Travel

The 20 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World

Pink sands, kangaroos, lush mountains-they've got it all.

John Snelling/Stockbyte/Getty Images
John Snelling/Stockbyte/Getty Images
John Snelling/Stockbyte/Getty Images

There’s something tantalizing about the beach. The sounds of waves ease you into a steady rhythm; the sun-dappled sand makes each step feel like a luxurious mini foot scrub; the motion of the water stirs every cell in your body. It’s no wonder they’ve become the epitome of what it means to vacation.

But not all beaches are created equal. Whereas some are incessantly crowded, tarnished by debris, or just plain-old nothing to write home about, others are unaffectedly idyllic, unspoiled, and impossibly beautiful. The 20 international beaches on this list are absolute stunners, all worth ticking off your list whether or not beach holidays are your thing. From the wind-battered Mediterranean coasts to the small islands of the Caribbean, here are our top picks. Sail in and drop anchor.

Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock
Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock
Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

Anse Source d’Argent

La Digue, Seychelles
Located on a remote island that’s about as far away from the US as it’s possible to get, massive granite boulders make Anse Source d’Argent feel like a prehistoric piece of paradise, carving out cozy nooks where those seeking peace and quiet can hide away from any crowds. Its blissfully shallow waters are sublime for those who prefer to dip and float rather than swim. Explorers, on the other hand, will get a kick out of meeting the colorful marine denizens who live in the patches of coral reef that pepper the area. 

DiegoMariottini/Shutterstock
DiegoMariottini/Shutterstock
DiegoMariottini/Shutterstock

Nacpan Beach

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
When people speak of “tropical paradise,” El Nido might just come to mind-and more specifically, Nacpan Beach. Nestled in the north end of the archipelagic Palawan Province in the Philippines, this 2.5 mile-stretch of sand fringed with row upon row of coconut palms feels like heaven on Earth-especially if your idea of heaven comes with nipa picnic huts, unassuming seafood restaurants, and whitewater waves great for brushing up on your surfing skills. The sunsets are epic, too, and well worth the 45-minute scooter ride from the main town.

Denis Belitsky/Shutterstock
Denis Belitsky/Shutterstock
Denis Belitsky/Shutterstock

Blue Lagoon

Oludeniz, Turkey
Take a trip down to the resort town of Oludeniz, and you’ll soon forget about the otherworldly outcroppings of Cappadocia. Here, you’ll find the Blue Lagoon, where azure waters are trimmed with turquoise hues, and where the Aegean Sea kisses the Mediterranean. Part of a national marine sanctuary, the views here are nothing short of spectacular, whether you’re paragliding high in the air, going for a proper dive, or sunning on the beach. A quick jaunt to the nearby ghost town of Kayaköy should round out your trip nicely.

BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock
BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock
BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

The Baths

Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
The BVIs have many wildly beautiful beaches, but it’s the Baths in Virgin Gorda that really takes the cake. Its granite boulders are the sweet spot here, forming mini coves, hidden pools, and makeshift caves that are a magnet for the adventurous set. Here exploring the nooks, paths, and crannies is a favorite activity, as is snorkeling. And when you’re famished, the Top of the Baths restaurant serves up quite a view alongside your seafood dish.

Walter Bibikow/DigitalVision/Getty Images
Walter Bibikow/DigitalVision/Getty Images
Walter Bibikow/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Bondi Beach

Sydney, Australia
Bondi Beach isn’t exactly a hidden gem. However, this crescent-shaped beach in Sydney’s suburbs is a sine qua non of any Australian vacation and every best beaches list. Those emerald-blue waters are a venue for surf sessions while the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk is more than just a nice little retreat from the crowds as untamed panoramas abound. Set off to Ben Buckler Point for serene sunrise views or go for a couple of laps in that Instagram-famous pool at the Bondi Baths (for a fee, of course).

darioayala/Shutterstock
darioayala/Shutterstock
darioayala/Shutterstock

Isla Holbox

Quintana Roo, Mexico
As we’re sure you know, Cancun is fun and vibrant. Your DJ ex, bachelor party attendees, and sorority girls on spring break all think so, too. Instead, skip the resorts and head to Isla Holbox: a tiny, car-free Caribbean island just two hours north, where you’ll be able to enjoy peaceful beach bungalows (or luxury stays!), white sands, and calm, flamingo-filled waters-not to mention way fewer crowds. Eat seafood plucked from the ocean minutes ago, swim with whale sharks, and sip tropical cocktails alongside locals equally as keen to escape to a quieter slice of heaven.

