29 Best beaches in the world to visit in your lifetime

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 03.08.2023

From the pristine shores of Bali to the rugged beauty of Australia's Whitehaven Beach, these are some of the best beaches in the world. From secluded tropical hideaways to breathtaking coastal wonders, discover the beach paradises of the world.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for visiting the world.

1. Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand

Its beautiful, paradise-like beaches are newsworthy enough. That said, Ko Pha Ngan – and more specifically, Sunrise Beach, on the island’s peninsula Hat Rin – has become one of the best beaches in the world for its raucous drink- and drug-fuelled Full Moon parties. The parties take place on the night of a full moon each month.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Ko Pha Ngan.

Ko-Pha-Ngan-thailand-beach-shutterstock_590231045

Haad Yao Beach on Koh Phangan Island, Thailand © jasomtomo/Shutterstock

2. Phra Nang Beach, Thailand

Accessible by longboat only, this secluded beach is backed by the cavernous Tham Phra Nang Nok, or “Princess Cave”. It is believed by fishermen to be the home of a mythical sea princess. There are no restaurants on the beach – instead, look out for the longboats selling juices and snacks.

Stretching along Thailand’s spectacular Andaman Coastline, bordered by striking limestone karsts and provides visitors with a relaxing getaway in Krabi. On this tailor-made Krabi Beach Escape, soft-sand beaches and inviting turquoise waters await.

Find more accommodation options to stay near Phra Nang Beach.

Aerial view Phra Nang Cave Beach with traditional long tail boat on Ao Phra Nang Beach, Krabi, Thailand © Avigator Fortuner/Shutterstock

Aerial view of Phra Nang Cave Beach with a traditional long-tail boat, Krabi, Thailand © Avigator Fortuner/Shutterstock

3. Rainbow Beach, Queensland, Australia

Enormous Rainbow Beach, in southeastern Queensland, gets its name from its surrounding colourful sand dunes – a mixture of browns, blacks, oranges, yellows, and reds. The sand dunes are said to have been formed by a rainbow-coloured spirit plunging into the cliffs following a battle with a wicked tribesman. The sand is comprised vibrant minerals like ilmenite, zircon and rutile.

Rainbow Beach, Queensland, Australia © mantisdesign/Shutterstock

Rainbow Beach, Queensland, Australia © mantisdesign/Shutterstock

4. Whitehaven Beach, Australia

The largest and finest island in the Whitsundays, Whitsunday Island is home to one of the best beaches in the world -Whitehaven Beach. Here you'll find startling – almost blinding – white sand. It handles plenty of day-trippers and campers (there’s a campsite at the southern end of the beach) but it’s still admirably clean for it.

Find more accommodation options to stay near Whitehaven Beach.

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays, Australia © Shutterstock

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays, Australia © Shutterstock

5. Aharen Beach, Tokashiki Island, Japan

Although most of the islands in the Okinawa chain, south of the Japanese mainland, have magnificent beaches, Aharen is one of the best beaches in the world. It is particularly known for its extraordinarily clear waters. The waters shelter a rich marine life, including over 400 types of coral, majestic humpback whales, manta rays, five types of sea turtles and a huge army of colourful tropical fish.

Aharen Beach, Tokashiki island, Kerama Islands group, Okinawa © mapman/Shutterstock

Aharen Beach, Tokashiki island © mapman/Shutterstock

6. Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia

The smaller of the two Perhentian islands, Kecil is home to two dazzling beaches – Coral Beach and Long Beach – both of which are lined with friendly guesthouses and relaxed shack eateries. Off Kecil is some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling you’ll find anywhere in the world.

With this tailor-made trip to Indulgent Malaysia, you will discover a multicultural hotspot with amazing food, stunning beaches and vibrant culture. Take in popular KL malls, architecture, landmarks and gardens, before hitting colonial towns and luxurious tropical beaches.

Perhentian Kecil Island, Terengganu, Malaysia © Ruzaini Haron/Shutterstock

Perhentian Kecil Island, Terengganu, Malaysia © Ruzaini Haron/Shutterstock

7. Cayo Largo, Cuba

The highlights of Cuba’s Cayo Largo (Large Island) are its two western beaches — Playa Sirena and Playa Paraiso. This is where warm shallow waters lap ribbons of pale, downy sand. Sirena is more geared up to tourism, with a café and watersports, while Paraiso is quieter and more private.

