28 of the world’s most extraordinary beaches

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Searching for unique stretches of sand and sea

Your salty skin after a dip in the sea, the warmth of the sand heated by the sun, and the sticky breeze tousling your hair—it’s practically in our DNA to be drawn to the seaside. Of course, almost any beach can captivate our senses, but then there are shorelines that are undeniably magical.

With summer on the horizon, we set out on a quest to discover the best beaches around the world, the kind that leave you longing for sea shells and sunset strolls. With so many heavenly coastlines, it wasn’t easy to narrow down the choices, but we picked beaches based on their quirky features, breathtakingly divine vistas, and memorable characteristics. Some have unconventional structures and colored sand, while others are the epitome of your own deserted island. Whether you’re craving a secluded oasis or party hardy vibe, our list includes some of the top beaches to visit in the world.

Brighton Beach
Melbourne, Victoria

On the shores of Brighton Beach, 82 uniquely painted bathing boxes stand in a row, harking back to Victorian times. The only thing to possibly outdo the colorful cabanas is the view of the Melbourne skyline shimmering in the distance.

Venice Beach
Venice, Florida

Proudly referred to as the Shark Tooth Capital of the World, Venice Beach’s sandy shoreline is littered with fossilized shark teeth from millions of years ago. It’s not uncommon for the lucky beachcomber to score a massive Megalodon tooth—they’re often bigger than your palm!

Giant’s Causeway
County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Roughly 40,000 basalt columns decorate Giant’s Causeway, looking like perfectly placed hexagon-shaped stepping stones. Though an ancient volcanic eruption created the intricate patterns, legends say the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill was responsible for the handiwork.

Black Sand Beach
Prince William Sound, Alaska

Kayak along the shores of Black Sand Beach, and you’ll feel humbled as exquisite mountains and glaciers engulf your vision. As you embark on the black sand, search for chunks of icebergs that have drifted to shore and find a good spot to pitch a tent for the night.

Praia do Cassino Beach
Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

At Praia do Cassino Beach, you’ll see nothing but miles of supreme sand and sea, as the “Guinness Book of World Records” dubbed this stretch the longest beach on the planet. Take a stroll along this sun-soaked coastline and you’ll never run out of ocean vistas.

Papakōlea Beach
ʻū, HawaiiIt’ll take a 2.5-mile hike to arrive at the unique green sands of Papakōlea Beach, but the natural wonder is so worth the trek. The grass-like sand gets it color from olivine crystals that washed ashore from the eroding cinder cone off the coast.

Barricane Beach
Devon, UK

The coast of North Devon is perhaps an unlikely place to see tropical sea shells, but it’s along Barricane Beach where you’ll find cowries on the shore, swept all the way from the Caribbean. When you’re not combing for exotic shells, search for fossils in the morte slate rocks.

Glass Beach
Fort Bragg, California

It looks like confetti is strewn across the shores of Glass Beach, where the sand is a combination of pebbles and sea glass. The beach site was once a trash dump, and the glass bottles have since washed up in the form of countless colorful pieces. Enjoy, but don’t take (it’s illegal to remove any glass from the shore).

Hot Water Beach
The Coromandel, New Zealand

Hot Water Beach is your own spa retreat. When the tide is low, dig a hole in the sand near the water’s edge, exposing volcanic-heated mineral water below the surface. Trust us, it feels divine when the chilly ocean water spills into your personal thermal bath!

Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach, Oregon

Standing at a staggering 235-feet tall, the legendary Haystack Rock is the star attraction at Cannon Beach, but its sister rocks, The Needles, complete the iconic vista. Admire the rocks as they glow during sunset, and search for nesting tufted puffins in the summertime.

Phra Nang Beach
Krabi, Thailand
Arguably one of the best secluded beaches, Phra Nang Beach is a tropical oasis only accessible by longtail boat. After a dip in the crystal waters, venture to the caves to find a shrine dedicated to a mythical sea princess.

Pfeiffer Beach
Big Sur, California

Venture to Pfeiffer Beach and you’ll be greeted by the regal Keyhole Arch, a brilliant rock structure with a hole through the center. To add to its whimsical setting, the sand is a perfect shade of purple, which is especially vibrant after it rains. Note: this portion of Big Sur is currently closed due to winter storm damage, but it is scheduled to reopen later this year, making the wait ever-so-worth it.

Boqueron Bay Beach
Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

Experience next to Nirvana as you lounge in a hammock, hung from a palm tree, with a view of the glassy waters of Boqueron Bay. This idyllic coastline will have you willing to stay on island time forever.

