Anyone can stick up a shack on the sand, stock it with beers and call it a beach bar. But what makes a great beach bar? It could be the sand-in-your-toes factor, or the washing and hissing of the waves nearby, or the sunsets or the people you meet. But the truth is there’s no formula, no magic ingredients that will guarantee a place in a list of the world’s best beach bars—just a perfect confluence of feeling and atmosphere. We’ve included spots that range from the chic and the elite with smooth lines and mesmerizing cocktail waiters, to the haphazard, thrown-together shacks constructed from scavenged driftwood.The only thing these places have in common is that once you’ve been, you inevitably start planning to get back there—someday, somehow.
So, sit back and imagine you’re on a hammock laying under swaying palm trees, watching clouds float by, and sipping on a drink poured into a hollowed-out coconut while you peruse our list of the best beach bars in the Americas. Raise a glass with us—and to the steel drum music and reggae beat of island living—and check out these rum-soaked pieces of tropical paradise.
1. The Soggy Dollar (Jost Van Dyke, BVI)
Sometimes, the original is the best, and “The Dollar,” as it’s called by regulars, is the original home of the Caribbean’s signature drink, “The Painkiller,” as well as one of the best island bars in the British Virgin Islands—and, honestly, the world.
Located at the White Beach on Jost Van Dyke, The Soggy Dollar has recently become accessible by road, though most patrons still swim up from their anchorages. Thanks to their journey, the dollars are often wet, hence the term “Soggy Dollar.” In fact, there is a line where the bills are clipped up so that they can dry off. Hammocks are strung from the trees providing a tropical retreat where you can sip away the pain and sun yourself to your heart’s content, or partake in any number of bar games provided before swimming back to your boat.
2. Willie T’s (Norman Island, BVI)
There can hardly be a discussion about beach bars without referencing the amazing Willie T’s in the British Virgin Islands. Located in floating pirate ship anchored in Bight’s Cove off Norman Island, this hideaway is rumored to be near the fabled treasure trove of Long John Silver.
If the idea of drinking on a pirate ship in the Caribbean isn’t compelling enough, try some of their notoriously strong drinks, such as the “shotski” or their infamous “bodyshots”. As the day goes on at Willie T’s, the crowd gets rowdier and clothing becomes optional. Many pirates-in-training end up “walking the plank” or jumping off the stern, clad only in their birthday suits, much to the delight of their fellow onlookers below.
3. The Office (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico)
Settling in for a day at The Office in Cabo San Lucas is worlds away from your desk job. In addition to their classic margaritas and tequila-based cocktails (it is Mexico, after all), The Office has some of the best finger food around, especially their ever-popular breakfast served on tables twenty-five feet from the surf.
In fact, heading to The Office is all day—and night—event. Spend your day lounging around on their portion of Mendano Beach and then head up to a table for one of their bar specials during happy hour, and then dance the night away as things heat up when the sun goes down. This might be the one office gig where you don’t mind working late into the night.
4. Barefoot Beach Bar (Placencia, Belize)
Located on the best beach in the entire country of Belize in the middle of the quaint fishing village of Placencia, there lies a vaunted institution of the Caribbean bar scene: the Barefoot Beach Bar.
This small bar sits about seventy feet from the Caribbean sea and only steps from the village’s picturesque main street, which was dubbed “the worlds smallest main street” by Guinness Book of World Records. It’s essentially a long sidewalk that winds through the village hosting art galleries, t-shirt shops and a few other beach bars—but none can beat the reggae vibes or perfect location of Barefoot.
Barefoot not only sits on a great beach but offers thirsty tourists great bar food and cheap tropical drinks, as well. Their most popular beverages are Belikin Beer (Belize’s official brew) and One Barrel and Coke (Belizes’s official rum), but they offer all your tropical favorites. Don’t miss the reggae bands that play live on most weekend nights, when people from around the world gather under the palms to dance the night away, One Barrel in hand.
5. Nikki Beach (St. Barth’s)
Enjoy a taste of the good life at Nikki Beach in St. Barth’s, beach bar to the fabulous and famous. Nestled up to the beach of St. Jean, Nikki Beach is the place to be see and be seen on the island, yet it still manages to keep that chilled out Caribbean vibe that we know and love. White on white beds, drapery and an abundance of pillows complement the chic European-style beach oasis, and you can expect to be rubbing shoulders with the VIPs and celebrity clientele at this Instagram-worthy hotspot. Resident DJ Jacques Dumas spins a mix of music from around the world while models and tourists alike enjoy the music, the sun, the sand, and the amazing cocktails at this beach bar to the stars.
