Soggy Dollar Bar’s signature “Painkiller ” cocktail is made with dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice and topped with fresh nutmeg. // © 2017 British Virgin Islands Tourist Board
Feature image (above): Many Caribbean beach bars, such as Soggy Dollar Bar in the British Virgin Islands, feature tables in the sand and ocean views. // © 2017 British Virgin Islands Tourist Board
It’s a thankless task, making a list of best beach bars in the Caribbean. I can hear them now — Caribbean-savvy travelers complaining, “How could you leave off my favorite bar? What kind of list is this?” Consider this a roundup of six of the best bars, while fully acknowledging that this could be a list of the 50 best Caribbean beach bars and still have room for more.
What makes a great beach bar? Tables in the sand are always welcome. A view of the sunset doesn’t hurt. Friendly staff is a must, with island music on the sound system. A signature cocktail is nice, but a simple rum punch or local beer makes a superlative fallback position. Here are a few of my top picks; don’t be shy about adding your favorites to the comments section.
Da Conch Shack, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Chances are your clients don’t eat a lot of conch at home. They can change this in a big way by dropping into the super-informal Da Conch Shack at Blue Hills Beach on Providenciales. Advise them to bring an appetite and a curious nature when it comes to rum, since Da Conch Shack is famous for its varieties. Guests can grab one of the white picnic tables and watch fishermen haul fresh conch from the sea, which the cook transforms into conch fritters, conch salad or conch chowder. There are other items on the menu — even jerk chicken — but it’s conch that puts this bar on the map. The atmosphere is laid back, with reggae music playing and the sea only steps away.
The Dune Preserve, Anguilla
Anguilla’s The Dune Preserve is one of the hippest beach bars in the Caribbean, with operations overseen by reggae musician Bankie Banx , often referred to as Anguilla’s “minister of cool.” The ricky-ticky beach bar is set on Rendezvous Bay. In addition to pouring drinks, the venue serves up barbecue ribs and chicken, as well as seafood. For the ultimate experience, drop by on one of the evenings when there’s live music, especially if Bankie Banx himself is performing (usually Wednesdays). The musical evenings have a countercultural vibe, running the gamut from conscious music to spoken word.
Floyd’s Pelican Bar, Jamaica
More accurately, Floyd’s Pelican Bar is an off-the-beach bar, as it’s a quarter mile from the beach and can only be reached by boat. From the shore, Floyd’s looks like the nest of some awesome seabird , a jumble of sticks and planks. As you draw closer, the bird’s nest turns into a rustic flotsam and jetsam watering hole on stilts. Located on the less-visited south coast of Jamaica, Floyd’s gets props for being off the beaten path. Chances are Floyd Forbes himself will be holding down the fort, serving up fresh fried fish and ice-cold Red Stripe beer. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience and highly recommended.
Reggae Beach Bar & Grill, St. Kitts
At this family-friendly beach bar on St. Kitts’ Cockleshell Bay , the food is as good as the drinks. And if a beach bar can be considered a place for wholesome fun, Reggae Beach Bar & Grill fits the bill. Enjoy the music and friendly service, grab a chair on the beach, and sip one of the signature mango margaritas. Sometimes the bar hosts live music; a steel band often plays on Sundays.
Soggy Dollar Bar, British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands is famous for its full-moon parties and variety of beach bars. The most famous is Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke. If you happen to wash up onshore, snag a seat at the beachside bar or in one of the hammocks and order Soggy Dollar’s signature cocktail, the world-famous “Painkiller.” The cocktail is composed of dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice and topped with a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg.
Sunset Beach Bar, St. Maarten
St. Maarten’s Sunset Beach Bar may have a more sophisticated veneer than the typical Caribbean beach bar, but it has something unique that creates an unforgettable experience. It’s positioned right on the beach at the end of the runway of the island’s international airport, where huge jets come in for a landing, swooping so low your clients will swear their hair is being ruffled. In addition to the airborne thrills, there’s a pool, crab races and live entertainment. The drink menu is extensive; one surprising item is sangria.