Start planning your tropical getaway now—these are the best beaches in the world, according to Condé Nast Traveler readers in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey.
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These are top 20 most beautiful beaches in the world.
20. Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI
Undeniably one of the most photographed beaches in the Caribbean, if not the world, Trunk Bay sits in the northwestern corner of the Virgin Islands National Park (it was donated to the park service by Laurence S. Rockefeller over 50 years ago). Calm, clear water and a 225-yard-long Underwater Trail for superb snorkeling are big draws, as are hiking trails up and into the surrounding greenery filled with the ruins of historic sugar cane plantations.
Where to stay: Caneel Bay, which boasts six of its own nearly-completely private beaches
19. Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia
Australia is known for its spectacular beaches, including this stunning colored beach on Fraser Island. For starters, the entire island is World Heritage-listed for being the largest sand island in the world. Its golden beach is backed by fiery bronze cliffs (cliff erosion has exposed more than 70 different colors of sand along Rainbow Beach, created by combination of iron oxides and leached vegetable dyes); further beyond, you’ll find lush rain forest rich with native wildlife. It’s of equal beauty—and far less touristed—than the more famous White haven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef at large.
Where to stay: Kingfisher Bay Resort
18. Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil
Lopes Mendes is two miles of unspoiled, deserted, powder-white sand that leads to some of the world’s clearest, most crystalline waters. There are no beach shacks or restaurants here; instead, you’ll find thick, wild sea shrub, almond trees, and squat palms, perfect for napping beneath. It’s quite a trek—a three-hour drive to Angra dos Reis from Rio, then a ferry, then a taxi-boat, then a short hike through a forest—but well worth the effort.
Where to stay: Asalem Seaside Resort
17. Blinky Beach, Lord Howe Island, Australia
While many of the continent’s best beaches can be found on the mainland in Queensland, make no mistake—this incredibly remote island, nearly half-way to New Zealand, firmly holds it own. Besides its excellent surf, Blinky Beach, on the east side of Lord Howe, is fantastically beautiful: It’s situated between Blinky Point and a promontory known as Mutton Bird Lookout, and boasts the requisite powder-white sand and azure waters. Behind it, you’ll find tall dunes dotted with prickly spinifex and wild daisies.
Where to stay: Capella Lodge
16. Barnes Bay, Anguilla
Of the 33 pristine beaches on pancake-flat Anguilla, Barnes Bay seems to have the softest sand imagineable (no rocks or shells) and far fewer crowds than at hopping Sandy Ground or resort-heavy Shoal Bay East. Another part of its appeal is the chic crowd that stay and play at the Viceroy resort at the northern end of the beach.
Where to stay: Viceroy Anguilla, ranked #16 of 40 resorts in the Caribbean in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey.
15. Temae and Teavora, Moorea, French Polynesia
Two beaches, blending together along the east coast of impossibly-lush Moorea, have distinctively different characteristics. Teavaro (accessed near the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort) has shallow waters protected by a reef, making it an excellent spot for snorkeling. North of the Sofitel towards the airport, Temae has a famous surf break but is still safe for swimming off one of the widest stretches of sand in all of French Polynesia.
Where to stay: Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, ranked #19 of 25 resorts in Australia & the South Pacific in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey.
14. Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda
Although one of the most popular of beaches on the island, a part of South Shore Park in Southampton Parish, Horseshoe Bay has a hidden secret – Port Royal Cove (pictured) – with shallow water perfect for young kids, and dramatic rock formations that compliment wonderfully soft, pink sand.
Where to stay: The Reefs Resort & Club, ranked #1 resort in the Atlantic in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey.
13. Puka Beach (Yapak), Boracay, Philippines
Although the 5-kilometer-long White Beach really put Boracay on the map, if you’re not in the mood for a very lively party scene, head to the island’s northern tip and Puka Shell Beach (otherwise known as Yapak). Lined with tiny stalls selling shell souvenirs and jewelry under rows and rows of palms, it’s relative emptiness and laid-back atmosphere is paradise imagined.
Where to stay: Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa
12. Long Beach, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Jaw-dropping views of the rugged, jungle peaks of neighboring Phi Phi Leh island, great snorkeling, and a laid-back vibe contribute to the overall attraction of Long Beach (and secret Loh Moodee and Ao Poh beaches, just around the corner). Close enough on foot, or by boat, to the party scene of Tonsai village, it’s a blissfully quiet spot after sunset.
Where to stay: Zeavola
11. Matira Beach, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Matira is perhaps the most famous of Tahiti’s beaches, and for good reason. The mile-long stretch of silky, powder-white sand slopes gently into a shallow emerald lagoon, and is backed by a thick curtain of palms and tropical foliage. Added bonus: It’s one of the only public-access beaches in Bora Bora, so you won’t need to pay five-star resort prices to enjoy its beauty.
Where to stay: St. Regis Bora Bora Resort – the #1 rated resort on the island in the latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey.
