Forgive us if we can’t help thinking about the most beautiful beaches in the world!
Beaches where we can squish our toes in the soft sand and breathe in the salty sea air…
In summer, we love swimming at the best beaches in Victoria, BC, where we live.
But come winter, when the rain pours down outside, our thoughts turn to swimming on Kauai’s beaches. Or lolling about on a dreamy beach in some other tropical destination.
Yes, we start daydreaming about a beach with powdery white sand.
Warm silky water rolling up ever so gently into the sweet curve of a bay. Palm trees for shade…
Perhaps you too are daydreaming of a beach you’d love to escape to right now?
Well, let’s daydream together!
Most beautiful beaches in the world
As keen beach lovers, we’ve checked out many of the world’s prettiest beaches.
The following 35+ beaches rank among the best.
1) Lover’s Beach, Cabo San Lucas (Mexico)
Isn’t the name of this beach romantic?
Lover’s Beach is the perfect name.
Behind it (on the other side of the famous “Arch”) is Divorce Beach – where the undertow is so dangerous that people have died swimming there on the Pacific Ocean side. (Maybe it should be called Widow’s Beach?)
Anyway, Lover’s Beach (Playa del Amor) is one of the best beaches in Cabo San Lucas.
You can only reach Lover’s Beach by boat.
For about $10 USD p.p. (return), you can hail one of the many water taxis cruising the Cabo San Lucas Bay to take you to Lover’s Beach. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Cabo. Just tell the boat driver when you want to be picked up to go back.
Normally, there’s no beach around the rock “Arch” formation you see here in the photo below.
But one year, a strange phenomenon occurred where sand built up around the Arch.
We could walk from Lover’s Beach to Divorce Beach, then scurry through the Arch and back around the rocks to Lover’s Beach.
Experience more of Cabo: See our ultimate Los Cabos travel guide!
2) Siesta Key Beach, Florida
With quartz-crystal sand, Siesta Key Beach is one of the top white sand beaches in the world. It’s been named the #1 beach in the U.S. several times in recent years (it was #1 on TripAdvisor’s 2020 list of top 25 beaches in the country).
Incredibly wide, the family-friendly beach invites picnicking, building sand castles, playing volleyball and feeding the sea gulls.
And the shallow waters make it a great spot for kids to safely swim under the watchful eyes of lifeguards stationed on the beach.
3) Shell Beach, St. Barts
Many of the world’s beautiful beaches have soft white sand. Not so with Shell Beach.
Just a 5-minute walk from Gustavia (the main harbor town) on the chichi Caribbean island of St. Barts, Shell Beach is littered with zillions of tiny shells. They’re so small though that you can walk on the beach barefoot without hurting your tootsies.
It’s one of the most unique beaches we’ve chilled out on!
Oh, and if you want a glass of champagne or a fine lunch (and maybe snag a beach chair too), the Shellona Beach Club offers picture-perfect views of the Caribbean Sea.
4) Zlatni Rat Beach, Croatia
Nicknamed the “Golden Horn,” Zlatni Rat is a spit of land on the Croatian island of Brac, jutting out into the Adriatic Sea.
The golden pebble beaches on either side of the spit are no stranger to “most beautiful beaches in Europe” awards, making Brac a favorite holiday destination in Croatia.
Zlatni Rat is very close to the village of Bol, which has many little seaside restaurants and cafés. When there, don’t pass up the opportunity to try some of the tempting marzipan cakes, pastries and other Croatian desserts the country is famous for.
5) Railay Beach, Thailand
Gorgeous white sand. Caves. Soaring limestone cliffs. That’s Railay Beach, one of the most gorgeous places to visit in Thailand.
You can only get to Railay Beach by boat (take a ride in one of Thailand’s iconic long-tail boats).
Rock climbing enthusiasts love scaling the dramatic cliff formations. Beach babes, however, are content to laze about and soak in the stunning scenery.
To experience Railay in style, stay at Rayavadee, nestled in the jungle.
6) Glass Beach, California (USA)
Take a Northern California road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway, and when you hit the town of Fort Bragg, you find Glass Beach.
What makes this one of the best beaches to visit is the trash. Yes, you heard right. Trash! Except it’s not trash anymore.
