The Best Beaches in the World

World's best beaches

Dreaming of sun and sand? Stuck in a cubicle with cold winds lashing against the frosty windows? Or do you just need a few tips to help you plan your next beach trip? We are putting together our ultimate “best beaches in the world” list. Unlike other lists out there, this is no mass-produced product thrown together with stock photos. We have personally been to (and totally loved) each of these extraordinary beach destinations and snapped the photos ourselves. Enjoy!

1. Tulum Beach, Mexico

Tulum Beach in Mexico

Location: Outside the town of Tulum in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo

What’s Cool: The sand in Tulum almost seems to glow magically making it just a bit more beautiful than other white-sand beaches. As we were relaxing in the heat with a cold beer after an amazing day exploring the Mayan ruins situated at the northern end of the beach, a flock of flamingos flew directly overhead. Amazing! This is also a fantastic place to learn to kiteboard. With pyramids, perfect sand, gorgeous water, iguanas and the occasional flock of flamingos, Tulum earns our top spot on the list of best beaches in the world.

2. Playa Roja, Peru

Playa Roja in Peru

Location: In the reserve on the Paracas Peninsula in Peru

What’s Cool: A surreal red beach backed by the mustard-yellow sands of the Paracas coastal desert. This is no tropical paradise, but we loved the psychedelic views as well as the seals and penguins along the coast and the offshore islands. And don’t miss the huge candelabra glyph carved into a nearby coastal dune.

3. Sandbar connecting Smith and Ross Islands, India

Smith and Ross Islands in India

Location: The sandbar connects tiny Smith and Ross Islands just off the coast of Northern Andaman Island in the Andaman Island Archipelago. The island chain is part of India, but it sits in the middle of the Indian Ocean halfway between mainland India and Thailand.

What’s Cool: This super-remote island paradise is beyond gorgeous. The island’s unique, winding sandbar and its status as a nature reserve put it a step above all the other perfect white-sand Andaman beaches. After we climbed out of the bathtub waters, we lay on the beach in the shadow of the dense Andaman jungle and photographed the bright red crabs. Beautiful.

4. Ipanema Beach, Brazil

Ipanema Beach in Brazil

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What’s Cool: This is our choice for the world’s most phenomenal city beach (and we’ve seen A LOT of the competition.) It and neighboring Copacabana are unquestionably the epicenter of Brazilian beach culture and they totally live up to the hype. Grab a caipirinha, stretch out under an umbrella, and listen to the “Girl from Ipanema,” which is certainly playing on someone’s radio.

5. Maspalomas Dune Beaches on Gran Canaria, Spain

Dune beach in Maspalomas

Location: On the southern coast of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands

What’s Cool: Every dune-backed beach in the world claims to look “like the Sahara.” In the case of Maspalomas, it not only looks like the Sahara, it is a piece of the Sahara. These sands have blown in from Mauretania to create the ultimate Saharan beach. Pretty cool!

6. Camping Beach on Ronge Island, Antarctica

Snow covered beach on Ronge Island in Antarctica

Location: On Ronge Island off the Antarctic Peninsula

What’s Cool: Ok, we admit this is an unconventional choice (especially in our Top Ten), but this stunning jewel on Ronge Island offers a smooth stretch of snow-covered beach protected from ice falls, which serves as the perfect location for overnight Antarctic camping. Granted most visitors lie on this beach in sleeping bags, but you have to admit the walls of ice, surreal Weddell seals, pods of whales, and the avalanches in the distance add a bit of a twist to your beach experience!

7. Anakena Beach on Easter Island, Chile

Anakena Beach on Easter Island

Location: On the northern coast of Easter Island

What’s Cool: Easter Island is NOT a beach destination. Most of the island is surrounded by steep, jagged volcanic rock and relatively rough water. This sweep of beautiful white sand with calm, glassy waters is the glorious exception. And at the back, the legendary moai (stone statues) stand guard over sunbathers. There is NO other beach in the world like it!

8. Balian Beach on Bali, Indonesia

Balian Beach in Indonesia

Location: On the west coast of Bali, north of Denpasar

What’s Cool: This black-sand beauty is one of our favorites. There’s something so surreal about the volcanic Balian Beach at sunset when the jet-black sands transform into Indonesia’s biggest mirror. As the equatorial mists drift in among the palms, grab a camera or a coconut and watch the skies go bright orange. Clearly, Thomas was thrilled!

9. Puka Shell Beach on Boracay, Philippines

Best beaches in the world: Puka Shell Beach in the Philippine

Location: At the northern tip of Boracay Island

What’s Cool: Picture-perfect Puka Shell Beach is straight out of the brochures. The strip of powdery white sand recalls the glorious past of world-famous Boracay Island, the stuff of traveler legends. Yes, after years of overdevelopment and environmental abuse, some will rightfully complain that we are including a Boracay beach on our list of the best beaches in the world. But there is something truly unique about Boracay sands, and we pay homage to the one surviving stretch that Filipinos found the strength to protect.

