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Discover the World’s 26 Most Stunning Beaches

With all due respect to mountain dwellers, there’s nothing quite like the allure of a stunning beach. Whether you lean towards a secluded and untouched shoreline or a vibrant and well-equipped coastal retreat, our handpicked selection provides a glimpse into some of the most exquisite beaches worldwide. Each of these destinations boasts some of the planet’s softest sands, clearest waters, and breathtaking vistas that rival scenes from a movie.

Adventure Advice

Before plunging into the ocean, it’s wise to check the local water conditions to steer clear of potential hazards like rough waves, rip currents, or approaching storms.

Beaches in the United States

Hanalei Bay, Hawaii

Even before gaining fame through Hollywood productions like “South Pacific” in 1958 and “The Descendants” in 2011, Hanalei Bay captivated locals with its almost mystical beauty. Its shores — Wai’oli, Hanalei Pavilion, and Black Pot — are embraced by emerald-hued mountains towering over 4,000 feet. This area is particularly favored by surfers during the winter months when the waves surge in size and intensity.

Grayton Beach, Florida

Florida, with its vast 1,350 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and Caribbean Sea, is teeming with beaches. To escape the crowds that flock to Florida’s popular beaches, consider exploring the hidden gem of Grayton Beach in South Walton, nestled between Pensacola and Panama City. Boasting nearly 2,000 acres of state park lands featuring pristine white sands and a unique coastal dune lake ideal for kayaking, this spot offers a more secluded Florida beach experience. The adjacent town adds to the charm with its quirky personality.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

While the waters of the Pacific Northwest may be too chilly for swimming on most days, their beauty remains unparalleled. A scenic 90-minute drive from Portland, Oregon, leads you to Cannon Beach. This charming town is famous for its iconic 235-foot-high Haystack Rock and the needle-like rocks that define its skyline. Despite its popularity, there’s ample space along the lengthy shoreline to revel in the stunning scenery. After visiting Cannon Beach, consider picnicking at nearby Hug Point or Ecola State Park.

Beaches in South America

Copacabana, Brazil

Arguably one of the most renowned beaches globally, Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro is a complete package. Boasting approximately 2.5 miles of golden sandy shores, a vibrant atmosphere, and a backdrop of jagged mountains and stunning Art Deco and modernist architecture, Copacabana is a visual feast. The beach serves as a social hub for Rio residents, especially on weekends, where locals engage in sunbathing, beach strolls, volleyball matches, and indulging in local treats from vendors. While neighboring spots like Leblon and Ipanema may now steal the spotlight, Copacabana’s vintage charm remains an integral part of its allure.

Baia do Sancho, Brazil

Situated around 220 miles off Brazil’s coast, Baia do Sancho consistently earns the title of the world’s best beach. Its remote location and stringent conservation efforts help maintain its pristine condition, along with the entire Fernando de Noronha archipelago. Accessible only by boat or a series of cliffside steps and ladders, Baia do Sancho rewards visitors with a secluded beach featuring soft sand and abundant marine life, including fish, dolphins, sharks, and rays swimming in its turquoise waters.

Beaches in the Caribbean

Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

The world-renowned Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island is a paradise with its powdery soft sand, tranquil turquoise waters, and a lively mix of water activities, beachfront bars, and luxury resorts. Stretching for miles (though not quite seven), this beach caters to all preferences — from those seeking a social ambiance and thrilling water sports to individuals desiring a quiet retreat under a beach umbrella with a good book.

“Seven Mile Beach on the western side of Grand Cayman island looks like those computer screensavers you see of an idyllic beach. I walked a part of it while attending the at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, which sits along this iconic beach,” shared Susmita Baral, a Travel + Leisure digital editor, recounting her recent experience. ”It felt like I had some kind of filter over my eyes — the sand was pristine, the water was a stunning shade of turquoise, and the sunsets were magical.”

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos

Consistently rated as one of the world’s top beaches, Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos is a slice of paradise with its blend of powdery white sand and warm azure waters. Adding to its allure is the nearby barrier reef where snorkelers can explore a vibrant underwater world teeming with majestic rays, turtles, and colorful fish. Despite its global popularity, there’s ample space for everyone to spread out along the seven continuous miles of shoreline spanning Grace Bay and its neighboring Leeward and Bight beaches.

Beaches in Europe

Elafonissi Beach, Greece

Elafonissi Beach’s allure lies in its picturesque pinkish sands, inviting lagoon-like waters, and untouched ambiance. This beach is actually an island, separated from the rest of Crete by shallow waters and sandbars that vanish under about three feet of water during high tide. Amenities are minimal, with palapa-covered sun loungers and a few tavernas offering fresh seafood. If Elafonissi gets too crowded, consider exploring Balos Lagoon, a two-hour drive away along the northern coast.

