the largest beaches on the island, is also one of the most photographed -- and for good reason. More quiet than the bustling Palm Beach resort area, this sandy spot in the low-rise hotel section is popular with a good deal of tourists (some who may opt to go topless) and locals. It's only a 10-minute taxi ride to this beach from the cruise pier in Oranjestad, and, when you arrive, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of space, shade, and opportunity to use the beach chairs and umbrellas at certain resorts like Bucuti Beach if you use their bar or restaurant.
Photo: Kjersti Joergensen/Shutterstock
Bottom Bay Beach (Barbados)
On the south coast, Bottom Bay Beach is well known in travel magazines for its small, secluded, striking coral cliffs, surrounded by towering coconut palm trees. That makes it high on the list of must-visits, so get there early as you can to stake your place. Swimming is not the greatest, so know that it'll be a day of liming (relaxing) to the tunes of calypso playing in the background. For another taste of the island, make way to Bathsheba Beach on the east coast, aka "The Soup Bowl," to watch champion surfers like Brian "Action" Jackson hang-ten and kiteboard to dizzying heights.
Photo: Filip Fuxa/Shutterstock
Seaquarium Beach (Curacao)
Only three miles from capital Willemstad, Seaquarium Beach appeals to families, with its white sand and calm, blue water. There's an entry fee of $3.50 (free after 5 p.m.) to access the area if you're not a guest at any of the resorts lining the waterfront. Once you're there, choose among the three sections: Mambo, Kontiki and Cabana. No matter which you desire, there's plenty of palms and beach chairs, as well as bars for relaxing with the traditional Blue Curacao. If you want some activity, there are vendors to rent snorkel gear or even organize scuba-diving trips.
Photo: Sergey Mironov/Shutterstock
L'Anse aux Epines Beach (Grenada)
Two of the Spice Island's most famous beaches are the two-mile and quite crowded Grand Anse and the secluded, but still well-regarded, La Sagesse. If you have some time and a hankering to see another part of Grenada, L'Anse aux Epines Beach in the southern part of the island next to the Calabash Hotel is a tiny gem of place where peace and quiet is pretty much guaranteed. Grab a taxi for the 20-minute ride, make the easy arrangements for a return transfer, or just stop by Calabash, and they'll assist when you're satiated for the day.
Photo: Anna Jedynak/Shutterstock
Hawksbill Beaches (Antigua)
Galley Bay Beach is a family favorite, so expect a fair amount of folks vying for a spot. If a low-key, adult-like atmosphere is more your speed, try the Hawksbill Beaches, which are four separate strands rolled into one large area. Officially on the Rex Resorts property, Royal Palm Beach, Sea Grape Beach, Honeymoon Cove and Eden Beach are nonetheless available for non-hotel visitors to enjoy. Swimming and snorkeling are easy to do there, with rentable equipment from beach vendors. Note: Both Honeymoon Cove and Eden Beach are where couples love to cuddle -- often sans clothing -- so the modest may want to stay with the first two options.
Photo: V.J. Matthew/Shutterstock
Pinney's Beach (Nevis)
A true Caribbean gem that's a short ferry ride from sister island St. Kitts, Nevis maintains its mystery, with the exception of four-mile-long Pinney's Beach. Because it's home to the island's celebrity bar and restaurant Sunshine's, don't be surprised if an A-lister or two from the Four Seasons Hotel next door is sitting next to you in the reggae-centric beach bar, sipping a house special, the rum-laced "Killer Bee." Though, it's not the best water in terms of clarity, Pinney's more than makes up for it in personality (and those stinging sips); just make sure you remember you must return to the ship.
Reggae Beach (St. Kitts)
St. Kitts has plenty of beaches for cruisers seeking half-day trips, including Frigate Bay and Cockleshell Beach, both quite popular on the cruise-line excursion list (although the sometimes cloudy water conditions aren't helped with a crowd of cruisers and Jet-Skis). We'd recommend trying a strand more locally-loved -- Reggae Beach on the southeast shores. It has its own beach club, so visitors have access to a bevy of equipment like ocean kayaks and snorkel gear to explore the nearby reef. Plus there are plenty of beach loungers and a full service restaurant that serves some of the best conch fritters in the Caribbean.
Buccament Bay (St. Vincent)
Real pirates once lived on St. Vincent and its surrounding Grenadine islands, but it's doubtful they spent time working on their tans. Today, a near-forgotten area north of Kingstown is home to luxury all-inclusive resort Buccament Bay. There are two parts to this beach. On the public side, locals love to lime on the black sand -- typical of St. Vincent's volcanic island background. (But never fear: The water is clean and pleasant enough for activities.) On the other side is the resort's well-tailored expanse with imported Champagne-colored sand. Those who prefer the more pristine experience can buy a day-pass ($150 adults, $75 children) to the resort, which gives you a taste of all-inclusive life (meals, drinks, snacks, activities and even a 30-minute spa treatment).
Photo: Buccament Bay Resort