Discover the Perfect Beach for You
Jungle and sea flank a white sand beach at the Baros resort in the Maldives.
© Baros Maldives
Best for Romance & Relaxation
This tropical destination in the South Pacific is perfect for those seeking laidback romance or just a dose of R&R. Check out all the golden-sand beaches by driving around the volcanic island in just 45 minutes – no traffic lights or skyscrapers here. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but if pushed, Muri Beach on the southeast coast, where you can wallow in the unspoilt lagoon, would get our vote. Keen for some quality couple time? Head for the adults-only Little Polynesian Resort nearby with its mesmerising lagoon views and spun-gold sands.
With nearly 1,200 islands perched in the Indian Ocean, each beach is more beautiful than the last. Pearlescent sands? Check. Swaying palm trees? Check. Turquoise waters? Check. This is the place to come for a serious dose of romantic luxe, especially if you’re partial to overwater bungalows. Baros Resort is the place for beach lovers who are serious about capturing Cupid. They’ll even set up a gourmet picnic on your very own sandbank, should the novelty of dining with your beloved on the rest of the island’s sun-kissed sands wear off.
Turks and Caicos
Seclusion seekers rejoice – it’s easy enough to find a sugar-sanded beach to call your own on this archipelago even during peak season. Head to Providenciales, or Provo as it’s known, and straight for the world-famous Grace Bay Beach. Wellness and pampering on your agenda too? COMO Parrot Cay is a private resort island, where you can indulge in yoga, Pilates and Ayurvedic therapies to your heart’s content at its Shambhala Spa.
Tamarind House is set in a restored colonial property near Avarua town in Rarotonga. Run by restaurant veteran Sue Carruthers Brown of Flame Tree restaurant fame. Enjoy fresh Pacific cuisine – think oysters, lamb or fish curry – as you look out over palm-shaded lawns to the ocean.
Best for City Slickers
Just seven kilometres from Sydney’s centre, Bondi Beach has become synonymous with Australia’s laidback beach lifestyle. Beloved by locals as well as tourists, the crescent shaped beach is lined with hip cafés, bars and restaurants. Always wanted to ride the waves? This place has surf schools galore and great breaks at either end. Just watch out for the Backpackers’ Express rip and keep inside the shark net. Less adventurous souls can splash in the 100-year-old saltwater Bondi Baths right on the shoreline. When it gets too crowded, head south to Bronte Beach.
Craving sand and a big city vibe? Put this gleaming Asian metropolis on your bucket-list. The best part is you don’t even have to leave Hong Kong Island. Take the twisty road over to Shek O or nearer still, Repulse Bay on the island’s south side. Its long sandy beach feels light years away from the bustling streets of the CBD but you can zip back there in less than half an hour. Culture vultures should check out Tin Hau Temple on the beach’s far corner, one of the oldest structures in the city.
Rio de Janeiro
Pack light for hitting arguably the world’s most famous beach, Copacabana. A tiny bikini and sunglasses should suffice. The beach itself though is huge. Beautiful people-watching here is entertainment enough but the scenery also stacks up with jungle-clad mountains rising from the sea. To really soak up the non-stop party atmosphere, hole up at the Belmond Copacabana Palace. This landmark hotel has cosseted the rich and famous since 1923. Money no object? Snaffle a penthouse suite with a private terrace.
Most gourmets gather on the north side of Hong Kong Island, but if you’re keen to linger, popular Asian restaurant Spices with its tropical garden setting is perfect for cocktails and a bite to eat. Caffeine addicts should make a beeline for Neighbourhood Coffee on, where else, Beach Road.
Best for Family Fun
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Modelled on the lost city of Atlantis, this mega-resort is perfect for water babies of all ages. It has three beautiful beaches, but the real attraction is the man-made aquatic playground inland; a 141-acre water park complete with high-speed slides, a milelong river ride and 11 swimming pools. Check out every marine species imaginable: swim with dolphins, walk with sharks (protective helmets provided) or try out “Snuba” diving with tropical fish. In the unlikely event that the kids still aren’t tired, plonk them in front of the free movies at Atlantis Theatre.
