20 of the world’s best beaches

20 of the world’s best beaches

From fabled golden bays to little-known coves,  no shell has been left unturned during our hunt for the world’s best beaches.

We have sent our writers everywhere in search of sublime, surf-pounded shorelines and remote pockets of hard-to-reach paradise for Lonely Planet’s new book Best Beaches in the World. From Albania to Yemen and everywhere in between, our team has swam, snorkeled, slugged cocktails and hiked through rainforests, to create the definitive beach bible. 

Here’s 20 of the 100 that were selected as our pick of the best beaches in the world.

Horizontal landscape photo of male surfers carrying their surfboards along the beach at popular surfing spot, The Pass, Byron Bay, NSW
The Pass, Byron Bay is a great surf spot © lynnebeclu /Getty Images

1. The Pass, Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

When the swell is good, The Pass has a right-hand point break that turns this stretch of pinkish-cream, pillowy-soft sand into a surfer’s paradise. Located at the most easterly point on mainland Australia, Cape Byron, it doesn’t matter if you’re a pro or a novice with the board, the bay has something for everyone, including lessons for beginners. 

The midden (a pile of shells and bones) next to the boat ramp points to the rich Aboriginal history of the area, while inside the subtropical rainforest that runs around the edge of The Pass are native koalas and brush turkeys. Delta Kay, an Arakwal Bundjalung woman, offers walking tours around the cape and several hiking tracks let you admire The Pass from different angles. The 0.3-mile (0.48 km) Palm Valley Currenbah track is wheelchair accessible and loops through the palm rainforest to some picnic and barbecue facilities. The most scenic track, however, is the 2.3-mile (3.7km) Cape Byron loop, which takes in the stunning homes of Wategos Beach and Little Wategos Beach. Note: if you want to surf The Pass, a 2023 law requires you to use a surfboard leash (leg rope).

Getting there: The beach has limited paid parking. Either arrive early or walk from central Byron (20 minutes; the foreshore has a wheelchair-accessible path). Alternatively, neighboring Captain Cook and Clarkes beaches also have limited parking.

Sunny Summer Day in Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Rio De Janeiro’s famous Ipanema Beach © dabldy / Getty Images

2. Ipanema Beach, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Renowned for some astonishing sunsets that the locals frequently applaud, Rio’s Ipanema Beach stretches for 1.9 miles (3 km). Local subcultures use its numbered lifeguard chairs as different markers for their area of the beach. For example, Posto 9, located off Rua Vinícius de Moraes, is the go-to spot for the fashionable crowd, attracting both the young and beautiful, alongside artists and hippies. Praia Farme, situated in front of Rua Farme de Amoedo, is where the gay community gathers. Posto 8 is where kids from the favela come together. Between Ipanema and Copacabana, Posto 7 is popular with surfers, and Posto 10 is where you’ll find games of volleyball, soccer, and futevôlei (footvolley) going on.

Getting there: Ipanema Beach is in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro. Av Vieira Souto runs alongside the beach and the closest Metrô station is General Osório.

Thai boat in the blue waters of Ao Maya beach
Ao Maya, Thailand’s most famous beach, is back to its former glory © DoctorEgg / Getty Images

3. Ao Maya, Ko Phi-Phi, Krabi, Thailand

At just 49ft-wide (15m) and 820ft-long (250m), Ao Maya is a slip of a beach hidden by limestone cliffs. Yet it caught the eye of film director Danny Boyle who used its ombré turquoise waters and fine white sand as the setting for The Beach, the 2000 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie’s popularity attracted around 6000 tourists daily to Ao Maya. However, the influx led to a buildup of trash, damage to plants and coral, and disruption of wildlife.

This prompted Thai officials to close the bay in 2018. They initially hoped the beach would recover within a few months, but it remained closed until 2022. It then reopened with better infrastructure and additional protections. New rules now regulate tourist activities: swimming is prohibited (although knee-high wading is allowed); boats cannot anchor in the bay; and only 375 visitors can visit in hourly slots. Still, the trip is worth it to spend time in this incredible paradise and appreciate the natural beauty that was almost lost.

