15 Most Famous Beaches In The World

For some, beaches move them in ways that a city, mountain, or open countryside never could. Sitting on a beach has the ability to make a traveler reflect, contemplate, and relax; while sliding into the water, they might feel a sense of release, of liberation. Travelers prize many physical aspects of going to the beach, from the sensation of the sand crumbling underfoot and the comforting and refreshing breeze to the soothing nature of the waves. Research supports these experiences.


Researchers polled hundreds of residents as part of a 2016 study (PDF) undertaken at the Graduate School of Maritime Sciences of Japan's Kobe University. The study's findings showed that coastal areas had therapeutic effects, playing a pivotal role in decreasing stress and increasing positivity. Beaches are, in a sense, medicinal, helping us to clear our minds and lift our moods. And some knock your socks off, either for their solitary beauty or sense of place. The 15 below are all wonders by the water that have reputations that precede them and will impress even the most jaded, seen-it-all jet-setter.

Anse Source d'Argent, Seychelles

Seychelles is a nation of more than 100 islands with no shortage of outstanding beaches. There's the sweep of Beau Vallon Beach, on the main island of Mahé, or the stunning Anse Lazio on Praslin Island, where the sand and sea are like a mirage come to life. But none of them quite tops the high drama of Anse Source d'Argent on the small isle of La Digue, a sleepy refuge where bicycles are the preferred method of transportation. Located within L'Union Estate Park, an old plantation that now offers a window into the island's colonial past, Anse Source d'Argent will be recognizable to anyone who has leafed through photos of tropical beach destinations. 


Anse Source d'Argent is not large, consisting of a few small coves of soft sand that yield to impossibly clear turquoise water, but what sets it apart is the giant granite boulders that look like they've been there for millennia. Some are small enough to clamber over, others are like silent elephants staring at the sublime seas, and the scene is like a tourism brochure come to life. To enjoy the beach in its full glory, arrive first thing in the morning, as soon as L'Union Estate Park opens, before the hordes and kayakers descend. La Digue is tiny and a comfortable place to stay; also, on a gorgeous beach is the hotel Le Relax Beach House.

The Baths National Park, British Virgin Islands

Even though it's halfway across the world from Anse Source d'Argent in Seychelles, the Baths National Park on Virgin Gorda brings to mind that Indian Ocean wonder. One of the British Virgin Islands' best beaches, travelers will find slashes of greenery and tall palms that rise above all else. The water is beautifully clear, shallow, and gentle, its turquoise hues gleaming in the sun. And then there are the giant rocks, granite boulders that dot the shoreline, hulking masses that feel primordial. Some are mammoth, more than 40 feet across, formed long ago through volcanic processes. In addition to the boulders, visitors will find small rock pools, hidden passages, and grottoes that weave a sense of childlike escape by the sea. 


The Baths are located on the south of an island that is small and spindly, but they're not the only thing worth doing there. For a rewarding excursion away from the water, tourists can hike to the top of Gorda Peak, the highest point on Virgin Gorda at almost 1,400 feet above sea level. The climb takes about an hour and cuts through dry forest; en route, you might be lucky to spot the Virgin Gorda gecko, the smallest lizard species on the planet. For a resort that matches the majesty of The Baths, stay at Rosewood Little Dix Bay, opened by Laurance Rockefeller in 1964.

Bondi Beach, Australia

Located southeast of the peerless Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach might not be the largest option in a country where beaches are innumerable, but it's undoubtedly the most famous. Its lifeguards are renowned, immortalized in the reality TV show "Bondi Rescue," and the beach is where you can find Bondi Icebergs, the oldest swimming club in Australia. Along the gentle curl of sand, there's always something going on, from surfing to swimming to the Coogee Coastal Walk, where views take in the sand and water.


The people-watching is fantastic at Bondi Beach, from Sydneysiders sunning themselves to the surfers paddling out. When you feel your stomach rumble (fish and chips seem like a fitting choice), take a break and head to the multitude of cafes and restaurants at Campbell Parade, a street set back a short distance from the waterfront whose curves mimic the beach. Each October and November, Sculpture by the Sea brings artwork to the seafront. Since the beach faces west, it's an excellent spot for a sundowner cocktail. For a sleek, fun, cool accommodation a few blocks from Bondi, choose The Blue Hotel.

