There’s nothing quite like the sound of crashing waves and the feeling of sand between your toes. The health benefits of being near water have been well-documented and has been linked to improved mental and physical health, so perhaps its unsurprising that beach getaways still top traveller’s lists, with 57% of global holidaymakers choosing a beach escape. With so much to do, from long walks along the shoreline to adventurous water sports, it’s hardly surprising we have such an obsession with seaside destinations. We’ve rounded up some of the most beautiful beaches around the globe, from black-sand Icelandic wonders to the tropical shores of Indonesia—plus, we’ve found the best luxury wellness retreats to visit while you’re getting a dose of vitamin sea.
Pink Beach, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
This place was little heard of a few years ago, but the advent of Instagram has shot this picture-perfect beach to Internet fame. Naturally a pale pink hue thanks to the red coral in the surrounding water, this beach can only be accessed if via tours to Komodo Island National Park, which is being restricted over the coming year. Exclusive luxury voyages like Rascal Voyages offer visits to Komodo Island and Pink Beach while incorporating a wellness focus, like plant-based dining and onboard yoga and meditation.
Pamalican Island, Agutaya, Philippines
While everyone else is exploring the not-so-secret Secret Lagoon on El Nido, indulge in a private beach experience on Pamalican Island with luxury wellness resort Amanpulo. The white sand beach wraps around the entire island, offering endless opportunities for beach relaxation and watersport. If you do want to get out and explore the Sulu Sea, then charter a boat to seek out the other hidden gems in this often-overlooked tropical haven.
Tangalle Beach, Sri Lanka
Tangalle Beach on the southern coast of Sri Lanka—a less frequented part of the island nation—offers some of the best surfing waves around, along with long empty stretches of palm-fringed white sand. Anantara Peace Haven in Tangalle sets guests up with Tropicsurf instructors to help them make the most of their time on the waves, and both beginners and advanced surfers won’t be disappointed with the adventure that awaits on the water. Tangalle Beach stretches all the way round to Rekawa Beach, which Sen Wellness Sanctuary backs onto: while there’s no swimming here, if you’re looking for something less active and more meditative, this almost entirely deserted stretch of beach will be more your thing.
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia
The whitest of white-sand beaches, Whitehaven Beach fringes Australia’s beautiful Whitsunday Islands National Park with seven kilometres of crystal silica, some of the purest and finest sand. Completed with clear turquoise water as far as the eye can see, Whitehaven Beach has been named on many occasions as Australia’s number one beach. Reachable only by boat or seaplane, guests staying at luxury wellness resort Qualia on the neighbouring Hamilton Island can charter boats for full or half-day trips to bask in the sunshine during their spa, golf or detox getaway.
Bamboo Beach, Ko Mai Phai, Thailand
Often included in boat tours of Thailand’s famous islands, like Maya Bay from The Beach and Phang Nga Bay featured in James Bond, Bamboo Beach is unique in its quiet beauty. This tiny uninhabited island can only be visited via boat: stay at a nearby resort, like Six Senses Yao Noi, where a private boat excursion can be arranged. Get up early and pack a picnic to watch the sunrise here and have the whole place to yourself before the tours begin to trickle in.
Koekohe Moeraki Boulders Beach, New Zealand
If you’re journeying to New Zealand’s South Island, don’t miss out on Koekohe Beach, also known as Moeraki Boulders Beach because of the giant spherical rocks which, otherworldly as they look, are entirely natural four-million-year-old concretions. While the more than 50 boulders are the star attraction here, the long beach offers plenty of opportunity for long walks and seal-spotting. Visit before or after an adventurous outdoor wellness retreat at eco-luxury resort Aro Hā, located nearby in the Southern Alps.
Cocoa Beach, Maldives
Cocoa Beach is what Maldivian dreams are made of: gently lapping turquoise waters so clear you can see the fine white sand at the bottom. Located on the private Cocoa Island, travellers wanting to explore this beach should check into COMO Cocoa Island which, freshly reopened after seven months of renovations, offers unique water adventures like turtle and shark-sighting snorkel expeditions, whale shark swimming, sailing, windsurfing and diving, to name a few. Just check into your overwater suite and let the stress melt away.
Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos
One of the best beaches in the Caribbean and often topping lists of the best beaches in the world, Grace Bay has become renowned for its perfect white sand and crystal clear azure waters. If you’re the kind of beach-goer who simply can’t sit still, then enjoy a long walk or run up the full 12-kilometre stretch of this beach, and snorkelling, sailing and scuba diving are all offered. While there’s plenty of resorts around this gorgeous beach strip, if you go a little further out to Amanyara, you’ll be rewarded with a luxurious experience of the island like no other; plus, Amanyara sits on its own stunning one-kilometre private beach which boasts some of the best scuba diving in the area.
Vunabaka Bay, Fiji
Fiji is every beach bum’s dream: a collection of more than 300 islands in the South Pacific, surrounded by sparkling water trimmed with long stretches of white sand. On Malolo Island, off the coast of Fiji’s main island where the capital Suva is located, Vunabaka Bay is both accessible while still feeling remote—plus, the new Six Senses Fiji resort, opened in 2018, offers a luxurious base while you’re there. Activities range from skydiving to sailing to diving, though we recommend taking at least one day to lounge on the sand beneath the shade of the palm trees.
Ka’anapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii
It’s hard to pick just one beach on Hawaii, and while we know we’re overlooking a few more popular ones, Ka’anapali Beach on Maui Island has a few unique elements to recommend it. Aside from the obvious (surfing), adrenaline junkies will love parasailing, jetskiing, and the local cliff diving ceremony held daily at Puu Kekaa (Black Rock, pictured above). Skip the traditional beach resort experience though, and head inland to Lumeria Maui: this luxe yoga and wellness retreat in the middle of the island offers a much more zen experience.
Boulders Beach Cape Town, South Africa
Stay: Belmond Mount Nelson
You don’t come to Boulders Beach for sunbathing: this southernly tip of South Africa is home to a colony of the endangered African Penguin, who have made their home on the white sands and crystal waters. Boardwalks from the neighbouring Foxy Beach help visitors get close with the birds without disturbing them in their breeding ground. The Belmond Mount Nelson is a luxe base for visitors to Cape Town: beyond exploring Boulders Beach, guests can hike Table Mountain just behind the hotel, play tennis with local pros, or unwind in the spa with a Finish Sauna and mindfulness ritual.
Reynisfjara Beach, Vík í Mýrdal, Iceland
Stay: The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon
Offering a slightly less tropical take on the traditional beach experience, Reynisfjara Beach is one of the most stunning northernly beaches around, with dramatic black sands and ragged basalt rock stacks. You might recognise this beach from its cameo on HBO’s Game of Thrones, but it won’t just be fans of the show who appreciate its awe-inspiring beauty. Combine it with a trip to The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon for a thermal hot spring experience, which is also just outside the capital Reykjavik. Just beware of the ‘sneaker waves’ while you’re taking a stroll along this beach: they have a tendency to appear from nowhere, so keep a safe distance from the shoreline.