Getting there From neighboring Ko Phi-Phi Don, take an early morning boat tour here (20 minutes each way) to beat the crowds. Alternatively, it’s reachable by speedboat from Phuket and Krabi.

White sand beach on Mnemba Island, Zanziba and a bright blue sea
Mnemba Island is paradise on Earth © Thomas Pommerin / Getty Images

4. Mnemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania

After a few action-packed days on safari in mainland Tanzania, Mnemba Island acts as the perfect retreat. Only accessible to guests of the andBeyond resort, which sleeps 23, this gorgeous white-sand beach is like your personal coastal paradise. Indulge in long walks and enjoy some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling around.

Getting there Resort stays include transfers from either Stone Town or Abeid Amani Karume International Airport on Unguja Island, Zanzibar. It’s then a short boat ride to Mnemba Island.

Attractive woman in white dress walks on the lunar like landscape of Sarakiniko, volcanic rock formations on the island of Milos, Cyclades, Greece
The lunar-like landscape of Sarakiniko beach © SHansche / Getty Images

5. Sarakiniko, Milos Cyclades, Greece

You’ll need to bring all your own supplies for Sarakiniko, a set of sun-bleached volcanic rocks that dip into a small deep turquoise stretch of the Aegean. The arresting views and cooling waters make up for having to rough it, though. Centuries of wave-and-wind erosion made the rock formations at the beach dip and arch, creating caves to explore and alabaster cliffs to jump off. Sunbathe on the rocks or use them as your access point to slip into the water for some snorkeling.

Ranked among the best-loved beaches in Greece, Sarakiniko can get packed with tourists. To avoid the crowds, visit in September and October. If you’re here during the high season, arrive in the morning and the only sounds you’ll hear will be the wind and the lapping waves. If you can, check back in at sunset – it’s quite a sight as the alabaster-colored rocks glow against the fiery hues from the setting sun.

Getting there Sarakiniko is 1.9 miles (3km) north of Adamas port, on Milos’ northernmost coast. Several daily buses run here from Adamas during summer months and there’s parking for anyone arriving by scooter, car, or ATV. Milos airport has domestic flights to and from Athens, or you can also reach Milos by ferry from Athens’ Piraeus port (2½ to 6½ hours) as well as other islands such as Santorini (two hours).

Surfers at sunset on Chesterman Beach, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Surfers walk along Chesterman Beach, Canada © Design Pics / Deddeda / Getty Images

6. Chesterman Beach, Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Most people come to Chesterman Beach to surf, but it’s the views that will take your breath away. From misty mornings where the fog comes off the soft sand to the fiery skies in the evening as the sun dips below the cedar trees, you could spend all day here. The beach is also great for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding,  and observing the hundreds of colorful starfish, anemones, urchins and other sea creatures that appear in tide pools.

You can even enjoy the beach as you whale watch, partake in outdoor yoga, or walk across the sandbar at low tide. The calm summer months are perfect for beginner surfers and with several expert-led surf schools based locally. Winter, and its serious swells, draw experienced surfers. It also hosts surf competitions. Make sure you bring your wetsuit – water temperatures don’t get much higher than 57°F (13.8°C). 

Getting there Chesterman Beach is 3.1 miles (5km) south of Tofino, near the far west end of Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim Highway. You can easily cycle here from Tofino. Regular ferries run between Vancouver city and Nanaimo (on Vancouver Island) in just under two hours. From there, it’s a 125-mile (200 km) drive west to Tofino – around a three-hour drive or a four-hour bus ride.

Aerial panorama view of Cabo San Juan del Guia in Tayrona National Park tropical Caribbean coast palm sand beach Colombia South America
Colombia’s Cabo San Juan del Guía is well worth the hike © maphke / Getty Images

7. Cabo San Juan del Guía, Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, Colombia

Ringed by rainforest, the golden sands and coconut palms of Colombia’s Caribbean coast are picture-perfect – especially Cabo San Juan del Guía. It is located in a national park that stretches along the coast from the Taganga near Santa Marta to the mouth of the Río Piedras, 22 miles (35km) east, and covers some 29,900 acres (12,100 hectares) of land and 7400 acres (3000 hectares) of coral-rich sea.

