You can’t beat the classics, and no rundown of the world’s best beaches is complete without mentioning Copacabana. Life in Rio revolves around this 2.4 mile (4 km) stretch of paradise that’s way more than just a beach. Depending on the Carioca you ask, Copacabana is a club, a soccer field, a catwalk, a gym, a social club, and much, much more. Relaxing here with a caipirinha in hand is the perfect tonic after a day of exploring Rio’s famous sights.
Penguins make everything better — and beaches are no exception. At Boulders Beach in South Africa, you can watch thousands of the cute little creatures go about their daily waddling. The majority of them chill in front of the viewing platform on a section of beach that’s solely reserved for those with webbed feet. However, you’re more than likely to see one or two taking a dip or strolling along the adjacent public beaches with their buddies.
Dreamy beaches come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Take Iceland’s Reynisfjara, for example. This volcanic beach isn’t for sunseekers, but its hauntingly beautiful black sand will more than compensate for the lack of tanning opportunities. The eerie setting has provided the backdrop to scenes in Game of Thrones, Rogue One, Star Trek — and countless Instagram posts. But it’s not just the sand that draws visitors and film companies alike: there’s also the towering Reynisfjall mountain that lines the beach and wave-battered sea stacks off the coast.
On the opposite end of the color spectrum is Whitehaven Beach in Australia. This 4.3 mile (7 km) ribbon of perfection is home to arguably the whitest sand in the world. Soak up the sun, sail along the beach, or just sit back and relax. Once you’ve had your fill of beachside sun, swap your thongs (what Aussies call flip flops) for sneakers and hike to Hill Inlet Lookout at Tongue Point. Here, you’ll catch one of Australia’s most spectacular sights, as the low tide blends white sand and blue water into shape-shifting patterns.
No list of the world’s most beautiful beaches is complete without mentioning the Maldives. Head to Vaadhoo Island for something a bit different from your normal stretch of sandy coastline. What makes this island so special? Bioluminescence. But this otherworldly phenomenon isn’t magic — it comes from light emitted by plankton in the water. Aptly named the Sea of Stars, this once-in-a-while wonder doesn’t have a set schedule, so there’s no way to guarantee a glowy show. All you can do is cross your fingers and hope the stars (and plankton) align.
Is it cheating to combine two beaches? We don’t think so, especially as Kite Beach and Sunset Beach are neighbors. Kite Beach is a paradise for kitesurfers, and Sunset Beach (yep, you guessed it) is the place to go for dreamy sunsets. The people behind Dubai’s beach-naming committee must be a very literal bunch (or geniuses, cause we keep on talking about these beaches). Both beaches come with top-notch views of the Burj Al Arab and miles of white sand to wiggle your toes in. You’ll also find a whole host of things to check out on Kite Beach’s boardwalk, including a skate park, cute shops, and food trucks.
Sadly, the literal naming of beaches didn’t make it to Indonesia as no crystals are found on Crystal Bay. However, what it lacks in shiny gems, it more than makes up for with amazing sunsets, a plethora of palm trees, and renowned snorkeling spots. Located on the west side of Nusa Penida, the beach has become a popular stopping point on day trips from Bali. It only takes around 30 minutes to get to the island from Bali, so it conveniently slots into a vacation itinerary.
It’s easy to see why so many people consider Shoal Beach to be the best beach in the Caribbean. Located on the tiny island of Anguilla, the white sand and clear blue water create the dreamiest setting for any sun-seeker. Most people top up their tan and snorkel in Shoal Bay on a day trip from the neighboring island of Saint Martin. Beach hunters in search of a rush will want to check out the famous Maho Beach on Saint Martin, as jumbo jets fly just a few feet above your head.
Everything’s a little bit cooler in Venice Beach, California’s premier boho beach town. The artsy resort has long been a haven for creatives — and they’ve left their mark all over the place. Street art and cute boutiques fill the town, while skateparks, performers, and outdoor gyms line the famous boardwalk. You’ll find less crowded beaches in the world, but the flamboyant locals and white sand combine to create a people-watching paradise that oozes Californian charm.
The Algarve is packed with awesome beaches, but Praia de Benagil may just be the best of the bunch. While it’s a little on the small side, the beach is home to the Algar de Benagil, a stunning cave that should be on everyone’s to-go list. Inside the cave, you’ll find a small beach and crystal-clear waters. However, the main attraction is the circular hole in the roof (known as the eye) that sunlight floods through. Before you take a thousand pictures, take a minute or two to soak up the splendor. You’ll thank us later.
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