Juergen_Wallstabe/Shutterstock
Juergen_Wallstabe/Shutterstock
Juergen_Wallstabe/Shutterstock

Camps Bay Beach

Cape Town, South Africa
Camps Bay Beach is to Cape Town as Bondi Beach is to Sydney-only grander, with iconic Tabletop Mountain and the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range towering behind it, elevating your beach experience twofold. Being so close to a major city, it gets pretty busy, but its large swath of sand offers a spot for everyone, making it the perfect venue for locals and tourists to rub elbows. Shoot the curl, hike the Pipe Track, or dive the Camps Bay Reef if you crave the more active endeavors.

mitchFOTO/Shutterstock
mitchFOTO/Shutterstock
mitchFOTO/Shutterstock

Castiglione di Ravello Beach

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Found on the Amalfi Coast, Ravello Beach is among the few super-touristy spots that you must absolutely tick off your list. Although it’s teeming with tourists, this umbrella-lined beach at the base of a cliff-and the gateway to the bohemian town of Ravello-is something that must be experienced (and photographed) by everyone. There’s much to do besides taking a dip or relaxing under one of the vibrant parasols; happiness lies in days spent slipping into the slow rhythms of the bougainvillea-trimmed gardens of Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo.

SteelPhotography/Shutterstock
SteelPhotography/Shutterstock
SteelPhotography/Shutterstock

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach, Oregon 
Whether it’s the occasional driftwood or the hazy salty air, Oregon’s Cannon Beach looks very Pacific Northwest: serene, misty, sweeping. It stands out from the crowd with its wave-and-wind battered rock outcroppings that jut out to sea, with Haystack Rock being all the rage amongst beach-goers and tufted puffins alike. Folks come not for a swim but for the coastal idyll, rolling up their pants for a nice, starfish-studded walk along the lapping waves. Perch yourself somewhere for the sunset and a bonfire or at the Pelican Brewing Company for a local pint.

Flickr/Matthew Straubmuller
Flickr/Matthew Straubmuller
Flickr/Matthew Straubmuller

Grace Bay Beach

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos 
If paradise to you means soft white sand and warm pristine waters, then Grace Bay is Valhalla. This glittering piece of tellurian heaven in the Caribbean has won awards for its three-mile long stretch of powdery sand and special brand of perfectly calm, aqua-colored water. It’s just the ticket for a relaxing beach vacation, despite the resorts and hotels (and sea oats) that fringe it. Rent a catamaran and go sailing, or swim out to the nearby barrier reef where spotting marine life is effortless.

Andrew Peacock/ Stone/Getty Images
Andrew Peacock/ Stone/Getty Images
Andrew Peacock/ Stone/Getty Images

Totaranui Beach

Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
If white sand just doesn’t do it for you anymore, Totaranui Beach might just be your brand of beach. With sand the color of the setting sun, it adds a different level of exoticism to your beach vacation, especially against the aquamarine of the Tasman Sea. It’s a bit of a remote outpost too, which makes it a sweet spot for those who have an aversion to crowds. The nearby campground is a venue for quiet slumber under the clear New Zealand night sky. Opportunities for kayaking, snorkeling, and sailing abound.

Everett Atlas/Shutterstock
Everett Atlas/Shutterstock
Everett Atlas/Shutterstock

Makena Beach

Maui, Hawaii
Hawaii has so many paradisal beaches that it’s hard and somewhat unfair to pick just one. But if we must, we have to go with Makena Beach, whose mile or so stretch of untamed sand is sandwiched between lapping waves of the Pacific and the verdant forest of the state park it sits in. While not exactly remote, it’s certainly a place to avoid the crowds. The tri-colored water is unbelievably inviting (if sometimes rough) and the nearby reefs are just as fecund, with massive sea turtles often making a special appearance.

Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock
Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock
Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock

Elafonissi Beach

Crete, Greece
Elafonissi Beach in Crete takes extraordinary to a whole new level, tantalizing beach-goers and social media addicts with its powdery soft pink sands, a result of the pink shells who have made the ultimate sacrifice to give us something to Instagram about. The sandbar and shallow waters are a perfect venue for relaxing and for family-friendly dips, and the local loggerhead sea turtles are a sight to see (from afar, naturally).