South Beach
Miami, Florida

It’s not just the sun and sand that make South Beach so hot. Known as one of the sexiest beaches on the planet, SoBe is famous for its party vibes, wild nightlife, and sizzling shoreline with white sand and turquoise waters.

Hyams Beach
Shoalhaven, New South Wales

The sand at Hyams Beach is blindingly white as it shimmers and catches the light of the sun. Determined the whitest sand beach by the “Guinness Book of World Records,” this sugary oasis is a slice of paradise on the shores of Jervis Bay.

Shi Shi Beach and Point of Arches
Clallam Bay, Washington

A hike through rainforest and coastline will deliver you to the untamed shores of Shi Shi Beach, where gnarled driftwood and distant sea stacks give it wild appeal. Meander toward Point of Arches to see the rock formations up close and search for sea life among the tide pools.

Bamboo Beach Club
Ocho Rios, Jamaica

The inviting water and swaying palm trees are enough to lure you to Bamboo Beach Club, but the cultural entertainment is what will have you sticking around for some rum punch and local jams. Formerly known as Reggae Beach, Bamboo Beach acts as a stage for local performers showcasing their music, dance, and acrobatic talents.

Palm Beach
Palm Beach, Aruba

Palm Beach is no deserted island, but the plethora of water sport companies and oceanfront eateries make this buzzing beachfront a must-experience hot spot. Rent a palapa for some shade, and then cool off with a dip in the calm, powder blue waters.

Riviera Dei Ciclopi
Catania, Sicily

Black pillars of solidified lava jut out from the ground along the coast of the Cyclops Riviera, giving way to stories of mythical proportions. Some say the angry cyclops Polyphemus threw the stones into the sea after Odysseus blinded him, while others believe he killed Acis with one of the boulders in a jealous fit of rage.

Bird Island Basin
Padre Island, Texas

Fall asleep to the lull of lapping waves when you camp on the serene shores of Bird Island Basin. This peaceful retreat has earned the reputation as one of the best flat water sailing sites in the nation, so don’t forget your gear!

Praia da Falesia
Algarve, Portugal

The vibrant beachscape of Praia da Falesia is one you’ll remember forever. Here the sea cliffs are dramatic shades of red and orange, laden with lush, green pine trees, complementing the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Tulum Beach
Tulum, Mexico

Tulum Beach, with its ice-blue waters and powdery white sand, is wildly appealing, but its history makes it even more intriguing. The sandy stretch sits right at the base of the ancient Tulum Ruins—tour the old Maya settlement and stand on the shores where Mayan ships once docked.

Pink Sands Beach
Harbour Island, Bahamas

Of all the unique beaches, Pink Sands Beach with its salmon-hued coast is extraordinary. The shells of red foraminifera, which are microscopic organisms, mix with pieces of coral to give the sand its peculiar blush-colored tint.

Assateague Island National Seashore
Assateague Island, Maryland

Seagulls and sandpipers aren’t the only wildlife you’ll see at this seaside escape—the island is home to more than 300 wild ponies that roam freely on the 37 miles of beaches. If you’re lucky enough to be graced by the presence of these majestic animals, admire from afar, and keep your distance.

Matira Beach
Bora Bora, French Polynesia

The cyan waters at Matira Beach are what island dreams are made of. This heavenly beach has a barrier reef that you can wade out to during low tide, and its spectacular sunsets are second to none.

Boulders Beach
Simon’s Town, Cape Town
As soon as your feet touch the sand at Boulders Beach, you’ll realize how the cove got its name. While the huge rock formations on the shore are undoubtedly magnificent, the local colony of waddling African penguins are what really steal the show.

Okinawa, Japan
At first glance, Hoshizuna-no-Hama is a lovely coastal destination, but look a little closer and you’ll see something extraordinary: the grains of sand are shaped like stars. The curious sand is actually the exoskeletons of Baculogypsina sphaerulata, single-celled organisms that have been stranded on the shore.

What are the most exotic beaches you’ve explored?

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Chloe Mulliner

As a staff writer for Expedia, Chloe Mulliner is dedicated to providing top travel tips for your jaunts around the world. She believes there are adventures to be had on every inch of the globe from surf spots on the Peruvian coast to the charming villages of the English countryside. Chloe specializes in showcasing all the must-see attractions on your travel wish list. She lives by the belief that every adventure is a story worth sharing.

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