Did you know that more than 70% of the surface of the planet is sea? This laps against more than 372,000 miles of coastline. Beaches vary from secluded sandy coves that are backed by palm trees to wild terrain where waves crash and swirl against unusual rock formations.
Whenever we visit a new country, as well as sampling the delicious cuisine and discovering a new culture – we are often keen to see the top sights – particularly these beaches.
We, of course, want to relax among stunning scenery but more recently, we’re looking for picturesque destinations that we can photograph for social media. A recent survey by home insurance company Schofields Insurance found that 40% of millennials choose a destination based on whether it’s Instagram-worthy, in order to capture images that ensure feeds look pretty and followers are pressing the like button.
No matter where you are, the beach is a calming place to be and the waves rolling in against the sand is a beautiful sight to behold, but some stand out from the rest for being particularly idyllic.
So, to help you decide which parts of the seemingly never-ending coastline you need to see and where you’ll find picture-perfect stretches of sand, here are the best beaches in the world. Be warned, your travel bucket list is about to get a whole lot bigger.
1.Maya Bay, Thailand
Where is it? Just a short boat ride from the island of Ko Phi Phi.
About the beach: Cliffs tower more than 100 metres above this bay, lush greenery provides the backdrop and soft white sand leads down to crystal clear water – pure paradise.
During the day, dive in and see bright coral and colourful fish. Once the sun sets over this stunning beach, paddling in the water will produce a sparkling light show from the bioluminescent plankton which glisten beneath the surface.
Thailand is known for its stunning coastline and tropical beaches but there is something special about Maya Bay that ensures it outshines the rest.
Fun Fact: This beach was made famous when it appeared in the 2000 film, aptly named The Beach. This adaptation of a novel with the same name, by Alex Garland, starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton. This quickly resulted in Maya Bay becoming one of the most popular shores in the world.
Need to know: To ensure this beach remains among the best in the world it has been closed temporarily – originally this was for four months, but it has been extended to one year. It’s estimated that 80% of the coral has been destroyed due to the 200 boats and 5,000 tourists that arrive every day. When it re-opens, tourist numbers will be limited to 2,000 a day. This is beneficial for those who want to see it in its raw form as they can experience its natural beauty without peering through hordes of people.
2. Dalawella Beach, Sri Lanka
Where is it? On the south coast, near Unawatuna
About the beach: Palm trees bend over the golden sand that leads down to the wavy turquoise water on this Sri Lankan beach. But, this stretch of sand is primarily known for its insta-famous rope swing, which you’ll find hanging from a palm tree near Salt Beach House.
Experience the thrill as you fly over the sand and towards the sea, swinging back and forth while you admire the scenery and capture the perfect photo mid-air.
Once you’re done, take a seat on the soft sand and enjoy the view as you sip on a King Coconut. When the tide goes out it forms a lagoon and, if you’re lucky, you might get to swim alongside turtles.
Dalawella is only a short distance from the touristy main beach but is far quieter. Restaurants and accommodation line this shore, so you can enjoy the coastline from your room or as you eat. Look for Wijaya, where you are able to swim in front of this beach bar.
Fun Fact: Sri Lanka has been named Lonely Planet’s number one destination for 2019. As well as beautiful beaches, this country is known for its wonderful wildlife, friendly locals and mouth-watering cuisine.
Need to know: The swing has become so popular that you’ll have to pay to go on it. This should only cost 500 rupees which is around £5. This covers you to use the swing as often as you like and it’s possible to negotiate the price.
3. Dhigurah Island, Maldives
Where is it? South Ari Atoll
About the beach: The Maldives is the epitome of paradise – you’re unlikely to find a beach that you wouldn’t describe as perfect here. You’ll instantly conjure up images of the water bungalows that sit atop the turquoise sea that laps the white sand. While they could easily all be called the best, Dhigurah Island certainly stands out.
The island is inhabited but only by around 600 people who live in the fishing village. In the centre there is an equatorial forest and along the length of either side is a beach. The most beautiful stretch of sand can be found on the southern tip.
On the beach on one side of the island you can watch the sun rise and on the other, see it set. There is also a sandbank at the end of the island – perfect for romantic dinners.
The water is so clear, you can see the colourful coral before you swim beneath the surface. But, once you do you’ll also discover whale sharks, which call this part of the ocean home – and it’s one of the few places you can see them. There are also sea turtles, manta rays, black tip reef shark and parrot fish – to name just a few. The island has its own dive centre and more than 30 spots assigned specifically for diving.
