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Discover your next bucket list vacation with our guide to finding the best beach for your personal style. From peaceful to poppin’ off, we’ve rounded up recommendations for the world’s best beaches, and broken them down by vibe.
Defining Your Beachside Vibe
Fancy yourself a book, a bottle of rosé, and a blanket type? Or in the market for an epic, life changing adventure? Are you and your crew looking to party it up? Or are you in search of an all ages experience for the whole family?
When it comes to California beaches, we think the best ones offer the most fun – boardwalks, street vendors, and big stretches of uniform sand. But not everybody is looking for a movie set moment where Route 66 meets the sea.
Into surfing or high octane sports? Done. Wanna soak up the rays with beautiful bodies on the Mediterranean? We do too. Into cool rock formations, or just looking for some quality family time? We’ve got you covered.
A Culture Tied to the Sea
Thanks to this big beautiful world being about 70% water, we’ve got no shortage of coastline. Rocky and rugged or teal blue flanked by powdery white sand, cultures throughout history have built their industries, their folklore, and their lives around the water.
While modern beach towns thrive on tourism and dreamy destination weddings, many still live by the old ways. Fishing, harvesting seaweed, and farming oysters and pearls keep traditions alive and local economies moving. The ocean serves as a giver of gifts, a backdrop to films and novels, and a source of legends as old as recorded history.
Ocean Myths & Legends
The Norse battled the mighty Kraken, and ancient Hebrews were wary of a Leviathan plaguing the seas. Pagan traditions interpreted fish and the water itself as symbols of fertility and the Divine Mother. In Hindu lore, dewdrops fell into the ocean from the moon and became pearls. The god Krishna gave one of these beautiful pearls as a wedding gift to his daughter.
Pearls make appearances in writing and religious texts throughout the ages, and often symbolize wisdom, femininity, and wealth. Ancient superstitions suggested that throwing away a pearl would bring good fortune because anyone who could let go of something so valuable was wealthy indeed.
INTERESTING FACT:In Greek mythology, Poseidon was accompanied by Nereids – beautiful sea nymphs dressed in crowns of red coral and silk robes. Unlike wily sirens, Nereids were thought to be kind and helpful to sailors in need.Click to tweet
Best Beaches to Write Your Own Legend
The bounty and power of the ocean continue to feed the imagination, and we think it’s more important than ever to get out and explore your world. Our list includes a couple of the best beaches in the US, but if you’re looking to add a few chapters to your own story, why stop there? We searched the world over for a beach (or three) to fit every taste. Get to know some of the most spectacular beaches in the world, and start planning your next adventure.
Best Beaches For Traveling with Kids
If you’ve got a water baby or older kids in need of adventure, sitting on a towel with a book just won’t do. Cruise by one of the best beaches in the US on your next urban vacation, or plan the trip of a lifetime to a remote island and get away from it all.
No place screams California quite like Santa Monica Pier. Carnival colors and joyous sounds make it a popular filming location and a must-see for families visiting LA. The historic pier features a ferris wheel with sweeping ocean views and a carousel for the little ones. The sand itself is broad and manicured. And with a buzzing bike path stretching all the way to Venice, it makes for one of the best beaches in the US. You’ll find plenty of rental shops nearby, so grab a beach cruiser or throw on some roller blades, and get around the Southern California way.
Elephant Beach – Exotic Escape on an Indian Island
With a population of 1.3 billion, to say India’s beaches are packed is an understatement. Interest in India is spurred on by the growing popularity of Bollywood and Indian men’s fashion, but you’ll have to travel deeper to enjoy the culture while avoiding the crush of humanity. Though it’s a major journey from the mainland, Havelock Island offers high energy fun for folks of all ages and a little more room to stretch out. Clear waters and coral reefs make Elephant Beach perfect for snorkeling, and travelers with teens and adventurous kids will dig the selection of watercraft for hire.
Ko Olina – Easy-Going Lagoons on Oahu’s Southwest Side
Oahu is known for world-class surf, military museums at Pearl Harbor, and large family friendly resorts. The notorious breaks of the North Shore are no joke, so families with small children will want some protection from inbound waves. A series of protected lagoons called Ko Olina are ideal for family beach play. They’re close to Kapolei’s major resorts, and easy to access on foot if you’re staying nearby. The calmer waters are a great place for young ones to get comfortable snorkeling, and like many of the best beaches in the US, it’s close enough to civilization to call it a day when they’re tuckered out.