Sotavento Beach, Spain

While parts of Fuerteventura may be overly developed, Sotavento offers a stark contrast to the brash, commercialized beach resorts found on the Canary Islands. This nine-mile stretch boasts golden dunes, expansive sandy shores, and rolling teal waves. The consistent trade winds create vast tide pools and low-tide lagoons, making Sotavento a haven for swimming, surfing, kiteboarding, and catamaran sailing.

Platja de Ses Illetes, Spain

Nestled on a narrow strip of land in northern Formentera, Platja de Ses Illetes is renowned for its gleaming golden sands surrounded by turquoise shallows on both sides. Designated as a nature preserve, this beach manages to keep crowds at bay, allowing visitors to explore secluded beaches by walking along the headland. A short stroll north leads to the island’s tip, offering panoramic views of S’Espalmador across the channel.

La Pelosa Beach, Italy

Sardinia’s La Pelosa Beach exudes beauty and exclusivity. During peak season (June to September), prospective visitors must . Once there, visitors must adhere to several rules, including using beach mats under towels, refraining from smoking, and wearing wristbands at all times. These regulations aim to prevent overcrowding, ensuring that everyone can relish the bone-white sands and shimmering clear waters of La Pelosa. An Aragonese stone watchtower on neighboring Asinara island adds to the picturesque setting. Other must-visit Sardinian beaches include Porto Giunco, Spiaggia La Cinta, Cala Mariolu, and Spiaggia di Cala Coticcio.

Scala dei Turchi, Italy

Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks) in Sicily is a captivating blend of water and geological wonders. Situated on the west coast, this dazzling white marlstone cliff descends towards the sea like a staircase, leading to a secluded beach below. The stark contrast of the snow-white stone against the blue-green Mediterranean creates a photographer’s paradise. Due to tourist influx causing erosion, climbing the steps is now prohibited; however, visitors can still admire this natural marvel from a designated viewpoint.

Praia de Marinha, Portugal

Portugal’s Algarve region is renowned for its golden sands and dramatic limestone cliffs. Praia de Marinha stands out for its rustic, unspoiled charm and absence of commercial development. Nature lovers and beach enthusiasts flock to this picturesque spot, appreciating its serene beauty and lack of crowds. Other notable Algarve beaches worth exploring include Praia dos Três Irmãos, , Praia da Falésia, and the sheltered Carvalho Beach.

“I traveled to Portugal’s Algarve region during the shoulder season a couple of years ago, and I fell in love with the stunning cliffs and rock formations that line the sandy shores,” shared Travel + Leisure special projects editor Elizabeth Rhodes. “Visiting in March meant fewer crowds and having secluded beaches all to ourselves.”

Beaches in Asia

Saud Beach, Philippines

For a taste of Southeast Asian beach paradise, look no further than the tranquil Saud Beach on Luzon Island. This idyllic spot features white sands gently sloping into crystal-clear waters, resembling a real-life zero-entry swimming pool. Visitors can swim in the calm waves, dine under thatched-roof cabanas amidst palm trees, or embark on water excursions aboard outriggers.

Radhanagar Beach, India

Among the 500 islands dotting India’s Bay of Bengal, Swaraj Dweep stands out for its spectacular beaches and exceptional diving sites. Radhanagar Beach, in particular, exudes a remote getaway vibe, with minimal development save for a few thatch-roofed structures. Surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, this beach offers a serene escape. As the sun sets, its fiery hues reflect off the rippling tide, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

Bai Dam Trau, Vietnam

Vietnam boasts numerous stunning beaches, with Bai Dam Trau in the Con Dao islands ranking high on the list. Featuring distinct golden sands, gentle waves, and shaded groves of bamboo and evergreen trees, this beach is an ideal setting for leisurely activities like hammock lounging and beachside strolls. The nearby airport adds an element of excitement as commercial jets soar overhead, providing a unique backdrop to this tranquil paradise.

Railay Beach, Thailand

Nestled between soaring cliffs draped in lush jungle, Railay Beach on the Railay peninsula is a secluded gem accessible only by boat. Its isolated location enhances its natural beauty, making it a sought-after destination. The curved beach is framed by towering karsts, limestone formations that attract rock climbers from around the world. The emerald lagoon is a haven for kayaking and paddleboarding, while nearby Phra Nang Beach features intriguing caves, including one housing a fertility shrine. Head to the opposite side of the isthmus for a vibrant bar scene.

