With all due respect to mountain people, there’s simply nothing in this world like a beautiful beach. Whether your preferred beach style is rustic and remote or well-equipped and lively, our curated list offers a peek into some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. On any of them, you’ll find some of the world’s softest sand, clearest waters, and dramatic views that feel downright cinematic.

Adventure Tip

Before you take a dip in the ocean, check the local water conditions to avoid any potential dangers like rough waves, rip currents, or incoming storms.

Beaches in the U.S.

Hanalei Bay, Hawaii

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Long before Hollywood put it on the tourist map (first with “South Pacific” in 1958, then with “The Descendants” in 2011), Kauai’s Hanalei Bay attracted locals for its near-mystical beauty. Its beaches — Wai’oli, Hanalei Pavilion, and Black Pot — are framed by jade-colored mountains rising more than 4,000 feet high. The area is especially popular with surfers in the winter when the waves pick up size and speed.

Grayton Beach, Florida

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There is no shortage of beautiful beaches in Florida, which boasts a whopping 1,350 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea. Since Florida’s beaches can get pretty busy, we recommend venturing off the beaten path to Grayton Beach in South Walton, located on the panhandle between Pensacola and Panama City. With nearly 2,000 acres of state park lands including fine white sand and a unique lake within the sand dunes that’s perfect for kayakers, you can enjoy a less-developed Florida beach, while the adjacent town scores extra points for its quirky personality.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

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The waters of the Pacific Northwest may be too cold for swimming most days, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful. About a 90-minute drive from Portland, Oregon, you’ll find undeniable beauty on Cannon Beach. While the town here is charming, it’s the towering 235-foot-high Haystack Rock and its surrounding needle-shaped rocks that give this beach its famous skyline. One of the most photographed places in Oregon, it can get crowded, but there’s a long stretch of scenery to enjoy while you’re there. After you visit Cannon Beach, set up a picnic nearby at Hug Point or Ecola State Park.

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Beaches in South America

Copacabana, Brazil

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Perhaps the most famous beach in the world, Copacabana has just about everything going for it: roughly 2.5 miles of glorious golden sand, a party vibe, and a dazzling skyline of jagged mountains and Art Deco and modernist architecture. Even the beach boulevard, a Portuguese-inspired black-and-white mosaic design by landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, is a visual knockout.

The beach acts as Rio de Janeiro’s social hub (especially on weekends), with locals sunbathing, strolling the promenade, and playing volleyball, and vendors selling everything from popsicles and shrimp skewers to caipirinhas and ice-cold beer. Copa’s glory days may be behind it — nearby Leblon and Ipanema are now considered the chicer “it spots” — but the vintage appeal is still part of its overall charm.

Baia do Sancho, Brazil

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Located about 220 miles off the coast of Brazil, Baia do Sancho is regularly deemed the world’s best beach. Its UNESCO designation and several government protections help to keep it and the entire Fernando de Noronha archipelago pristine. Access to Baia do Sancho is only by boat or a series of slightly unnerving stone steps and steel ladders built into the cliffs. Those who go are rewarded with a sheltered beach featuring smooth, soft sand and abundant sea life — fish, dolphins, sharks, and rays can all be seen swimming in its turquoise bay.

Beaches in the Caribbean 

Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

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World-renowned Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman has it all: sand as soft as talcum powder; turquoise water as calm as a lake; and a fun mix of water sports, beach bars, and luxury resorts. The beauty in this miles-long beach (albeit not quite seven miles — it’s closer to five and a half) is that everyone’s happy. Travelers looking for a social atmosphere and high-octane fun can find it in a snap, while those just wanting to relax under an umbrella with a good book have no shortage of quiet hideouts on the sand.

“Seven Mile Beach on the western side of Grand Cayman island looks like those computer screensavers you see of an idyllic beach. I walked a part of it while attending the Cayman Cookout at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, which sits along this iconic beach,” said Susmita Baral, a Travel + Leisure digital editor, of her recent trip. ”It felt like I had some kind of filter over my eyes — the sand was pristine, the water was a stunning shade of turquoise, and the sunsets were magical.”

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos

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In Turks and Caicos, Grace Bay Beach is consistently rated as one of the world’s best, and it’s no wonder why, with its sublime combination of white sand and a warm azure sea. Topping it off is Princess Alexandra Marine Park just offshore, where snorkelers can visit an underwater world populated by majestic rays, green and hawksbill turtles, and dazzling fish of all sizes and colors. And while this may be one of the most popular beaches in the world, there’s plenty of room for everyone — between Grace Bay and its neighboring Leeward and Bight beaches, visitors have seven continuous miles of beach to spread out on.

Beaches in Europe

Elafonissi Beach, Greece

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Elafonissi Beach’s immense popularity comes from its pretty pinkish sand, warm lagoon-like waters, and very wild feel. It’s actually an island, separated from the rest of Crete by shallow water and sandbars that disappear under about three feet of water at high tide. Facilities are limited to palapa-covered sun loungers and a handful of tavernas for fresh seafood. If Elafonissi is too packed, try Balos Lagoon, about a two-hour drive away along the northern coast.

