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18 amazing beaches to visit on a cruise ship


A cruise is a great way to experience many tropical destinations during a single vacation. You can relax on the calm beaches of The Bahamas and go snorkeling in the renowned Belize Barrier Reef the same week! 

Of course, with so many beautiful options, it can be hard to narrow down which region of the Caribbean you'd like to visit. Thankfully, since the Caribbean is a popular year-round cruising destination, you can choose based on your preferences. 

If you're looking for a mix of relaxation and adventure, the Western Caribbean might entice you with the beautiful beaches of Grand Cayman, ancient ruins in Mexico, and canopy zip lines in Jamaica. 

MSC Western Caribbean

The Eastern and Southern Caribbean are known for their scenic destinations, fascinating history, and charming architecture. History buffs may love to wander the cobblestone streets of San Juan one day and lounge on a beach in St. Maarten or St. Kitts the next. 

No matter where your cruise is going, you're sure to be mesmerized by the white sand and turquoise waters of the Caribbean. 

Here's a list of 18 amazing beaches that you can visit on a cruise ship. 

Read more: Best Caribbean shore excursions

Western Caribbean

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman


Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach is one of my favorite Caribbean beaches. Despite the name, it's closer to 6 miles in length, but the stunning shores and crystal-clear waters make it one of the most well-known beaches in the world. 

Visitors can enjoy various water activities, including snorkeling, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Because of the calm waters, it's a great place for families of all ages. Parents won't have to worry about large waves crashing on their tots! 

When hunger eventually strikes, make your way to the Sunshine Grill located within the Sunshine Suites Resort. When my family vacationed on the island, we ended up dining here twice because it was so delicious! I think about the Famous Island Fish Tacos at least once a month. 

After you've taken your tender ashore, you can hail a taxi and be there in about ten minutes. I wouldn't try to walk, or you'll be spending more of your time en route than on the beach! 

Mahahual Beach, Costa Maya


If your ship is going to Costa Maya, you cannot miss out on visiting Mahahual Beach. 

Personally, I recommend booking a day pass to a resort or bar ahead of time; however, you can stroll the boardwalk and find one that fits your vibe the day of, too. Many provide all-inclusive, so you can eat and drink to your heart's content. 

For those looking to be around fewer crowds, you'll want to venture further down the strip past Krazy Lobster and explore the quieter areas of Costa Maya. Whether you're in the mood for a lively beach club or a more secluded resort, Mahaual Beach has something to appease all travelers. 

Playa Palancar, Cozumel


Located on the eastern coast of Cozumel, Playa Palancar is known for its beautiful white sand beach, water activities, and beach club facilities. It's easily accessible from the cruise ship terminals on Cozumel, making it a convenient place to call home for the day. 

Access to the Playa Palancar Beach Club costs $20 USD and includes access to beach chairs, showers, bathrooms, and changing rooms. There's an on-site restaurant that serves food and drinks for an additional cost. You can expect dishes like fajitas, sandwiches, fish fillets, nachos, quesadillas, and more. 

You can also purchase Bali beds, massages, towel rentals, lockers, photography services, snorkeling tours, and more, making Playa Palancar the perfect place for those who want to unwind, as well as stay active with water sports. 

Harvest Caye, Belize

NCL harvest caye

Harvest Caye, Belize is Norwegian Cruise Line's private destination. You can only visit the island if you are sailing on an NCL ship. As part of The Norwegian Edge initiative, it was designed to bring higher standards to the high seas. The island was developed in partnership with the Belizean government, and local inhabitants own the businesses and work onsite, which helps contribute to the local economy. 

This, however, means that you'll need to bring cash with you ashore, as your cruise card won't work. Unlike other cruise line private destinations, there isn't much that's included, and you'll have to pay extra for things like food and beverages. 

However, it's worth a visit, as the island has 7 acres of beach that make it the ideal place for those who want to bask in the sun. There are numerous activities that you can pay extra for, too, such as a 3,000-foot zip line, barrier reef snorkeling tour, river tubing, and more. 

Read more: Harvest Caye: What to know about Norwegian Cruise Line’s Private Island

West Bay Beach, Honduras 


West Bay Beach is often regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Since it's located near the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest coral reef in the world, it provides amazing opportunities for snorkelers and divers. 

The easiest way to get to West Bay Beach is via cab. Upon arrival, you'll find beach chairs and umbrellas for rent, as well as water sports like paddleboarding and parasailing. The beach is also lined with local restaurants and bars, so you'll have the chance to try the flavors of the region. 

The beach is about 25 minutes from the Port of Roatán and 40 minutes from Mahogany Bay, so be sure to budget enough travel time, as you don't want to be rushed returning to the ship. 

