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28 of the world’s most extraordinary beaches

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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. We even polled 1,000 travelers to get their expertise on the incredible beaches they’ve come across during their travels. You’ll find that some of these coastlines 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.

North America

1. Black Sand Beach

Prince William Sound, Alaska

Black sand and blue iceberg chunks on the shores of Prince William Sound in Alaska.

Via Flickr/Matt Zimmerman

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.

2. Shi Shi Beach and Point of Arche

Clallam Bay, Washington

The cliffs overlooking the sand and rocks along Shi Shi Beach with blue clouds overhead

Via Stas Moroz/Shutterstock.com

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.

3. Glass Beach

Fort Bragg, California

Colorful sea glass covering the shoreline with waves lapping and large rocks in the distance at the Fort Bragg beach.

Via Wollertz/Shutterstock.com

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).

4. Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island, Maryland

Three horses standing on the sand at the seashore with the waves crashing behind them.

Via Jason Donnelly/Shutterstock.com

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.

5. Venice Beach

Los Angeles, California

Colorful graffiti on concrete structures in front of palm trees on Venice Beach in Southern California.

Via Flickr/jondoeforty1

Of the most unique beaches in the world, California’s Venice Beach is a strong contender thanks to its quirky boardwalk scene, where you’ll marvel at all walks of life, from bodybuilders and fortune tellers to break dancers and artists. Beyond the vibrant graffiti and skateboarding tricks lie the chilly Pacific Ocean and fiery sunset on the horizon.

6. La Jolla Cove

La Jolla, California

Brown sea lions sunning themselves on rocks surrounded by the ocean at La Jolla Cove in California.

Via Daniel M. Silva/Shutterstock.com

Many travelers picked La Jolla Cove as a favorite beach—one look over the rocky cliffs and into the azure water, and you too will see the allure. Above water, husky sea lions sun themselves on the rocks, while below the surface, the La Jolla Underwater Park is teeming with majestic sea life. Kayak above the blue water or venture down under with your scuba gear.

7. Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach, Florida

Space rocket shooting into the sky seen from the crowded shoreline at Cocoa Beach in Florida.

Via Flickr/Blake Parker

Cocoa Beach was a popular choice among travelers surveyed, and it’s no surprise. Not only is this stretch one of Florida’s coveted surf spots, but it’s also one of the best places to watch rockets launch into space from the nearby Kennedy Space Center. Not many beaches can claim that spectacle!

8. Venice Beach

Venice, Florida

Colorful graffiti on concrete structures in front of palm trees on Venice Beach in Southern California.

Via Flickr/jondoeforty1

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!

9. South Beach

Miami, Florida

Calm, turquoise water of South Miami, with tall skyscrapers in the background.

Via S.Borisov/Shutterstock.com

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.

10. Bird Island Basin

Padre Island, Texas

Group of windsurfers learning the sport on the calm waters off of Bird Island Basin.

Via Worldwinds Windsurfing/Yelp

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!

11. Pink Sands Beach

Harbour Island, Bahamas

Blue water gently lapping on the pink sandy shore at Pink Sands Beach on a clear day.

Via Flickr/Mike’s Birds

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.

12. Bamboo Beach Club

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Via Flickr/dubdem sound system

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.

13. Tulum Beach

Tulum, Mexico

A collection of ancient ruins sitting on a cliff, overlooking the crystal clear waters of Tulum, Mexico.

Via tommaso lizzul/Shutterstock.com

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.

14. Hanauma Bay

East Honolulu, Hawaii

Emerald green ocean water at Hanauma Bay, surrounded by green foliage and blue skies.

Via Shane Myers Photography/Shutterstock.com

Where can I find an amazing beach, you ask? Hanauma Bay! While the crescent-shaped coastline and turquoise water are undeniably beautiful, what makes this spot so special is that it’s actually the floor of an ancient volcanic crater that collapsed thousands of years ago. Bring your snorkel gear to see what treasures exist below the sparkling crystal surface.

15. Mauna Kea Beach

Waimea, Hawaii

A tree and rocks on the beach at Mauna Kea on a clear, sunny day.

Via Flickr/apasciuto

We trusted our survey participants to know about the most unique beaches to visit, and that’s how we discovered the amazing Mauna Kea Beach. Also known as Kauna’oa Beach, this coastline offers incredible opportunities to admire wildlife. Snorkel the coral reefs by day, and by night, look for the manta rays that search for plankton under the local hotel’s floodlights.

16. Papakōlea Beach

Kaʻū, Hawaii

Mossy green-colored sand and black rocks with blue waves in the background at Papakōlea Beach.

Via Felix Nendzig/Shutterstock.com

It’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.

South America

17. Praia do Cassino Beach

Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Long stretch of sand and ocean as far as the eye can see at Praia do Cassino Beach in Rio Grande do Sul.

Via Lisandro Luis Trarbach/Shutterstock.com

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.

Oceania

18. Hyams Beach

Shoalhaven, New South Wales

Brown rocks laying on sugar-white sand at Hyams Beach during sunset.

Via Leah-Anne Thompson/Shutterstock.com

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.

19. Brighton Beach

Melbourne, Victoria

Brightly painted and designed bathing boxes standing in a row along at the sand at Brighton Beach.

Via Greg Brave/Shutterstock.com

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.

20. Hot Water Beach

The Coromandel, New Zealand

Young girl sitting in a hole in the sand filled with ocean water, while overlooking the ocean at Hot Water Beach.

Via Naruedom Yaempongsa/Shutterstock.com

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!

Asia

21. Hoshizuna-no-Hama

Okinawa, Japan

Pathway, surrounded by green plants, leading down to the sandy shores at Hoshizuna-no-Hama in Okinawa.

Via motive56/Shutterstock.com

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.

22. Phra Nang Beach

Krabi, Thailand

The view of the front of a longtail boat as it heads toward the shores of Phra Nang Beach.

Via amnat30/Shutterstock.com

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.

Europe

23. Black Diamond Beach

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, Iceland

Chunks of icebergs, surrounded by black sand and blue water, under a dark and cloudy sky.

Via bhide the scene/Shutterstock.com

Within the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, you can’t miss the magical Black Diamond Beach. Perhaps one of the top unique beaches on earth, it not only has black sand, but it’s littered with chunks of ice broken off from the nearby Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. The ancient ice sparkles and catches the sunlight against the black sand; a mystical scene to be sure.

24. Giant’s Causeway

County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Wet black and grey hexagonal-shaped stones along the coastline, with green mountain slopes in the background at Giant’s Causeway.

Via Gigi Peis/Shutterstock.com

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.

25. Barricane Beach

Devon, UK

Large rocks covering the beach with a stretch of sand at Barricane Beach.

Via Flickr/Reading Tom

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.

26. Praia da Falesia

Algarve, Portugal

Beach umbrellas dotting the shoreline with bright orange cliffs overlooking the water at Praia da Falesia.

Via saiko3p/Shutterstock.com

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.

27. Riviera Dei Ciclopi

Catania, Sicily

Three massive orange rock structures just off the shore at sunset at Riviera Dei Ciclopi.

Via silky/Shutterstock.com

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.

Africa

28. Boulders Beach

Simon’s Town, Cape Town

Big group of black and white penguins waddling on the sand at Boulder Beach in Cape Town.

Via David Varga/Shutterstock.com

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.

What are the most exotic beaches you’ve explored?

Header Image:  b-hide the scene/Shutterstock.com


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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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