While it is a bit of a hike (approximately 2 hours) to get to this set of picturesque turquoise bays enclosed by rocky outcrops, it’s well worth it – and many others agree as the beach is popular with locals and tourists alike. If you want to wake up to the incredible view, you can rent a hammock, tent, or one of the very few cabins surrounding the beach. Note: they’re rented on a first come, first served basis so arrive early, especially in the high season (December and January). There’s also a restaurant so you won’t go hungry, but remember to bring your own water or purifying device as you’ll need it here. The park has banned plastic, so make sure you’re not carrying any in. You’ll want to leave this beautiful beach in pristine condition for future generations to enjoy.

Getting there It takes an hour by bus from the Santa Marta Public Market to reach the El Zaino park entrance, 23 miles (37km) to the east, with frequent daily departures. From the park entrance, colectivos (minibuses) run to the beginning of the trail. You can also reach the beach via a two-hour hike or a rough 50-minute boat ride.

Seychelles is the most beautiful tropical islands of the world's in the Indian Ocean
Anse Source d’Argent in the Seychelles is stunning © alxpin / Getty Images

8. Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles

With its pristine white sands shaded by coconut palms and shallow turquoise waters that gently lap against granite boulders, Anse Source d’Argent is usually found on lists of the world’s best beaches and rightly so. This is the beach of dreams. It’s an adventure to get here, but a fun one that involves a ferry, a bike ride (or walk) to L’Union Estate, a former vanilla and coconut plantation that charges a small fee to access the beach. Take a moment to tour the estate-turned-museum before you head 0.43 miles (700m) down the road ti get your first glimpse of heaven on Earth. While you enjoy the beach you can also sip on fresh fruit juices and coconuts (with rum, if you wish) from one of the rustic beach bars along the beach. To avoid the inevitable crowds, come in the early morning, but then return in the late afternoon (with your same entrance ticket) to enjoy the gorgeous sunset on a near-empty beach.

Getting there It takes less than two hours to reach La Digue by ferry from Victoria on the main island of Mahé, and just 15 minutes by ferry from Baie Ste Anne in Praslin.

Balandra Bay (Bahia Balandra) just north of La Paz is one of the most beautiful coastal areas in Mexico. The bay is on the Sea of Cortez side of Baja California Sur. 1297083354 Getty Images/iStockphoto
The beautiful Playa Balandra in Mexico © CampPhoto / Getty Images

9. Playa Balandra, La Paz BCS, México

An enclosed cove beach with shallow deep blue waters, Playa Balandra is perfect for kids. Apart from swimming, this is also very much an activity-oriented beach with kayaks and stand-up paddleboards available for rent. Beachgoers can also explore tide pools and hike to neighboring coves. A protected area surrounded by arid, cacti-covered mountains, the beach is part of the azure Balandra Bay, which has glass-clear waters and white sands. Only 450 people are currently allowed on this beach per day (with two time slots from 8am-noon and 1-5pm), so it never feels too crowded, but it’s still best to get there early to secure a timeslot. The first Sunday of every month is exclusively reserved for locals, so make sure you plan your beach day in advance. Note that beach chairs and umbrellas are available to rent, but there are no other facilities.

Getting there: Make the 30-minute drive north from La Paz in a hire car or catch a bus from the La Paz Malecón bus station, with departures roughly every two hours from 9am.

The rippled sand dunes of Punta Paloma, Tarifa, Cádiz, Spain
The windswept sand dues of Punta Paloma, Spain © Westend61 / Getty Images

10. Punta Paloma, Tarifa, Cádiz, Spain

With its soft sands, sparkling waters, and wind-carved dunes set against a backdrop of Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar, it’s easy to see why Punta Paloma is one of the most seductive beaches in Spain. The deep blue Atlantic offers excellent swimming, the dunes offer dazzling views, and the chiringuito (beach restaurant) offers beachgoers tinto con limón (red wine with lemonade). Everyone from first-timers to local residents love this beach.