The site was once a garbage dump, filled with broken bottles. But all those broken bottle bits are now a sea of colorful smooth glass pieces, mixed in with pebbles on the beach.
Unfortunately, over the years, people have pocketed many of the pretty pieces – it’s now illegal to do so. But Glass Beach is still worth checking out if you’re in the area.
7) Bwejuu Beach, Zanzibar
Up next in our list of beautiful beaches in the world has been praised by Conde Nast Traveler. The magazine once named Bwejuu Beach, found in Zanzibar, one of the 30 most beautiful beaches in the world.
But it’s a very different beach than your usual tropical beach.
When it’s high tide, you can go swimming.
Other times, the tide rolls out so far, you can only go “reef walking.”
That’s a unique adventure – with poles in hand and wearing reef shoes, we splashed ankle-deep in the sand, around small patches of reef, careful to avoid sea urchins as we looked for little fishies and shells.
We also walked for miles and miles along the endless – often empty – stretch of white sand beach. Occasionally, we’d meet colorfully dressed locals.
You won’t find any large chain resorts on Bwejuu Beach – a blessing!
There are only boutique hotels like The Palms, where we blissed out in our own beach banda, sipping vanilla-infused lime martinis and listening to palms rustle in the breeze.
8) El Matador Beach, California
One of three beaches within Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, El Matador Beach is a natural beauty.
A steep staircase leads down to the undeveloped beach, set against a backdrop of unusual craggy rock formations. Check out the tide pools and duck under rock arches at low tide.
Sunsets are stunning here, so it’s no surprise that the beach is a popular spot for photographers, locals and visitors alike, especially when the sun paints the sky golden.
9) Poipu Beach, Kauai (Hawaii)
Hawaii has no shortage of scenic beaches.
And to go with those beaches, there are tons of fun water activities in Hawaii – from swimming (of course!) to snorkeling to surfing.
Indeed, some of the world’s prettiest beaches are found in Hawaii.
Like Hamoa Beach on the Big Island, which author James Michener thought was the most beautiful beach in all the Pacific. And Hanalei Bay Beach, a long white beach on Kauai’s north shore, where you can swim, surf and sail.
Then there’s Poipu Beach on Kauai’s south coast. It’s been named “America’s Best Beach” by The Travel Channel.
We love its thick golden sand into which you sink ankle-deep. A string of different crescents make up the beach – one is perfect as a natural wading pool for wee ones.
Endangered monk seals occasionally haul themselves out on the sand, and like the happy beachgoers, soak up the sun as cooling trade winds blow.
Hanging out on the beach is one of the most popular things to do in Kauai!
Kauai also boasts some great hotels – several are smack-dab on Poipu Beach.
For reviews of these, see our post on 9 beautiful hotels in Kauai, most of which we’ve stayed at.
10) Shipwreck Beach, Zakynthos (Greece)
Is that a shipwreck? Indeed.
The Greek island of Zakynthos is famous for its Navagio Beach (or Shipwreck Beach).
In 1980, the MV Panagiotis ship washed up on its shore.
Today the rusted wreck draws visitors eager to snap Insta shots of it and swim in the crystal clear waters offshore. You can only get to the secluded beach by boat – which adds to its allure.
Ask any beach lover for their list of top beaches in the world, and they’ll tell you Navagio is right up there.
Curious about other beaches in Greece? The islands of Ikaria, Kythera and Kefalonia are among the unique places to visit in Greece boasting great beaches
11) Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Bora Bora is home to some of the best beaches in the world – like this one pictured above.
We can’t tell you the name of this beach. It might not even have one!
But we can tell you this lovely beach is on one of the tiny sandy-beach coral islands (called motus) ringing the blue lagoon around Bora Bora.
On one visit, we stayed in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora – magical!
But we snapped the shot above when cruising French Polynesia, where we lazed about one day on an uninhabited motu.
We remember it fondly as one of the most gorgeous beaches we’ve lolled about on!
12) Playa La Ropa, Zihuatanejo (Mexico)
So you’re looking for one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico? Head to Zihuatanejo.
In this still-quaint resort destination on the Pacific Coast (northwest of Acapulco), you’ll find the sweeping curve of Playa La Ropa.
It’s one of our favorite Zihuatanejo beaches.
