Forgive us if we can’t help thinking about the prettiest beaches in the world where we’d like to squish our toes in the sand.
In summer, we love swimming at the best beaches in Victoria, BC, where we live.
But come winter, when the rain pours down outside, we indulge in some daydreaming. A beach with white powdery 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…
Prettiest beaches in the world
As keen beach lovers, we’ve checked out many of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
The following 21+ 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 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. 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, and 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) Railay Beach, Thailand
Gorgeous white sand. Caves. Soaring limestone cliffs. That’s Railay Beach.
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.
3) Bwejuu Beach, Zanzibar
The third in our list of best 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.
4) 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)
5) Bora Bora, French Polynesia
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 lagoon around Bora Bora.
On one visit, we stayed in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora – magical! But we snapped this shot 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.
6) 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
7) 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!
8) 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.
9) 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.
Recommended reading: See our guide to the most beautiful places to visit in Thailand
10) Perissa Beach, Santorini (Greece)
Like most of Santorini’s beaches, Perissa Beach is a coarse black-sand beach, so it’s not conventionally pretty. Perhaps it’s more striking than pretty? 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.
11) 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.)
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 snorkel with rays, turtles and clouds of colorful reef fish and to picnic on deserted beaches.
13) 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!
14) El Nido, Palawan (Philippines)
El Nido on Palawan island 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 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.
15) 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 below after bicycling (huffing and puffing up a steep hill!) to this perfect little beach bar.
16) 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.
17) 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.
One of the best beaches in Hawaii, 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.
18) 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!
19) 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
20) 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. But we confess, we haven’t yet visited the Seychelles – the destination is still on our travel wish list. The pictures of Anse Lazio sure make us want to go!
21) 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.
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Photo credits: 5, 7, 9, 11 to 13, 17, 20, 21, 28, 29, 33, 34, 37, 41 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase |42 Wickaninnish Inn