The 50 best beaches in the world
BEST FOR WOW FACTOR
1 Source d’Argent, Seychelles
As if a beach like this needed any enhancement, pink-hued sand ups the ante in the picture-postcard stakes at Source d’Argent, a secluded cove on La Digue, the Seychelles’ third-largest island (in an archipelago of 115). Huge, weathered granite boulders bookend the shore, and there are nearby restaurants for sampling Creole-inspired cuisine.
• Airbnb has 33 pads rented as a whole property on La Digue, including lovely Holzveranda (£120 a night for four, airbnb.co.uk) in a tropical garden
2 Dune du Pyla, France
This beach is Europe’s tallest dune at over 100 metres. It’s an hour’s drive from Bordeaux and is literally dazzling. You will shield your eyes as much from the shimmering heat haze as the pristine sand. After you’ve taken in the panoramic views over the Atlantic and pine forests behind, there are miles of beaches to explore along the Bassin d’Arcachon. Take a ferry from Arcachon pier to Cap Ferret for the best view of the dune. To eat, head to the oyster cabanes, where fishermen set up tables and serve oysters, prawns, paté, bread and rosé wine.
• Panorama du Pyla campsite (camping-panorama.com) has pitches from €18 a night for two, wooden bungalows for four from €30 a night
3 Shoal Bay, Antigua
Icing-sugar sand, 3km of it, crystal-clear Caribbean water, off-shore coral reef with spectacular snorkelling or diving, a smattering of bars and open-air restaurants … job done! This stretch on the east of the fun yachtie island, near Dickenson Bay town, is quieter than nearby Jabberwock beach.
• Dutchman’s Bay Cottages (doubles from $140) has seven options with verandas right by this eponymous beach
• Get off your sun lounger – Antigua’s active side
4 Cala Saona, Formentera
There is no shortage of beautiful beaches on the smallest of the Balearics but everybody seems to want to cram on to Illetes and Espalmador. Much better to hire a bike or moped in the main port, La Savina, and head a few kilometres across the island to Cala Saona. It has perfectly clear water, white sand and dramatic red cliffs on both sides. It faces west, so is the ideal spot for a sundowner at, say, the charmingly simple Cala Saona chiringuito.
• Ferries to Formentera (30 minutes) run frequently from Ibiza Town for about €50 return. For a treat, stay at the cool, modern Cala Saona Hotel (summer doubles from €280 B&B)
5 Glass Beach, California
A beach made from years of dumped litter sounds like a hellhole but, at Glass beach, on the Mendocino coast in California, the result is quite beautiful. From 1906 to 1967, glass, appliances and even vehicles were chucked into the sea. A clean-up programme removed all the metal and non-biodegradable waste, and the waves broke down the glass and pottery, which washed up as jewel-like, translucent stones. Nowadays, the beach is part of MacKerricher state park, and visitors are forbidden for removing the sea-glass baubles.
• Beachcomber Motel and Spa has doubles from $119 B&B
• Top 10 beaches in California and the Pacific Northwest
6 Starfish Beach, Panama
Panama has three archipelagos: San Blas is pricey to get to, the Pearl Islands are pricey to stay on, but Bocas del Toro, just south of Costa Rica on the Caribbean side, puts virgin beach utopia within a backpacker budget. From the funky town hub of Bocas on Isla Colón, boat taxis cross between the 10 inhabited islands and some 300 islands and islets, although this protected beach, gloriously decorated with a liberal smattering of starfish, is on Colón itself.
• Palmar Tent Lodge (tent dorm bed $13.50, doubles from $50, palmartentlodge.com)
7 Fakistra, Greece
Photograph: Getty Images
More of a cove than a beach, backed by cliffs and dense woods, with white sands and pebbles and clear blue waters – is Fakistra on the Pelion peninsula (mainland Greece), below Tsagarada village. It’s a steep walk down but it’s the sort of place that, apart from in July and August, you may well have to yourself.