The Best Beaches in the World – By the Numbers
Some beaches come with a reputation, and in many cases the rumors are true. From Miami to Mykanos, we probably left out some of your faves. Like at the world’s best beaches, our space is limited too. Check out these perennial hits where a plot of sand is a hot commodity and there’s guaranteed to be a scene.
Bondi – Sydney, Australia’s Instagram Icon
Located in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, Bondi Beach is your quintessential urban seashore. Complete with fitness nuts, fancy boutique hotels, and shopping, Bondi offers beachgoers more than a strip of sand. In addition to the natural beach, Bondi is known for its iconic seaside swimming pool, Bondi Baths. Built in 1929 as an off season training ground for local lifeguards, Bondi Icebergs Club welcomes members and guests to enjoy the facilities and Instagram’s favorite pool.
Copacabana – Soccer & Sexy People in Brazil
Immortalized in music, movies, and swimsuit calendars, Copacabana may be one of the most beloved (and visited) beaches in the world. Backed by the towering Sugarloaf Mountain, it has been the scene of record breaking concerts by bands like The Rolling Stones. Brazil’s vibrant beach culture and two hottest exports – futbol and skimpy bikinis – are on full view here. With more than 6 million residents looking to blow off steam, Rio de Janeiro’s favorite beach doesn’t show signs of cooling off anytime soon.
Frishman Beach – Tel Aviv’s Version of Venice Beach
Much like LA has Santa Monica and Venice, Tel Aviv has a promenade connecting three blockbuster beaches. Gordon, Frishman and Bograshov beaches are where tourists and Israelis collide. They come to tan. They come to play matkot (an omnipresent table tennis like game). And they come to check each other out. With great weather year round and a liberal culture, Israel is one of the hottest spots for beach vacations in the Middle East. Beaches in Tel Aviv are known for their murals and brightly colored buildings, and a massive Pride celebration in June.
The Most Relaxing and Romantic Beaches
Though you may not have these beaches entirely to yourself, our next list is all about kicking back and enjoying the view. Check out these relaxing, upscale beaches if you’re looking to cuddle up with your special someone in a cabana and escape the paparazzi like a 60’s movie star.
Banje Beach – Cabanas and Medieval Castles in Croatia
When Croatia’s medieval architecture meets the Adriatic sea, it’s not hard to imagine you’re living in a different time. Dubrovnik’s “Old Town” district isn’t Gold Rush Era old – it’s properly old. Some of the buildings date back to the 16th century, so it’s no wonder they filmed scenes for Game of Thrones here. You can take in the turquoise waters and ancient fortress walls from a cabana at Banje Beach, and dial it up in the evening when the restaurant transitions to a club.
Necker Island – An Island all to Yourself in the BVI
If you can’t be bothered by all the riff-raff at the world’s best (but clearly busier) beaches, check out Necker Island. Sir Richard Branson’s privately owned paradise is up for rent, and if you spring for the whole thing, you and your crew will be the only tourists in sight. You’ll have sailing, spa treatments, and elegant dining at your fingertips – not to mention 360 degrees of private beach. If you’re still waiting on the IPO to come through, it’s all good. Keep your eye out for their so-called “celebration weeks,” where rooms can be booked a al carte.
Marina Grande – A Trip Back to Amalfi’s Golden Age
Due to its remote location and removal from prying eyes, Old Hollywood actors and Europe’s elite would come to the Almalfi Coast to escape the French Riviera. Escaping a place as beautiful as the Riviera may be a laugh, but we assure you, the struggle was real. Winding cliff top roads and steep access to pocket beaches have kept Amalfi relatively unchanged in the past 60 years. Step back in time at Marina Grande Beach and enjoy exclusive, and thoroughly overpriced Italian beach culture at its best.