Described as a child-friendly, 70-mile sandbox, this city’s coastline is ideal for kids and kids at heart. La Jolla Shores can be enjoyed by the whole family, offering a long sandy beach with small waves that allow the young ones to paddle while the older ones learn how to surf or bodyboard and explore the nearby La Jolla Sea Caves. If the teenagers would rather be seen than see the sights, drop them at Pacific or Mission Beach, two boardwalk-connected hangouts. The latter has the bonus of Belmont Park, with its Giant Dipper rollercoaster, amusement arcade, zipline and Go Karts.
It’s hard to find a bad beach on this Gulf of Thailand island but if you’re travelling en famille our pick would be the quieter ones on the north shore. And there’s no better place to recharge than on Maenam Beach, where you won’t be fighting off hawkers or other tourists to snag a lounger. There, the Santiburi Koh Samui achieves the near impossible by combining adult tranquillity with child-friendly activities. Which means you get to laze in the spa or 50 metre pool while the little ones unleash their inner MasterChef.
Cooking classes aren’t just for kids. Brush up on your kitchen skills at the Santiburi so you can enjoy your favourite Thai dishes at home. Forget about being stuck in the kitchen, here you’ll cook outside under the coconut palms, admittedly with a distracting view of the sea.
Best for Wildlife Lovers
Manuel Antonio National Park has some of the most beautiful beaches in this Central American country, with excellent coral-reef snorkelling. But the real treat for animal aficionados lies on land. The lush rain forest lining the coast is home to an extraordinary collection of wildlife – three fingered sloths, iguanas and squirrel monkeys for starters. You’ll be an expert after an official guided tour along easy access trails. Then make for Arenas Del Mar Beach & Rainforest Resort. Why? It’s the only luxury hotel in the area that’s genuinely on the beach.
Pristine beaches abound in New Zealand and Kiwis like to joke that unlike Australia, you won’t have to worry about the wildlife finishing you off. Seabird seekers should make straight for Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay, home to the world’s largest mainland gannet colony. Travel in a red tractor along Clifton Beach (or 4x4 across farmland) and soak up the full beauty of the majestic, rugged coastline. Golf fans need to tee off afterwards at the stunning Cape Kidnappers Golf Course, where cliff-edge fairways are perched 140 metres above the ocean.
What makes Boulders Beach in Cape Town stand out from the crowd? African Penguins. A whole colony of them in fact. It’s the only place in the world where you can get up close and personal with these waddling crowd-pleasers. But not too close…three boardwalks for visitors ensure the endangered birds and their chicks are protected. Boulders is part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area so it’s a super family-friendly beach to take a dip but canoes and kayaks are off the activity menu.
Treat yourself to a five-course tasting menu at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand (book ahead if you’re not lucky enough to be staying at the luxury retreat). The only risk to your appetite are the awe-inspiring views. Their special sunrise breakfast looking down on Black Reef is a must-do for early birds. Gannets excluded.
Best Unique Beaches
Dune du Pilat
Europe’s tallest sand dune in southwestern France is truly vast. Take the steps or clamber up the soft sand 107 metres to the top where you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the Atlantic and the forest behind. How you get down is up to you…but running, rolling or surfing on a bodyboard are popular options. Arcachon Bay has plenty of beaches worth exploring but it’s the oyster beds that are renowned. Sample as many oysters as you can stomach from the wooden huts manned by farmers dotted around the Bay, then drive an hour to Bordeaux, for a fine wine to wash them down.
Playa del Amor Marieta Islands
This Mexican wonder in the Bay of Banderas, a.k.a. the “hidden beach”, has now become so famous that visitor numbers have been capped. Those lucky enough to nab a spot need to swim along a water tunnel to reach the golden sands and turquoise water, concealed inside an open crater. Instagram photos aside, the surrounding marine reserve is possibly even more impressive with its underwater mountain range teeming with sea turtles, dolphins and in winter, visiting humpback whales. A must for scuba divers.
Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site is a collection of some 40,000 basalt columns descending into the sea. They were created about six million years ago by volcanic activity…or as local lore has it, by the mythical Irish giant Finn McCool. Pick from one of several coastal walks to view them properly and grab an obligatory selfie or two on the intriguingly named giant’s boot or wishing chair.
Harry’s Shack in Portstewart serves up some of the freshest seafood – honest fare like fish & chips and oysters – at modest prices. The million-dollar views are free. If you fancy sinking a pint, the award-winning Walled City Brewery gastropub in Derry serves up craft beer and cocktails.
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