Think a mile of clean silky-soft golden sand. Calm turquoise waters – ideal for swimming and trying SUP boarding. Cute restaurants and beach bars with chaise lounges for rent.
Don’t miss out on getting a massage right on the beach under one of the massage tents!
13) Grace Bay Beach, Turks & Caicos
If there’s one beach that consistently gets named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, it’s Grace Bay Beach.
Indeed, Grace Bay – found on Providenciales (Provo for short) in the Turks & Caicos Islands – was voted the best beach in the world in TripAdvisor’s 2016 Traveler’s Choice Awards. (It took the #4 spot in the 2021 TripAdvisor awards for the top 25 beaches in the world.)
Lapped by unbelievably blue water, the 13-mile stretch of fine white sand beach sand is a great place for a beach holiday.
We’ve stayed at the Ocean Club Resort on Grace Bay, known for its iconic pink umbrellas on the beach, swaying palms and lovingly maintained grounds.
14) Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
Take a speedboat from Phuket to Koh Yao Noi in Phang Nga Bay – and you arrive at a little island where time moves very slowly.
There’s only one two-lane road around the island, with only the occasional scooter or car puttering along.
We de-stressed at the eco-chic Six Senses resort, so pleasant it was hard to leave our bungalow with pool!
But the resort’s beach, which you see here, was really inviting too. We loved the view of the huge limestone karsts rising up in the bay.
Bicycling around part of the island, we also discovered several other untouched beaches, with not a soul on them.
15) Perissa Beach, Santorini (Greece)
Like most of Santorini’s beaches, Perissa Beach is a coarse black-sand beach, so it’s not conventionally beautiful. Perhaps you’d say it’s more striking than beautiful?
Restaurants and beach clubs are strung along the road lining the volcanic beach.
Because the sand is so hot, wooden planks lead down to the beach chairs and umbrellas.
Wear your flip-flops from your beach chair to the water if you don’t want to burn your tootsies!
On our visits to Santorini, we’ve spent most of our time on the caldera side of the island in delightful cave hotels like Ikies, gawking at stunning sea views (often from the hotel’s infinity pool or our own little pool on our terrace).
But when we’ve wanted to be more active, it’s been fun to explore some of the interesting beaches on Santorini, like Perissa Beach.
16) Tulum Beach, Mexico
Most people go to Tulum to explore the Mayan ruins of Tulum.
But when you’re finished walking about, follow the stairs that lead down from the ruins to the beach below.
Swimming beneath the ancient pyramids perched high on the cliffs above you is a great way to cool off – and it’s pretty cool to see the ruins from the water too.
(There are no changing facilities, so you’ll want to wear your swimsuit under your clothes when visiting the archaeological site.)
Where to stay? Don’t worry, we’ve sussed out 30+ lovely luxury hotels in Tulum!
A chain of 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches – beaches you have to see for yourself to believe how beautiful they really are!
The islands are clustered around 26 atolls, with whiter-than-white sandy beaches, lagoons and coral reefs.
You’ll find many overwater villa resorts to pamper you silly, and it’s understandable if you don’t want to leave your overwater bungalow.
But one of the joys of holidaying in the Maldives is to go island-hopping by boat to picnic on deserted beaches and to snorkel with rays, turtles and clouds of colorful reef fish.
18) Sire Beach, Lombok (Indonesia)
A 2½-hour boat ride from Bali, the Indonesian island of Lombok is scalloped with long white sand beaches (like the one shown in the photo below).
The island gets only a trickle of the tourists that Bali pulls in, so it’s not nearly as developed – some of the beaches we saw were virtually empty.
You need a scooter or car to get to them, so most visitors just stay put at their hotel if they’re enjoying a beach day.
Sire Beach is one of Lombok’s most beautiful beaches, and with only one gorgeous boutique hotel – Hotel Tugu Lombok – and a few exclusive rental villas, you pretty well have it to yourself.
Just put your RayBans on, because the sand is blindingly white!
19) El Nido, Palawan (Philippines)
El Nido on Palawan island (Philippines) is the gateway to more than 45 crazily beautiful islands in protected Bacuit Bay.
The town of El Nido itself isn’t all that exciting.
But the islands are another story – think towering limestone pillars, hidden emerald lagoons and beaches with palm trees that look like they’ve been plucked right from a postcard.