Walk along the west end of the curving sand will lead you to natural mud baths where you can paint your skin with mineral-rich mud. There are several other walking and horse-riding routes along the surrounding hills, some of which lead you to sights such as the prehistoric Los Algarbes necropolis. If you’d rather stick to the beach, there are several opportunities for kitesurfing rentals and lessons. Or, if you prefer sticking to the sands and watching the waves, you’ll likely also catch a glimpse of dolphins, whales, migratory birds, and maybe even a turtle. 

Getting there Punta Paloma is 6.2 miles (10km) northwest of Tarifa and linked by bus during summer months only. Tarifa is easily reached by car or bus from Málaga, Gibraltar, Jerez, or Seville, all of which have international airports.

Idyllic beach Punta Rata in Brela aerial view, Makarska riviera of Dalmatia, Croatia
The wonderful Punta Rata Beach in Croatia © xbrchx / Getty Images

11. Punta Rata Beach, Brela, Makarska Riviera, Croatia 

Dreamy Punta Rata extends 1312ft (400m) around a headland protected by a nature reserve in a magical place where the Aleppo pine forests meet the cool, clear Adriatic Sea. One of the Croatian coast’s most exquisite beaches, the fragrant pine groves provide shade, while the deep blue waters offer ideal temperatures above 70°F (20°C) from June to October) for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding. This beach is pure bliss. Linger on the nearby promenade to catch the magnificent sunsets, when the sky glows with deep orangey-reds and neon pinks, as the sun dips below the pine-dotted outcrop that rises from the sea.

Getting there The beach is on the northwest edge of Brela (easily reached by walking or cycling), around 31 miles (50km) southeast of Split on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Split has an international airport and good bus links to Brela (1 hour).

West Beach is a vast expanse of superfine machair; white shell sand, on the island of Berneray, a small island linked to North Uist by a built causeway. The Western Isles are famous for their beautiful Atlantic beaches.
Scotland’s West Beach has sand so fine it wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean © VWB photos / Getty Images

12. West Beach, Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland 

The beaches of the Outer Hebrides look like they belong somewhere tropical rather than the North Atlantic shores of Scotland. West Beach is among the most picturesque – its powdery sands meet both the jewel-like green-blue waters and machair (grazing land). The wilds of this shoreline make it look like an untouched paradise, but these three miles (5km) of coast are a draw for tourists as well as locals. The brave might go for a swim in these chilly waters that rarely get above 55°F (13°C), but it’s a paradise for beachcombers, bird-watchers, and hikers. The grassy elevated dunes offer the perfect perch for pristine views of the beach and the best place to spot cormorants, gannets and more. Come in the spring, when the surrounding landscape is a burst of color thanks to the wildflowers that grow in abundance.

Getting there Stretching along the entire west coast of Berneray, you’ll need to catch a ferry from Leverburgh in neighboring Harris (the southern half of the Outer Hebrides’ main island) to get here. There are flights from Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow and Southampton to Stornoway Airport in Lewis (the northern half of the principal island), which also has ferry links. You’ll want a car to explore; book the ferry in advance.

Rauðasandur, a golden beach in the West Fjords of Iceland.
The Rauðasandur ripples in Iceland © Gareth Codd / Getty Images

13. Rauðasandur, Westfjords, Iceland

Iceland’s Rauðasandur is a wild, 6-mile-long (10km) beauty with breathtaking sea cliffs and a turquoise lagoon that snakes through a sprawl of red, orange and pink sand – colors from crushed scallop shells. Located in the Westfjords, it’ll feel as if you have the beach to yourself, save from the company of grey and harbor seals that sometimes frolic on the shore. Rauðasandur also has some excellent hiking trails. It’s possible to walk to the famous Látrabjarg bird cliffs where thousands of puffins, razorbills, gannets, and terns gather during the warmer months.

Getting there Rauðasandur sits 19 miles (30km) south of Patreksfjörður in the Westfjords, reachable on a 1-hour flight from Reykjavík. It’s a 640-mile (400 km) drive from Reykjavík, or you can catch the Baldur car ferry to Rauðasandur from Stykkishólmur, 106 miles (170 km) north of the capital. The often-unpaved roads in The Westfjords require time, patience, planning and a sturdy 4WD vehicle.