• The Architect’s House (sleeps 12, from €290 a night, i-escape.com)
• A holiday guide to Greece and its islands
8 Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico
If asked to design the perfect tropical beach, Playa Flamenco on Culebra island, off the east coast of Puerto Rico, is probably what you would come up with. It’s a U-shaped cove with white sand, warm turquoise water, palm trees, lush vegetation and a peaceful lagoon. The island’s undeveloped state is partly thanks to the US military, which used to use it as a gunnery range – a rusting Sherman tank remains in the middle of the sand. It makes a day trip by ferry from Fajardo on the Puerto Rico mainland ($4.50 return): a shuttle bus runs from the ferry port. Culebra has an excellent government-run campsite right on the sand at the western side of the bay. It’s quite basic, with showers open only three hours a day, but pitch your tent under mangroves ($20 for up to six people), stock up on water, pina coladas and local snacks (comida criolla) and you may never want to leave. If you do, though, there are bikes to hire.
• The solitary beauty of Vieques island, Puerto Rico
9 Koh Kradan, Thailand
Choosing the best beach in Thailand is a near impossible task. But one Thai island that’s still relatively peaceful is Koh Kradan, near busier Koh Lipe, in the Andaman Sea. With powdery sand, excellent snorkelling on a reef just off the beach, hammocks and crystal-clear water, it would suit those who don’t want to drink buckets of spirits under a full moon. You can kayak round the whole island – 90% of which is part of Hat Chao Mai national park – in three hours to more isolated spots, and take longtail boat trips to Ko Waen, Ko Chueak and Ko Muk’s Emerald Cave.
• Paradise Lost (dorm bed from £4.80, basic bungalows from £14, kokradan.wordpress.com); Reef Resort (doubles from £78, reefresortkradan.com)
• Top 10 hotels and places to stay on a budget in Thailand
10 Playa del Amor (Hidden Beach), Mexico
Playa escondida (Hidden beach), Mexico Photograph: Photos by W. Ebiko/Getty Images/Moment RM
An underground beach sounds like the stuff of legend, but the Marietas Islands, where Hidden Beach lies, were used as a military testing ground by the Mexican government in the early 1900s, and it’s suspected that a bomb may have created the crater in which it sits. Access to this crescent within a gaping circular hole in the landscape, is by swimming or kayaking through a long tunnel. Many operators run boat trips here from Puerto Vallarta ($76 with ecotoursvallarta.com), but the sea is rough and you have to swim in beside treacherous rocks. But it’s stunning – Jacques Cousteau was a fan – with the bonus of possibly spotting a humpback whale on the way.
• Casablanca Hotel up the coast in Sayulita, has a suite for four from $95 room-only
• Top 10 places to stay on a budget on Mexico’s Pacific coast
11 Greenfield Beach, Australia
Photograph: NSW Government
A three-hour drive from Sydney, Greenfield beach sits next to Jervis Bay’s calm waters and blindingly white sand. It is about 500m north of the more famous Hyams beach, so crowds tend to gravitate away from it and framed by a dense forest of gum trees and a small sandstone cliff. It’s a walk from Vincentia town, from where you can easily drive into the Booderee national park to meet a kangaroos or visit other spectacular beaches.
• Jervis Bay Cabins has tent pitches from £24 a night
• A guide to the Great Barrier Reef: where to dive, snorkel and stay
12 Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Photograph: Mint Images – Frans Lanting/Getty Images/Mint Images RM
Sugar sand, palms, breeze, sea that’s 26-29C year round and the colour of peppermint mouthwash… Bora Bora is a cliched vision of the heavenly beach. Even if you never get to go, this is one for the mental image bank at least – use it when meditating. Matira has to win as the only public beach on the island, and somewhere you could mingle with locals. The Bora Bora Hotel Eden Beach (bungalows from £1,852 a week half-board including transfers, boraborahotel.com), built on its own coral isle, has its own private beach that may be a grain prettier, for its view of beautiful rock peak Otemanu.
BEST IN EUROPE FOR FAMILIES
13 St GeorgeBeach, Naxos, Greece
Greece has no shortage of gorgeous beaches, but when it comes to accessible and child-friendly options, the Cyclades island of Naxos is hard to beat. One of the best bets for families can be found within a five-minute walk of Naxos Town (Chora). The warm, shallow waters of St George beach are perfect for paddling and snorkelling but there’s plenty to keep older children happy, too. At the Flisvos Sport Club, you can sign up for windsurfing, wakeboarding or waterskiing, hire a mountain bike, or play a game of beach tennis or volleyball. The beach is lined with laid-back tavernas and beach clubs which hire out sun loungers.