10. Legzira Beach, Morocco

Thomas under giant central arch on Legzira Beach

Location: Southwestern Morocco just south of the village of Mirleft

What’s Cool: Remote Legzira is not nearly as famous as it should be considering the ginormous natural arches that have formed on the surreal orange-sand Saharan beaches. The entire location screams mystery and adventure but somehow never showed up in Game of Thrones despite the fact they frequently filmed in Morocco. (Unfortunately, the arch above Thomas in this picture collapsed just three months after we visited.)

11. Playa Sirena, Cuba

Best beaches in the world: Playa Sirena on Cayo Largo in Cuba

Location: On Cuba’s resort island Cayo Largo del Sur

What’s Cool: Cayo Largo’s Sirena Beach is one of Cuba’s not so hidden secrets. Miles of fine white sand where Canadian and European tourists frolic au naturel in calm aquamarine awesomeness. One note on climate change: one Canadian tourist told me that 15 years ago, she could walk along this beach in the shade of palms. Today rising sea levels have taken all but this lonely palm off the beach… and I don’t know how much longer this little rebel will last. This picture is a piece of history!

12. Ratenggaro Beach on Sumba, Indonesia

Best beaches in the world: Ratenggaro Beach on Sumba Island in Indonesia

Location: On the western half of the island of Sumba in Indonesia

What’s Cool: Ratenggaro feels like something out of an Indiana Jones movie with towering tribal huts rising up from the hills behind the beach and wild stone megaliths and wooden totems dotting the coast. Local tribesmen walk around with swords on their belts and, every now and then, they still use them, so be very cautious and culturally sensitive when entering villages. All of Sumba’s beaches define the word remote.

13. Boulders Beach, South Africa

Boulders Beach, South Africa

Location: In Simon’s Town, a small community south of Capetown

What’s Cool: This beach is all about the opportunity to view wild African penguins. The white sand and crystal waters are ringed with massive boulders making for the perfect National Geographic moment. And the penguins are hilarious!

14. Lago Verde Beach on Lanzarote, Spain

Best beaches in the world: Lago Verde on Lanzarote Island in Spain

Location: On the southwest coast of Lanzarote Island in the Canary Islands just south of the village of El Golfo

What’s Cool: Gnarled red and black volcanic cliffs, grey-black sand, cobalt blue waters, and a green volcanic lagoon make this one of the most unique beaches in the Canary Islands and the world. It feels like a beach on a distant planet.

15. Tangalle Beach, Sri Lanka

Best beaches in the world: Tangalle Beach in Sri Lanka

Location: Southern Sri Lanka, running east from the town of Tangalle

What’s Cool: Miles of stunning golden sand backed by swaying palms and shady pandanus trees, the remote sands of Tangalle are made for walkers. Wildlife enthusiasts will find troops of langur monkeys, giant monitor lizards, and a maze of mangrove waterways made for kayaking birders. One warning: the waves here can be savage, so swimmers should look for protected pools which form behind sandspits.

16. Teluk Puah on Pulau Perhentian Besar, Malaysia

Best beaches in the world: Teluk Puah in Malaysia

Location: On the west coast of Pulau Perhentian Besar, near the Perhentian Island Resort

What’s Cool: The rocks and crystal waters of Teluk Puah Beach (and nearby bays) are a tropical dream. The clearest water we have ever witnessed was on one particularly calm day on this beach. Pure glass. We also saw a large sea turtle and tons of blacktip sharks in these waters, so bring your snorkeling mask or even consider diving Pulau Perhentian.

17. Nungwi Beach on Zanzibar, Tanzania

Best beaches in the world: Nungwi Beach on Zanzibar Island, in Tanzania

Location: The northern tip of Zanzibar Island in Tanzania

What’s Cool: The sight of an African dhow drifting across the glassy turquoise waters of one of Africa’s most legendary islands. We also loved the bright red starfish that wash up on the coral-strewn shores.

18. Pantai Halmin on Alor, Indonesia

Pantai Halmin on Alor Island in Indonesia

Location: On the southwestern coast of the island of Alor

What’s Cool: This pristine white-sand beach defines isolation. Intrepid adventurers will be rewarded with a wild stone mushroom formation backed by ice-blue water and volcanic peaks. Bring a snorkel and a coconut to get the full Robinson Crusoe experience.

19. Ramla Bay on Gozo, Malta

Ramla Bay on the Maltese island of Gozo

Location: On the northern coast of the Maltese island of Gozo

What’s Cool: Glowing neon orange sand would be enough, but if you walk down the beach around the bend, you’ll find some great rock formations and giant tide pools where you can take an isolated dip. Beautiful.

20. Black’s Beach in California, USA

Hiking along Black's Beach in San Diego, California

Location: Just north of La Jolla, California in the USA

What’s Cool: Black’s Beach is a gift left by the gods in overdeveloped southern California. This isolated stretch of beach sits below steep 100m (350ft) cliffs and runs for over 10 kilometers (6 miles) from its starting point just below Torrey Pines State Park. The beach is a swirling mix of black and white sand glistening with specks of golden iron pyrite. The beautiful isolation is also the reason why Black’s Beach has become America’s top nude beach.