A vacation here is all about island hopping, snorkeling, scuba diving and taking it easy.
20) Trunk Bay, St. John (USVI)
Sure, as St. John’s most visited beach, it’s popular. But that’s because Trunk Bay is so darn idyllic!
It boasts a 1/4-mile of pristine white sand – gently lapped by some of the bluest waters you’ll ever see – and a marked underwater trail for beginner snorkelers.
Set within Virgin Islands National Park, Trunk Bay is a must if traveling to this Caribbean island.
21) Kantiang Beach, Koh Lanta (Thailand)
Unspoiled Koh Lanta (a one-hour speedboat ride from Krabi) is blessed with miles of pristine white-sand beaches.
It’s also paradise for scuba divers and snorkelers, and it has a national park with hiking trails too.
We hung out on Kantiang Beach at Pimalai Resort & Spa, Koh Lanta’s first luxury hotel. But you can also find a handful of other smallish hotels and restaurants on this quiet crescent-shaped beach.
We took the picture above after bicycling (huffing and puffing up a steep hill!) to this perfect little beach bar.
22) Boulders Beach, South Africa
Say hello to adorable penguins at Boulders Beach, near Cape Town! Wooden boardwalks lead you down to the three beaches that make up Boulders Beach.
The penguins are naturally curious, so they’ll likely come by to inspect you.
You can even take a dip in the water with the penguins (though you can’t feed or play with them) – just know the water is bracingly cold.
For the most number of penguins, visit during the breeding season, which is February to August.
Do you get pumped about penguins? Then learn all about the 7 playful types of penguins in Antarctica!
23) Long Beach, Vancouver Island (Canada)
When you think of the world’s best beaches, you probably don’t picture a beach where the water is so cold you need a wetsuit.
But there’s a hauntingly beautiful beach on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island (where it’s chilly much of the time).
Set within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Long Beach is a pristine 10-mile stretch of sand hugging dense coastal rainforest.
Often mist swirls about in the morning, making the place quite mystical. But when the sun comes out, color returns – grey sky and ocean turn to brilliant blue.
This is a beach for walking, reflecting, losing (or finding) yourself in nature – and maybe trying a little surfing when the waves pound the sand in winter.
We tried surfing here once when we visited Tofino for storm watching – it was warmer in the water with wetsuits on than it was out in the rain!
And to give you an even better idea of how special this area is, Tofino and Long Beach are one of the bucket places to visit in Canada.
24) Dalawella Beach, Sri Lanka
If you’re planning to visit Sri Lanka, you’re sure to come across the photo of this Sri Lanka beach with the famous coconut palm tree rope swing.
Located on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka in the beach town of Unawatuna, Dalawella Beach is a long sweet crescent of golden sand, where the water is calm and gentle for swimming.
You can rent sun beds for a song, and when hungry, pop into one of the little beachside cafés or restaurants tucked under the palms behind the beach.
We loved kicking back at Dalawella Beach – it’s simply one of the nicest beaches in the world we’ve come across.
Plan a fabulous luxury trip to Sri Lanka: See our suggested 2-week Sri Lanka itinerary and guide
25) Anse Lazio, Seychelles
Both Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor reviews have sung the praises of Anse Lazio, widely regarded as one of the top 10 beaches in the world.
Snorkel with sea turtles and red soldier fish, or just enjoy the stunning beach and beautiful scenery.
We confess, we haven’t yet visited the Seychelles. But as one of the best beach destinations in the world, these islands are on our travel wish list.
The pictures of Anse Lazio sure make us want to go!
26) Aitutaki Lagoon, Cook Islands
This gorgeous lagoon in the Cook Islands is pure paradise – complete with a coral reef and 15 palm-fringed islets sprinkled across clear blue waters.
Kayak to stunning beaches, go snorkeling and get your passport stamped at the world’s smallest post office on One Foot Island. But kicking back is mainly what it’s all about here.
A 45-minute flight from Rarotonga (the largest of the Cook Islands) gets you to the Aitutaki Lagoon. Once there, you’ll find bungalow and villa resorts where you can live out your South Seas dreams.
27) Whitehaven Beach, Australia
Stretching more than four miles, pristine Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island is another one of the world’s most spectacular beaches that we haven’t yet hung out on. But we will, one day!