Fun Fact: This island is only two miles long and 250 metres – at the widest point. The name of this beach translates to ‘a long island.’
Need to know: You can travel to this island from Malé by boat. Once on it, there are very few cars – but it’s possible to organise a shuttle service to take you from one end to the other. However, the best way to explore is either on foot, or by hiring a bike.
4. Honopu Beach, Hawaii
Where is it? Kauai’s Na Pali Coast
About the beach: This part of the coastline also goes by the nickname ‘Cathedral Beach.’ The stretch of golden sand is situated within the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park and is the most secluded and remote beach in Hawaii.
It’s so isolated that you’re likely to have it all to yourself. For this reason many legends and myths surround it – one is around the inhabitants that were here until the mid-19th century. You may sometimes hear it called ‘The Valley of the Lost Tribe.’
This island is known as ‘The Garden Isle’ – cliffs soar high above this beach covered in lush greenery. At the base there are two beaches, separated by an arch.
Walk around the corner and you’ll be open mouthed as you see the waterfall that tumbles down the cliff and into the ocean.
Fun Fact: You may have seen this beach before, it has been the setting for many films including King Kong, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Six Days, Seven Nights.
Need to know: It isn’t easy to reach this beach – boats aren’t allowed to approach it so you’ll either have to swim from an offshore boat or for quarter of a mile from the neighbouring beach, Kalalau. It will all be worth it as soon as you set eyes on it and you can enjoy the beautiful scenery from afar as you swim towards it.
5. Seven Mile Beach, Jamaica
Where is it? Negril on the west coast
About the beach: This is the most popular and famous beach in Jamaica. Look down the coastline here and white sand is lapped by clear water that glistens in the sunlight as far as the eye can see.
Luscious green palm trees sway gently in the breeze along the beach, among them you’ll find bars that fill the air with reggae music. Take a seat and enjoy the view while you sample the delicious Jamaican cuisine and taste the local rum.
From here you can board a catamaran or glass-bottom boat to head out to sea and look back on the stunning shoreline while discovering what’s beneath the surface.
If you want to get a closer look, this is the ideal spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. Here you’ll see colourful coral teeming with the likes of pufferfish, stingrays and seahorses. You can also experience the thrill of a jet ski or banana boat.
If you have always dreamed of riding a horse along the shoreline – you can, just look out for Reggae Horseback Riding and Tours. Splash through the warm waters while enjoying the views from a new perspective – don’t forget your camera to capture this unforgettable experience.
Fun Fact: Rumour has it, this beach was once controlled by pirates so keep your eye out for buried treasure! Alternatively, you are only a 15-minute boat ride from Calico Jack Private Island where you’ll find the bar staff dressed in pirate attire.
This island is relatively unknown making it the perfect secluded spot to immerse yourself in the experience. There is also a protected reef surrounding it, so don’t forget your snorkel.
Need to know: Although this beach is known as Seven Mile Beach it’s technically four miles – the remaining three miles is Bloody Bay.
6. Sandy Lane Beach, Barbados
Where is it? On the west coast in the Saint James Parish
About the beach: This beach has been described as the ‘playground of the rich and famous’ – celebrities and royalty have been soaking up the sun on its pure white sand for many years.
You’ll quickly see why – this tropical paradise is lined with palm trees and lapped by warm turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea.
It exudes an air of luxury and is among the most glamorous destinations on the island, which is why these celebrities choose to stay in the 5 star Sandy Lane Hotel Resort that backs the beach.
It might sound like this Instagrammable beach should be private but Barbados’ entire shoreline is open to the public. You can access the beach at the southern end of the hotel. Not only that, you can use the hotel’s beach bar and restaurant.
You never know, you could be sunbathing alongside your favourite movie star or eating lunch on the table next to a band you have always loved. Make sure you dive into the clear, calm water – this is the perfect spot for snorkelling and you’re guaranteed to see a wealth of intriguing sea life. Back on the surface, there’s also a wide range of watersports available including jet skis.
Fun Fact: Around 18 billionaires have homes in the west coast because it is so luxurious. This is why it is nicknamed the ‘Platinum Coast.’ This beach is among the most popular celebrity hotspots in the world which is why Simon Cowell chooses this hotel for his annual New Year party.
