How do we love these island oases? Let us count the ways.
Beach and bar. Has there ever been a more perfect pairing? Windex-blue water, sugar-fine sand, and a carefree “What day is it, anyway?” vibe are the essential ingredients at hundreds of watering holes across the Caribbean, spots responsible for thousands of lost afternoons and twice as many wicked-but-worth-it hangovers.
I love a good beach bar, but let’s face it, they’re pretty easy to love. With your toes in the sand and a drink in your hand, all seems right with the world. That piña colada you wouldn’t dream of ordering at home is somehow perfectly appropriate on a sun-drenched island, its lemon-colored froth a fitting contrast to the shimmering aqua expanse that forms its backdrop. And that hot-pink paper umbrella piercing the fast-melting frozen swirl? A master stroke of embellishment. Even a beer – whether it’s a Caybrew on Grand Cayman, a Red Stripe in Jamaica, or a Kalik in the Bahamas – goes down decidedly better here, despite the heat that takes it from frosty and crisp to tepid and flat in near nanoseconds.
So why do we love beach bars? The obvious draw is, of course, the beach. The island beauty tempts us to linger until the sun drops, hoping to witness the green flash that’s rumored to guarantee an eventual return.
Sometimes, however, it’s food that provides the just-right foil to the drink du jour. Grilled Anguillan crayfish, aka spotted spiny lobster, pairs beautifully with a rum punch the color of sunrise, as served on Sandy Island, an idyllic sandbar minutes offshore. At Da Conch Shack on Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands – where picnic tables line the beach mere steps from where conchs are kept in underwater baskets – deep-fried cracked conch tastes best washed down with a Turk’s Head beer ferried from the oceanfront bar. And let’s not discount the appeal of the company, the like-minded, sun-seeking souls who join us at the bar to debate the superiority of white rum over dark or the Cowboys over the Saints, spirited discussions adjudicated by the most affable of bartenders. You want to go where everybody knows your name, they say. But let’s also raise our glasses to places where the rum punch is potent and our names are irrelevant.
Then again, perhaps it’s the music that draws us to beach bars. The rhythms of reggae or soca, reggaeton or zouk, comprise the playlist that, years from now, will evoke that day life was at its sweetest. As palm fronds wave and sailboats sway in sync, there will inevitably come a moment when Bob Marley asks, “Is this love that I’m feeling?” And you will look over the rim of your tropical drink, inhale the salty tang and tropical beauty of your surroundings, and answer with a resounding yes.
Beach Bars to Try:
Chat ‘N’ Chill, Stocking Island, Bahamas Hop a water taxi to this beach bar and restaurant five minutes from George Town, Great Exuma, where you can sip a cold Kalik and paddle with wild stingrays in the shallows just offshore. (Don’t miss the made-to-order conch salad.)
Floyd’s Pelican Bar, Jamaica This south-coast staple stands on stilts over the sea, less than a mile offshore from Parrotee, near the village of Treasure Beach. Made almost entirely of driftwood and embellished with license plates from all over the globe, the cash-only drinkery is lovingly rebuilt after every storm.
Leon’s at Meads Bay at Malliouhana, Anguilla Sip a Sunny Lemonade (coconut rum, lemonade, pineapple juice) under a sunshine-yellow parasol as you soak up the island vibes at Leon’s, the newest bar at this classic Anguilla resort.
Soggy Dollar, British Virgin Islands This laid-back, legendary spot on the sands of Jost Van Dyke’s White Bay Beach is where the oft-imitated Painkiller cocktail (rum, coconut cream, pineapple and orange juices) was invented. You can’t say you’ve been to the BVI until you’ve tried (at least) one.
Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill, Nevis A five-minute amble down Pinney’s Beach from the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies, this rustic watering hole is famous for two things: its potent Killer Bee rum punch and its charismatic, ever-smiling owner, the eponymous Sunshine.
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