Beaches in Africa

Nungwi Beach, Tanzania

Situated in the bustling fishing village of Nungwi on Zanzibar Island, Nungwi Beach stands out as one of Tanzania’s most revered attractions. Its pristine coral sand emits a soft, ethereal glow, contrasting against the rugged rocks and stunning sunsets silhouetting traditional dhow boats. Despite its popularity, Nungwi Beach is bustling with restaurants, beach vendors, bars, resorts, and water sports outfitters. Activities like deep-sea fishing, sunset cruises, and excursions to Nakupenda Beach sandbank off Stone Town are highly recommended.

Camps Bay Beach, South Africa

Exceptionally beautiful beaches often lie in remote island paradises far from urban life. Camps Bay Beach, however, defies this trend, located right within vibrant Cape Town. With the iconic Table Mountain as its backdrop, this beach offers a vast expanse of soft sand and inviting blue waters. Swimmers should be cautious of the occasional strong currents or opt for the safety of the tidal pool.

Beyond sun and surf, Cape Town offers a plethora of experiences, from exploring the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood to hiking or riding the cable car to the summit of Table Mountain. Adventurous souls can brave , a thrilling drive along rocky cliffs plunging into the South Atlantic Ocean. Day trips to safaris, renowned vineyards, whale-watching spots, and shark-diving sites are easily accessible from the city.

Anse Source D’Argent, Seychelles

The mere mention of Seychelles evokes images of a dreamy, remote paradise, and Anse Source D’Argent lives up to this reputation. This beach exemplifies Seychelles’ unique beauty, characterized by a crystal-clear lagoon ideal for snorkeling and granite boulders strewn across the shore. The beach’s serene atmosphere and breathtaking scenery make it a must-visit destination for beach enthusiasts.

Praia de Santa Monica, Cape Verde

Boa Vista in Cape Verde beckons beach lovers seeking adventure. Praia de Santa Monica stretches serenely along nearly 14 miles of the island’s southwest coast, featuring billowing dunes, rocky cliffs, and the wild, azure ocean. While swimming may be challenging due to strong currents, the beach offers an enchanting setting for leisurely walks and whale-watching.

Le Morne, Mauritius

Mauritius boasts a coastline dotted with reef-protected beaches, offering calm, clear waters ideal for various water activities. Le Morne stands out with its two-and-a-half miles of sugar-soft sand, lined with palm and filao trees. The sheltered lagoon extends to the horizon, providing excellent conditions for kitesurfing, while the nearby Le Morne Mountain adds a dramatic backdrop to the beach’s beauty.

Beaches in Australia

Cape Le Grand National Park, Australia

Located on the remote southern coast of Western Australia, Cape Le Grand National Park is home to several stunning beaches and bays. The park’s rugged terrain winds through heath-covered bluffs, leading visitors to attractions like Hellfire Bay with its granite boulders and pristine blue waters, and Lucky Bay, renowned for its exceptionally white sand. For a bird’s-eye view, embark on the 1.8-mile, wildflower-strewn .

Whitehaven Beach, Australia

Queensland’s Whitehaven Beach ranks among Australia’s top attractions, alongside iconic landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Noosa National Park. This destination is renowned for its ever-shifting blend of salt-white sands and vivid blue waters, resembling a precious marbled jewel. Composed of fine, silica-rich quartz, the sand here is incredibly smooth and white, offering visitors a unique sensory experience. To reach this paradise, fly into Hamilton Island Airport and take a ferry to the Whitsunday Islands.

Beaches in the South Pacific

Matira Beach, Bora Bora

The islands of French Polynesia are synonymous with tropical beauty, and Matira Beach in Bora Bora is no exception. This beach earns praise for its expansive size, pristine cleanliness, and stunning aesthetics, featuring fluffy white sands, serene turquoise waters, and lush volcanic hills in the backdrop. Despite being Bora Bora’s largest public beach, Matira maintains a tranquil and laid-back atmosphere. Visitors can be found napping on towels, wading in the shallow waters, or browsing the beach’s boutiques and cafes.

Taharuu Beach, Tahiti

Tahiti boasts several picturesque black-sand beaches, including the gorgeous Taharuu Beach on the island’s southern shore. These beaches serve as the perfect setting to learn surfing, with numerous schools offering lessons. Surfing has deep roots in Polynesian culture, with annual competitions held on the island; in fact, Tahiti is set to host the surfing events for the 2024 Summer Olympics.