With Caribbean cruising on pause for over six months (and counting), we have to admit that we're missing not just the blue seas and green palm trees -- it's the islands' colorful cocktails and atmospheric beach bars that keep us pining. Somehow rum punch at home isn't the same as when you have sand between your toes.
Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin IslandsThe BVI is beach bar central, with so many great watering holes that it's really hard to pick. The floating Willy T's near Norman Island? The Bitter End in Virgin Gorda? The Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost van Dyke's White Bay? While the latter comes close, with its painkillers slipping down easy on one of the world's best beaches, we're going to bypass them and crown Foxy's as king. Located in sheltered Great Harbour, Foxy's draws small ship passengers, who come to dance, drink and carry on with the ever-changing international group of yachties also out for a good time. Those too shy for the dance floor can content themselves with the excellent Caribbean BBQ and enthusiastic games of giant Jenga. When social distancing ends, this is the first place we want to go.
Frigate Bay, St. KittsSt. Kitts has built up its port area admirably over the years. But we love to get out of Basseterre to Frigate Bay, where an enticing quarter-mile strip of sand also allows views of the island's hills (and nearby Nevis). Numerous bars line the bay, but we're partial to the Shiggedy Shack, not only for the name -- so fun to say, particularly after a few rum punches! -- but also for the bonfires after sunset (which some small ships such as SeaDream or Island Windjammers will bring you, too, on an overnight stop). Gourmands will appreciate the grilled lobster.
NevisNot many ships stop at Nevis, but the sister island to St. Kitts is worth it for Sunshine's alone. The reggae-influenced bar is home to the Killer Bee cocktail, a rum punch variation laced with honey that can really pack a sting -- we've seen generally responsible adults turn silly pretty quickly here. (Luckily, taxis are easily available to get you back to Charlestown.) Be sure to ask if Mr. Sunshine himself is around for a selfie.
Baie de St. Jean, St. BarthsThe glamorpuss of the Caribbean, St. Barths has its fancier beach bars where bubbles flow freely and Kardashians dance on tables during the season. But we like the more laid-back vibe over on Baie de St. Jean, near the airport. At this hotel beach club, you can do St. Barths the civilized way, with lattes served at your lounger before segueing into drinks and lunch at the bar. The planes coming into the nearby airport provide extra atmosphere, if you aren't already dazzled by the blue, blue water.
Front Street, St. MaartenWalking distance from the port (or a short water taxi ride away), this bar is one of the first spots you'll see on Front Street, St. Maarten's famed boardwalk. While other venues might hustle for business, promoting their Wi-Fi and beach chairs, Lazy Lizard lets its food -- and its customers -- do the talking. It's located right on the beach, offers a great mix of local flavors and more traditional bar eats and has excellent frozen drinks and beers. While Tripadvisor reports Lazy Lizard is closed till December, we can't wait to dive into Mama Joan's Johnny cakes with a side of plantains and a bucket of ice-cold beer once it reopens.
Havensight, St. ThomasThis dive-bar gem has seen a number of incarnations through the years, but if you've been to St. Thomas, you've probably seen it. Located at the edge of the Havensight port area, it features brightly colored tropical drinks, great (and sometimes live) music and swings in place of bar stools. Food is solid, with a wide variety of pizzas that are surprisingly good. We also miss the impressive local beer selection and tasty rum flights. According to The Rum Hut's Facebook page, it's closed till further notice, but we sure are looking forward to visiting again after a long day of sightseeing and beaches.
BonaireBonaire Brewery is a legit craft brewery in the heart of Kralendijk. Beer, including the signature Bonaire Blond, is plentiful, and drafts change routinely. If you're lucky enough to visit on a Saturday, you can be there while the company creates its brew of the week. The space is serene and relaxed, and the location is perfect for people-watching, as you can view people shopping and chilling in the nearby square. We can't wait to get back and sink our teeth into the vegetarian burger, then wash it down with a flight of beer.
NassauSo, Junkanoo Beach is technically a beach, not a bar, but if you visit this beach -- a 15-minute walk from the cruise pier in Nassau, you'll find unnamed bar shacks galore, all serving up seriously cheap beer -- usually with some shots of cheap liquor served alongside. The beach setting is the whole reason to go, and you can chill in the sand, sip drinks and hop in the water when the mood strikes.
The Crane Resort, BarbadosThe Crane is one of our all-time favorite Caribbean resorts, nestled right at the edge of the Atlantic ocean. Even if we're just on a port call in Bridgetown, we'll high-tail it over to the other side of the island for a day at The Crane. The Grove Bar and Grill is located right on the resort's legendary beach. The food is Barbadian, and the drinks are superb. Everyone in the Caribbean makes a rum punch; The Crane seems to do this classic drink better than anyone else.
Bequia, St. Vincent & the GrenadinesJack's is situated right on Princess Margaret Beach. On an island filled with cool ocean breezes and casual eateries, Jack's is practically an institution. Come for the Rum Punch, stay for the Union Island Iced Tea with its six different types of booze in honor of the six beaches on nearby Union Island.
St. George's, GrenadaOK, so it's not on a beach, but Sails IS adjacent to the harbor and offers some pretty spectacular views of St. George's. Try the tender conch in ginger-cider batter and pair it with a nice cold bottle of Carib -- or maybe the Sails Cooler, with its mix of Carib, lemon-lime soda and blue curacao. Come thirsty!
Montego Bay, JamaicaYou'll find it's 5 o-clock somewhere on most Caribbean island, but this particular Jimmy Buffet bar stands out for one very big reason -- a waterslide from the bar straight into the ocean. Not only is it fun to do it yourself, but there's nothing more entertaining than watching someone think it's a great idea after several daiquiris. It's particularly fun if they do it with just minutes to spare to get back to their ship -- soaking wet, of course.
Playa del Carmen, MexicoAfter a hard day's sunbathing (or diving), this is the ultimate sundowner bar, with tables and sofas literally in the sand, and tiki lights almost down to the seashore. We first visited here 20 years ago, when Playa consisted of just a few streets, and this bar was one of just a handful on the beach. Today it's somewhat different with bars, nightclubs and restaurants lining the beach, but we always come back every time we visit.
Tulum, MexicoBad name -- great bar. What was once a collection of small shacks around a ramshackle beach bar has evolved into a high-end boutique hotel with individual cabanas for rooms and a great restaurant. Set just up from the beach with small stone steps leading to the powder white sand, the vibe here is still very laid back, with mellow tunes and an almost spiritual energy in the air, perhaps because of its proximity to the monument of Tulum.
In no particular order, here's a list of Caribbean beach bars that we're missing. Got a favorite? Let us know!