Aerial view Pink beach, Komodo national park, Flores, Indonesia
No prizes for guessing where Pink Beach Indonesia gets its name © Gunawan Prasetyo / Getty Images

14. Pink Beach, Padar Island, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Only a handful of beaches in the world have the rosy, cotton-candy sands of Pink Beach, located inside Komodo National Park. Its distinctive hue comes from deep red organ pipe corals that have broken down offshore over centuries and mixed with the fine white sand grains to produce the soft, pink shoreline. With an abundance of coral, the beach is a popular snorkeling spot – schools of tropical fish love the reefs too. Simple beach huts dot the shoreline here, offering drinks and simple meals as well as the only shade on the sun-drenched beach.  Pink Beach is popular with tourists; arrive early or just before sunset for a quieter experience.

Getting there On the northwest shore of Padar Island, around 25 miles (40km) from Labuan Bajo, Pink Beach can only be visited on a day tour from the fishing town or a private day liveaboard cruise.

Beach in front of Dueodde Fyr lighthouse
The Dueodde lighthouse on Bornholm island, Denmark © Westend61 / Getty Images

15. Dueodde, Nexø, Bornholm, Denmark

The wild Baltic Sea surrounds Denmark’s sunniest island, Bornholm. Famed for its crisp natural light, head to Dueodde on the southern tip to see why. The sun’s rays kiss the pearl-colored sands and make the soft jade and cerulean waves at this lovely beach shimmer. Wading through the shallow water here feels like stepping into a painting. In the evening, its sunsets turn the sky pink, orange, and yellow. Whilst the campsites and cafes are busy in the summer, don’t rule out visiting in the winter when the locals toboggan down the snow-covered sand dunes. For the best views, climb the 196 steps to the top of Dueodde’s blue-and-white 1960s lighthouse.

Getting there Dueodde’s main patch of beach is 6.2 miles (10 km) south of Nexø, at the southern end of Bornholm, around 125 miles (200 km) east of Copenhagen. There are car parks at nearby Fyrvejen and Skrokkegard. Bornholm Airport has year-round 35-minute flights to and from Copenhagen, as well as seasonal links with Berlin, Aarhus and others. There are also regular ferry services to and from Ystad in Sweden (1¼ hours).

Keem Beach (Bay) Landscape view, Keem, Achill Island, Co Mayo, Ireland with a sheep in the foreground
Keem Bay Beach, Ireland attracts all sorts © Patrick Christopher / Getty Images

16. Keem Bay Beach, Keel, County Mayo, Ireland

A short 4.9-mile (8km) drive from Keel village, at the western end of County Mayo’s Achill Island, is one of Ireland’s most glorious, secluded bays: Keem Bay Beach. The verdant green hillsides spill down to a deep-set horseshoe-shaped bay, where a pale-blonde beach sits framed by the Croaghaun Cliffs and the swell of the wild Atlantic. Tucked away beneath the cliffs, the bay offers calm (if cool) waters. Swimmers and snorkelers can both take advantage of the gentle sea here. Launch a kayak from the shore during the warmer summer months for fabulous views of the rural Ireland from the water. You might also catch a glimpse of pods of dolphins, which sometimes swim and feed by the bay.

Getting there Keem Bay is accessible along western Achill Island’s snaking R319 road. The nearest airport is Ireland West Airport Knock, 59 miles (95km) east of Achill Island, or a 1½-hour drive away, with some international flights.

Driftwood, sea stack and sunset at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington.
Ruby Beach in Washington, USA adds some drama to our list of best beaches © VW Pics / Contributor /Getty Images

17. Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA

Two miles (3.2km) south of the Hoh River and bordered by a rainforest, Ruby Beach is a great introduction to the Pacific Northwest. It looks like waters have lashed wildly against the shoreline here until trees have toppled and the sea are stacks found with a swirling froth crashing at their feet. It’s great for beachcombers – agates, garnets and sea glass all glitter in the sand – but there is treasure inside its tide pools, too. Anemones, sea urchins, purple starfish and skittering crabs, make it a wonderland for children and adults alike.

