Few destinations are as synonymous with relaxation as beaches. From tranquil options close to iconic sights to rugged spots that feel worlds away from reality, there are plenty of incredible choices across the globe. To decide which beautiful shorelines to prioritize, U.S. News compiled this selection of the world’s most awe-inspiring beaches. Whether you crave a leisurely afternoon of lounging or an active day filled with hiking or water sports adventures, you’ll instantly feel at ease while visiting these gorgeous beaches.
The Most Beautiful Beaches in the World:
— Whitehaven Beach
— Cannon Beach
— Horseshoe Bay Beach
— Mohegan Bluffs
— Siesta Beach
— Hidden Beach
— The Baths
— Navagio Beach
— Papakolea Beach
— Tulum Ruins Beach
— South Dune Beach
— Mayflower Beach
— Railay Beach
— Marinha Beach
— Baker Beach
— Grace Bay Beach
— Anse Source d’Argent
Whitehaven Beach: Whitsunday Island, Australia
Located off the coast of Queensland on the largest of the Whitsunday Islands, Whitehaven Beach mesmerizes visitors with its bright white silica sand and turquoise water. When they’re not snapping photos of their surroundings, beachgoers can swim in the clear water or walk to noteworthy spots like Hill Inlet (a shallow inlet on the northern end of the beach) and Chance Bay (a quieter area south of the beach that overlooks Pentecost Island). But remember, this 4-mile-long stretch of sand is only accessible by boat, helicopter or seaplane from Hamilton Island (the most popular inhabited island in the Whitsundays) and Airlie Beach on the mainland. Consider staying at Hamilton Island’s five-star qualia resort for luxurious waterfront accommodations. The hotel staff can assist with booking helicopter excursions to Whitehaven Beach, as well as scuba diving tours of the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef.
Cannon Beach: Cannon Beach, Oregon
If your perfect beach vacation features postcard-worthy topography and lots of solitude, look no further than Cannon Beach. In this Pacific Northwest town 80 miles northwest of Portland, you’ll discover nearly 4 miles of shore with jaw-dropping rock formations jutting out of the Pacific Ocean. Head to the center of the beach between Ecola Creek and Tolovana Park to gaze at Haystack Rock, a 235-foot-tall sea stack known for its colorful tide pools and puffin colony. If you’re visiting between late June and late October, you can build an evening bonfire to relax by while watching the sun set. When you need a break from the beach, walk to downtown Cannon Beach to browse its art galleries, boutiques and eateries. Or, retreat to one of the town’s inns, lodges or resorts. Two traveler-approved options within steps of the beach include the Stephanie Inn and The Ocean Lodge.
Horseshoe Bay Beach: Bermuda
Visit Horseshoe Bay Beach to put a unique spin on your next beach getaway. Situated on Bermuda‘s South Shore, this pink sand beach, which is made of a blend of crushed coral, is one of the island’s most popular stretches of sand. Families come here to splash in its calm turquoise water and build blush-colored sandcastles. Meanwhile, active travelers love exploring its hidden caves, trekking its trails to Warwick Long Bay and enjoying water sports like snorkeling and paddleboarding (loaner equipment is available for a fee). Horseshoe Bay Beach’s proximity to the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse also makes it a prime spot to unwind after climbing the 117-foot-tall structure. Don’t forget to save time for a snow cone or rum swizzle (Bermuda’s national drink) from the on-site Rum Bum Beach Bar before retiring for the evening at the nearby Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club.
Mohegan Bluffs: New Shoreham, Rhode Island
What the beach at Mohegan Bluffs lacks in accessibility it more than makes up for in natural beauty. Located at the base of its 200-foot-tall namesake, this Block Island shore offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and — on clear days — New York’s Long Island. Upon arrival, pause to admire your surroundings and read about the bluffs’ ties to the Manissean Indian Tribe. Then, take the 141 steps down to the sand to sunbathe or swim. After climbing back to the top, walk to Southeast Light to get an up-close look at its 19th-century lighthouse, then hop on a bike to explore the island. The lighthouse and beach are both stops on the self-guided Block Island Bicycle Tour. End your day with a stay at the Spring House Hotel or The 1661 Inn, two boutique properties with spectacular ocean vistas.
