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With all due respect to mountain people, there’s simply nothing in this world like a beautiful beach. Whether your personal beach style is rustic and remote or well-equipped and lively, our curated list offers a peek into some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. On any of these beaches, you can find some of the world’s softest sand, clearest waters, or dramatic views that feel downright cinematic.
Saud Beach, Philippines
If you’re searching for Southeast Asian beach bliss, super-mellow Saud Beach on the island of Luzon is a sure thing. Its white sand pitches gradually into the clear-as-glass water, like a real-world example of a zero-entry swimming pool. Swim in the peaceful waves, lunch under a thatch-roof cabana under the palms, or hire an outrigger for excursions on the water.
Elafonissi Beach, Greece
Crete’s Elafonissi Beach’s immense popularity comes from its pretty pinkish sand, warm lagoon-like waters, and very wild feel. Elafonissi Beach is actually an island, separated from the mainland by the shallow water and sandbars that only disappear under about three feet of water at high tide. Facilities are limited to palapa-covered sun loungers and a handful of tavernas for fresh seafood. If Elafonissi is too packed, try Balos Lagoon in the north.
Nungwi Beach, Tanzania
Located in a buzzing fishing village of the same name on Zanzibar Island, Nungwi Beach is one of Tanzania’s most-hyped attractions. A big part of the appeal is Nungwi’s fantastic coral sand, which seems to emit a pale, otherworldly glow. Pristine, easy-swimming water, craggy rocks, and lovely sunsets set against the silhouettes of traditional dhow boats complete the picture. However, with hype comes commerce: The area has a heavy concentration of restaurants, beach vendors, bars, resorts, and outfitters for water sports and excursions. Deep-sea fishing, sunset cruises, and trips to the incredible Nakupenda Beach sandbank off of Stone Town are especially popular.
Hanalei Bay, Hawaii
Long before Hollywood put it on the tourist map (first with “South Pacific” in 1958, then “The Descendants” half a century later), Kauai’s Hanalei Bay attracted locals for its near-mystical beauty. Its beaches — Wai’oli, Hanalei Pavilion, and Black Pot — are framed by jade-colored mountains rising 4,000 feet high. The area is popular with surfers in the winter, when the waves pick up size and speed.
Perhaps the most famous beach in the world, glam Copacabana Beach has just about everything going for it: three miles of glorious golden sand, a party vibe, and a dazzling skyline of jagged mountains and Art Deco and modernist architecture. Even the beach boulevard, a Portuguese-inspired black-and-white mosaic design by landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, is a visual knockout. The beach acts as Rio de Janiero’s social hub (especially on weekends), with locals sunbathing, promenading, and playing volleyball, and vendors selling everything from popsicles and shrimp skewers to caipirinhas and ice-cold beer. Copa’s glory days may be behind it — Leblon and Ipanema are now the chicer “it spots” — but the vintage appeal is part of its charm.
Cape Le Grand National Park, Australia
On the remote southern coast of Western Australia, 39 miles from the nearest city of Esperance, Cape Le Grand National Park is home to several distinctly beautiful beaches and bays. The Coastal Trail winds through heath-covered bluffs, visiting Hellfire Bay’s granite boulders and clear blue waters and Lucky Bay, home to some of the world’s whitest sand. For a bird’s-eye view, hike the 1.5-mile, wildflower-strewn Frenchman Peak Trail.
Grayton Beach, Florida
There is no shortage of beautiful beaches in Florida, the peninsula-state that boasts 1,350 miles of coastline shared between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea. Since beaches in Florida can get quite busy, we recommend going off the beaten path and into the panhandle to Grayton Beach in South Walton, between Pensacola and Panama City. Boasting 400 acres of fine white sand and a unique lake within the sand dunes that’s perfect for kayakers, you can enjoy a less developed Florida beach and the adjacent town scores extra points for its quirky persona.
Sotavento Beach, Spain
While the Canary Islands’ Fuerteventura is wildly overdeveloped in parts, Sotavento is the antidote to the island’s brassy, built-up beach resorts. Its 17-mile span contains little but golden dunes, an immense sandy beach, and rolling teal waves. Reliable trade winds dimple the desert-meets-ocean landscape with vast tidepools and low-tide lagoons. The windy conditions plus year-round warm water make Sotavento heaven for swimming, surfing, kiteboarding, and Hobie Cat sailing.
