Why you should care
The soft sand, the warming sun, the refreshing water … who doesn’t love the beach? Whether you’re an adventurous diver or a lazy sunbather, whether you crave a secluded paradise or a party town, there’s a slice of sea and sand for you. From Morocco to the Dominican Republic, from Italy to Micronesia, here are some of the best beaches for your bucket list. (Want to accessorize like the pros? Consider these hot tips for beaching like a Brazilian).
There’s much more to the Dominican Republic than Punta Cana and La Romana. Want to get away from the usual all-inclusiveness and escape to a truly tranquil oasis in the real DR? Samaná is a place where horses roam the beaches and fish are sold out of truck beds, where dirt roads lead past fruit stands to deserted turquoise waters. The historic locale boasts some of the most beautiful beaches, including the acclaimed Playa Rincón. It’s easy to make friends in a place like this, and it’s easy to not leave.
Cyprus, off the coast of both Greece and Turkey, is home to pebbly-yet-soft white and black sand beaches and, of course, the rich blue glitter that is the Mediterranean Sea. Below sun-drenched cliffs, the beaches are often quiet. Sure, there are lovely hikes and wineries in the less-well-trodden Troodos Mountains and top kebab shops in town, but come for the seductive sands, and for the area’s fascinating history of an island divided.
Looking for a “nothing” holiday spot? Where minimalism and simplicity practically exhale through clear, calm water? Rota — a spit of land in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana islands, near Guam in the western Pacific — is a calm oasis: slow and quiet, with just a few residents, hardly any cars and no traffic lights, and beautiful deserted beaches. There’s also spectacular diving where you can explore coral gardens, World War II wrecks, and grottoes in exceptionally clear water. Unplug, unwind … undulate.
The bright, clear turquoise waters and radiant sun of Lampedusa, Italy, will have you swearing that you’re in the Caribbean. But this tiny island south of Sicily is home to some of the world’s most spectacular beaches. Its most famous: Rabbit Beach, whose cliffs and caves look like they’re straight out of a Pirates of the Caribbean set. Here there are no such distractions as bars, loud music and henna tattoos. You’ll be surrounded by the sound of the lazy waves and the excited squeals of seagulls.
A 30-minute boat trip out of a town lost in time takes you to a tiny slice of white sand beach on a small island in the middle of Madagascar’s Emerald Sea. It’s a private hideaway with turquoise-blue waters where you can snorkel, relax and chow on freshly caught fish — and see few other tourists. It’s the perfect place for adventure travelers who prefer backpacker to five-star, with all the scenery and an even better vibe. When you come back to the mainland, stop in at one of Diego’s many karaoke bars and sip Malagasy rum and party, island-style.
There’s a little island between Bali and Lombok called Gili Air, which just might be paradise. Smelling deliciously of bamboo and sunscreen, the island has plenty of activities: sunset floating on a paddleboard, snorkeling with turtles, riding in a glass-bottomed boat. Or you can just sit there by crystal clear azure-and-jade waters and let … the stress … go. And enjoy the quiet — there are no cars or motorbikes on Gili Air, just bicycles and horse-drawn taxis.
Less Conventional Beaches
Karachi’s Picture-Postcard Beach: Mubarak Goth boasts pristine beaches and coral reefs, but you’ve gotta travel through a Mad Max–style wasteland to get to this gorgeous Pakistani spot.
Dramatic, Beautiful Essaouira: Where the Moroccan desert meets the Atlantic Ocean, kite surfers flock to enjoy the stiff winds that whip across the wide bay. There’s also a Game of Thrones connection.
The Turkish Town for Beaching, Partying … Anything: There’s a little something for everyone in Bodrum: a buzzing nightlife, gorgeous remote beaches, great dining, ancient history.
The Pink Lakes of Senegal: Get on a horse and explore the dunes and the ocean beaches in a spectacular ride along Lac Rose, near Dakar.
A Glass Beach in California: Broken bottles and glass shards have been worn down into small, shining glass gems that intermingle with the sand.
Dive Into a Vast, Wilderness Lake … in Russia: Take an exhilarating plunge into the cold, clear waters of remote Lake Baikal, which is huge, wild and beautiful.