Cayo-Largo-Cuba-shutterstock_215754703

Cayo Largo, Cuba © BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

8. Tulum, Mexico

Tulum is one of the most picturesque of all Mayan sites. An ancient and ruined walled city sits on rocky cliffs overlooking this stretch of beautiful beach. With hordes of tourists visiting every day, the area is not exactly private, but the broad white-sand beach and mesmerising turquoise Caribbean waters more than make up for it.

On this tailor-made trip to the Magic of the Yucatan and Mexico City, you will explore the magic of the Yucatan Peninsula: from colonial towns like Merida to Archaeological sites like Uxmal and Calakmul, close to the Guatemala border, to beaches in Bacalar and Tulum.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Tulum.

Caribbean coast and Mayan ruins in Tulum © DC_Aperture/Shutterstock

Caribbean coast and Mayan ruins in Tulum © DC_Aperture/Shutterstock

9. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta Beach is known for its mesmerisingly orange sunsets and endless stretches of white sand backed by the Sierra Madre Mountains. Located off of the Pacific coast, this is a great place for those who wish to witness the frolicking of local humpback whales.

Visit the nearby Puerto Vallarta for a charming beach town that is known for its street food and raicilla. It is a popular stop for LGBTQ+ travellers and is over time becoming known as an emerging gay centre in Mexico.

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View of Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta © Ferenz/Shutterstock

View of Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta © Ferenz/Shutterstock

10. Patnem Beach, Goa, India

Curving for roughly a kilometre to a steep bluff, Patnem Beach is the quieter alternative to its more party-focused neighbour, Palolem. At the far north end of the beach is Harmonic, an eco-friendly retreat offering daily yoga, Pilates and Thai massage classes. You’ll have to dodge the slumbering cows to get there, though.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Patnem.

Fishing boats kept in Patnem beach in Goa, India © Saurav022/Shutterstock

Fishing boats kept in Patnem beach in Goa, India © Saurav022/Shutterstock

11. Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Small, at just half a kilometre long, Lanikai Beach has clear waters perfect for snorkelling and panoramic views out over the bay. It’s accessed by foot only, through upmarket Lanikai, a residential cluster of outrageously expensive homes.

Hawaii, Lanikai beach © 7maru/Shutterstock

Hawaii, Lanikai beach © 7maru/Shutterstock

12. Matemwe, Zanzibar

The traditional, palm-thatched fishing village of Matemwe, on the northeastern coast of Zanzibar, has a large, palm-fringed beach lined with a few quiet resorts. Just offshore is the Mnemba Atoll, home to some of the best scuba diving in East Africa. Sadly, the bucolic charm of the village and beach might not last much longer, as the walled enclosures of the larger resorts are beginning to intrude.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Matemwe.

Matemwe beach, Zanzibar. Tanzania © Marius Dobilas/Shutterstock

Matemwe beach, Zanzibar. Tanzania © Marius Dobilas/Shutterstock

13. Morro de Sao Paulo, Brazil

The island of Tinhare, about 75km southwest of Salvador, has a handful of famous beaches at Morro de Sao Paulo. Here there’s always a vibrant atmosphere thanks to the reggae bars, hippy dives, crowds of surfers and terrific seafood restaurants. At weekends between December and March, vast crowds descend, so you won’t be alone in appreciating its beauty.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Morro de Sao Paulo.

Aerial view of Morro de Sao Paulo, Bahia, Brazil © Sergio Rocha/Shutterstock

Aerial view of Morro de Sao Paulo, Bahia, Brazil © Sergio Rocha/Shutterstock

14. Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Frequented by impossibly toned and beautiful people playing volleyball, sunbathing and socialising, the world-famous Ipanema is the most fashionable beach in Brazil. When darkness falls, locals head into the barrio of Ipanema itself, to their luxurious apartments, chic sushi bars, swanky gyms and sophisticated restaurants.

On this tailor-made trip to Breathtaking Brazil, you will explore the lively city of Rio de Janeiro, home to Ipanema and Copacabana beaches; experience the stunning Foz do Iguaçu National Park and see the world’s largest waterfalls system.

Find more accommodation options to stay near Ipanema Beach.

Ipanema Beach surfing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © lazyllama/Shutterstock

Ipanema Beach is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in the world © Shutterstock

15. Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia, Greece

The subject of many iconic photographs, Myrtos Beach is regarded as the most dramatic beach in the Ionian islands. Here you'll find a splendid strip of dazzling, pure-white pebbles, laced with calm, turquoise water. Unsurprisingly, it attracts a fair number of visitors each day, and there’s no shade to speak of, so bring a sun umbrella and a hat.

Find more accommodation options to stay near Myrtos Beach.