Camps Bay Beach, South Africa
Truly beautiful beaches tend to be remote-island destinations far from urban buzz. A big exception is Camps Bay Beach, located right in vibrant Cape Town. With the iconic Table Mountain in the distance, the beach offers a huge expanse of feathery sand and beautiful blue water. The current can sometimes be strong here, so swimmers should take caution or stick to the tidal pool.
There’s plenty on tap in the Mother City beyond sun and surf: exploring the cobbled streets and colorful facades in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, hiking or riding the aerial cableway to the top of Cape Town’s famous flat-topped mountain, and braving Chapman’s Peak, the hair-raising ocean drive through rocky cliffs tumbling into the South Atlantic. Safaris, famous vineyards, whale-watching, and shark-diving all make easy day trips.
Anse Source D’Argent, Seychelles
The word “Seychelles” conjures the very image of a dreamy, far-flung paradise. Luckily, the Seychelles reality every bit measures up to the fantasy, with exquisite beaches, intensely green nature reserves, and majestic wildlife at every turn. Anse Source D’Argent exemplifies the unique Seychellois beach formula, defined by a translucent lagoon perfect for snorkeling and wavy granite boulders that seem tossed onto the shore by ancient giants.
Praia de Santa Monica, Cape Verde
Cape Verde’s Boa Vista is a must-visit island destination for beach lovers with an adventurous streak. Praia de Santa Monica serenely rolls along nearly 14 miles of the island’s southwest coast — an astonishing scene of billowing dunes, rocky cliffs, and wild ocean flashing deep blue and green. Though the current is often too strong for swimming, the beach is perfect for long, enchanting walks and whale-watching.
Platja de Ses Illetes, Spain
Set on a narrow wisp of land in northern Formentera, Platja de Ses Illetes’s gleaming gold shore is surrounded by turquoise shallows on both sides. Nature-preserve status keeps crowds in check, and visitors can walk along the headland for even more secluded beaches. A half-hour stroll north takes you to the tip of the island, with views of S’Espalmador across the channel.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
The waters of the Pacific Northwest may be too cold for swimming most days, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful. Just two hours from Portland, Oregon you’ll find undeniable beauty on Cannon Beach. The town here is charming, but it is the towering 235-foot high Haystack Rock and its surrounding needle-shaped rocks that give this beach its own skyline. One of the most photographed places in Oregon, it can get crowded here, but there’s a long stretch of scenery to enjoy in this area. After you visit Cannon Beach, you can set up your picnic at Hug Point or Ecola State Park.
Whitehaven Beach, Australia
In terms of must-visit sites in Australia, Whitehaven Beach is up there with Sydney Opera House and Noosa National Park. From above, the destination’s ever-shifting swirl of salt-white sand and brilliant blue water resemble a precious marbled jewel. Made of extremely fine, silica-rich quartz, the squeaky-soft sand is some of the smoothest and whitest in the world. To reach this paradise, you can fly into the Hamilton Island Airport and take a ferry to the Whitsunday Islands.
Le Morne, Mauritius
Go to just about any shore in Mauritius, and you’ll find a reef-protected beach with calm, clear water ideal for swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling. Le Morne is particularly noteworthy for its two-and-a-half miles of sugar-soft sand (beaches in Mauritius are often rough with broken-up coral) densely lined with palm and pine-like filao trees. The sheltered lagoon waters stretch to the horizon and the kitesurfing conditions are perhaps the best in the world. For dramatic effect, the nearby Le Morne Mountain looms large.
Radhanagar Beach, India
Of the 500-some islands floating in India’s Bay of Bengal, Swaraj Dweep’s spectacular beaches and diving makes it far and away the most sought-after. Despite the island’s well-deserved popularity, Radhanagar Beach feels every bit a remote escape. Save a handful of thatch-roof structures, development has been kept entirely at bay; instead of high-rise hotels or even water-sports kiosks, there’s nothing but thick tropical mahua trees and other endemic greenery rushing right up to the shoreline. At night, the blazing sunsets are intensified by their reflection in the ripply, receded tide.
Baia do Sancho, Brazil
About 220 miles off the coast of Brazil, Baia do Sancho is regularly deemed the world’s best beach. UNESCO designation and careful government protections keep it and the entire Fernando de Noronha archipelago pristine. Access to Baia do Sancho is only by boat or a series of slightly unnerving stone steps or steel ladders built into the cliffs. Those who go are rewarded with a sheltered beach with smooth, soft sand and abundant sea life — fish, dolphins, sharks, and rays can all be seen swimming in the turquoise bay.