Siesta Beach: Siesta Key, Florida
Regularly lauded as one of Florida’s best beaches, Siesta Key — which is located 7 miles southwest of Sarasota — boasts three gorgeous shorelines, including Siesta Beach. Here, you’ll find colorful lifeguard stands sitting on soft sand made almost entirely of quartz, which gives the sand its pure white appearance and keeps it cool to the touch even on the hottest Florida days. Plus, Siesta Beach offers tennis and volleyball courts, a covered playground, two concession stands and beach wheelchairs, among other amenities, making it ideal for everyone from families to fitness buffs. When you’re ready for a change of scenery, venture a few blocks north to Siesta Key Village to shop, grab a drink or bite to eat, or listen to live music. For lodging, reserve a vacation rental or a room at a boutique hotel like Tropical Beach Resorts.
Though you may not think of Iceland as a beach vacation destination, its abundance of volcanoes sets the stage for enjoying an otherworldly beach experience. The country is home to several black sand beaches made from volcanic ash, but the most striking is Reynisfjara in South Iceland. At this desolate beach, you’ll discover jet-black sand, an enormous cave, giant offshore rock formations and a series of stacked basalt columns that will all take your breath away. Plus, the beach offers proximity to Vík, a seaside village known for its Icelandic Lava Show (the world’s only opportunity to safely observe molten lava) and outdoor adventures like glacier hikes and ice cave treks. Accommodations by Reynisfjara are limited, so consider making a daytrip from popular hotels like The Retreat or the Silica Hotel, which both overlook Iceland’s world-renowned Blue Lagoon and sit about 30 miles southwest of Reykjavik.
Hidden Beach: Marietas Islands, Mexico
This beach on Mexico’s Marietas Islands (off of the country’s western coast) is truly a hidden gem. Only accessible by boat from tourist hot spots like Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita, Hidden Beach wows visitors with its soft sand, crystal-clear water and one-of-a-kind location. Upon arrival, beachgoers must swim or kayak through a long water tunnel to reach the secluded beach, which sits within an exposed cave reportedly used for bombing drills during World War I. The unique layout makes the beach incredibly photogenic, as well as a haven for all kinds of wildlife. Birders can look for blue-footed boobies from the sand, while snorkelers can keep their eyes peeled for dolphins, turtles and humpback whales. Following their visits, travelers can unwind back on the mainland at a chic all-inclusive resort like Hotel Mousai or Iberostar Selection Playa Mita.
The Baths: Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Head to The Baths in the British Virgin Islands if you crave awe-inspiring vistas everywhere you turn. Located on Virgin Gorda, this stretch of sand is one of the world’s most beautiful white sand beaches — and it’s easy to see why. Granite boulders tower above the beach and shelter sea pools and caves that you can explore on foot. Follow the path of steps and rope handrails to get to Devil’s Bay, a prime place for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. Or, spend the bulk of your time climbing The Baths’ massive boulders and cooling off in one of the beach’s grottoes. If you’re not visiting The Baths during a Caribbean cruise — which typically offer shore excursions to Virgin Gorda when stopping in the British Virgin Islands — choose the luxe Rosewood Little Dix Bay as your on-island home away from home.
Anakena: Easter Island
For a truly unique backdrop while sunbathing and swimming, visit Anakena on remote Easter Island. On the island’s main beach, you’ll find white coral sand, swaying palm trees and eight broken and intact moai statues. The archaeological treasures sit atop two ahu (stone altars) that face the Pacific Ocean. Contemplate the statues’ mysterious origins from up close, then head down to the beach to relax on the beautiful sand and in the calm turquoise water. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, order a tuna empanada or a bowl of poe (a sweet pumpkin- and flour-based pudding) to enjoy picnic-style before exploring other parts of Rapa Nui National Park, which occupies roughly 40% of the island. Although Easter Island accommodations are limited, you’ll have a few traveler-approved options to choose from, including Nayara Hangaroa and explora Rapa Nui.