Boulders Beach, South Africa

The name hints at the main attraction at this slice of waterfront about an hour south of central Cape Town. Large rocks make this stretch of sand a visual delight, hulking granite boulders that give the beach its moniker. They help to block the wind and waves, making the beach a good spot for a leisurely swim, and tidal rock pools teem with marine life. What makes the beach more famous, however, is the visitors that frequent it. Cute African penguins stream by in flocks, waddling to the water, splashing around in the sea, squawking with their distinctive timbre. They are especially active in the summer, December through March, with January the month chicks can be spotted on the beach. 


Simon's Town, where Boulders Beach is located, has plenty to do. Strolling the streets, you'll see pretty Cape Dutch buildings in pastel shades, encounter several museums, and get some great seafood at Bertha's, where the dishes come with a view of the harbor. For a polished retreat, book one of the country-style rooms at Tintswalo at Boulders — all rooms look onto the ocean.

Copacabana Beach, Brazil

Few beaches worldwide get instant name recognition, but this Rio de Janeiro hotspot needs litte introduction. It's a gorgeous piece of real estate, merging with Leme Beach on the city's southeast cusp. These two beaches stretch for a couple of miles, but Copacabana is where all the action is. Runners zip along the promenade while a cycle lane ensures bikers are a constant. There are hotels, restaurants, small shacks, and cafes all close to the promenade, a famous piece of public planning in its own right, with its original swirling black-and-white-mosaic pattern that mimics the motion of the waves nearby.


The best spot is on the beach, a place where local Cariocas hang out, sunbathe, play the "jogo bonito" (the beautiful game, the Brazilian nickname for soccer), flirt, dance, and embody the term "life's a beach." The people-watching is priceless. Always busy, Copacabana is especially packed on New Year's Eve for its grand celebrations. Visitors will find no shortage of hotels nearby, but the most storied is the Copacabana Palace, which has welcomed guests like Mick Jagger and Marilyn Monroe. It celebrated its centenary in 2023 and launched a collaboration with bold clothing brand Farm Rio in early 2024.

Maho Beach, Sint Maarten

This beach on the Dutch and French island of Sint Maarten, a.k.a. St. Martin, has all the attributes you'd expect from a gorgeous slash of sandy coastline. The water is a hypnotic blue, warm and gentle as it slowly pushes onto white sand that is soft and deep. It's a good size, long enough that travelers can stroll along it, compact enough that it's not overwhelming. It also faces west, so the sunsets are uplifting, especially over a drink at the relaxed Driftwood Boat Bar. Maho Village features restaurants, bars, and shopping, a short walk from the beach. For a personal, welcoming small hotel, check out Le Petit Hotel, located on the French side of the island.


The real draw to Maho Beach is that it's right by the island's airport, under the flight path for landing aircraft — the planes are sometimes so close that tourists might feel they can touch them. Some of the aircraft are huge, giant jetliners that come from France or the Netherlands and roar overhead as they make their descent. The sight is terrifying at first but soon becomes thrilling and is something you will never forget; the selfies will defy belief.

Maya Bay, Thailand

Towering, jagged limestone peaks and marine formations are visible at many coastal locations around Southeast Asia, but Hollywood made the ones here most famous. Maya Bay, on Ko Phi Phi Le, was already popular with the traveling cognoscenti, prized for its emerald waters, mighty limestone cliffs, and glittering sand. But its popularity skyrocketed once it became the eponymous beach for the 2000 movie "The Beach," starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Soon, hordes descended on this cove to see the imagery from the film in person, and Maya Bay suffered from its success. Over-tourism ravaged the reef and blighted the natural serenity of the place, and the authorities closed Maya Bay in 2018, reopening it in 2022. 