Bai Dam Trau, Vietnam
Trying to select Vietnam’s most beautiful beach is tough, but Bai Dam Trau in the Con Dao islands is certainly a top contender. With distinct golden sand, soft swells, and shady groves of bamboo and evergreen trees, it’s the kind of place to spend the day gently swinging in a hammock with a beach read or walking in the surf with a freshly hacked coconut. The island’s nearby airport means commercial jets fly thrillingly close, bringing momentary excitement (or disruption, to some) to the otherwise idyllic spot.
Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands
Sand as soft as talcum powder; turquoise water as calm as a lake; water sports, beach bars, and luxury resorts: World-renowned Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman has it all. The beauty in a miles-long beach (albeit not quite seven miles — it’s closer to five and a half) is that everyone’s happy. Travelers looking for a social atmosphere and high-octane fun can find it in a snap, while those just wanting to plop under an umbrella with a good book have no shortage of quiet hideouts on the sand.
La Pelosa Beach, Italy
On the island of Sardinia, here’s a beach that’s beautiful and knows it. Between June and September, prospective beachgoers must pre-book and pay an entry fee online. There are also rules upon arrival, such as using beach mats under towels, no smoking, and wearing your wristband at all times. These rules prevent overcrowding so everyone can enjoy La Pelosa’s bone-white sands and shimmering clear shallows. An Aragonese stone watchtower on neighboring Asinara island completes the scene. Other must-see Sardinian beaches include Porto Giunco, Spiaggia La Cinta, Cala Mariolu, and Spiaggia di Cala Coticcio.
Matira Beach, French Polynesia
The islands of French Polynesia are associated with beachy, tropical splendor. Matira Beach gets an honorable mention for its size, cleanliness, and incredible beauty — picture fluffy white sand, calm turquoise water as far as the eye can see, and lush volcanic hills peaking in the distance. Matira is Bora Bora’s biggest public beach, yet its scene is mellow and subdued. Beachgoers are usually napping on towels, wading in the knee-deep water, or visiting the beach’s boutiques and cafes.
Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos’ Grace Bay Beach is consistently rated one of the top beaches in the world, and really, it’s no wonder why. This magnificent beach has the sublime combo of white sand and warm azure sea. Topping it off is Princess Alexandra Marine Park just offshore, where snorkelers can peer in on the underwater world populated by majestic rays, green and hawksbill turtles, and dazzling fish of all colors of the rainbow. This may be one of the most popular beaches in the world, but there’s plenty of room for everyone — between Grace Bay and neighboring Leeward and Bight beaches, visitors have seven continuous miles of beach to explore.
Scala dei Turchi, Italy
Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks) is the breathtaking confluence of water and time. Located on the west coast of Sicily, a blindingly white marlstone cliff marches toward the sea like a staircase, leading to an isolated beach below. The contrast of the snow-white stone cascading towards the blue-green Mediterranean is a photographer’s dream. Unfortunately, an influx of tourists have damaged the sensitive site, leading to more erosion, and in 2020 it was seized by Italian authorities and visitors are now prohibited from climbing the steps. However, you can still appreciate them from afar at a public viewpoint.
Railay West, Thailand
Soaring cliffs covered in dense jungle cut off the Railay peninsula from the southern Thailand mainland. The isolated location and boat-only access dial up Railay’s unique beauty. The curving beach is punctuated by towering creviced karsts — the limestone formations that have made Railay a world-class destination for rock-climbing — and the emerald lagoon is a paradise for kayaking and paddle boarding. Neighboring Phra Nang beach is pocked with caves, one of which hides a fertility shrine. Head to the other side of the isthmus (Railay East) for a happening bar scene.
Praia de Marinha, Portugal
Golden sand and striking limestone cliffs are calling cards for beaches in Portugal’s southern Algarve region. Picking the most beautiful is like splitting hairs, but special honors go to Praia de Marinha for its rustic, end-of-the-world appeal and lack of commercial build-up. Other quintessential Algarve must-visit beaches include Praia dos Três Irmãos, Praia de Benagil, Praia da Falésia, and the super-sheltered Carvalho Beach.