Playa Flamenco, Isla Culebra, Puerto Rico
Hailed by many as the world’s best beach for its brilliant white sand and crescent shape, Playa Flamenco is located on Culebra Island, just east of Puerto Rico proper.
And as a commonwealth, not only can you get to Flamenco Beach sans passport, it’s fine to arrive empty-handed altogether. Beachside kiosks rent the essentials for the perfect beach day, no matter if it entails snorkeling, sunbathing, camping, or lounging with a piña colada in hand.
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Playa de Pajaros and Playa Sardinera, Isla de la Mona, Puerto Rico
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has more than 140 land masses surrounding it, though only Puerto Rico itself, Vieques, and Culebra are inhabited. There are no permanent residences or tourism infrastructure on Mona Island and its two most picturesque beaches, Playa de Pajaros and Playa Sardinera, but visitors (and camping) are welcome—though they’re limited to 100 at time. Playa Uveros, Playa Mujeres, and Playa Brava, on the southern side of the seven mile-wide island, are also must-visits. Cave explorations yield petroglyph secrets from Mona Islands’ pre-Columbian Taino residents.
Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Known the world over as one of the beaches that should be on your bucket list, St. John’s Trunk Bay isn’t only postcard-perfect but also a trailblazer—it’s near one of the first snorkeling trails in the Caribbean. The 225-yard snorkel trail leads you through one dive site to the next, identifying sea life throughout the swim.
The island of St. John has no airport, so getting to its scenic beaches requires taking a ferry from its larger sister island, St. Thomas. While this extra effort may be an inconvenience, it’s also a blessing for anyone who prefers a more peaceful island life.
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Magens Bay Beach, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Often called one of the most beautiful beaches on Earth, Magens Bay is surrounded by lush mountains that meet the sand and its multi-hued blue waters. This St. Thomas beach—a family favorite for its lifeguards and affordability from the East Coast—runs a mile long between two land masses, which keep mondo waves at bay.
Turtle Beach, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Part of the Buck Island Reef National Monument, the silky white shores of Turtle Beach make for perfect sunning. But it’s what’s underneath the water that’s the true draw: The snorkeling off the shores of Turtle Beach is considered some of the best in the Caribbean. Buck Island is an islet off St. Croix, so you’ll have to kayak or charter a boat to get to the uninhabited Buck Island.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 5 Exotic Places You Can Go Without a U.S. Passport
- 10 Romantic Islands You’ll Fall in Love With
- 10 Hidden Islands You’ve Never Heard Of
Read the original story: by Patricia Magaña, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.