Sotavento Beach, Spain

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While Fuerteventura is wildly overdeveloped in parts, Sotavento is the antidote to the Canary Islands’ brassy, built-up beach resorts. Its nine-mile span contains little but golden dunes, an immense sandy beach, and rolling teal waves. Reliable trade winds dimple the desert-meets-ocean landscape with vast tidepools and low-tide lagoons. The windy conditions and year-round warm water make Sotavento heaven for swimming, surfing, kiteboarding, and catamaran sailing.

Platja de Ses Illetes, Spain

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Set on a narrow wisp of land in northern Formentera, Platja de Ses Illetes’s gleaming gold shore is surrounded by turquoise shallows on both sides. Nature-preserve status keeps crowds in check, and visitors can walk along the headland for even more secluded beaches. A half-hour stroll north takes you to the tip of the island, with views of S’Espalmador across the channel.

La Pelosa Beach, Italy

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On the island of Sardinia, there’s a beach that’s beautiful and knows it. Between June and September, prospective beachgoers must pre-book and pay an entry fee online. There are also several rules to be aware of once you get there — you must use beach mats under your towels, not smoke, and wear your wristband at all times, among others. These regulations help to prevent overcrowding so everyone can enjoy La Pelosa’s bone-white sands and shimmering clear shallows. An Aragonese stone watchtower on neighboring Asinara island completes the scene. Additional must-see Sardinian beaches include Porto Giunco, Spiaggia La Cinta, Cala Mariolu, and Spiaggia di Cala Coticcio.

Scala dei Turchi, Italy

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Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks) is a breathtaking confluence of water and time. Located on the west coast of Sicily, a blindingly white marlstone cliff marches toward the sea like a staircase, leading to an isolated beach below. The contrast of the snow-white stone cascading down to the blue-green Mediterranean is a photographer’s dream. Unfortunately, an influx of tourists damaged the sensitive site, leading to more erosion — it was seized by Italian authorities in 2020 and visitors are now prohibited from climbing the steps. At least you can still appreciate them from afar via a public viewpoint.

Praia de Marinha, Portugal

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Golden sand and striking limestone cliffs are calling cards for beaches in Portugal’s Algarve region. Picking the most beautiful is like splitting hairs, but special honors go to Praia de Marinha for its rustic, end-of-the-world appeal and lack of commercial build-up. Other quintessential Algarve must-visit beaches include Praia dos Três Irmãos, Praia de Benagil, Praia da Falésia, and the super-sheltered Carvalho Beach.

“I traveled to Portugal’s Algarve region during the shoulder season a couple of years ago, and I fell in love with the stunning cliffs and rock formations that line the sandy shores,” said Travel + Leisure special projects editor Elizabeth Rhodes. “Visiting in March meant fewer crowds and having secluded beaches all to ourselves.” 

Beaches in Asia 

Saud Beach, Philippines

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If you’re searching for Southeast Asian beach bliss, super-mellow Saud Beach on the island of Luzon is a sure thing. Its white sand pitches gradually into the clear-as-glass water like a real-world example of a zero-entry swimming pool. Swim in the peaceful waves, lunch under a thatch-roof cabana under the palms, or hire an outrigger for excursions on the water.

Radhanagar Beach, India

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Of the roughly 500 islands floating in India’s Bay of Bengal, Swaraj Dweep’s spectacular beaches and diving make it far and away the most sought-after. Despite the island’s well-deserved popularity, Radhanagar Beach feels every bit a remote escape. Save a handful of thatch-roof structures, development has been kept entirely at bay; instead of high-rise hotels or even water sports kiosks, there’s nothing but thick tropical mahua trees and other endemic greenery rushing right up to the shoreline. At night, the blazing sunsets are intensified by their reflection in the ripply, receded tide.

Bai Dam Trau, Vietnam

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Choosing Vietnam’s most beautiful beach is tough, but Bai Dam Trau in the Con Dao islands is certainly a top contender. With distinct golden sand, soft swells, and shady groves of bamboo and evergreen trees, it’s the kind of place to spend the day gently swinging in a hammock with a beach read or walking in the surf with a freshly hacked coconut. The island’s nearby airport means commercial jets fly thrillingly close, bringing momentary excitement (or disruption, to some) to the otherwise idyllic spot.

Railay Beach, Thailand

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Soaring cliffs covered in dense jungle cut off the Railay peninsula from the southern Thailand mainland. Its isolated location and boat-only access only help to dial up Railay’s unique beauty. The curving beach is punctuated by towering creviced karsts — limestone formations that have made it a world-class destination for rock climbing — while the emerald lagoon is a paradise for kayaking and paddle boarding. Neighboring Phra Nang Beach is pocked with caves, one of which houses a fertility shrine. Head to the other side of the isthmus for a happening bar scene.