Best Beaches for Big Surf
We’ve rounded up a handful of the planet’s most notorious surf spots for those in search of action (beyond rotating every 30 minutes to even out their tan). Of course, there are great surf breaks like Trestles and Mavericks on California beaches. But tropical waters with reliable swell and a South African spot where you can chill with penguins made our top three.
Padang Padang – Eat, Pray, Pipeline in Southern Bali
Famous as a setting for romance in Eat, Pray, Love, Padang Padang is a wave that wins hearts worldwide. Offshore trade winds keep the barrel clean, giving the famous break the nickname “Balinese Pipeline.” Padang Padang is certainly the best surf beach in Indonesia, and hailed by many as one of the finest in the world. Non surfers flock to Bali for its lush landscape and abundance of yoga retreats.
Jeffreys Bay – South Africa’s Original Surf Break
Until 1964, surfing wasn’t well known in South Africa. The cult film Endless Summer saw two surfers forego California beaches and travel to Eastern Cape province in search of undiscovered breaks and warmer climes. Today, surfers still appreciate a chance to extend their season by heading south of the equator. Known locally as J-Bay, its hosts several pro surfing competitions, and is home to the rare African penguin.
Teahupo’o – Catching Tahiti’s Monster Wave
Teahupo’o is one of the most formidable waves known to man. And when it’s firing, pro surfers drop everything and make their way to the remote Polynesian island of Tahiti to take on the beast. Loosely translating to “the place of the skulls” or “severed heads,” it’s clear the locals showed some respect to the mighty wave. Those looking for tamer entertainment while in Tahiti can always head to more friendly waters and rent a kayak or dive for the island’s famous pearls.
Known for their iridescence and unusual color, Tahitian pearls are native only to the South Pacific. Sometimes called black pearls, they actually range in color from charcoal grays to eggplant and a luminous peacock green.
Pearl Spotlight: Tahitian Pearl Jewelry
Get an instant makeover with Tahitian pearls. These elegant alternatives to white pearls are revered by the Natives of the South Pacific, and add a modern edge to an evening look.
INTERESTING FACT:In Polynesian mythology, the god Oro traveled down to earth on a rainbow carrying a magical oyster. Inside was a spectacular black pearl that he gifted to the princess Bora Bora as a sign of his undying love.Click to tweet
Best Beaches for Adventure Travelers
Beach culture usually calls to mind sun, sand, and sugary drinks with umbrellas, but there’s so much coast out there that defies the status quo. From remote volcanic islands to the frigid northern waters, discover the world’s best beaches for adventure travelers, and tread where some beach bums wouldn’t dare to go.
Diamond Beach – Iceland’s Black Sand Wonderland
No need to work on your bikini body before your big trip to Iceland, a puffy coat is a little more fitting at this iceberg covered beach. Chunks of glittering sea ice drift onto the black sands of Diamond Beach, and if you’re lucky, you might spot an orca offshore. Visitors hit up Diamond Beach and the nearby Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon while touring Ring Road 1. The Insta-worthy beach comes with a warning, however. Tourists have been swept out to sea while climbing aboard an iceberg for a cool photo-op.
Bacuit Bay – A Boat-in Adventure in the Philippines
Comprised of thousands of small islands, the Philippines has no shortage of beautiful beaches. We struggled to choose between them all, and truthfully, you won’t have to. Get yourself to the small town of El Nido, and hire a boat to explore the gorgeous Bacuit Archipelago. Boating around the steep, verdant islands, you’ll discover dozens of beaches and lagoons – one of which is hidden behind the mouth of a cave.
Giant’s Causeway – Otherworldly Rock Formations in Northern Ireland
You know when a place has the words “Devil’s” or “Giant’s” in its name, the origin story is going to be good. Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO world heritage site in Northern Ireland, is no exception. According to local legend, the hexagonal stone columns were part of a battle strategy gone bad. Apparently, it was an attempt to take down a giant across the sea in Scotland. Bridge building and hijinks ensued, and the story ends with a grown man being disguised as a baby. Seems plausible. Believe what you’d like about how they got there, these towering rock formations are the real deal.
We hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of the best beaches in the world. Did we miss your favorite beach? Connect with us on social media and share your favorite hotspots.
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- Finding the Best Beaches for Every Type of Traveler - September 4, 2019