Tourism numbers are limited to ensure the same fate doesn't beset the beach, and visitors can again see the towering cliffs that cup it, but the scene is calmer than before. Elsewhere on this uninhabited island, the Viking Cave has a network of bamboo scaffolds around it, which foragers use to access swifts' nests (a prized commodity). Lodging choices are plentiful at nearby Ko Phi Phi Don, where villas at The Beach Resort have bright, comfortable rooms.

Navagio Beach, Greece

Visitors to the island chains of Greece all tend to have their favorite beach. It might be the Red Beach of Santorini, with its rust-colored cliffs, or the bleached white, lunar-esque contours of Sarakiniko Beach on Milos. On the Ionian island of Zakynthos, the cove of Navagio Beach is cupped by soaring, brilliant white limestone cliffs, which contrast starkly with the glittering turquoise sea. Giving it even more dramatic heft is the rusting bones of a shipwreck that sits on the sand, a vessel called the MV Panagiotis, which ran aground in the 1980s. It's no wonder this locale has often been used in marketing collateral to promote Greek beaches, such is the striking combination of features.


You can only access the beach by boat, though a viewpoint to the north of the site has parking and provides an Instagram-worthy aerial view that you won't get from the sea. For some refreshment, wander along K Lomvardou Street — a road that hugs the coast, it's filled with bars, restaurants, and cafes — and history buffs should drop by the island's many churches. The landscaping of the beachfront Lesante Classic Luxury Hotel & Spa makes it a calming vacation spot.

Pink Beach, Indonesia

Pink Beach, or Pantai Merah, as it's known in Bahasa (the name actually translates to "Red Beach"), on Komodo Island, can only be reached by boat, so rowdy groups with booming speakers and barbecues won't be found there. The color of the sand comes from foraminifera, a marine organism that coats the local reefs with a red hue. When red-tainted coral bits mix with the white sand, the combination lends the beach a deep pink palette. It anchors the whole scene. The water is fabulously clear turquoise — the snorkeling is magnificent — scrubby hills climb above the sand, and clear skies magnify the natural beauty.


Visitors should not remove any of the sand as a memento; it's not only unfair to other visitors, but it's also illegal. Komodo Island is also famous for the muscular, scaly, giant lizards that live here, the Komodo Dragon. Squat and very strong, they are extremely dangerous, so don't ever approach one; to see one, take a ranger-led tour of Komodo National Park. The best way to explore this part of the country is on a cruise like the one Ponant Cruises offers.

Santa Monica Beach, California, United States

An iconic Southern California beach, Santa Monica is cool and kitsch, chic and corny all at the same time. It is a short distance from Downtown Los Angeles, just north of Venice Beach, home to skaters, muscle heads, beach bunnies, and street performers. Santa Monica Beach, which extends for more than 3 miles along the shore, is defined by its pier. Built in 1909 as the first concrete pier on the West Coast, it is a throwback to yesteryear, with a retro harbor sign. It has a large Ferris wheel that now runs on solar power, a carousel, and an aquarium, and it's regularly featured in movies and TV shows like "Beverly Hills 90210."


Surfers catch a Pacific wave while families build sand castles on the beach. You can enjoy the view from a table along Ocean Front Walk, a footpath populated with restaurants and cafes, or hit the Marvin Braude Bike Trail on two wheels — it skirts the coast for 22 miles. The Casa Del Mar hotel is a short walk from the pier and has direct access to the beach.

Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

This beach seems to go on forever, and along its ravishing reach, it never disappoints. Unfurling up the west coast of Grand Cayman, the largest of the trio of Cayman Islands, its soft grains of sand and shimmering Caribbean Sea let beachgoers find a generous slice of paradise. Although it's known as Seven Mile Beach, it breaks down into separate sections, like Governor's Beach, West Bay Beach, and so on, points of reference that help to distinguish each part. Cemetery Beach, for instance, has a fine reef offshore, where snorkelers and divers will find vibrant blue tangs and graceful rays gliding above the sandy bottom.


