What makes a great beach? Some seek out world-class surfing and swimmable waters, while others flock to white sand and exquisite views. When it comes to the world’s greatest beaches, there really are no wrong answers. From swimming pigs and friendly dolphins to black sand and abandoned battle tanks, these are our top choices.
1. Grace Bay, Turks & Caicos
Visit for: The perfect honeymoon
Named the world’s best beach many times over, Grace Bay easily cracks our list. Known for its exquisitely clear waters and white sands painted with pink and peach hues, Turks & Caicos is a beach lover’s paradise with no shortage of world-class options – but Grace Bay is without question the island’s trademark. It is generally free of raucous party boats and heavy crowds, making it perfect for an emphasis on sun, sand, and relaxation. Keep an eye out for JoJo, the beach’s friendly resident dolphin!
Where to stay in Grace Bay
2. Trunk Bay, St. John
Visit for: Pristine beauty
Donated to the United States’ National Park Service in 1956 by Laurence S. Rockefeller, Trunk Bay remains a perennial top 10-ranked beach. Its calm and clear waters make it a snorkeling hot spot; there’s even a 225-yard underwater trail with signage pointing you towards elkhorns, sea fans, parrotfish and moray eels. Lifeguards watch over the beach so you can bring the kids without worry. A perfect family vacation spot, plenty of high-end vacation homes can be found along the bay. Trunk Bay is a popular stop for cruise ships visiting the Virgin Islands, so be prepared to share this pristine slice of sand with other tourists.
Where to stay in Trunk Bay
3. Honokalani Beach, Maui
Visit for: Unique black sand
This is one for your Instagram feed – no filter needed. Nicknamed Black Sand Beach, the sand at Honokalani is, yes, jet-black. The contrast is picture perfect set against the Waianapanapa – meaning glistening water – illuminated most days by the sparkling sun. Swimming here is not recommended; even in the summertime it’s rare the water is calm enough. Regardless, you’ll be too busy snapping pictures of that mysterious black sand to care!
Where to stay in Maui
4. Cala Goloritze, Sardinia
Visit for: A beach well worth the hike
Getting to Cala Goloritze can be a challenge. Access is via a one-hour hike or by boat from Santa Maria Navarrese. We recommend the hike, because the journey will be so worth it once you discover the secluded paradise and bright turquoise water on the Gulf of Orosei. The small beach is made of white pebbles and sand, and you don’t know it’s there until you know it’s there. A true reward.
Where to stay in Sardinia
5. Pig Beach, The Bahamas
Visit for: Swimming with pigs
You’ve heard the phrase, ‘when pigs fly’ to refer to something impossible. But have you heard, ‘when pigs swim’? On one Bahamian island, it’s the furthest thing from impossible. The appropriately named Pig Beach sits on an uninhabited island in the Exumas Cays and is home to a friendly batch of about 20 carefree, water-loving pigs. The Phelpsian creatures will accompany you as you snorkel, scuba dive, and sightsee – and they’ll pose for your adorable, like-worthy Instagram shots!
Where to stay in The Exumas
6. Bondi Beach, Sydney
Visit for: Surfing Paradise
There’s plenty to do at Bondi Beach, one of the world’s most famous beaches. Activities abound – peruse the Bondi Markets every Sunday in the village, surf the world-famous curling waters set against glorious views, or play beach volleyball just like they did here during the 2000 Summer Olympics. If possible, visit during one of the town’s major events: the City to Surf fun run is a 14-km stagger from College Street to Bondi Beach and takes place every August, the Festival of the Winds is a gathering of kites, and the Sculpture by the Sea free to the public exhibitions are the largest in the world!
7. Anse Lazio, Seychelles
Visit for: Remarkable views
Anse Lazio was voted 6th best beach in the world by TripAdvisor users last year, and consistently finds itself ranked among the best and most beautiful. Each end of the beach is marked by red granite boulders. Look closely as some of them are marked with carvings. It is said that pirates wandered the Indian Ocean hundreds of years ago – look for their carvings on the boulders. You should walk the half-hour climb to the top of the mountain and enjoy views from high above the bay. Whether from up top or down below, Anse Lazio’s beauty is evident.
8. Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico
Visit for: Nature Walks
Puerto Rico’s best and most exotic beach sits on the remote island to the east of the mainland, Culebra. Jump on a ferry or a quick, inexpensive flight from San Juan, and you’ll be revelling in the white sand and shallow turquoise waters in no time. For those that don’t like to sit still for too long, you’re in luck. Flamenco is a haven for flora and fauna, so grab a snack and a pina colada at one of a half-dozen kiosks, and start on your search. Let the shore wash up on your feet and ankles and keep your eyes peeled for parrot fish and blue tang. Ghost Crab are also common and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some sea turtles. As you wander you’ll come across American tanks that were left on the beach by the U.S. Navy, who used Flamenco as a weapons testing grounds for 30 years until 1975. The tanks have been left in place by the locals and decorated with graffiti, making for an unusual spectacle against the pristine sand.
Where to stay in Puerto Rico
9. Shoal Bay, Anguilla
Visit for: Live music
For the finest stretch of sand on Anguilla, look no further. Shoal Bay East is split into two parts, separated by a bend in the sand: Upper Shoal Bay and Lower Shoal Bay, the latter being the more attractive for swimming, snorkeling, or just working on your tan with a good book. When you’ve worked up an appetite, Lower Shoal Bay is lined with restaurant and beach-bar staples, like the famous Uncle Ernie’s and Madearmian Reef Restuarant. You can find live music almost any night of the week at one of the nearby establishments. You won’t want to miss Scratch Band at Gwen’s Reggae Bar & Grill – they’ll bring you out of your seat and on the dance floor in seconds!
Where to stay in Anguilla
10. Cayo de Agua, Venezuela
Visit for: Peace and quiet
A small deserted key on the Venezuelan Los Roques archipelago, Cayo de Agua is one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets. It is a highly photographed and highly treasured stretch of sand by those who know about it. Arriving by boat tour, you’ll have access to chairs, Sunbrellas, an icebox with drinks, lunch of fresh fish, rice and salad, and snorkeling. You really don’t have to do anything on Cayo de Agua to appreciate its beauty. It really is one of those, ‘you had to be there’ islands.