Nacho Such/Shutterstock
Nacho Such/Shutterstock
Nacho Such/Shutterstock

Baia do Sancho

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Brazil will not leave you wanting with its abundance of beaches. But while most of its popular shores are crowd-magnets, Baia do Sancho-once voted TripAdvisor’s best beach in the world-offers a bit of refuge. Part of why it keeps the crowds at bay is that it’s not exactly easy to get to; you’ll have to squeeze past boulders and brave vertical stairs to get there. But your efforts won’t be for naught: This beach rewards the valiant with a pristine, crescent-shaped beach and marine life-rich waters in different shades of azure and turquoise.

Photographer253/Shutterstock
Photographer253/Shutterstock
Photographer253/Shutterstock

Lengkuas Island

Belitung, Indonesia
Hire a boat out to Lengkuas Island just off the northwestern coast of Indonesia’s Belitung Island for a rarer beach experience. This tiny island has a ragbag of features-a lush mini forest on the western side, a nice sandy beach on the eastern front, granite boulders peppered all over, and a Dutch colonial lighthouse in the midst of it all. It’s the ultimate hideaway for a more unpretentious way of cosseting, and second to none as far as island-hopping adventures go.

Unsplash/Branislav Knappek
Unsplash/Branislav Knappek
Unsplash/Branislav Knappek

La Pelosa Beach

Sardinia, Italy
The best gifts often come in small packages, and La Pelosa is proof of that. This small stretch of sand on Sardinia’s northwestern tip is one of Italy’s most celebrated beaches-which is saying a lot, considering it’s Italy. At the same time, it’s also one of the most unassuming, with a relative lack of big business and the need to book your visit in advance keeping overtourism at bay. This is a prime spot for  watersports from paddleboarding to kitesurfing, and the nearby Aragonese Watchtower offers opportunities for seaside exploration-and, of course, excellent photos.

Windofchange64/Shutterstock
Windofchange64/Shutterstock
Windofchange64/Shutterstock

Maya Bay

Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Island doesn’t need a sales pitch, although the cult movie The Beach is often name-dropped to pique interest. Still, this beach’s emerald waters dotted with Thailand’s signature limestone karsts are more than enough to convince even those who aren’t partial to beaches. If you can forgive the crowds, it’s a vital addition to your island hopping tour. The area has been closed for two years to give it a bit of respite from over-tourism, but it’s anticipated to open back up sometime in 2021.

1 Media/Shutterstock
1 Media/Shutterstock
1 Media/Shutterstock

Sotavento Beach

Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
Take a breather from Costa Calma’s tourist-laden streets and head to Playa de Sotavento de Jandía. This 17-mile stretch of underdeveloped coast offers the perfect antidote for those turned off by the pretentiousness of Fuerteventura’s resort culture. And it does so with just a wide expanse of sandy beach, golden dunes, and low-tide lagoons. Away from the crowded waters, here is where you can partake in your favorite water sports in peace.

DaLiu/Shutterstock
DaLiu/Shutterstock
DaLiu/Shutterstock

Praia da Marinha

Lagoa, Portugal
Praia da Marinha might just be the most covetable beach in Algarve, its golden sea-battered cliffs and limestone outcroppings reminiscent of Australia’s Twelve Apostles, except somehow wilder and sexier. Swimming through its twin limestone arches is a challenge you might want to take on, although not-so-strong swimmers can always take a boat out, carve out their own sea trails, and drop anchor near the caves and grottos that pepper the area.

John Crux/Shutterstock
John Crux/Shutterstock
John Crux/Shutterstock

Cape Le Grand National Park

Western Australia
Cape Le Grand National Park is home to Australia’s superlative beaches-and although declaring all of the park prime sunning territory is technically cheating, there are too many goodies to name just one. Lucky Bay, for example, boasts some of the world’s whitest sands. Meanwhile, Twilight Beach is home to the most colorful golden hour. So, we’re lumping them all into one epic beach vacation, complete with chance encounters with kangaroos (it is Australia, after all). Take a hike through its heathland brimming with wildflowers, and check out the whistling rocks near Thistle Cove. One day isn’t enough to explore the park, but campgrounds are on hand if you book in advance.

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Michelle is Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and photographer with a bad case of wanderlust. Her dream, next to traveling the world, is to own her own funky, boutique hotel with a small animal sanctuary so she can spend the rest of her days chilling with cats and hedgehogs. Follow her on Instagram

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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