5 oh-so-secluded Caribbean beaches

Tiny and uninhabited, Joe Grant Cay lies amid the Turks and Caicos islands,

Quiet, secluded and often off the beaten path, these powdery treasures are for those island lovers for whom the beach is the thing. Ultra-romantic and blessed with natural good looks, these hidden Caribbean beaches are so serenely idyllic you can almost, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, hear the mermaids sing.

Slideshow: See all 9 secret shorelines

La Blanquilla, Venezuela
Day-tripping castaways can swim and snorkel the sparkling coves of the "white island," one of Venezuela's remote Federal Dependencies (offshore islands) in the western Caribbean. No one lives here but the Guardia Costera (Coast Guard), wild donkeys and the occasional fisherman, boater, or tour group on a desert-island sojourn. With alabaster beaches and tranquil seas, it's a favorite anchorage for cruisers. Divers can explore the undersea wall 65 feet offshore, encrusted with rare black coral. A good way to see La Blanquilla, 70 miles northwest of Margarita Island, is by chartered boat. Explore Yacht Tours (tel. 0212 6352166; ) is a Caracas, Venezuela-based company that charters crewed powerboats and sailboats.

Smuggler's Cove, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
It's a bumpy ride by four-wheel-drive or a leisurely stroll down a long dirt road to this quiet, secluded beach on Tortola's West End. But it's worth every bead of sweat once you reach this creamy crescent of sand. The sapphire seas at Smuggler's Cove are warm, clear and practically ripple-free. Sip a frozen drink at the only commercial enterprise in sight, the ramshackle Smuggler's Cove beach bar, where you can rent beach chairs and snorkel equipment to putter about the coral reef 100 feet offshore. Sit back and toast to the island of Jost van Dyke across the seas.

Gold Rock Beach, Grand Bahama Island, The Bahamas
Escape to Grand Bahama Island's secluded Lucayan National Park, where wooden walkways lead through a dense mangrove swamp to one of the Bahamas' most fetching beaches. At Gold Rock Beach, luminescent seas recede at low tide to reveal soft rippled sand. Wade in the pink-tinged shallows and spy stingrays gliding along the sandy bottom. Admission to the national park is $5, and the beach has no facilities to speak of (bring your own food and beach paraphernalia), but this hidden gem is worth the effort.

Joe Grant Cay, Turks & Caicos
Recently snatched from the jaws of a five-star resort development, Joe Grant Cay is a castaway fantasy come to life. A tiny uninhabited cay sandwiched between the islands of Middle Caicos and East Caicos, Joe Grant Cay has a sheltered harbor on its leeward side and a cinematic sweep of ivory sand on its windward side. You can take a day trip exploring the sparkling reefs off Joe Grant Cay with Amphibious Adventures and even circumnavigate the island in a small boat or kayak.

Coco Point, Barbuda
Fifteen miles long by five miles wide, Barbuda is home to just 1,200 inhabitants. This little gem of an island has some of the prettiest beaches in the Caribbean, including this pink-sand pearl on the island's southern coast. Yes, a small lodge fronts one stretch of beach, but the rest you may have all to yourself. Wade in the sparkling jade shallows or dig your toes in the ridiculously soft sand.

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