Road to Myrtos Bay and Beach on Kefalonia Island, Greece © Igor Tichonow/Shutterstock

Road to Myrtos Bay and Beach on Kefalonia Island, Greece © Igor Tichonow/Shutterstock

16. Navagio Shipwreck Beach, Zante, Greece

Navagio Beach, on the Ionian island of Zante, is also known as “Shipwreck Beach” or “Smuggler’s Cove”, on account of the rusty wreck adorning its sandy cove. Mistaken for a drug-running vessel, the Panagiotis was actually an innocent cargo ship, run aground by the coastguard in 1960.

Hop between the islands of Milos, Naxos, and Amorgos on this romantic tailor-made Greek Island-Hopping Honeymoon. Drive around stunning coastlines, explore mountain villages, visit ancient sites, and luxuriate on golden beaches as you are transfixed by the allure of the Aegean’s turquoise waters.

Navagio beach with shipwreck and motor boat on Zakynthos island in Greece © Samot/Shutterstock

Navagio beach with shipwreck and motorboat on Zakynthos island in Greece © Samot/Shutterstock

17. El Cabo, Colombia

Tayrona National Park spreads over 150km of jungle-clad land and includes some spectacular beaches, of which four – Cañaveral, Arrecifes, La Piscina and El Cabo – are among the best beaches in the world. While Arrecifes is notorious for its dangerous riptides, La Piscina’s crystal clear waters are the best for swimming, and El Cabo’s swinging hammocks make it the perfect place to relax.

Take this tailor-made trip to Colombia's Beaches and make your way down to Colombia's tropical beaches and lush rainforests but not before you get to know some Colombian cultural and traditional food, music and dance in Cartegena.

Tropical Beach in Tayrona National Park, Colombia © chrisontour84/Shutterstock

Tropical Beach in Tayrona National Park, Colombia © chrisontour84/Shutterstock

18. Kuta, Bali, Indonesia - one of the best beaches in the world for surfing

Kuta Beach stretches for 8km, from the Balinese towns of Tuban to Petitenget, its huge and powerful waves thrashing onto its glorious white sand. Surfers are drawn here for the sport, while evenings are slightly more serene. The sunsets here are incredible – at their blood-red best in April, but streaky-pink at any time of year.

Celebrate your love union with our tailor-made Love Trip to Bali. Included are couples massages at relaxing spas, a blessing ceremony by a Balinese priest, an authentic cooking class and of course - a beautiful white sandy beach on Nusa Lembongan to relax towards the end of your trip.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Kuta.

Silhouettes of people at sunset on the beach of Kuta, Bali, Indonesia © Netfalls Remy Musser/Shutterstock

Silhouettes of people at sunset on the beach of Kuta, Bali, Indonesia © Netfalls Remy Musser/Shutterstock

19. El Nido, Philippines

The small but booming resort town of El Nido, on the idyllic tropical island of Palawan, has its own rather scruffy beach but a short walk north along the coastal path is the attractive (and aptly-named) Sunset Lover’s Beach. An even better option lies a 30–40min tricycle ride north of El Nido: Napsan Beach is a perfect swathe of usually empty white sand.

A fascinating underwater world is ready to be explored. Coron is known for its wreck diving while El Nido has one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines, hidden lagoons, and hundreds of species of coral and marine life. This tailor-made diving adventure in Palawan allows you to discover both places, above and below the water.

Find more accommodation options to stay in El Nido.

El Nido, Philippines © Dmitry Pichugin/Shutterstock

El Nido, Philippines © Dmitry Pichugin/Shutterstock

20. Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales Island, Turks and Caicos

The Turks and Caicos, off the east coast of the US, comprise 40 islands and cays, of which Providenciales is the main tourist centre. It’s here, on the northern shore of “Provo”, that you’ll find Grace Bay - one of the best beaches in the world, a paradise-perfect mix of sugary sand and transparent water. A short boat trip from Provo is Little Water Clay nature reserve, home to several thousand rock iguanas.

Beautiful beach at Providenciales island in Turks and Caicos © BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

Beautiful beach at Providenciales island in Turks and Caicos © BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

21. Half Moon Bay, Jamaica

With its net hammocks strung between palm trees and a curve of perfect, caramel-coloured sand, Half Moon Bay is an intimate and idyllic little beach on Jamaica’s northern coast. There’s no tourist tat here – just a rustic shack selling tasty seafood – both camping and nudity are allowed and the snorkelling is top-notch.