• A week self-catering for two at Kalergis Studios, a stone’s throw from the beach, costs £667
14 Morgat, Crozon, Brittany
Even in summer, the beaches of the rugged Crozon peninsula remain relatively quiet. In a sheltered bay, where the peninsula meets the mainland, is the seaside town of Morgat, with its crescent of pine-fringed sand. At low-tide, it’s a great spot for rock-pooling and, at high tide, the peninsula’s sea caves can be explored on a boat trip from the harbour (vedettes-sirenes.com). There are surf and dive schools, bikes and kayaks to hire, and sailboats to rent. Refuel at one of the many creperies on the harbour – Atao Aman (34 Boulevard de la Plage) serves savoury and sweet versions.
• Brittany Ferries has two-bedroom gites from £955 (9 July-19 Aug) including ferry crossin
• Top 10 hotels and places to stay on the beach in Brittany
15 Praia da Salema, Algarve
In the far west of the Algarve, the fishing village of Salema has somehow escaped the large-scale development that blights much of Portugal’s southern coast. Fishermen tend their nets on the sandy Blue Flag-certified beach, and dinosaur footprints can be found preserved in the limestone rocks. The gentle waves are perfect for a spot of boogie boarding under the watchful eye of the lifeguards on duty in the summer. There are sun loungers and umbrellas for hire, toilets and showers, and a good choice of restaurants and cafes.
• The View has accommodation close to the beach from £1,508 a week for a two-bedroom villa
• Holiday guide to the Algarve – best restaurants, places to stay and beaches
16 Yyteri, Pori, Finland
Photograph: Getty Images
Picture a beach holiday and Finland is not the first country that springs to mind, yet this Nordic country is home to one of the finest stretches of sand in northern Europe. Yyteri beach, near the city of Pori, is a 5km stretch of powder-soft sand backed by dunes and pine forests. In late summer, the shallow waters of the Baltic are surprisingly warm and the offshore breezes attract surfers from across Scandinavia. There are wetsuits, surf- and stand-up paddle boards for hire from the Yyteri Surf Centre (purjelautaliitto.fi). Facilities are low-key: a couple of coffee and ice-cream stalls, picnic tables, a children’s play area, toilets and not much else.
• Two-bedroom villa at Yyteri Hotel & Spa from €1,250 a week
17 Cala Gonone, Sardinia
It’s not difficult to find a stunning beach on Sardinia, but finding one that caters for families on a modest budget is more of a challenge. Cala Gonone ticks all of the right boxes. White pebble-and-sand beaches, with sun loungers and parasols for rent, calm, turquoise waters for swimming and snorkelling, a long seafront promenade lined with low-key trattorias – and none of the bling that accompanies the glitzier Costa Smeralda to the north. When the charms of Cala Gonone’s two small but perfectly formed beaches pall, there are daily boat trips to the Bue Marino caves and more remote beaches, such as Cala Luna and Cala Fuili, further south.
• Bungalows at Camping Cala Gonone €120 a night
• Holiday guide to Sardinia
18 Comillas, Cantabria, Spain
Photograph: Kevin George / Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo
Just a short hop from the ferry port at Santander on Spain’s north coast, the genteel seaside town of Comillas is popular with Spanish families but largely overlooked by foreign tourists. The town has two fine beaches: Playa de Comillas, which has a sprinkling of cafes and a small fishing harbour, showers, ice-cream stalls and rock pools to explore; and the wilder Playa de Oyambre, backed by a beautiful nature reserve and the snow-capped Picos de Europa mountains.
• Casas Cantabricas has stays around Comillas from £620 a week for an apartment sleeping four
19 Sunj, Lopud, Croatia
Sandy beaches are outnumbered by pebbly ones in Croatia, but the car-free island of Lopud, a 40-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik, is the exception. Locals ferry visitors in golf buggies from the port to Sunj beach, a 1km strip of sand sloping gently into limpid, shallow waters on the island’s south coast. There are two restaurants, both of which rent deck chairs and beach umbrellas, and a choice of activities from beach volleyball to tennis.