Need to know: If you want to spot A-listers, then book a winter getaway to this Caribbean island. This stretch of sand is particularly popular with celebrities over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Alternatively, if you would prefer to spot hawksbill turtles, you need to be here from July to October. This is when you’ll find them nesting and have the chance to swim alongside them in the crystal clear water.
7. Ile aux Cerfs Beach, Mauritius
Where is it? Off the east coast of Mauritius
About the beach: Mauritius is pure paradise, you’ll struggle to find a beach that you wouldn’t describe as idyllic. However, there’s something romantic about this beach, which is situated on an island within the country’s biggest lagoon and can only be reached by boat.
Leave footprints as you walk in the soft white sand – you can actually wander around the entire island, it’ll only take a couple of hours. It’s well worth it for the view out to sea and towards the tropical oasis of lush greenery at the centre of the island.
There is a wide range of watersports to enjoy here on the clear water from banana boats to parasailing. Make sure you discover the beautiful world beneath the surface, too. If you like to play golf, it’s also home to one of the world’s most beautiful courses.
At low tide you can also walk over to neighbouring Ilot Mangenie, an almost deserted island.
Fun Fact: This beach gets its name from the stags – or cerfs – that used to call it home.
Need to know: Boats leave Trou d’Eau Douce every half hour. There are plenty of organised catamaran tours that you can join to see this island – many include a BBQ lunch and ensure you stop to snorkel in the very best spots.
8. Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Where is it? It’s part of Manuel Antonio National Park, near Quepos in North Puntarenas on the Pacific Coast.
About the beach: An evergreen forest backs the white sand, which is lapped by azure water.
Punta Catedral – or Cathedral Point – sits at the end of the beach and shelters it from the elements, ensuring the water is calm. It’s worth making your way to the trails up here, for stunning views back down on the coastline. The best route starts and ends on the beach and takes you around the border of Punta Catedral.
This idyllic beach is among the most beautiful due to its impressive setting within the national park. Only 600 people are allowed to enter the park a day, so this beach is the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Fun Fact: The country’s most popular national park surrounds this beach and is home to more than 100 species of mammals and close to 200 species of birds. You might spot monkeys including squirrel, white-faced and howler as well as iguanas and sloths. While you’re here, book an early morning guided tour of the park to help you see more animals.
Need to know: The national park is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 7.30am to 4pm. It will take around 30 minutes to walk to this beach from the main entrance.
We also asked our readers where they think the best beaches in the world are:
Tourist Jen Plahm suggested Burleigh Beach, Gold Coast in Australia. She explains why: “Burleigh beach is well known for the beautiful coastline, surf breaks and national park. It’s also home to many international surf competitions.
The Burleigh Heads National Park on the beach has a well-maintained, 2.8-kilometre ocean view circuit which offers views of the coast, as well as a 1.2-kilometre rainforest circuit. There are barbecue, picnic and parking facilities at several points. A few hundred metres away, beach-goers can go to a bar and restaurant built right on the sand, Rick Shores, a hatted establishment – equivalent to a Michelin Star restaurant.”
Holidaymaker Lucy Smith put forward Beer Can Island, Anna Maria Island Florida. She says it has, “incredible sand, amazing woodland and is very peaceful.”
Seasoned traveller Andrew Brookes loves “Santa Monica beach for its beautiful sunsets over the Malibu hills, fun pier and great atmosphere.”
James Cave from Portugalist.com said, “Praia da Marinha in the Algarve is a definite favourite, as I love the cliffs behind. I’ve been to beaches all around the world but none compare to the Algarve.”
Anna Duddington, speaking on behalf of Anguilla Tourist Board, said Shoal Bay East on the British Caribbean island. “Flawless white sand, delicious food close by and almost two miles long, there is space aplenty to sit back, relax and enjoy the tranquil turquoise waters of the Caribbean.”
Mickie Giacomini from DayTripper magazine says: “One of the best beaches on the Mexican Riviera is the one running along Fatima Bay, in Puerto Aventuras. Back in the day, the beach was pristine, however, it was hit by a hurricane about 10 years ago. Since then, many of the locals who live along that stretch, have shelled money out of pocket to restore the beach. Thanks to their help, the beach has come back into its glory. This best-kept Mexican secret is not to be missed, and I visit it every time I stay at Casa Dragonfly ~ Riviera Maya.”
If you think they sound beautiful, just wait until you see them with your own eyes – these beaches are pure paradise and are guaranteed to take your breath away. The only problem you have now is deciding which one to go and see first.
Now you know where the best beaches in the world are, why not discover the best beaches in Europe too?