Read more: Best things to do in Roatan, Honduras cruise port

Doctor's Cave Beach in Montego Bay or Ocho Rios Bay Beach in Ocho Rios


Cruise ships dock on the northern coast of Jamaica in Montego Bay, Falmouth, or Ocho Rios. While Seven Mile Beach in Negril is considered one of the best in the country, it's too far for a day trip when on a ship. Instead, you should focus on visiting Doctor's Cave Beach in Montego Bay or Ocho Rios Bay Beach. 

To visit Doctor's Cave Beach, you'll have to pay an admission fee of around $8. Note that chairs and umbrellas are not included. The cost is well worth it, though, as the beach is clean, and you'll have access to changing facilities and restrooms, as well as an in-water trampoline. One pro tip is to bring your own snorkeling equipment, so you can check out the amazing sea life. 

Ocho Rios Bay Beach is located in the heart of Ocho Rios, so you won't be far from shops, bars, and restaurants. You'll be able to pay for anything from chairs and umbrellas to beachside snacks and water sports. Many cruise lines will also offer excursions to Pearly Beach, which is worth it if you want to relax on a more secluded beach, as it's private and locals cannot wander around offering to sell you trinkets and other items. 

Eastern Caribbean

Magens Bay, St. Thomas

Magens Bay

Magens Bay is celebrated for its natural beauty. To fund conservation efforts, patrons will be charged a small admission fee of around $5. Alternatively, you can opt to book a shore excursion through your cruise line that includes transportation.

Once inside, you can rent chairs and umbrellas, kayaks, paddleboards, and snorkeling equipment. There's also a full-service restaurant and bar where you can munch on pizzas, burgers, and local favorites, such as Caribbean Jerk Chicken. Note that since it's so popular, it is subject to intense crowds at times. 

Of course, St. Thomas has numerous other beaches worth visiting. Some other notable options on the island include Lindquist Beach, Coki Point Beach, and Sapphire Beach, each offering its own unique charm and features. 

Read more: Best things to do in St. Thomas cruise port

Trunk Bay, St. John

Trunk Bay

Trunk Bay, which is located in the Virgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, stands out as one of the most picturesque beaches in the Caribbean. As it's located in a National Park, there is an admissions fee. Once inside, you'll find various amenities to enjoy, including food and drink stands, restrooms, and changing facilities. 

Perhaps, however, the most unique feature of Trunk Bay is the underwater snorkeling trail. Snorkelers can follow submerged signs that guide them through a trail showcasing the vibrant coral reefs and marine life. If you forget your snorkel equipment at home, there's some available for rent. 

While cruise ships don't dock at St. John, it's an easy beach to access if you book a tour when visiting St. Thomas. If you decide not to book an excursion, you'll have to take a taxi to the Cruz Bay Ferry Terminal. 

Orient Bay, St. Maarten 


Orient Bay Beach, which is sometimes called the "Saint-Tropez of the Caribbean," is located on the northeastern side of St. Maarten about five miles from the international airport. Since it's a bit further from the cruise port, passengers should allow plenty of time for transit (roughly 40 minutes), especially if going off on their own. 

The beach itself is breathtaking, though, and features a long stretch of white sand and turquoise waters. It's bordered by lush hills that make it unlike the average beach in the United States. One important thing to keep in mind when planning a visit to Orient Bay Beach is that there are clothing-optional sections. 

Maho Beach is another good option, as it's known for its proximity to the airport and thrilling plane landings; however, you should note that the beach itself is pretty small. It's best to save this spot for aviation enthusiasts, especially if you are someone who wants the maximize their time in the sand. 

Governor's Beach, Turks & Caicos 


Grand Turk is the only cruise port on the island of Turks & Caicos, and it's owned by Carnival Corporation. Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and even Costa Cruises have regular stops at Grand Turk. 

While the cruise center offers a range of amenities and attractions, including a large pool and stretch of beach with complimentary chairs, if you stay too close to the port, your view of the horizon is blocked by the cruise ship(s). It's smart to venture further down the beach, even if that means you have to pay for chairs and umbrellas. 

Thankfully, accessing the famous Govenor's Beach isn't difficult. Whether you want to book an excursion through the cruise line or make the walk by yourself, this stretch of serene shoreline is worth the effort.

Read more: 23 things I loved and hated about Carnival Vista

Playa Costambar, Dominican Republic 


The Dominican Republic is a popular land-based destination for those seeking the all-inclusive resort vibe; however, popular cities like Punta Cana and La Romana are located on the western and southern coasts, whereas the majority of cruise ships visit the northern ports of Amber Cove and Puerto Plata. 

Regardless of whether you're docked at Amber Cove or Taíno Bay, you're only about 15 minutes from the expansive Playa Costambar. 