• Apartment sleeping four in Lopudski Residence costs £797pp including flights with Thomson Holidays
20 Pinarello, Corsica
An arc of soft white sand, backed by a pram-friendly boardwalk and a pine forest make this beach on Corsica’s south-eastern coast a guaranteed hit with families. Overlooked by a Genoese watchtower, it’s a lovely spot with just a smattering of restaurants: La Pizzeria du Rouf is right on the beachfront and beach bars. From the port, there are boat trips to the nearby town of Porto-Vecchio.
• Alto di Pinarello apartments sleep four, from £1,315pp a week, including flights
21 Ramla l-Hamra Gozo, Malta
Photograph: Getty Images
With its ochre sand and deep blue sea, Ramla Bay on Gozo is one of Malta’s most enticing spots. Facilities are minimal – toilets, showers, a couple of cafes, an ice-cream van, umbrellas and deck chairs, a statue of the Virgin Mary – but that’s all part of the charm. Don’t forget to bring your snorkelling gear; the sea life and water clarity are up there with the best in the Med.
• James Villas has three houses in the nearby village of Xaghra, including a rustic stone farmhouse at £1,071 for a week
22 Es Grau, Menorca
Menorca has some of the most family-friendly beaches in the Med but they are often busy in July and August. To escape the crowds, head to Es Grau on the island’s quieter north-east coast. This horseshoe-shaped beach is a popular day trip for residents of the capital Mahon but the absence of any hotels has kept things pleasantly low-key. The tranquil bay with a natural, undeveloped backdrop, is like a vast, shallow paddling pool and you can hire kayaks and paddleboards from local operator Menorca en Kayak. From the beach it’s a short stroll into the village which has a handful of family-run restaurants and gift shops.
• Owners Direct has several local villas close to the beach, from £520 for cottage sleeping four
• Accommodation prices for family beaches stated are for July-August peak season
BEST IN THE UK
23 Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire
It seems invidious to choose only one Pembrokeshire beach – Barafundle and Whitesands are both hard to resist – but Marloes is very special. The half-mile cliff walk puts the crowds off, and there are no facilities at all. Yet you have a mile of broad sweeping sand dotted with towering rocks that stand in large low-tide pools flickering with tiny fish and shrimps. The firm, flat sand is perfect for beach games or galloping horses (Snow White and the Huntsman was filmed there in 2011). There’s plenty here to keep the whole family amused, assuming they don’t regard amusement as something that comes in arcades. The south-facing aspect bodes well in summer, but check the tides and wind.
• West Hook Farm campsite charges £14 for a tent and two adults, plus £5.50 teenager, £3 child, westhookfarm-camping.co.uk
24 Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire
East and North Yorkshire have some tremendous coves and beaches, but Runswick, near Whitby, gives a concentrated dose of all that is on offer: superb views from the cliffs, then a sharp walk down via a tangle of cottages to a mile of beach that is mixed sand and shingle, with good cafes. Look out for fossils and jet, the two treasures of these parts, but if venturing beyond the beach under the cliffs, check the tide times. The Cleveland Way coastal path passes along the beach. As for the water temperature, locals say it’s fine, “once you’ve numbed up.”
• Cliffemount Hotel overlooking the bay has doubles from £120 B&B
25 Mellon Udrigle, Highlands
Up a little cul-de-sac road from the A832 coastal road, this delightful sheltered sandy beach has great views across Gruinard Bay. The regulars have been keeping this place quiet for half a century, a task made easier by the croft campsite’s determination to remain simple – don’t expect hot showers, shops or any facilities. It’s a friendly, tranquil location perfect for a few days under canvas. There are other beaches to explore nearby, plus the renowned Inverewe Gardens, but the real pleasure is just to play on the beach or fish from the rocks either side.
• For camping (£4 a night) call Ian McIver on 01445 713665 or 07776 238650
26 Bamburgh, Northumberland
Northumberland has several gorgeous expanses of sand backed by wonderful play areas, also known as dunes, but Bamburgh is the pick of the lot. Brooding over it is one of England’s finest castles, an impressive ring of towers and crenellations around a Norman keep. It’s a handy back-up for days when the weather turns nasty. Nearby are the Farne Islands, accessible via boat trips from Seahouses, a three-mile walk south, mostly along the sands. Surfers love the place, as do dog walkers, horse riders, anglers and kite fliers. There is so much space that one thing you will never find is crowds.