6. Rick’s Café
This lively bar on Jamaica’s western tip is a nonstop show—from locals performing aerial acrobatic dives from even higher cliffs, to tourists psyching up to take their own leaps from one of five rocky platforms descending from the bar’s clifftop aerie (ignoring red warning signs detailing the risks). Grab a local beer, because is there anything better on a hot Jamaican day than a cold bottle of Red Stripe? Rum drinkers go for Rick’s Famous Planter’s Punch, a sweet, classic blend of rum and fruit juices that is, as the bar menu reminds, “a way of life here, mon.” Consider bringing some extra cash for offering the local divers a tip. And don’t forget to watch for that glorious sunset. RicksCafeJamaica.com
7. Woody’s (St. John)
“Happy Hour is the reason I get up every afternoon” read the server’s shirts at Woody’s in St. John—and they aren’t kidding. Woody’s is the top destination for the five-to-seven crowd on this island.
Naturally, the small blue and white shack is always packed during those key hours, and accordingly, the food coming out of the kitchen is amazing. Conch fritters and seafood platters are all offered at a very reasonable price, coupled with dollar beers and discounted drink specials, making this this a must-stop-spot in St. John. Never fear, the festivities are not restricted to Happy Hour —you can find a party at Woody’s every night of the week.
8. Foxy’s (Jost Van Dyke, BVI)
Foxy’s is an institution on Jost Van Dyke. Hosting one of the world’s top New Years Eve parties, they are known for their hospitality, relaxed attitude, and general pursuit of a good time. Owner Foxy Callwood is a sixth generation Jost Van Dyke native, and he’s renowned for his original songs and jokes, along with his unique rum and microbrews made on the premises (insider tip: ask for a tour).
The bar hosts many regattas and is always jam packed with sailors and their friends looking for a great time, a rocking band and an icy cold drink in a setting that’s colorful and full of high spirits—both in the form of the bar’s libations and from the company!
9. Encanto (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
At the El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean goes glam at the groovy Encanto. Known for the unique traveling cart stocked with seven varieties of their signature mojitos wheeled around to patrons as they lounge poolside in luxurious canopied daybeds and pod chairs, guests at Encanto get to experience the Caribbean equivalent of table service at a hot night club—except for that this service is complementary and its offered around the clock.
At Encanto, there is also the option to rent a tiki hut cabana complete with wi-fi access, flat screen televisions, a full minibar and of course visits from the roaming drink cart. This isn’t exactly a “sand in the toes anything goes” kind of beach bar, but it is a fantastically posh oasis where you can definitely get away from it all.
10. Cow Wreck Beach Bar and Grill (Anegeda, BVI)
Nestled in the sand on the pristine undeveloped island of Anegeda, the Cow Wreck Beach Bar and Grill is a hidden gem of a destination for Caribbean travelers. In fact, the funky bar stands alone surrounded by nothing but unspoiled stretches of sand, palm trees, and crystal blue waters on both sides, making it feel like you’ve stumbled on a crazy party in the middle of a desert island.
In fact, that’s what really sets this bar apart—while the freshness of the delicious food, the strength of the drinks, and the low-key attitude of the guests and staff alike are reason enough to visit, the absolutely stunning location makes it an unforgettable beach bar.
And, by the freshness of the bar menu, we mean seriously fresh: the close proximity to the waters means that their lobster is kept live in underwater cages, and also a la carte are the local sharks that the barman catches every morning. The peaceful beach is great for a lazy day of snorkeling, eating and drinking—plus, you can hit the bar when the sun goes down.
11. Banana Beach (Santa Teresa, Costa Rica)
Banana Beach is a relatively new bar situated right on the beach in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Located just in front of the old Luz de Vida, this is a great place to unwind and enjoy the sunset from a day bed, lounge chair or even a hammock style swing, ice cold cocktail in hand.
Plus, you can rent a cabin and stay right on site – snorkel, swim, and surf during the day, enjoy amazing food and cocktails by night – it’s a little piece of Costa Rican paradise that you’ll never want to leave – Pura Vida.
12. Da Conch Shack and Rumbar (Turks & Caicos)
Da Conch Shack is perhaps the most popular beach bar on Turks & Caicos – and that’s definitely saying something, considering the many popular spots for castaways to wash up on these island shores.
Known for the “Conchknocker”, their signature drink that features plenty of rum, this vibrantly hued ramshackle beach shack is justifiably famous for their fresh conch and seafood dishes, all broiled, spiced, cracked, and fried to perfection. All best enjoyed with your toes in the sand or hanging off the wooden deck on the water’s edge, of course!
There are also live reggae DJs on Sunday afternoons, theme music nights, and even some friendly stray dogs at this beach bar that keeps a neighborhood vibe even though it has achieved international attention.
By Jackie Bryant