Due to the limited commercialization of the beach, the vibe is pretty relaxed, especially when compared to the pool scene at Amber Cove. Even so, you'll find nearby bars and restaurants perfect for an afternoon bite in the tropical sun. 

Nellie's Beach, Labadee, Haiti


Similar to Harvest Caye, Labadee is a private destination owned by Royal Caribbean. As soon as your ship docked, you'll be wowed by the mountainous scenery of the peninsula. While you can opt to splurge on one of the many excursions, why not take advantage of the complimentary lounge chairs and relax on one of the beautiful beaches?

There are a couple different beaches you can visit; however, Nellie's is a quiet cove that doesn't offer as many attractions compared to Columbus Cove. Those seeking the ultimate VIP excursion can even purchase a private cabana at Nellie's Beach. 

If you booked a suite, the no-brainer answer to where you'll spend your day is Barefoot Beach, the suite-only area that features an upgraded lunch buffet and private bar. 

The Baths, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands


The Virgin Gorda Baths are a famous geological formation located on the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. The best way to visit the Baths via cruise ship is when docked at the nearby island of Tortola. Cruise lines will offer excursions to make reaching the Virgin Gorda Baths as simple as possible. 

While not your typical beach due to the unique granite boulders, visiting the Baths is a one-of-a-kind adventure. Upon arriving, you'll venture through hidden chambers, secluded pools, and narrow passengers all created by the rocks. 

After exploring the Baths (and depending on your specific excursion), you can unwind on the nearby Devil's Bay Beach. 

Southern Caribbean

Eagle Beach, Aruba


Aruba is covered in beautiful beaches; however, if you're strapped for time, you should visit Eagle Beach. Compared to Palm Beach, Eagle Beach has fewer massive resorts, so you'll find that it's a more peaceful place to enjoy your day ashore. 

Don't worry, though. You won't have to sacrifice amenities like lounge chair and umbrella rentals, beach bars, and restaurants. Various water sports equipment is available for rent, too. 

You can even see the iconic Divi Divi trees that line the shore, which are bent in a southwestern direction due to strong trade wings. 

Magazine Beach, Grenada


While Grenada isn't as popular as other Southern Caribbean islands, it has a unique charm and natural beauty that captivates those who visit the island. 

Did you know that it's often referred to as "Spice Isle" because of its significant spice production? Even if you choose to skip the beach, you're sure to learn a lot about the local culture. 

Magazine Beach is one of the island's most well-known beaches and is located about 6.5 miles away from the cruise port. Compared to the nearby Grand Anse Beach, Magazine Beach is a great escape for those seeking a more peaceful experience. While there aren't a ton of water sports here, it's ideal for kayaking and snorkeling due to the calm tides. 

Crane Beach, Barbados 


Have you ever wanted to visit a pink sand beach? Crane Beach in Barbados is known for just that, as well as its natural beauty. 

One thing to take note of is that the beach is known for strong waves, so swimming conditions might not be ideal. Moreover, there aren't as many family-friendly compared to beaches like Playa Palancar in Cozumel and Eagle Beach in Aruba. If, however, you enjoy water sports like surfing and bodyboarding, Crane Beach is an exciting spot with its powerful Atlantic Ocean waves. 

Make sure you check out the view from the top of the cliff! 

The Bahamas

Cabbage Beach, The Bahamas


Those new to cruising or who don't have the available PTO to take a longer cruise might be considering a shorter vacation to The Bahamas. Even on a 3- or 4-night cruise from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or Port Canaveral, you'll be able to get a taste of tropical paradise. 

Nassau is a popular port on the majority of cruises to The Bahamas. While you could spend upwards of $200 per person to visit Atlantis, I recommend venturing to lesser-known beaches, especially if you want a break from the crowds. 

Cabbage Beach is located on the northern side of Paradise Island, meaning you'll have to either hail a taxi inside the cruise terminal or take a water taxi and walk. Once you arrive, you will be able to rent chairs and umbrellas from locals. Some may even offer water sports. One thing to note is that you won't find a ton of bars and restaurants around. 

If you want a more inclusive experience, you can buy a day pass to the RIU Palace for around $160 per person. The price includes unlimited dining for lunch as snacks, as well as unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. You'll also have access to their lounge chairs, umbrellas, and towels. 

Cruise line private islands

Half Moon Cay

Five cruise lines have private islands located in the Bahamas:

While the amenities vary, you're guaranteed a unique experience compared to your time ashore in Nassau or another Bahamian island. Plus, for those on a budget, you won't have to worry about extra expenses, as lounge chairs, as well as a complimentary lunch buffet, are included. 

Some islands, such as Royal Caribbean's CocoCay, offer more thrilling shore excursions, whereas others, like Carnival's Half Moon Cay, are more focused on the traditional beach experiences. Either way, you're sure to have a great time ashore while relaxing on a private island! 

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