•Springhill Farm (springhill-farm.co.uk) has accommodation from camping (pitch for two from £20 in summer) to wooden wigwams and cottages (from £78 a night in summer)
27 Pedn Vounder, Cornwall
Photograph: Daniel Start/wildswimming.com
The far west of Cornwall is a land of stone circles and tiny coves. Superb tidal sands reach from Logan Rock to Porthcurno and form a vast sand bar that traps and warms seawater in shallow lagoons. There are rocks to dive from and you can wade or swim to several smaller coves. The beach is semi-naturist, and a tricky final descent over rocks keeps it wild and special. There is a tiny cafe in Treen village serving breakfast and local breads. On wet evenings you can hole up in the ancient Logan Rock Inn.
• Five minutes from the beach, on a clifftop strewn with pink thrift and yellow gorse, Treen Farm Campsite charges £16 a night for two adults and small tent
BEST FOR BACKPACKERS
28 Praia da Fortaleza, Brazil
Ilha do Mel, or Honey Island, is a car-free place where nothing happens in a hurry, though that’s not to say nothing happens at all. Mile after mile of gorgeous beach can be found up and down the island, some good for surfing, others for lounging and one or two for hiking. A decent trek from the main drag of hostels, bars and restaurant takes you to a well-preserved sea fort on the north-east shore that’s great for photos. It’s perhaps best to go there on the first day while you still have some energy – Ilha do Mel has a helluva party scene.
• Doubles at Caraguata Pousada from £49pn B&B, caraguata-ilhadomel.com
29 Tekek beach, Malaysia
On the east side of the Malay peninsula lies Tioman, one of south-east Asia’s more tranquil islands. It doesn’t attract as many Singha-and-mushroom-fuelled backpackers as its Thai cousins, but if you want a hammock and a chance to relax, this is the place to be. The beaches are clean and the snorkelling top class, with gear available from hostels and shops just back from the shore. In the evenings, barbecues and low-key parties break out along the beach.
• Doubles at the Swiss Cottage from £28pn B&B, swiss-cottage-tioman.com
30 Sabang beach, Philippines
With more than 7,000 islands and more than 22,000 miles of coast, the Philippines is not short of great beaches, but there aren’t many better than Sabang on western Palawan. El Nido in the north gets thousands of visitors through the year, but further south the wilder, emptier Sabang is the definition of a tropical beach. Towards the village, colourful (and noisy) banca boats take tourists to the handful of resorts, but head round the peninsula to the north and a pristine shore awaits. Not far from there, you’ll find mangroves and, with a guide, the sensational Puerto Princesa Subterranean River national park.
• Doubles at Bambua Nature Cottages start at £18 a night for two, room only, bambua-palawan.com. Doubles at the Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort start at £95 B&B, daluyonbeachandmountainresort.com
31 Amanohashidate, Japan
When you think of Kyoto you understandably think of a busy city, shrines and temples, but the name applies to the entire prefecture that has borders that stretch all the way to the Japan Sea. It’s there you’ll find the sensational Amanohashidate, the “bridge to Heaven”. This two-mile-long sandbar is covered in pine trees and has been revered for centuries. Most visitors walk across, then take a funicular up a hill on the far side, but stray from the path and you’ll have the beaches to yourself, with crystal-clear waters gently lapping on golden sands, nudging pine cones down the coast.
• Doubles at the Seikiro Ryokan from £65pn, room only, seikirou.co.jp
32 Tortuga Bay, Galapagos
Puerto Ayora, the largest and most populous town in the Galapagos, is a fairly charmless place, but it’s also just a 20-minute walk from Tortuga Bay, one of the world’s very best beaches. Follow a path out of town, past bushes filled with Darwin’s finches and lava lizards scuttling across rocks and you emerge on to talcum powder sand. The rough water is great for surfing, but a challenge for swimmers, so instead take in the pelicans, marine iguanas and the feeling that you’re first to discover this amazing place.
• Doubles at the White House Galapagos cost from £39 a night room only, whitehousegalapagos.com.ec. Doubles at the Fiesta Hotel from £84 B&B, galapagoshotelfiesta.com
BEST WILD AND REMOTE
33 Chesterman Beach, Vancouver Island
You could almost pick any beach off the ocean side of Vancouver Island, but Chesterman has the edge. It’s the kind of place where you might see kids pedalling along barefoot with a surfboard under one arm. With a bit of luck, and keen eyesight, you might spot orcas out beyond the breakers. Easier to find is the Carving Shed, where local craftsmen turn out exquisite sculptures and traditional canoes. At low tide a sandspit, the Tombolo, gets you out to Frank Island, with great views back to the beach.
