Anyone can stick a tiki torch in the sand and pop an umbrella in a drink and call it a beach bar.
But what makes a beach bar truly special? What makes it one of the best in the world?
We’ve scoured the Americas to find the cream of the oceanside crop. These coastal playgrounds have it all – stunning sunsets, crashing surf, a celebrity clientele, and signature cocktails so strong you’ll forget you’ve seen any of it.
Cue up the Jimmy Buffett and let’s get started.
Rick’s Café | Negril, Jamaica
Rick’s Cafe was the first public bar and restaurant of its type on the West End Cliffs, founded back when Negril was a sleepy fishing village with few modern amenities. Now it’s a local – nay, international – institution. The sunsets here are legendary, second in fame only to the death-defying cliff divers who cross themselves before plunging spectacularly into the sea below. Signs warn patrons not to jump, but you wouldn’t be the first or last if you did.
Beach Tree Bar | Big Island, HI, USA
If the world were a fair place, every town would have a spot like this. Since it’s not, you’ll have to head to Hawaii’s Big Island to enjoy the tropical drinks and casual dining of Beach Tree Bar. You may be expecting something stuffy from a watering hole at a Four Seasons resort, but here a more carefree vibe prevails. Have your camera on hand to capture the sun as it sets behind the famed beach tree for which the bar is named.
Infiniti Bar | Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
The classic image of the beach bar is a colourful shack cobbled together from wind-weathered driftwood and palm fronds. It’s dilapidated, but charmingly so. Infiniti Bar is the exact opposite. Part of Grace Bay Club, Infiniti Bar claims to be the longest bar in the Caribbean, with 28 m of black marble that stretch all the way from the restaurant to (and seemingly into) the ocean. Infinity pools are a dime a dozen these days, but this? This is special.
La Buena Vida | Akumal, Mexico
Playa del Carmen and Cancun are renowned for their non-stop party scenes, but between them is this hidden gem, located in the small resort town of Akumal. La Buena Vida has a cheerfully whimsical vibe, from the sand floors, to the sea serpent bone chandelier, to the life-sized Day of the Dead skeletons seated at the bar. Oh, and did we mention the swings and the tree house? This is everything you could want for a day of laid-back beachfront fun.
Nikki Beach | Miami Beach, FL, USA
The USA’s ultimate destination for oceanside partying is, without a doubt, Miami’s notorious South Beach. Nikki Beach is the go-to spot for shameless excess of (almost) all kinds. An all-day lounge party while it’s light, and a DJ-led dance party when it’s dark, Nikki Beach is a lifestyle beach club concept that changed the entire beach bar game. Thanks to this flagship location’s success, champagne-chugging globetrotters can now find Nikki Beach clones all around the world.
Pelican Bar | Jakes Treasure Beach, Jamaica
Pelican Bar isn’t so much by the water as it is in the water. Yes, that scrap heap, on stilts, in the middle of a sandbar, is an actual drinking establishment. Lunch at Pelican Bar is caught and cooked to order, and the Red Stripe flows plentifully, but that’s if you can get here in the first place. A 20-minute trip in a local fisherman’s boat is the only option, unless you’re an exceptionally good long-distance swimmer.
Dune Preserve Beach Bar | Anguilla, British West Indies
When a grizzled reggae singer decides to build the bar of his dreams, this is the result. Dune Preserve Beach Bar was pieced together from an eclectic mix of driftwood, seashells, and wrecked racing boats. Don’t be fooled by its ramshackle appearance – Jimmy Buffett and Kevin Bacon have both performed here, and Bill Clinton has stopped by for drinks. The signature tipple is Duneshine, an unusual alcoholic concoction made from fermented ginger.
Ponta dos Ganchos | Governador Celso Ramos, Brazil
An exquisite, and exclusive, adventure awaits at Ponta dos Ganchos. The resort is located on a privately-owned peninsula, surrounded by the verdant vegetation of the Emerald Coast. Beyoncé and Paul McCartney are just two of the big names who have escaped to this little slice of Brazilian heaven. The gorgeous beach bar comes with the requisite daybeds, vistas, and signature cocktails.
Mamita’s | Playa del Carmen, Mexico
This is what seaside luxury is supposed to look like. Playa’s most beautiful people flock to Mamita’s for white sand, chic daybeds, dancing, DJs, and all the eye candy you could possibly want. Services include a full bar, a restaurant, a lounge/snack bar, massages, a boutique, and a beach volleyball court. Be sure to stop by for a party if you’re in town for the annual BPM Festival.
The Soggy Dollar Bar | Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
It may not look like much, but the Soggy Dollar Bar is hands-down one of the world’s best beachfront drinking establishments. For years the bar was only accessible to patrons willing to swim from their boats, hence its quirky “Soggy Dollar” name. You can now arrive by road, but the traditional method is still the way to go if you want the full experience. Order the Painkiller, a potent creation so wickedly delicious it’s become the Caribbean’s signature drink.