Getting there Ruby Beach is on the southwestern coast of the Olympic Peninsula and borders Hwy 101, which loops around the peninsula and the national park. The beach is 172 miles (277km) west of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The sun sets behind the Covehead Lighthouse at Stanhope, Prince Edward Island
The rustic Stanhope Beach on Canada’s Prince Edward Island © Brianna Scott / Getty Images

18. Stanhope Beach, Prince Edward Island National Park, PEI, Canada

Stanhope at Prince Edward Island National Park has some of Canada’s best beaches. Glistening wetlands meet the north coast of the Atlantic, with 25 miles (40km) of beach framed by rolling dunes that provide refuge for the endangered piping plover bird. Boardwalks hover above the red-gold sand, and offer beautiful views of the coast while also connecting the dunes to the shoreline. During summer the water is warm enough for swimming and there’s a popular campsite among the trees just back from Stanhope Main Beach, so you can stay for the beautiful sunset and wake up to the lapping of the waves against the shore.

Getting there Stanhope Beach is around 12 miles (20km) north of Charlottetown, PEI’s provincial capital, which has flights to Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa and elsewhere in Canada. You can also reach PEI by road from New Brunswick or by ferry from Nova Scotia. The national park is open year-round, but beach facilities are only available from mid-May to early autumn.

A view of the famous Radhanagar Beach on Havelock Island, part of the Andaman and Nicobar Island group in India.
The fabled Radhanagar on the Andaman Islands, India © Jishnu Changkakoti. / Getty Images

19. Radhanagar, Swaraj Dweep, Andaman Islands, India

For a secluded beach where it feels as if time has slowed down, look to Radhanagar. Located on India’s remote and beautiful Andaman Islands, this dreamy spot with the softest of sand kisses a bright green forest full of ancient species found nowhere else on earth. The region’s natural beauty is the main draw here: come for some of the finest diving and snorkeling in India, look out for an elephant or two strolling along the shoreline, and gather with the locals who spend their evenings chatting as the sun sets casting blazing coral hues across the sky.

Getting there The isolated Andaman Islands sit almost 870 miles (1400km) east of mainland India, so getting here is part of the adventure. Fly into Port Blair (the small regional capital, on South Andaman), then catch a two-hour ferry to Swaraj Dweep. Radhanagar awaits on the island’s northwest coast, with a couple of eco-luxe resorts hidden among the trees.

An aerial view of a surfer at Pacifico beach, Siargao, Philippines
Near perfect Pacifico Beach in the Philippines © Wirestock / Getty Images

20. Pacifico Beach, Siargao, Surigao Del Norte, Philippines

A secret among surfers until fairly recently, Pacifico Beach is a picture-perfect tropical beach with azure-colored lagoon waters, coconut palm-shaded sands and a lovely low-key vibe. When a devastating typhoon flattened the region in 2021, the locals’ resilience won out and the island staged an incredible comeback. Many homes and businesses, including a handful of places to stay and eat in Pacifico, rebuilt and reopened within the year. This is one place where tourism is essential to the island’s ongoing recovery. Whether you’re looking for an idyllic beach to relax or a paddle across the lagoon for a left-hand reef break, Pacifico Beach and the fledgling beach town of Siargao is where you want to be.

Getting there Pacifico Beach is 13 miles (21km) or a 30-minute drive north of Surigao’s domestic airport, and 31 miles (50km) north of the island’s main tourism hub, General Luna. The drive from the latter, typically undertaken by rental scooter, takes just over an hour, but most visitors make a day of it, lingering at the many viewpoints and other attractions along the way.

From fabled golden bays to little-known coves,  no shell has been left unturned during our hunt for the world’s best beaches. We have sent our writers everywhere in search of sublime, surf-pounded shorelines and remote pockets of hard-to-reach paradise for Lonely Planet’s new book Best Beaches in the World. From Albania to Yemen and everywhere…

Leave a Reply