Fans of luxury resorts will find lots of choice, with brands like Westin, Kimpton, and Ritz-Carlton firmly established along Seven Mile Beach. While the beach is a perfect spot for shameless relaxation, it also offers plenty of water sports options, like water skiing, wakeboarding, and kayak rentals. Grand Cayman is also home to Stingray City, a sandbar off the north coast where stingrays congregate to commune with their human visitors.

Spiaggia Grande, Italy

The Amalfi Coast is like a dreamland, a 50-mile-long parade of towns tucked into secluded coves, cliffs rising behind them, and the fragrance of summer blooms and citrus blossoms perfuming the air. It's no wonder that this slice of Italian Riviera paradise has long drawn celebrities, from old-school cinematic royalty like Elizabeth Taylor and Gregory Peck to modern-day sporting icon Michael Jordan. Travelers might stumble on Spiaggia Grande, a large beach at this rarefied location. 


At this compact block of sand, the colorful buildings of Positano rise on the hills at both ends, appearing almost as if they will tumble into the sea. The beach fills quickly during the season, with visitors on loungers, huddled under umbrellas, or bronzing themselves under resplendent rays. The stately Church of Our Lady of Assumption stands behind the beach like a watchful sentinel standing guard. In the summer, bars and restaurants supply an alluring alternative to the seafront inactivity. In the shadow of the church, Hotel Buca di Bacco is about as close as you can get to the beach.

South Beach, Florida, United States

A glam enclave of Miami Beach, South Beach sparkles day and night. During the hours of sunlight, the beach is alive with tanned, toned bodies baking in the sun, while the parks just inland allow them some respite from the heat. Restaurants and cafes bubble with patrons sipping something frothy while people watching. As evening descends, the district's treasure trove of Art Deco buildings, especially those along Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, light up, with artfully illuminated facades making them appear as grand works of art. The Art Deco Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places, is a distillation of the area's best Deco structures, 800 gorgeously crafted buildings, and sensuously shaped.


As the night progresses, sports cars prowl the streets, and beautiful people throng the sidewalks, bars, and nightclubs. While South Beach might have gained a reputation as the ultimate year-round night haunt, that shouldn't distract visitors from the allure of the beach. It's deep and soft, the water is clear and warm, and the lifeguard towers spaced along its expanse are dreamy pastel pods. For some classic Art Deco styling, the National Hotel has you covered; it also has a 200-foot infinity edge pool and direct beach access.

Tulum, Mexico

The Maya were a thriving civilization that left their imprint all across Central America, with a well-structured agricultural system dating back thousands of years. Their ruins attract tourists to many parts of Mexico, including Tulum, a gorgeous beach where a Mayan settlement sits above the shore. There are more than 60 separate entities within the Tulum ruins, with El Castillo the pick of the bunch — a sturdy, angular temple right above the water that also served as a lighthouse.


The beach is striking in its own right, but the ruins elevate it to world-class. Tulum sits at the southern end of the Riviera Maya and is a lively town with a good selection of lodging — Alaya Tulum is a beachfront hotel, and its rooms sit among lush landscaping. Tulum has two very different scenes, from the touristy bars and hangouts by the beach to the more reasonably priced, more authentic atmosphere of the town itself. To enjoy some of the nature there, book a tour around Sian Ka'an, a Unesco World Heritage site of mangroves, forests, crystalline lagoons, and wetlands that teem with wildlife.

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, United States

At the southern edge of Honolulu is a bustling hive of activity. The scenery is a sure show stopper, with the volcanic cone Diamond Head a constant presence at the eastern end and surfers populating the swells offshore. Towering hotel and condo buildings sprout up behind the sand, while on Kalakaua Avenue, the main drag is set back from the shore, and the choices for eating, drinking, and shopping are bewildering.


The beach plays a central role in much local lore, from the Moana Surfrider, the first hotel to open there in 1901, to the surfing and Olympic legend Duke Kahanamoku, who rode the waves. Visitors can snap a selfie next to his statue at Waikiki Beach, enjoy the boutiques and live shows along the Waikiki Beach Walk, or drop by the zoo and aquarium. To experience another Waikiki legend, book a room at Halekulani, where views of Diamond Head are breathtaking, and the pool with an orchid mosaic is bliss.