Pure shores

Craving surf, sand and sun? The Caribbean has it covered. However consisting as it does of over 7,000 islands and islets, attempting to pick the best beach can present something of a challenge. Fortunately I’ve done the leg work for you and selected 10 top spots; those who get trapped in front of their computers at home only have themselves to blame Dickenson Bay, Antigua The murder of the Mullanys – a young British couple shot dead in their hotel room on their honeymoon – showed that paradise does have a ‘dark side.’ But the Antigua authorities reacted quickly, stepping up security, and one year on there’s absolutely no reason not to visit.

The island is blessed with an abundance of bounty advert beaches but most of the action is to be found at Dickenson Bay where you can swim, snorkel, sail, fish and dive – or simply soak up the sun. Beyond the beach, cricket fans will want to try and take in a Test match at the St Vivian Richards Stadium – the Caribbean is crazy about cricket and Antigua especially so. Perfect for: cricket lovers

Eleuthera, Bahamas The basic ingredients – lapis lazuli waters and powder fine sands – are here in spades making Eleuthera the perfect place to slumber in the sun. If, however, lounging doesn’t satisfy, there are other options. Wreck divers can explore the Devil’s Backbone – a superb dive site off Harbour Island – while the kite surfers amongst you can skip across the waves of the eastern shores. Perfect for: beach bums

West Coast, Barbados Barbados’ most famous export (after rum), Rhianna, hangs out here when she’s not collecting a Grammy, while Simon Cowell, Mick Jagger, Tiger Woods, oh and Michael Winner also frequently flock to the West Coast – or the ‘Platinum coast’ as locals like to call it – to laze on beaches of icing sugar sand and swim in crystal clear azure waters. On the West Coast, the toughest decision you’ll make every day is where to eat. Perfect for: celeb spotting

Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda Bermudians are at pains to point out that their island isn’t actually in the Caribbean. Still their beaches are of a Caribbean quality – none more so than Horseshoe Bay whose pinks sands are, as the name suggests, shaped like a horseshoe.

Horseshoe Bay has a lifeguard on duty from May- September (Bermudians won’t venture into the sea before Bermuda Day on May 24), a cafe and changing facilities – making it fab for families. Other attractions for ankle biters include an annual sand castle competition. Perfect for: families

Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands You could visit Grand Cayman and never leave stunning Seven Mile Beach (SMB), so seductive is its stretch of unbroken white sand. Popular with beachgoers of all ages, it’s also a great place to people watch; expect to see couples strolling hand in hand and 50 something women, their flesh spilling over their bikinis, power strut past hard core surfer dudes. Of course no visit to Cayman is complete without seeing some stingrays: at Stingray City, the island’s most famous residents sweep across white sand flats in the shallows. Perfect for: foodies; Cayman has an exception eating out scene

Varadero, Cuba Boasting 21km – that’s 13 miles – of beautiful, white, soft, sandy beaches shaded by palms, it’s little wonder that Varadero is Cuba’s most popular beach. Can’t bear lying on a beach all day? The sea, with its unsurpassable shades of blue, is too enticing to pass up and chances are you’ll spend longer in the water than a dolphin. When night falls, learn to salsa up a storm at one of Varadero’s numerous all inclusive resorts. Note: this is not the place for those who object to having to wear a coloured bracelet to breakfast. Perfect for: beachgoers of all ages

Las Galeras, Dominican Republic Found at the furthest point of the Samana Peninsula, Las Galeras is often overlooked owing to its ‘off the beaten track’ location. But don’t be deterred; the area boasts some of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic making it well worth any extra effort involved.

Playa Rincon is particularly captivating, managing to stun even the most jaded of traveller. You can rent beach chairs, refuel in one of the restaurants and then work off the calories by saddling up and going on a horse ride, snorkelling or diving. Perfect for: privacy – mass tourism and overdevelopment have yet to hit.

Rum Point, Grand Cayman We’re not going to mince words. Rum Point – at the top of North Side – can’t compete with Cayman’s iconic Seven Mile Beach. Nonetheless it’s still a not to be missed morning; locals drive from all over the island for a snorkel session and to swing in hammocks at the week-end. At the Wreck Bar, you can enjoy a lazy lunch washed down by a famous Cayman mudslide or stay on and watch the sun set at next door Rum Point restaurant. Perfect for: relaxing

Keyhole Pinnacles, St Lucia If you’ve never snorkelled or dived on a Caribbean coral reef, you’re missing out and when it comes to places to take the plunge, the Keyhole Pinnacles – voted one of the ‘10 Best Dive Sites’ by Travel & Life are up there with the best of them. The four underwater sea mountains that rise dramatically from the depths to within a few feet from the surface are coated in colourful corals. Why not dive right in and see for yourself? Perfect for: budding Jacques Cousteaus

Long Bay, Jamaica Want to hit the beach and bars? Then Long Bay (a gorgeous 11km long stretch of sand also known as Seven Mile Beach) is the name you need to know.

The sun splashed shores are a powerful lure for most during the day – including the hawkers and hustlers who patrol the beach selling their wares. Nights meanwhile, are for enjoying the tropical party lifestyle; as the sun sets, reggae (well you are in Bob Marley country) and rum, rule. Perfect for: making merry