Navagio Beach: Zakynthos, Greece
Nicknamed Shipwreck Beach because of the shipwrecked vessel that washed up onto its shore in the 1980s, Navagio Beach boasts a breathtaking setting on the northwestern coast of Zakynthos. What’s left of the boat, which sits in the middle of the pebbly beach, is surrounded by vertical cliffs overlooking the turquoise Ionian Sea. Beach activities are limited to swimming and sunbathing. However, Navagio Beach’s isolated location — which is only accessible by boat from Porto Vromi — means you’ll likely see other noteworthy sights, such as the mesmerizing Blue Caves and historic Bohali Castle, on your way to and from the shore. Most Navagio Beach daytrips include hotel transfers from tourist areas like Planos and Zante Town, so plan on staying in one of these locations. Traveler favorites include the Lesante Classic Luxury Hotel & Spa and TUI BLUE Caravel.
Papakolea Beach: Big Island, Hawaii
Prepare to be wowed by the rare sands that cover this Big Island beauty. One of only four green sand beaches known to exist, Papakolea Beach is a treat for the eyes. To reach the beach, which sits south of the Mauna Loa volcano on Mahana Bay, you’ll have to hike nearly 3 miles down from its parking lot. Though the trek can be challenging, the unique setting is well worth the effort. You’ll discover vivid green sand made from olivine deposited during Mauna Loa eruptions, plus impressive gray cliffs and clear blue water. After a few hours of lounging — swimming is discouraged due to the strong undertow — check out nearby attractions like Punalu’u Beach and Kula Kai Caverns. (Note that there are no on-site amenities available at the beach.) There are limited lodging options nearby, but the towns of Waimea, Kailua-Kona and Hilo are home to dozens of top-notch properties. If you’re looking for luxury, base yourself in Waimea at a high-end hotel like the Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii.
Tulum Ruins Beach: Tulum, Mexico
The beach situated beneath Tulum Archaeological Site‘s ruins provides jaw-dropping views of El Castillo (a cliff side Mayan temple) and the Caribbean Sea. Descend the steps by the temple to get to the stunning white sand beach and swim in its aquamarine waters. To rub elbows with fewer tourists, arrive right when the attraction opens in the morning . Keep in mind that an entrance fee of 80 Mexican pesos (less than $4) per person applies. Once you’ve gotten your fill of the beach and its famous ruins, head to El Gran Cenote to snorkel or peruse the shops, restaurants and bars scattered throughout downtown Tulum. Then, hang your hat at a luxurious waterfront property like Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa or Jashita Hotel. Both sit about 10 miles northeast of the beach.
South Dune Beach: House Harbour Island, Quebec
Canada isn’t an obvious choice for a beach vacation, but South Dune Beach will sway you to think otherwise. Located on House Harbour Island, one of 12 islands that comprise the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, this beach stands out for its towering red cliffs. Not only do the cliffs provide a gorgeous contrast to the gulf’s blue water and the shore’s white sand, but they also help keep waves small, making the beach an ideal choice for families. Plus, you’ll have access to picnic tables, should you wish to bring some food to enjoy by the water. Be sure to arrive during low tide so you can explore the cliffs’ caves, and don’t forget to visit the nearby Cape Alright Lighthouse. For lodging, consider Domaine du Vieux Couvent, a charming former convent with 10 cozy rooms.
Mayflower Beach: Dennis, Massachusetts
Cape Cod is home to dozens of beautiful beaches, but few impress visitors like Mayflower Beach. At this mid-cape beach in the small town of Dennis, beachgoers will find amenities like a picnic area and a boardwalk, and plenty of space for beach games. But what sets this shore apart from others is what’s exposed at low tide. When the water level drops, tide pools are available for kids to play in. Additionally, tidal flats appear, enabling visitors to walk for miles in ankle-deep water. Those who need a break from the sun can catch a performance at the Cape Playhouse — also in Dennis — or tour the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port. Two top properties located within 15 miles of the beach include The Mansion at Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club and Wequassett Resort and Golf Club.
