With miles of sand under sunny skies and the sea beyond, a day at the beach is the perfect tonic for the hectic pace of modern life. But there is much debate about the best beaches in the world. Are they unspoiled and remote? Or are they lined with restaurants and cafes? Are the best beaches the ones we visit often or ones we will travel across the world to find? Here is our list of the ten best beaches in the world, everything from bustling to remote, in the U.S. and beyond.
North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
The North Shore is a legendary meeting place for surfers from around the world. Yet the area’s beaches are just as welcoming for non-surfers. Relatively quiet outside of the stormiest seasons, with warm Pacific waters and picturesque views of the mountains, the North Shore is miles of low-key beaches and ideal for everyone from singles to families.
Santa Monica, CA
A laid back place famous for its beach and amusement pier jutting out into the Pacific, Santa Monica is a former resort town turned respite from the big city. Angelenos flock here in summer for temperatures cooler than inland and smog-free air. The beach lies down the hill from the central part of the city of Santa Monica and stretches several miles northwards up to Malibu. Waves off the ocean can be strong, a big draw for surfers who enjoy riding waves beneath the pier.
Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Raucous Rio has beach culture in its blood. While the city’s beaches tend to be the opposite of unspoiled, with a see and be seen vibe, the famed Ipanema Beach pulses with its own energy. Free-flowing caipirinhas available from vendors on the beach, clear blue water and neighboring mountains all contribute to this beach being the destination for beachgoers in Rio. More about Rio and its beaches can be found in our Rio City Guide.
Bondi Beach, Australia
Only twenty minutes from Sydney, laid back Bondi Beach is where surfers and Aussies enjoy killer waves. The kilometer long, crescent-shaped beach draws surfers to the southern section of the beach while the northern section has gentler waves, ideal for swimmers.
South Beach, FL
The place to see and be seen, South Beach these days is more famous for its nightlife and chic party scene. But the three mile long beach stretches alongside this bustling Miami neighborhood, with a long park providing well-needed shade. The beach itself is wide and flat, meaning there is plenty of space for beachgoers. And if you are in need of refreshment, Ocean Drive is lined with restaurants and cafes.
The tony Hamptons draw celebrities and billionaires for summer long parties, but the beaches are the reason that many other New Yorkers rent summer houses and flock to the area. The most accessible is Cooper Beach, which is a long public beach with gently rolling dunes. The beach is very popular so beachgoers should arrive early to find parking and a spot on the sand.
Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
In the shadow of the 12 Apostles Mountains south of Cape Town, the gorgeous Camps Bay beach is a people watchers paradise. The palm tree-lined strip along the beach has a vibe that recalls South Beach. For a beach less crowded and just as picturesque, try nearby Clifton Beach. Read more about both beaches in our guide to Cape Town.
The island of Crete attracts one-quarter of Greece’s visitors. It is ringed with beaches, everything from pebbles to white sand, and surrounded by the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Southern shore is more secluded with calmer waves and less wind, while the Northern shore is more popular and guarded by lifeguards. Greeks generally rent a sun bed and umbrella when they hit the beach but it’s not required. To read more about Crete, visit our article about the island.
Phi Phi Island, Thailand
Just 45 minutes from Phuket, Phi Phi Island has some of the most beautiful and remote beaches in the world. Surrounded by towering rock formations, the clear blue-green waters are calm and inviting. Though long a fixture on the backpacking trail, more luxurious accommodations have appeared in the past few years due to an influx in visitors.
Trunk Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands
The affluent island of St. John is nearly two-thirds natural park and Trunk Bay is its jewel, often appearing on lists of the world’s best beaches. Completely unspoiled and relatively free of crowds, Trunk Bay also attracts snorkelers to an underwater trail running through beautiful coral reefs.