The sand is made of 98% silica, so it’s exceedingly fine and powdery soft.
The island itself is uninhabited, and you need to take a boat or fly in by float plane on a day trip to get there.
What to do? Swim, snorkel, go for a short hike, or simply chill on the beach.
28) Fegina Beach, Monterosso al Mare (Italy)
For people watching and sunbathing, Fegina Beach is without a doubt the best spot to spend a beach day in the Cinque Terre.
The most popular part of the beach is near the craggy rock jutting out into the sea.
Arrive early to reserve a spot here. And when you’re hungry, beach bars, cafés and bakeries are just steps away in the town of Monterosso al Mare.
29) The Baths, Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands)
The third largest of the British Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda is home to one of the most beautiful and most famous beaches in the world – the Baths.
Protected as a national park, the Baths features a collection of massive granite boulders rising from the sea at the water’s edge.
Wading through the sheltered pools, crevices and grottoes is quite magical.
30) Ka’anapali Beach, Maui (Hawaii)
The beaches are one of the reasons we love both Maui and Kauai.
On Maui, Ka’anapali Beach is a favorite of ours.
The pristine sand is thick and golden, and the water is lovely for swimming. A seaside walkway winding in front of the attractive resorts there is ideal for an early morning jog or sunset stroll.
(If you want spacious upscale condo-style accommodation on Ka’anapali Beach, check out The Whaler.)
32) Anse Source d’Argent, Seychelles
The 115 islands that make up the Seychelles archipelago are home to a glut of beautiful beaches.
We already mentioned Anse Lazio (#25 above) in the Seychelles. Another one of the most breathtaking beaches found anywhere is Anse Source d’Argent on La Digue island.
Strewn with giant granite rock formations, the pinky white sand beach is extraordinarily photogenic. You can only reach it by foot, bicycle or ox cart, which just adds to its appeal.
33) Marinha Beach, Portugal
True, you have to walk down a very long steep staircase to reach Marinha Beach (Praia da Marinha). But being hard to reach is a hallmark of some really nice beaches in the world.
Situated on Portugal’s southern Algarve coast, the sandy beach is hugged by soaring orange limestone cliffs.
It lacks the amenities of many other Algarve beaches. But that has helped to keep it so pristine. Snorkeling in the clear turquoise water is excellent, and there are wonderful caves in the rocky cliffs to explore.
34) Turkbuku, Bodrum (Turkey)
A simple fishing village 20 years ago, Turkbuku is now a fashionable little place on Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula for a quiet and upscale getaway.
The beaches are tiny and pebbly (unlike some other white-sand beaches in Europe).
So the small hotels have decks with jetties jutting out into the turquoise sea, with beanbag cushions or deck chairs for lounging.
When you want to swim, you climb down a ladder into the limpid water (no sand gets in your swimsuit).
On our trip to Turkey, we remember how crystal clear the water was in Bodrum – and the exotic sounds of the Muslim call to prayer coming from across the bay.
Where to stay in Bodrum? We loved Casa Dell’Arte, an art-filled boutique hotel on the beach (see our review of Casa Dell’Arte)
34) Durdle Door Beach, Jurassic Coast (Dorset, UK)
One of the most beloved beaches in the UK lies at the foot of a steep wooden staircase beside the Durdle Door rock arch.
Part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, the 10,000-year-old limestone arch rises dramatically some 200 feet above sea level.
You can walk on a spectacularly scenic one-mile-long footpath from the quaint village of Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door, which is a dog-friendly beach.
35) Soldier’s Bay, Antigua
There are too many sugary white sand beaches in Antigua to even count. But they say there are at least 365 – one for every day of the year.
We stayed at Blue Waters Resort and Spa, which fronts three beautiful beach coves in Soldier’s Bay.
With placid warm waters, the sea is ideal for swimming. And the hotel itself offers an upscale laid-back vacay in a paradisiacal setting.
That’s our list of the world’s most beautiful beaches!
They make for some of the best beach destinations in the world for a sun-and-sand holiday.
Have we covered your favorite beaches? If not, let us know in the Comments section below. We love hearing from readers :-).
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Photo credits: 5, 11 to 13, 16, 22, 23, 27 to 29, 35, 36, 42, 45, 54 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 7 Shellona Beach Club | 56 Blue Waters Resort and Spa