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Shipwreck Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 17 best beaches in the world

Check out these dreamy, bucket-list beaches from all around the world

Written by
Ellen Himelfarb
Sarah Medina

What makes a golden stretch one of the best beaches in the world? Pristine sand and clean water, for starters. The rest depends on your fondness for wildlife, water sports, creature comforts and G-strings, or your threshold for doing absolutely nothing at all. Ours is not an exhaustive list, but we think it has something for every kind of bum – from a textbook tropical paradise in the Seychelles to a surprisingly empty strip of sand in France. So start checking for flights (check travel restrictons first, of course), then, get ready to feel the best sand in the world between your toes this summer.

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Best beaches in the world

Shipwreck Beach | Zakynthos, Greece
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Shipwreck Beach | Zakynthos, Greece

Known as Zante to those in party scene, the Greek island of Zakynthos draws crowds every year to its notorious Laganas strip. But you'd be remiss not to wander off the strip and onto some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, including Shipwreck Beach. Only accessible via boat, Shipwreck boats white cliffs, turquoise waters and Zakynthos Marine Park – home to slippery seals and savvy turtles. 

Discover the best things to do in Greece

Hanalei Bay | Kauai, Hawaii
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Hanalei Bay | Kauai, Hawaii

One of Hawaii's lesser-visited islands, Kauai is home to stunning beaches. Located on the island's north shore, Hanalei Bay is the largest bay in Kauai and offers more than two miles of soft white sand, a calm bay, and a mountainous backdrop. The beach is rarely crowded, and in the summer, the bay offers excellent mooring for sailboats, stand up paddle boarding and swimming.

Discover the best things to do in Kauai

Hyams Beach | New South Wales, Australia
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3. Hyams Beach | New South Wales, Australia

Three hours south of Sydney, the pine forest parts to reveal the quintessential Australian white-sand beach. Snorkelers won’t be pummelled by waves as they paddle up to the Hyams Point looking for stingrays. But they may feel the ripple from a pod of romping dolphins. Pack a picnic and take the shady, half-hour White Sands Walk to the picnic tables at Greenfield Gully.

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Anse Source d’Argent | La Digue, Seychelles
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4. Anse Source d’Argent | La Digue, Seychelles

If La Digue, The Seychelles’ smallest inhabited island, had a penny for every screensaver of Anse Source d’Argent… The prototypical bucket-list beach is the ultimate point of Seychelles travel, with private niches among the boulders and the clearest water on earth. From here, you can hike over the hills (and through shallow surf) to Anse Marron, where handy buoy-like boulders embrace the cove, creating a pool.

North Bay Beach | Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
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5. North Bay Beach | Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales (Provo for short) is one of those incredible Caribbean beaches that gets plastered on billboards and screensavers alike (and even gets named the best in the world, depending on the year). You'll find crystal-clear water, powdery sand and a colorful coral reef just begging to be explored. Paddle boarding, windsurfing, kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, and water skiing are all popular pasttimes, but we recommend just relaxing on a towel and soaking in the sun. 

Cala Llombards | Majorca, Spain
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6. Cala Llombards | Majorca, Spain

Majorca’s ragged coast is a gift to cliff-jumpers, and this skinny southern cove has a rocky plateau at every height. If the secret is out, it hasn’t been translated from Spanish. It’s mostly only locals here, having a blast; whether they’re doing the leaping or simply watching from the beach. With all the golden sand, golden stone and golden skin, every #nofilter photo looks awash in sepia.

Discover the best things to do in Majorca

El Matador State Beach | Malibu, California
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. El Matador State Beach | Malibu, California

Small and dominated by rocky outcrops, El Matador my not fit your typical idea of a beach day in Los Angeles—but it’s far and away SoCal’s most beautiful beach. Wear shoes and don’t bring too much gear; the western Malibu spot is only accessible via a steep gravelly path. And should you arrive early or late, you'll be rewarded with a memorable dawn or sunset.

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Llandudno Beach | Cape Town, South Africa
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8. Llandudno Beach | Cape Town, South Africa

If you can’t find a decent beach in the fantasy landscape of the Western Cape, shame on you. But you’d be forgiven for missing Llandudno. Scooped out of the Twelve Apostles mountain range, the dollop of sand slips surreptitiously between two nature reserves south of Cape Town. When the sunset chasers arrive, pack your tote and follow the scrubby footpath 30-minutes south to even more secluded Sandy Bay.