Beaches in Africa 

Nungwi Beach, Tanzania

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Located in a buzzing fishing village of the same name on Zanzibar Island, Nungwi Beach is one of Tanzania’s most-hyped attractions. A big part of the appeal is its fantastic coral sand, which seems to emit a pale, otherworldly glow. Pristine, easy-swimming water, craggy rocks, and lovely sunsets set against the silhouettes of traditional dhow boats complete the picture. However, with hype comes commerce: The area has a heavy concentration of restaurants, beach vendors, bars, resorts, and outfitters for water sports and excursions. Deep-sea fishing, sunset cruises, and trips to the incredible Nakupenda Beach sandbank off of Stone Town are especially popular.

Camps Bay Beach, South Africa

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Truly beautiful beaches tend to be remote island destinations far from urban buzz. One big exception is Camps Bay Beach, located right in vibrant Cape Town. With the iconic Table Mountain in the distance, the beach offers a huge expanse of feathery sand and beautiful blue water. The current can sometimes be strong here, so swimmers should take caution or stick to the tidal pool.

There’s plenty on tap in the Mother City beyond sun and surf: exploring the cobbled streets and colorful facades of the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, hiking or riding the aerial cableway to the top of Cape Town’s famous flat-topped mountain, and braving Chapman’s Peak, the hair-raising ocean drive through rocky cliffs tumbling into the South Atlantic. Safaris, famous vineyards, whale-watching, and shark-diving all make easy day trips.

Anse Source D’Argent, Seychelles

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The word “Seychelles” conjures the very image of a dreamy, far-flung paradise. Luckily, in this case, the reality measures up to the fantasy, with exquisite beaches, intensely green nature reserves, and majestic wildlife at every turn. Anse Source D’Argent exemplifies the unique Seychellois beach formula, defined by a translucent lagoon perfect for snorkeling and wavy granite boulders that seem tossed onto the shore by ancient giants.

Praia de Santa Monica, Cape Verde

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Cape Verde’s Boa Vista is a must-visit island destination for beach lovers with an adventurous streak. Praia de Santa Monica serenely rolls along nearly 14 miles of the island’s southwest coast — an astonishing scene of billowing dunes, rocky cliffs, and wild ocean flashing deep blue and green. Though the current is often too strong for swimming, the beach is perfect for long, enchanting walks and whale-watching.

Le Morne, Mauritius

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Go to just about any shore in Mauritius, and you’ll find a reef-protected beach with calm, clear water ideal for swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling. Le Morne is particularly noteworthy for its two-and-a-half miles of sugar-soft sand (beaches in Mauritius are often rough with broken-up coral), densely lined with palm and pine-like filao trees. The sheltered lagoon waters stretch to the horizon and the kitesurfing conditions are perhaps the best in the world. For dramatic effect, the nearby Le Morne Mountain looms large.

Beaches in Australia 

Cape Le Grand National Park, Australia

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On the remote southern coast of Western Australia, 39 miles from the nearest city of Esperance, Cape Le Grand National Park is home to several distinctly beautiful beaches and bays. The Coastal Trail winds through heath-covered bluffs, visiting Hellfire Bay’s granite boulders and clear blue waters and Lucky Bay, home to some of the world’s whitest sand. For a bird’s-eye view, hike the 1.8-mile, wildflower-strewn Frenchman Peak Trail.

Whitehaven Beach, Australia

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In terms of must-visit sites in Australia, Queensland’s Whitehaven Beach is up there with the Sydney Opera House and Noosa National Park. From above, the destination’s ever-shifting swirl of salt-white sand and brilliant blue water resemble a precious marbled jewel. Made of extremely fine, silica-rich quartz, the squeaky-soft sand is some of the smoothest and whitest in the world. To reach this paradise, fly into the Hamilton Island Airport and take a ferry to the Whitsunday Islands.

Beaches in the South Pacific

Matira Beach, Bora Bora

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The islands of French Polynesia (an overseas collectivity of France) are associated with beachy, tropical splendor. Matira Beach gets an honorable mention for its size, cleanliness, and incredible beauty — picture fluffy white sand, calm turquoise water as far as the eye can see, and lush volcanic hills peaking in the distance. Matira is Bora Bora’s biggest public beach, yet its scene is mellow and subdued. Beachgoers are usually napping on towels, wading in the knee-deep water, or visiting the beach’s boutiques and cafes.

Taharuu Beach, Tahiti

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Tahiti is home to several picturesque black-sand beaches, including the gorgeous Taharuu Beach, located on the French Polynesian island’s southern shore. Tahiti’s beaches are undeniably beautiful and make the perfect place to learn to surf, with plenty of schools to choose from. The sport originated in Polynesia hundreds of years ago, and there are surfing competitions held on the island each year; in fact, Tahiti is hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics surfing events.

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