20 of the World’s Most Swimmable Beaches
Comparing beaches is like comparing apples and… coconuts. Some prefer a bustling social scene, others demand quality shade palms to snooze away the day.
One thing all beachgoers can agree on is the importance of safe and swimmable seas.
Splash out on a visit to one of our 20 can’t-miss tropical dips.
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Tulum Beach, Mexico
The Riviera Maya is home to a dozen beaches that could make this list — the soft white sand and clear aqua waters of Maroma Beach (10m north of Playa del Carmen) and the turtle haven of jungle-fringed Akumal Beach (21m south of Playa del Carmen) being two notable favorites.
But not many beaches can offer not only a view of the surf and swells, but well-preserved ancient Mayan ruins.
At the foot of El Castillo, a particularly large stone structure dotted with resident iguanas, lies a wooden staircase down to the swimming cove. (Locals access the beach via a clearly marked jungle path south of the ruins to avoid paying national park fees.)
Where to stay: Azulik Lodge
Makena Beach (Big Beach), Maui
Travel past Wailea’s perfectly manicured upscale resort grounds to a 1.5 mile golden shore piece of paradise in Makena State Park.
There are no commercial services on the undeveloped beach, so be sure to stop by the chilled fruit stand or handful of food trucks waiting to serve up “ono” eats in the parking lot for refreshments. Visitors come to sunbathe or body surf with a view of Molokini Crater.
During high swells days, inexperienced swimmers might want to stick to the sand and enjoy the extreme boogie boarding antics on display. Climbing a rough trail over the rocks on the north end of the beach leads to Little Beach, the island’s popular nude beach.
Where to stay: Fairmont Kea Lani - Maui
Elbow Beach, Bermuda
The pink sand of Bermuda’s beaches earns its blush thanks to the wealth of red foraminifera growing below the coral reefs. This glowing hue only further sets off the brilliant turquoise waters capped by white foam.
Nearly every beach on the island is gorgeous, but when ships are in, the most popular shores can be too congested to enjoy.
Skip bustling Horseshoe Bay Beach for Elbow Beach, the resort bearing the same name offering a beachside café for refreshments and sushi bar. Car rentals are not available to visitors (though mopeds are), but taxis and a well managed system of pink public buses stop at the public access walk to the beach.
Where to stay: Elbow Beach Hotel
Koh Kradan — Trang, Thailand
Thailand has numerous overdone beach destinations, like Koh Samui and Kho Panang, but with a little research (or connecting with the right local longtail boat) heading off the beaten path for a day of relaxation can be done.
Trang island has clear waters for prime snorkeling and coral reefs you can stroll to at low tide. that you can easily see fish swimming around, and when the tide is low, you can walk to the coral reefs.
Earn your cold Singha beer by kayaking around the half-resort/half national park island (about three hours).
Where to stay: Kradan Beach Resort
Clearwater Beach, Florida
Topping many a “best beach” list, this sugary sand entry to the Gulf of Mexico’s mellow waters offers a nice mix of natural beauty and social fun.
SUP, kayaks, boogie and skimboards are a few ways to enjoy the sea. Early birds might miss the worm, but certainly score on the seashell front if they hit the sand before 7 a.m.
The area offers numerous seafood shack-style eateries and beach bars, and an extensive marine-animal themed playground in the center of the beach town. Known for fabulous sunsets, many visitors stroll the wooden beach walk or head for the pier as the fiery orbs drops below the horizon.
Where to stay: Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa
St. Francois Beach, Corsica
Although not celebrated as the ultimate beach destination, Corsica’s lovely St. Francois Beach is a unique sandy spot to experience — particularly for those visiting the island by ship.
The beach lies just a few minutes stroll from the port on the palm-lined promenade of Boulevard Lantivy below the historic citadel of Ajaccio. The narrow strip of beach extends below the sea wall around the cove offering plenty of room to stretch out to catch a few rays or dip into the deep blue Terranian Sea.
At the far end, the beach morphs from golden sand to a rainbow of colorful of pebbles. Sit with a bottle of wine to enjoy the sunset, or stroll the shoreline spotting the sparkle of sea glass — nature’s perfect mosaic.
Where to stay: Campo Dell'Oro
Medano Beach, Los Cabos
Although not top of the world in the pure sense of beach quality, this lovely and rare swimmable stretch of shore offers a lot of social currency as a prime hotspot for visitors to this region of Baja.
Stylish SUR Beach House is a great spot for handcraft cocktails and sushi, with beach chairs, umbrellas and a talented roaming masseuse offering complementary shoulder and foot rubs just a few perks.
SUP Cabo rents paddle boards to visit the famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas across the bay or hop a water taxi that can either offer a scenic round trip or drop guests at tiny arch-adjacent Lover’s Beach. Medano’s Mango Deck Bar and Beach Club starts thumping music and drink specials for its lively crowd every afternoon.
Where to stay: Medano Hotel & Spa
Playa Punta Uva, Costa Rica
This charming little cove is home to a picturesque unspoiled beach on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, a favorite of tourists-in-the-know and friendly locals. The serene hideaway is fringed with rainforest offering shade trees and opportunities to spot sloths, howler monkeys, coatis, tropical birds and tree frogs.
The soft sand and lack of strong undertow make the crashing waves fun to jump. A small market, just a five minute walk down a dirt road, sells picnic goods and cold cervezas.
Trucks selling pipas (fresh, chilled coconuts tapped with a straw) and frozen bags of water can often be spotted at the entrance, but otherwise this is a BYOE(verything) spot.
Where to stay: aWà Beach Hotel
Long Bay Beach, Turks & Caicos
While resort-lined Grace Bay gets all the hoopla in Turks and Caicos’ Providenciales (“Provo”), little Long Beach across the way is an undeveloped charmer.
This pure white sugar sand beach is a favorite among kite surfers and those who enjoy miles of shallow, swimming-pool clear aqua water for doing laps or water-walking (you can stroll several miles out to sea without ever wetting your shoulders). The best part of this breezy beach is how serene and remote it feels despite being just minutes from Provo’s center.
Only one small luxury property, The Shore Club, sits on its shores with onsite Sea Grapes offering frozen mojitos, deconstructed sushi roll bowls and fresh fish sandwiches for a tasty lunch.
Where to stay: The Shore Club Turks & Caicos
Crystal Cove Beach, Orange County CA
Orange County might be hailed for its dubious honor of kickstarting reality television and the Real Housewives mania, but it is also home to a charmer of a historic beach cove.
In fact, the Crystal Cove State Park is the opposite of plastic, with 3.5 miles of pristine uninterrupted coastline, including a fabulous system of hiking trails in the bluffs and an impressive collection of tide pools. Visitors enter the beach area through a tunnel covered with marine-and conservation themed paintings by locals kids, which runs under the Pacific Coast Highway.
Brunch-fave, The Beachcomber Café, also offers cocktails while hillside Ruby’s offers 50s' diner fare and hand-dipped shakes. Accommodations can be found in the Crystal Cove Historic District, an enclave of 46 1920s' vintage rustic cottages around the mouth of Los Trancos Creek, though a six month waiting list is typical for the coveted rentals.
Where to stay: Art Hotel Laguna Beach
Whitehaven Beach — Whitsunday Island, Australia
Three miles of 98 percent silica sand, cool to the touch and glowing a brilliant white, creates the perfect landing spot for beach lovers to lounge the day away.
In fact, the soft sand is so pure, walking through it sounds like a trip across a school gym filled with squeaking sneakers. The pristine beach is also home to goannas, a monitor lizard that can grow over six feet long.
Whitehaven Beach is only accessible by boat, seaplane or helicopter from nearby Airlie Beach, gateway to the 74 islands of the Whitsundays.
Where to stay: Beach Club
Yasawa Island Beaches — Fiji
One of the most remote, and therefore untouched, groups of the nearly 300 islands of Fiji is the Yasawas.
Home to the tropical set where a young Brooke Shields wandered her Blue Lagoon and just north of where Tom Hanks pal’ed around with “Wilson,” this entire island group is untouched and free from any sort of commercialism other than a handful of properties that range from backpacker hostels to Uber-luxe resorts where A-Listers escape.
Yasawa Island has a nice mix of these white sand, palm fringed oases just meters from excellent snorkeling among an abundance of tropical sea life.
Where to stay: Yasawa Island Resort & Spa
Flamenco Beach, Culebra Puerto Rico
A surprising departure from the chaos and destruction still facing much of Puerto Rico, this mile-long stretch of sugary white beach around a sheltered, horseshoe-shaped bay is the star of the island of Culebra.
The idyllic island is only 11 squares miles and is best reached by Cape Air or other small aircraft (ferry service, always a bit of a challenge when combined with road travel to Fajardo, is still struggling to achieve reliability).
Thousands of seabirds visit this beach, bordered by a national wildlife refuge, though more visitors go to enjoy the wildlife below the waves. Tangs, parrot fish, striped damselfish, corals, wrasse, eels and leatherback turtles are a few marine creatures that draw in scuba divers and snorkelers.
Where to stay: Culebra Ocean View
Eagle Beach, Aruba
This west coast beach on the tiny Dutch territory of Aruba is possibly the island’s most famous, thanks to a pair of oft-photographed fofoti trees rising unexpectedly from a wide expanse of white sand.
The impossibly turquoise water here is calm, perfect for newbies learning to handle snorkel and paddle board gear. Loads of parking combined with shady spots to chill (important on the Caribbean’s sunniest island) make this an easy beach to spend a long day.
Stay for sunset, where beachside resort bars and beach cafés serve up rum-inspired cocktails and fresh seafood snacks.
Where to stay: Eagle Aruba Resort & Casino
Matira Island, Bora Bora
The water in Bora Bora is spectacular, as are the views of the impressive extinct volcano dual-peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu.
While the main island is surrounded by a lagoon and barrier reef with endless snorkel and dive sites, nearly all of the beaches are privately owned. Of those, the Four Seasons Bora Bora on a private islet boasts incredible sunset views from both its private beach and from the decks of dozens of overwater bungalows, a signature feature of the French Polynesia properties.
Matira Beach on Bora Bora’s southern tip enjoys fine white sand sloping gently into a sandy, coral-free bottomed lagoon.
Where to stay: Four Seasons Bora Bora
Baa Atoll — Maldives
Although there are public beaches among the Maldives 1,192 atolls or islands, most beachgoers would likely want to head to resort islands due to the country’s strict laws. (Private resort islands are exempt for laws against bathing suits and alcohol.)
Set among the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere reserve are the luxury villas of Soneva Fushi. Several times each year, bioluminescent plankton creates a sea of glow-in the-dark waves lapping at the beach.
True beach lovers can try a Private Sandbank Overnight Experience of camping under the Maldivian skies in a luxe Bedouin-style tent, with candlelit dinner.
Where to stay: Soneva Fushi
Pelican Beach — Little Exuma, Bahamas
The Exumas consist of 365 islands, a paradise-a-day destination. Although perhaps best known for their Swimming Pigs (located 50 miles away at Pig Beach) — the islands boast a wealth of gorgeous shoreline spots to enjoy.
This long, sweeping beach offers great snorkeling and was made famous as the set location of the first Pirates of the Caribbean. Although the official name is Pelican Beach, locals call it the “Tropic of Cancer” beach as the invisible line runs through the shore.
Several cafes and snack shops are located a stroll away for refreshments.
Where to stay: The Conch House
Ka’anapali Beach, Maui
Maui is an island of two sides — while Makena Beach on the South Side exemplifies the ideal natural beach setting, Ka’anapali on Maui’s west end reigns as the perfect spot for family fun.
Featuring mellow, crystal clear waters and signature golden sand shores, the beach faces the neighboring island of Lana’i across a channel where breaching humpbacks can be viewed throughout the winter. Ka’anapali is also home to a long stretch of resorts, oceanfront restaurants, luau’s, watersport kiosks and tiki bars.
At the far end, iconic Black Rock offers cliff diving and is home to a number of green sea turtles, making it an ideal snorkel and dive site. Sunsets are gloriously picturesque, with sailboats from nearby Lahaina Harbor passing back and forth and live local music echoing in the air.
Where to stay: Outrigger Kaanapali Beach Resort
Amed Beach — Bali
Amed Beach lies on the island’s eastern shore. The black sand offers a unique sun-lounging opportunity, snacks, cold drinks and massages are readily available, but the real treasures are beneath the sea.
An abundance of tropical fish have made shipwrecks and surrounding coral reefs their home. Set in a less touristy area, this beach strings along seven fishing villages (Jemeluk stretch has the largest shipwreck).
Both fishing and salt mining are big trades here — traditional jukung outriggers bob in the swells offering an authentic backdrop for photographers catching the sunrise.
Where to stay: Arya Amed Beach Resort & Dive Center
Bathsheba Beach — Barbados
While swimming beaches are often the winning beaches, surfers have their own version of paradise. Bathsheba’s foamy “Soup Bowl” makes this stretch of boulder-filled shore not only a sweet destination to Hang Ten, but is entertaining and picturesque enough to keep loungers happy, too. Even if they don’t want to dip a toe in this wild and rugged spot.
After a day of sun and fun, head to the island-wide weekly get together of Oistin’s Fish Fry to sample from dozens of grills serving communal picnic tables filled with an eclectic mix of young and old, visitor and tourist — all to the tune of several live bands with their own dance floors, satisfying every taste.
Where to stay: The Sandpiper