[Read: Best Cape Cod Beaches.]
Railay Beach: Krabi, Thailand
Travel to Thailand’s Railay Beach area for incredible scenery and plenty of amenities. Overlooking the Andaman Sea from its perch on southern Thailand’s Railay Peninsula, this beach destination’s four shores feature massive limestone cliffs, crystal-clear water and clean white sand. Head to Railay Beach’s northern stretch of sand (known as Ton Sai Bay) to rock climb, or venture to Railay East for a quiet spot to catch a colorful sunrise. If your main objective is to get in the water, check out Phranang Beach, a southern shore with shallow, calm water ideal for swimming and snorkeling. And should you crave a little bit of everything, visit Railay West. This beach provides countless opportunities for sunbathing, swimming and rock climbing, plus it’s close to restaurants, shops, bars and accommodations. Stay at Railay West’s Rayavadee for five-star digs by the sea.
Marinha Beach: Lagoa, Portugal
Your jaw will instantly drop the moment you arrive here. Situated within southern Portugal’s Algarve region, Marinha Beach boasts a hard-to-reach location alongside limestone cliffs. Getting to the beach requires traversing a long staircase down to the shore. Though this means Marinha Beach isn’t suitable for travelers with mobility limitations, its remote location helps prevent overcrowding, meaning you can snap plenty of unobstructed photos. Soak up some sun on the sand, then go snorkeling in the clear water. Remember to bring your own gear since rentals are not available on-site. If you visit during low tide, you can also walk to additional beaches, sea caves and the giant “M” rock. After exploring the beach, sign up for a boat tour to see more sights from the water or unwind at the upscale Vila Alba Eco-Resort, which sits less than a mile northeast.
Baker Beach: San Francisco
Nestled within San Francisco‘s protected Presidio area, Baker Beach offers easy access to some of the city’s best views. From the mile-long shore, visitors will enjoy panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean, Lands End, the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. Head to the beach to sunbathe on the clean golden sand (keep in mind that the northern end is clothing-optional), or bring bait and tackle for a day of fishing. Baker Beach’s proximity to towering serpentine cliffs also makes the shore a prime spot for hiking, so be sure to save time for a trek on the California Coastal Trail, one of several trails in the Presidio. Although most of the city’s top hotels are located in the downtown area, a few noteworthy options sit within 5 miles of Baker Beach, including the sophisticated Hotel Drisco Pacific Heights.
Grace Bay Beach: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands
Grace Bay Beach, a 3-mile-long white sand beach in the Turks and Caicos Islands, is incredibly picturesque thanks to its lack of seaweed and rocks. Plus, its position by Grace Bay makes it a terrific option for water activities. Venture a mile offshore to look for parrot fish, reef sharks and more while snorkeling around the barrier reef. Or, stay close to shore to swim in the calm, shallow water. Travelers can enjoy additional water sports (think: paddleboarding, kayaking and sailing) in the surrounding Princess Alexandra National Park by renting equipment via local outfitter Big Blue Collective. Resorts at Grace Bay Beach are easy to find, so plan on staying at a property with direct beach access, such as Seven Stars Resort & Spa or Point Grace.
Anse Source d’Argent: La Digue, Seychelles
Featuring massive gray and white boulders, soft white sand, clear blue water and lush tropical vegetation, Anse Source d’Argent is a feast for the eyes. In either direction, you’ll notice gigantic granite boulders perfectly positioned between the water and swaying palm trees. Follow the lead of countless filmmakers and photographers and capture the Seychelles beach’s beauty on camera before stretching out on the sand or dipping your toes in the calm water. Aim to arrive during low tide when the water is below your knees and more sand is exposed. Reaching the beach requires passing through L’Union Estate, a coconut plantation that charges an entrance fee of 100 Seychellois rupee (about $5) per nonresident. Lodging is limited on La Digue, so consider taking the ferry from the larger island of Mahé, where the highly regarded Four Seasons Resort Seychelles is located.