• The Wickaninnish Inn at the north end of the beach is famous, with summer prices to match (from £260). Or Chesterman Beach B&B has a cottage for four from £162 a night in summer
34 Monach Isles, Scotland
Photograph: Kevin Rushby
You might roam the globe for years and never find better beaches than those of the Scottish western isles, and none of them would ever be crowded. Gigha has its fans, Harris too, but real lovers of solitude should try this one on the island of Ceann Ear in the small group known as the Monachs, eight miles off the coast of North Uist. The soulful songs of the seal colony will haunt your trek across the white sands – that is assuming you can get there: there are no ferries, no flights, no people. A boat is first requirement. Fortunately Hebridean Cruises does take in the Monachs on several of its voyages, spending a night offshore and ferrying guests ashore to wander around the beaches and explore crofts that were finally abandoned in the 1930s.
• A 10-day remote island tour with Hebrides Cruises costs from £1,895pp all-inclusive
35 Nemto Island, Papua New Guinea
Photograph: Kevin Rushby
A four-day kayak paddle will get you to Nemto from Nusa Island off the north coast of New Ireland, 600 miles east of Papua New Guinea. It is an astonishing journey, taking in fine beaches, sunken second world war planes and pristine reefs. But Nemto is the big treat: an island with the population of two, surrounded by white sands shadowed by palms that cackle with parrots. The reason this island is untouched lies with local superstitions about strange beasts that inhabit the interior. And if that sounds like King Kong and it means nobody comes near the place, all the better.
• Nusa Island Retreat (nusaislandretreat.com) offers scuba, surfing, diving and kayaking. A nine-day Tigak sea kayak trip with No Roads costs £1,785pp all-inclusive, though flights are extra noroads.com.au
36 Jagodna Bay, Hvar, Croatia
A single-file tunnel through the mountain takes you to Jagodna Bay, a different world from the swankier east side of Hvar, where those rare migrants, billionaires with good taste, hang out. Near Kamp Lili, a tightly packed but friendly campsite, a footpath leads to a beach barely bigger than a tennis court. It is, however, a jewel: clear water with plenty of fish, rocks to dive off and swim out to, and other coves to explore further along the coast. Above the beach, in the pines, there is a small restaurant-bar.
• Kamp Lili has pitches from €7 a night, and apartments for two from €40 in summer
37 Vanua Balavu, Northern Lau, Fiji
Photograph: Kevin Rushby
A private yacht would be handy for getting here. Failing that, take the weekly flight from Fiji’s capital, Suva, to this craggy, elongated pinch of paradise. There are a few gorgeous sandy stretches, and if another visitor appears, you’d be very surprised. The population is just 1,200 and, in a good year, they get about two dozen visitors. Picnic on the sand, snorkel on magnificent reefs where sea shells the size of Bluebeard’s treasure chest gape up at the rays and sea snakes. As you’d expect, local cuisine relies on seafood, including a giant crab that cracks coconuts as if they were hazelnuts.
• Moana Guesthouse has cabana-style accommodation next to the beach. Dinner is in the family kitchen, family room £30 a night
BEST FOR ACTION AND ACTIVITIES
38 North Shore Oahu, Hawaii: marvel at surf masters
Each December, surfers compete for the coveted Pipeline Masters surf title. All the action takes place in cavernous barrelling waves that come close to shore. Oahu’s north coast also sees the world’s best big-wave competition: the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational, in memory of local surfer Eddie Aikau. It’s held only when the waves are more than six metres high. There’s an opening ceremony on 1 December each year, but the actual contest has run just nine times in 31 years.
• The Garden Bungalow at Chuns Reef Beach House costs from $199 a night for two, hawaiibeachfronts.com
39 Druidstone, Wales: horseriding
Ever dreamed of galloping across the sand with your horse splashing in the waves? Head to Pembrokeshire with Nolton Stables, which will match your ability (beginner through to Dothraki) to one of its 60 horses and ponies, and take you riding on the brilliantly named Druidstone beach on the St David’s peninsula. Sugar cubes not included.
