Winter is almost halfway in the Northern Hemisphere, and the freezing temperatures and grey skies make most of us longing for a hideaway on a magnificent beach. But is it possible to rank the world’s best beaches? Of course not, as preferences will differ from traveler to traveler, based on amenities, accessibility, swimming & water sports options, safety, sense of place, relaxation, and scenery.
Nevertheless, being well-traveled and having put my feet in the sand of numerous beaches around the globe, I hereby present you my list of the 10 most spectacular beaches in the world. From coral to sandy and long to enclosed, it should come as no surprise that most of these beaches are located in the world’s best beach destinations.
Unfortunately, these beaches are no secret (anymore) and you will have to share their incredible beauty with many other travelers. If tranquility is a must, you may consider swapping the beaches listed below for one of the world’s most beautiful (semi-)private hotel beaches or opt for a stay at one of the world’s most exclusive private island resorts.
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10. TULUM, RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO
What sets Tulum apart is its proximity to some of the most stunning Mayan ruins in all of Mexico: it is here that one of the world’s best cultural destinations meets one of the world’s best beaches. Tulum’s ruin is an ancient walled city sitting on a rocky cliff that overlooks a spectacular beach. With hordes of tourists visiting every day, the area is not exactly private, but the broad stretch of white sand and mesmerizing turquoise Caribbean waters more than makeup for it.
9. NAVAGIO BEACH, ZAKYNTHOS, GREECE
Navagio beach is an isolated yet strikingly beautiful sandy cove on the Greek island of Zakynthos. It is often referred to as the Shipwreck Beach because it is home to the wreck of a ship called Panagiotis that is believed to have been a smugglers ship. The area is defined by its sheer limestone cliffs, white sand beaches, and clear blue water, which attract thousands of tourists yearly. The strip of beach is accessed only by boat, but you can see it from above if you stand on the high side of the surrounding cliffs.
8. GRACE BAY, TURKS & CAICOS
The Turks and Caicos comprise 40 islands and cays, of which Providenciales is the main tourist centre. It’s here, on the northern shore, that you’ll find Grace Bay, a 19km (12 miles) paradise-perfect mix of sugary sand and transparent water, fringed by a coral reef system with fabulous snorkeling and diving. Unfortunately, an increasing number of resorts and condo hotels have sprung up along the shore in recent years, so you may be better off these days on the more private hotel beaches of Amanyara or Parrot Cay.
7. WHITEHAVEN BEACH, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA
Whitehaven Beach is protected by the Whitsunday Islands National Park, and is located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Australia’s most famous beach stretches for 4,4 miles (7 km) and is washed by swirls of turquoise, blue and green water. The sand is 98% pure white silica, which gives it a brilliant, near luminescent color. You can reach the beach via a helicopter or seaplane, or you can sail to Whitehaven Beach with one of the many yacht excursions in the area.
6. BAIA DO SANCHO, FERNANDO DE NORONHO, BRAZIL
Baio Do Sancho is situated on the remote island of Fernando de Noronha, an active volcanic archipelago of 21 islands in the Atlantic Ocean, located approximately 220 miles (350 km) off the coast of northeastern Brazil bay. Sparkling emerald water and soft white sands are surrounded by vegetation-covered 250 ft (75 m) cliffs. The beach can only be reached by boat or by foot on a dirt trail through a crack in a rock wall with a few dozen uneven, slippery-sandy steps. The beach is perfect for snorkeling and spotting rays.
5. LONG BEACH, VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA
It are not only tropical beaches whose breathtaking beauty can make one speechless. The best example is Long Beach, the longest sandy beach on Canada’s Vancouver Island, that offers eye-popping scenic views and an unmatched maritime wilderness. Located within the boundaries of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve between Tofino and Ucluelet, its 10 miles (16 km) of pristine sand are backed by lush rainforests and washed by a cool pounding surf. Twenty-thousand grey whales migrate up this coast each spring and summer.
4. MAYA BAY, KOH PHI PHI, THAILAND
Maya Bay is a stunningly beautiful, sheltered bay on Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi. With a ring of white sand surrounded by mangroves and towering limestone walls blanketed by dense foliage, it’s easy to see why director Danny Boyle chose this beach for cult-favorite The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The main beach within the bay is around 200 m (650 ft) long and features silky soft white sand, with underwater colorful coral and exotic fish in exceptionally clear water.
3. CAMPS BAY, CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Cape Town tops my list of the world’s most beautiful cities, not least because of the magnificent beaches on its doorstep. Camps Bay is not only Cape Town’s most popular beach, but also the only urban beach to make it into this top 10 list. Boasting blinding white sand set against the majestic backdrop of the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range and Table Mountain, Camps Bay’s water is a bit cold, due to the currents in the Atlantic Ocean, but that will not distract you from the amazing surrounding scenery and world-famous sunsets.
2. POLIHALE BEACH, HAWAII, USA
Polihale is hands-down the Hawaiian archipelago’s most breathtakingly beautiful beach. This seemingly deserted 11 km (7 mi) stretch on the western end of Kauai, one of the world’s most scenic islands, is several miles from the nearest town and holds a vibe of enchantment and mystique, still alive on Hawaii today. The beach can only be reached via a poorly marked, dirt sugarcane road, making a four-wheel drive vehicle preferable (check with your rental car company for restrictions before heading out).
1. ANSE SOURCE D’ARGENT, SEYCHELLES
One of the most photographed beaches in the world, the blinding white sands of Anse Source d’Argent unfurl across La Digue, one of the 115 island that make us this paradisiacal archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The beach sparkles against a backdrop of enormous granite boulders, worn by time and weather. An offshore reef provides protection from ocean waves, making the turquoise water an ideal spot for swimming. Keep an eye out for endangered birds and giant tortoises!