Discover the best things to do in Cape Town

Marimegmeg Beach | Palawan, Philippines
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9. Marimegmeg Beach | Palawan, Philippines

What’s there to do at this pristine beach? Dive and, er, dive. It is the Philippines, after all. And more than 100 species of fish flicker about sunset-coloured coral – along with swaying nudibranch and the odd lumbering dugong (native molluscs and mammals, to the uninitiated). Hook up with one of the 20 diving outfits stationed along the El Nido coast for your daily fix. 

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Ipanema | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Photograph: Shutterstock/Andre Luiz Moreira

10. Ipanema | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Cariocas are hardcore, and they’re what make this golden coastline such a trip. They divide the beach into territories: jocks here, surfers there, hippies, gays and exhibitionists in between. Choose your tribe. Just keep in mind the limited amenities. If you can’t take the heat without a shower and cold drink, book a hotel behind the Portuguese-tiled boardwalk.

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Railay Beach | Krabi, Thailand
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Railay Beach | Krabi, Thailand

A few spa-hotels have tucked themselves among the palm forests of Krabi, but they haven't spoiled the charm of Railay Beach – flashier crowds prefer Phuket anyway. The stalagtite-dripping limestone cliffs that bookend Railay’s wisp of a beach make it inaccessible by road, and the shallow bay precludes anything larger than a longtail boat from coming in. Hire one from nearby Ao Nang for next to nothing, then get thee to a hammock.

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Siesta Beach | Siesta Key, Florida
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12. Siesta Beach | Siesta Key, Florida

As its name implies, Siesta Key is the place to relax. The expansive beachfront rarely feels overcrowded and the fine quartz-crystal white sand stays cool to the touch, so be sure to dig your feet in whilst reading your favorite magazine. Pack your cooler with your adult beverages—no glasses allowed— and should you feel the need to exert yourself, kayaks and paddleboards are available for rental.

Discover the best things to do in Florida 

Weligama Beach | Weligama, Sri Lanka
Photograph: Shutterstock/Claudia Norberg-Schulz

13. Weligama Beach | Weligama, Sri Lanka

Make your trip to Sri Lanka count at this under-visited splash of brown-sugar sand 20 miles from Galle. Swimming is safe here – calmer and shallower than other south coast beaches. Or curl up in a hanging chair under a narra bough until noon, when the fish shack fires up its barbecue to serve mackerel and prawns that arrived on longboats at dawn.

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Essaouira Beach | Essaouira, Morocco
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14. Essaouira Beach | Essaouira, Morocco

Marrakech’s sister-city has a sun-bleached Moorish marketplace and a 500-year-old fort but the two-mile beach eclipses them both. Pick up a fresh orange juice at one of the painted wood kiosks by the old ramparts, then pay for a lounger and umbrella. The cool factor climbs in late afternoon, thanks to the Alizé winds – and the shirtless students from the university who come to play football by Bar Miramar.

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Long Beach | Vancouver Island, Canada
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15. Long Beach | Vancouver Island, Canada

For the record, it’s 10 wind-swept miles. But size doesn’t matter here on the edge of Canada, where you’ve already got more wild, whale-inhabited, pine-studded coastline than you’ll know what to do with. It’s a five-hour trek over land and sea from Vancouver city, so take full advantage with a rainforest hike along Combers Beach Trailhead before pitching your tent at Green Point.

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Plage Sainte-Barbe | Brittany, France
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16. Plage Sainte-Barbe | Brittany, France

Did somebody yell ‘fire’? Because this caramel stretch of Breton beach shouldn’t be this deserted. Well, what the people clogging the motorway toward Quiberon don’t know won’t hurt them. More space for you to practise your surfing skills on the cranking waves, then flake out against the dunes until the spectacular sunset. Just make sure you pack your own gear, water and a snack – there are no amenities for a mile.

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Metsitsim Beach | Tel Aviv, Israel
Photograph: Shutterstock/goga18128

17. Metsitsim Beach | Tel Aviv, Israel

Past Tel Aviv’s famous party beaches and the gender-segregated areas, you’ll find a clean, clubby strand delightfully short on beefcake and boobs – and that’s despite a busy beach-volleyball court. Day-drinkers rejoice at obliging staff bringing frothy cocktails to shaded loungers. Neat freaks delight at the brand-new shower complex. After your rinse, follow the boardwalk to the farmer’s market by the port.

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