21. Sandspit on Koh Adang, Thailand

The gorgeous sandspit on Koh Adang in Thailand

Location: In front of the ranger station on Koh Adang in the Tarutao National Park in southern Thailand

What’s Cool: Can you imagine standing on a white-sand beach and diving straight into the water? Due to the way the steeply sloped sandspit has formed, you can do just that. It’s literally the ultimate natural swimming pool, and one of Thailand’s coolest beaches. We spent the whole day doing cannon balls and diving headfirst into the gorgeous water. But be warned: the shape of the sandspit is constantly evolving, so the formation may not be the same when you visit. If it’s not, wait for the next rainstorm and try again. (This sandspit is not to be confused with the one on neighboring Koh Lipe.)

22. Praia do Tamariz, Portugal

Best beaches in the world: Praia do Tamariz in Portugal

Location: Estoril, Portugal (just outside of Lisbon)

What’s Cool: In a country filled with perfect beaches, this relatively urban choice may seem strange. But where else can you lie on the golden sand and gaze up at a Portuguese castle sitting smack-dab on the beach. Also loved the great coastal walk from Cascais all the way down to the cliffs of Praia da Azarujinha – there are plenty of beautiful coves to discover.

23. White Beach on Palawan, Philippines

White Beach south of Port Barton in the Philippines

Location: Just south of Port Barton

What’s Cool: This impressive sweep of sand backed by a forest of towering palms is an old-world postcard come to life. The classic vision of paradise when we visited, White Beach is the perfect spot for a picnic or a quick snorkel. We wish we had kept walking south to see what other stunning beaches lie beyond.

24. Unnamed beach near Morondava, Madagascar

Isolated stretches of beach south of Morondava in Madagascar

Location: South of Morondava

What’s Cool: The entire coast south of Morondava is one continuous stretch of isolated beach running for hundreds of miles down to Toliara and beyond. These beaches make for fantastic hiking and swimming with swirling inlets, remote coastal fishing villages, mangrove swamps and more. There may be no greater expanse of undeveloped beach on the planet. But Madagascar’s beautiful beaches do come with isolation and A LOT of sharks, so be careful.

25. West Bay Beach on Roatan, Honduras

Beautiful West Bay Beach on Roatan in Honduras

Location: At the southern tip of the island of Roatan off the north coast of Honduras

What’s Cool: This stretch of beach on Roatan is the shining exception to the island’s mostly rocky, coral shoreline. Here, you can play out your Caribbean fantasies floating in the crystal waters, snorkeling with schools of squid, or lying on the powdery sand in the company of the occasional iguana. Unfortunately, the little dock Thomas is sitting on in this picture has melted away with the storms.

More beaches to come…

Boracay Palms

These are just the first 25 beaches on our ever expanding list of best beaches in the world. We will be adding many, many more in the future. And ranks will shift as we add new entries. Tell us about your favorite beaches around the world in the comment section below.

8 responses to “The Best Beaches in the World”

  1. avatar LinaG says:

    I loved Koh Adang. Camped there for two weeks, spent every day in the water. But isn’t the sand spit on Lipe?

  2. avatar Tony says:

    There is a very famous sandspit on Koh Lipe just across from Koh Adang, but there is another one on Koh Adang as well. The one on Koh Adang does shift more dramatically in size and shape and perhaps it was partially underwater while you were there depending on when you visited. We loved the Koh Adang much more because there were far fewer people and boats there while we were visiting.

  3. avatar Laurelle Walsh says:

    great idea!

  4. avatar Joely Perez says:

    Ko Phi Phi Don….is mine !!

  5. avatar ContemporaryNomad says:

    Koh Phi Phi 1990 would be my #1 beach. After the build up, it has fallen off the list.

  6. avatar Satish says:

    This list is a real present for a beach lover like me, thanks for the article??

  7. avatar Bama says:

    Coming from Indonesia, you know why whenever I travel it’s a bit hard for people to convince me that their beach is the best in the world. 😉 Some beaches outside the country were surprisingly beautiful, though. For those looking for lesser known beaches, I’d recommend Tai Long Wan in Hong Kong’s New Territories (a friend of mine thought the photo I took from that beach was somewhere in eastern Indonesia). As for myself, I definitely want to see Ipanema and Copacabana for the Sugarloaf Mountain in the background makes this part of Rio so iconic and beautiful.

  8. avatar Thomas says:

    You are quite right, Bama. Indonesia has spectacular beaches. We had to force ourselves not to publish 15 beaches just from Indonesia. As we are expanding our list, we’ll be adding more and more of those gorgeous Indonesian beaches.

    Also, I just googled Tai Long Wan, it’s quite beautiful. We’ll definitely have to go there next time we are in Hong Kong.

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