• Nolton Stables charges £47 for a 90-minute beach ride and £135 for a full-day experience; doubles are £97 B&B, self-catering cottage for two from £230 for two nights
40 Los Lances, Tarifa, Spain: kitesurfing
Photograph: Getty Images
This beach on Andalucia’s Atlantic coast is perfect for those who want to kitesurf by day and party by night. Home to the World Kitesurf Championships, the seven-kilometre stretch of white sand gets constant, year-round winds. By night, beach bars, clubs and restaurants offer a laid-back surfer vibe – with those same trade winds blowdrying your post-surf Patrick Swayze hairstyle.
• Kite Worldwide runs courses for all levels, from €625pp for a week, including accommodation, equipment hire and guide
41 Saint Agnes, Cornwall: fish for your supper
Ben Quinn is a Cornwall-based chef who will take visitors out on his fishing boat, foraging in rock pools for oysters, mussels and crab, or line-fishing off a cliff for the ultimate beach barbecue. Think Poldark meets Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. Ben’s HQ is Nancarrow Farm in Zelah, but he’ll go anywhere in north Cornwall and work out a menu based on how adventurous – physically and gastronomically – guests want to be.
• From £50pp, benedictquinn.co.uk. The Primrose Valley Hotel down the coast in St Ives has doubles from £130B&B
• Isles of Scilly holiday guide – the best beaches plus where to stay and eat
42 Freights Bay, Barbados: surfing
With its warm water and hazard-free beach bottom, Freights, on the south coast of Barbados, has some of the world’s best beginner-friendly waves, though clearly it will cost you a bit more to learn there than back home in Croyde. When the swell hits, the long peeling, left-hand waves break at under a metre high, making it the ideal place to master surfing along the open face of a wave rather than straightlining back to the beach. The vibe is super-chilled, with friendly locals and some of the world’s best rum punch.
• Moonraker Beach Hotel has studios for two from £65 a night
43 Durdle Door, Dorset: open water swimming
If you’ve been training hard in the pool and are looking for a debut plunge in the big blue, a three-kilometre swim along the Jurassic coast is the perfect test. It’s a Unesco heritage site and offers one of the most picturesque tidally assisted swims in the world.
• Sussex-based Swim Trek runs guided swims with support boat throughout August for £100pp. There are lots of B&Bs in nearby West Lulworth; try Cove House, with doubles from £100
44 Ses Salines, Ibiza: party in beach bars
Although set within a nature reserve, this small haven of sun and sand comes with a soundtrack of gently thudding bass drums, because it is licensed to party until just after sunset. As the sun dips towards the horizon, bikini-clad dancers mingle with sunbathers on the ticklishly soft sand. (Those in search of something quieter will be happy to know that the secret beaches of Punta de Ses Portes are a short stroll along a footpath from the far end of the beach.) For an afternoon of classic, bouncy house, try Melon Bomb DJs’ secret parties at the Jockey Club.
•Hostal Mar Y Sal is right by the sand at Platja de Ses Salines. Open April to September, it has doubles from €70 B&B
• Holiday guide to Ibiza – the best beaches, clubs, hotels and restaurants
45 Hoddevik, Norway: surf deserted waves
Pristine water, jaw-dropping scenery, intermediate waves and no crowds. This is a typical day at Hoddevik beach in Norway’s Fjordlands, which is still tantalisingly under the radar. A friendly local surf camp run by champion snowboarder JP Solberg offers guiding, all-in accommodation and board hire. Is it cold? Take three degrees off Cornwall’s water and air temperature and you’ll be about right.
• From £30pppn based on four sharing a bunk room, two-hour lessons from £36pp, stadsurfing.no
BEST CITY BEACHES
46 Arpoador, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio is home to two of the world’s most famous beaches but Copacabana’s star has long since faded. Ipanema-Leblon is the place to be, for beach culture and nightlife. Arpoador, the easternmost tip, ends in a rocky headland offering stunning views of the whole length of Ipanema to the Dois Irmãos mountain at the west. A favourite spot with surfers, bodyboarders and families by day, it is lit up at night, so perfect for a moonlit dip in Rio’s sweltering summers. It also has one the best places in Rio for a sundowner. In a city with so many great beaches and bars, it is strange that the two are rarely found side by side, but Arpoador’s Azul Marinho bar and restaurant (Avenida Francisco Bhering) is a noteworthy exception, the perfect spot for a caipirinha or cold chope (draught beer).