10. Waipio Valley Beach, Big Island, HI
This beach in Waipio Valley is one of the hardest to get to in Hawaii—you must hike or drive down a treacherously narrow, steep road to reach your destination. But it’s well worth the trek: At the bottom, you’re rewarded with a mile-long black volcanic sand beach bordered by 2000-foot cliff walls and backed by thick rainforest. If that weren’t scenic enough, the Kaluahine and Waiulili waterfalls cut into the cliffs at the south end of the beach, and are accessible via a boulder-strewn trail along the surf.
Where to stay: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel – the #1 rated resort in the latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey.
9. Praia Mole, Florianopolis, Brazil
Young, attractive surfers and paragliders make this one of the coolest beaches in all of Brazil, the beach is only 16kms east of the attractive town of Florianopolis. Numerous beach bars, restaurants, and cafes are filled with an “in-crowd” make this an excellent people-watching day by the sea, and one that’s refreshingly welcoming of LGBT travelers.
Where to stay: Ponta dos Ganchos, on the mainland, ranked #4 of 15 resorts in Central & South America in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey.
8. Blue Beach (La Chiva), Vieques, Puerto Rico
A long, thin stretch of perfect sand and crystal clear water in a thousand shades of blue, make this one of the Caribbean’s top beaches. Accessed by parking in one of 21 tiny turn-offs along a bumpy, unpaved road in the middle of the island’s western National Wildlife Refuge (formerly off-limits as a U.S. Navy training base).
Where to stay: W Retreat & Spa, Vieques.
7. Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The beach scene is a bustling one year-round on the mile-long stretch of sea and sand that inspired one of the most famous bossa nova ditties of all time. The lively area is no doubt fueled by the parade of beautiful beachgoers; the majestic views of the Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) mountains to the west; the nonstop hive of game-playing in the form of football, volleyball, and the hybrid footvolley; and the seemingly never-ending supply of beer and cachaça.
Where to stay: Caesar Park Rio de Janeiro Ipanema, now managed by Sofitel.
6. Sunset Beach, Oahu, HI
Well-known for one of the world’s best places to watch big wave surfing in winter (the beach is home to the Vans Triple Crown), the water here becomes as calm as a lake in summer and is a great place for snorkeling. Above all, as its name suggests, it’s the sunsets that really seal the deal for visitors.
Where to stay: Turtle Bay Resort – closest to the beach, and one of few along the north shore.
5. Honopu Beach, Kauai, HI
Also known as Cathedral Beach, Honopu—like Waipio Valley—is quite difficult to reach. For starters, it’s not accessible except by water, so to get there you must swim from an offshore boat, or from neighboring Kalalau Beach (a quarter-mile swim). But the trouble is worth it: Think cumin-colored sand bordered by soaring, vegetation-cloaked cliffs—and, most times, not a soul in sight. Fun fact: It’s served as a location on such films as Six Days, Seven Nights, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and King Kong.
Where to stay: Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach – rated #1 resort in all of Hawaii in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey.
4. Anse Lazio, Praslin, Seychelles
Anse Lazio, on the northwest tip of Praslin island, is known widely as the most beautiful beach in the Seychelles and is by far the most photographed. It’s no wonder: The beach is long and broad with velvety sand and shocking blue water, and it’s fringed with swaying palms and leafy takamaka trees. To add to the drama, it’s also framed by enormous granite boulders on either side.
Where to stay: Raffles Praslin
3. Pansy Island, Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
A group of six islands that remain under the radar, despite their increasing popularity among those in the know (divers especially). Only four are inhabited, with Pansy Island being but a sandbar on which resorts like the Anantara can arrange for private lunch excursions. Known collectively as “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean” Bazaruto is most easily reached by air from Johannesburg to Vilanculos, and then onward by small aircraft or boat.
Where to stay: Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort
2. Honokalani Beach, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Maui, HI
With its jet-black shore, lapis lazuli waters and thick, jungle-like foliage, Honokalani Beach is a photographer’s dream. Besides lying lazily on the “sand”—actually made up of of tiny lava pebbles—there’s plenty to do: you’ll find seaside lava tubes and sea caves carved into the lava cliffs along the shore. It’s wild, unspoiled Hawaii at its best, and a necessary stop en route to Hana.
Where to stay: Montage Kaplua Bay – rated #1 resort in Maui in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey.
1. El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Shockingly, Palawan remains steadily under the radar, even though this is the second year it has ranked #1. El Nido alone is home to around 50 white sand beaches—it’s impossible to choose just one—all of which are set around dramatic limestone formations and boast the finest and whitest sand you’ll ever see. The water is so blindingly blue it makes the Caribbean Sea look murky in comparison, and the sunsets? Well, they’ll ruin you for life. Consider yourself warned.
Where to stay: El Nido Resorts – Pangulasian Island – ranked #19 of 25 top resorts in Asia in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey.