Ask true beach lovers to name a favorite swath of surf and sand, and the answer changes with the tides. Luckily our planet is covered in oceans, seas, and lakes, which means there’s a beach to indulge any whim. From pearly crescents covered in shells to turquoise bays teeming with Skittles-colored fish, they’re not all created equal.
Here are 21 of the best.
Playa del Amor, Marietas Islands, Mexico: A swim through an opening nearly invisible from the sea reveals what locals call the “hidden beach,” encircled by an impressive rock ring forming a natural oculus for the sun and sky. Only six visitors at a time can visit “Love Beach” via approved tour operators such as Punta Mita Adventures.
Cathedrals Beach, Ribadeo, Spain: For a church visit like no other, head to Ribadeo, on Spain’s northwest Galician coast, where wave-carved, hundred-foot rock arches resembling flying buttresses of Gothic cathedrals line the sand. Walk among them at low tide, but beware, when the Bay of Biscay rises, the beach quickly succumbs to the surf.
Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles: With sun-dappled giant boulders, calm turquoise waters, snow white sand, and palm trees and jungle for greenery, this Indian Ocean beach seems created by a Hollywood set designer. It’s no wonder that it is often ranked as the most photographed beach in the world.
One Foot Island, Aitutaki, Cook Islands: The marooned vibe is so palpable here it lured hit show Survivor to this 15-island atoll. Tapuaetai, “one footprint” in the local Maori dialect, is a short hop across the translucent lagoon, with a coconut palm-fringed shoreline you can trace in 15 minutes, but don’t rush, and don’t forget a footprint-shaped passport stamp from the hut turned post office. Read more