•Bonita Hostel, two blocks from the beach, has dorm beds from about £9. For a treat, the lovely – if suicidally named – Casa Mosquito has B&B doubles from £140, casamosquito.com
• The top 10 beaches in Brazil
47 English Bay beach, Vancouver, Canada
By day, English Bay beach sands are a mecca for families and volleyball players, but it really comes into its own at dusk. It’s then that Vancouverites stroll in to sit on the huge blanched logs that wash up here and gaze out at the sunsets, glass or guitar in hand. West End’s coffee shops and the iconic Stanley Park are within easy reach, and it’s a prime spot for watching the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks displays (end of July). The Beach Bay Cafe has locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, sustainable seafood and cocktails.
• The walls of the West End’s fancy and eco-friendly Listel Hotel (doubles in July from £150) are packed with art from the Museum of Anthropology
• Top 10 budget beach hotels near Vancouver
48 Durban, South Africa
Photograph: Paul Kennedy/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image
One of the world’s best city beaches, Durban has everything going for it: a whacking great sweep of sand, cafes, art deco architecture, street life and, in season (June-November), a strong possibility of sighting whales and dolphins as they feast on migrating sardines. (You’ll also spot locals filling buckets with the fish.) There is also top-notch surf and, even if you don’t tackle it, the views from the piers of the experts in action are inspirational. The 2010 football World Cup led to a big clean-up along the beachfront, reviving the area’s fortunes. These days it’s an absolute gem.
• Recently refurbished Blue Waters (doubles from £39 B&B, is a classic beachfront hotel
• A taxi driver’s tour of Durban – video
49 Margate, Kent
Margate’s golden sands have long attracted holidaying Londoners. Now that vintage pleasure park Dreamland has reopened right next to the beach, there is even more fun to be had. The kitsch, retro-themed park, with heritage rides such as 1930s caterpillars, 1940s carousels, 1970s chair-o-planes and the UK’s oldest roller coaster, marks its first anniversary on 18 June by hosting Dreamland Sound Clash, billed as the “Notting Hill Carnival, but with a Margate Twist”. Rides aside, Margate’s beach, sea and skies inspired more than 100 of JMW Turner’s paintings. The Turner Contemporary opened in 2011 on the seafront, on the site of the guesthouse the artist stayed in when he visited, and new hotels, shops, bars and restaurants have also sprung up.
• The design of the Sands Hotel (doubles from £126 B&B), right on the seafront, was inspired by the seascape outside
• A weekend in Margate: art and artisan food
50 Ocata, Barcelona, Spain
Photograph: Everything Barcelona
Barcelona’s not really a city of big parks, so most locals use the beach as a playground. Barceloneta beach is right in the centre but often packed with city dwellers, tourists and blokes selling tat. Do what the locals do and jump on a train heading up the coast. The beach in the almost-suburb of Ocata is more than a kilometre of golden sand. It’s also famous for its chiringuitos (beach bars) selling delicious salads, tapas, homemade burgers and more.
• Trains to Ocata take 30-40 minutes from Sants, Arc de Triomf or Plaça Catalunya stations. Handy for this last one is stylish hotel Pratik Vinoteca (summer doubles from €100)
• Catalonia holiday guide: what to see and do plus the best tapas
• Contributors: Kevin Rushby, Joanne O’Connor, Racehl Dixon, Jamie Lafferty, Chris Moran, Andy Pietrasik, Liz Boulter, Gemma Bowes, Sorrel Downer, Dixie Wills, Peter Boman, Gavon McOwan, Michael Slezak, Daniel Start (co-author of the Wild Guide series from Wild Things Publishing), Rob Smith (author of the Secret Beaches: Ibiza). Edited extract from Lonely Planet’s 50 beaches to Blow Your Mind book, out next May.
• This article was amended on 19 and 23 February 2016. An earlier version of the item on English Bay beach referred to displays of fireworks on Canada Day. This has been corrected. The name of English Bay beach has also been corrected, from English Beach Bay as an earlier version said.
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