Gazebo at Halfmoon Beach in Jamaica © Framalicious/Shutterstock

Gazebo at Halfmoon Beach in Jamaica © Framalicious/Shutterstock

22. Hanalei Bay, Kauai

The waves at Hanalei Bay, on the northern shore of Kauai, can be big and fearsome in the winter months. This is one of the best beaches in the world for courageous surfers, who flock here in their droves. In summer, there’s a slightly more sedate beach-going crowd, and there’s more than enough space to stretch out along the wide, 3 km-long bay.

Hanalei Bay and pier on Hawaiian island of Kauai ©  Steve Heap/Shutterstock

Hanalei Bay and pier on the Hawaiian island of Kauai © Steve Heap/Shutterstock

23. Playa Uvita, Costa Rica

Situated in the protected Marino Ballena National Park, where sightings of humpback whales are thrillingly common, the gorgeous Playa Uvita is well-known for its “whale tail” formation, a kilometre-long sand bar that can be accessed during low tide. At the end of this striking walkway is a sprawl of coral rocks and the remains of an old lighthouse, which you can clamber onto for great views across the beach.

From paradise beaches, scenic narrow waterways and magical rainforests, this tailor-made trip to Costa Rica has much to offer. Head east and discover the tranquil Caribbean Sea, and head west for the tumultuous Pacific Ocean and surfer’s paradise.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Uvita.

Costa Rica, playa Uvita © Judith Lienert/Shutterstock

Costa Rica, playa Uvita © Judith Lienert/Shutterstock

24. Boulders Beach, Cape Town

It might have tempting little coves and clear, cool water, but the main reason to visit Boulders Beach is to see its growing colony of endangered African penguins. The penguins rule the roost here – you’ll be sharing the waves and the sand with them. However, to get really close, follow the undulating boardwalk that leads to the penguin colony itself, a noisy, flapping mass of black and white.

best places to go with kids African penguin ( Spheniscus demersus) also known as the jackass penguin and black-footed penguin. Boulders colony. Cape Town. South Africa

African penguins on Boulders Beach, Cape Town © Shutterstock

25. Camps Bay Beach, Cape Town

Camps Bay Beach is a stunning coastal gem nestled between the dramatic Twelve Apostles mountain range and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean. Families of all shapes and colours relax on the wide, sandy beach. Along it grows a row of palm trees and several grassy paths with shade for picnics, the beach becomes very lively during the Christmas and Easter holidays.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Cape Town.

View over Camps Bay South Africa © Marisa Estivill/Shutterstock

View over Camps Bay South Africa © Marisa Estivill/Shutterstock

26. Eagle Beach, Aruba

With its clear and sparkling turquoise water and powder-soft white sand, it’s no surprise that Eagle Beach on Aruba is one of the best beaches in the world. Watersports, swaying hammocks and luxury beachfront resorts complete the picture – it’s the definition of paradise.

Divi Divi tree on the island of Aruba © EGT-1/Shutterstock

Divi tree on the island of Aruba © EGT-1/Shutterstock

27. Source d'Argent, Seychelles

On the far side of the plantation reserve is one of Seychelles’ most celebrated beaches, Anse Source d’Argent (Bay of the Silver Spring). There are no facilities here at all, but that is part of its beauty. The silver-white sands are framed by giant granite boulders and perfectly positioned palms – the ultimate in exotic backdrops and a popular spot for weddings and fashion shoots.

Source d'Argent beach, La Digue Seychelles © Shutterstock

Source d'Argent beach, La Digue Seychelles © Shutterstock

28. Matira Beach, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Perhaps the most lauded honeymoon spot on the planet, Bora Bora benefits from its natural lagoon that’s monitored by the imposing, majestic Mount Otemanu. Matira Beach stretches here and with its clear, warm waters full of colourful fish, majestic stingrays, and magnificent sunsets, this is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Bora Bora.

Matira beach in Bora Bora island, South Pacific © Shutterstock

Matira beach in Bora Bora island, South Pacific © Shutterstock

29. Siesta Key, Florida, USA

One of several barrier islands fringing Sarasota, Siesta Key is refreshing and laidback, attracting a younger crowd. Clusters of shops, restaurants and bars form Siesta Key Village, along Ocean Boulevard.

Beach lovers should head straight to Siesta Key Beach - one of the best beaches in Florida, beside Beach Road, where the sand has an uncommon sugary texture due to its origins as quartz. It’s a wide, white strand that can – and often does – accommodate thousands of sun-worshippers.

Find more accommodation options to stay at Siesta Key.

siesta-key-beach-sarasota-florida-usa-shutterstock_681298420

Siesta Key, Florida © Shutterstock

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