Bottom Bay, Barbados
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Framed by soaring coral cliffs and swaying palm trees, the wide, sandy beach is the perfect spot to set up a picnic and watch the waves roll in to the shore.
Champagne Beach, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
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Australians are big fans of this part of Vanuatu. It could be because of the clean, white sand or perhaps it’s the lush green jungle surrounds – but it’s probably because of the natural phenomenon that causes the water to fizz like Champagne during low tide. The bubbles are caused by gas escaping from volcanic rocks.
City Beach, Perth, Australia
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City Beach is both a suburb and a glorious stretch of sand. The suburb is all modern million-dollar houses; the beach is all million-dollar views, white sand and the clear blue Indian Ocean.
El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
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Spanish for “The Nest”, El Nido is the gateway to the Bacuit Archipelago with its 45 breathtaking limestone cliffs. Hire a kayak and explore the bay before retiring to the picture-perfect beach.
Elafonissi, Crete, Greece
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Lying in the south-west of Crete, Elafonissi is made up of a beach, a sandy islet 200 metres offshore and a shallow lagoon that separates the two. Wade through the limpid water to reach the island and its pink-hued beaches.
Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico
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The beach stretches for almost 2.5 kilometres around a horseshoe-shaped bay that draws locals and those from further afield. And not just people: bordered by the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge, Flamenco Beach welcomes some 50,000 nesting seabirds each summer and its waters are a snorkeller’s delight, with tropical fish such as parrot fish and wrasse.
Hyams Beach, NSW, Australia
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Contrary to popular belief, Guinness World Records has not decreed that Hyams Beach has the whitest sand in the whole world. Don’t let that put you off, though – the sand is still really, really white and the water is exceptionally clear.
Lake McKenzie, Queensland, Australia
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Less a beach and more a lake-on-an-island, this Fraser Island spot makes the list, thanks to the copious pure-white silica sand and the epic, ever-changing blues and greens of the lake. The pristine water is rainwater filtered by the silica – the lake is not fed by streams and nor does it run into the ocean – and organic matter on the bottom of the lake prevents the water from draining away. Dreamy.
Lanikai Beach, Hawaii, United States
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The words “Lani Kai” mean “heavenly ocean”, a fitting name for a beach that’s regularly ranked among the best in the world. The water is warm year-round, the sand is clean and powdery and if you stay long enough, you’ll catch the arresting sight of the moon rising over the twin islands of Na Mokulua.
Matira Beach, Bora Bora
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One of the few public beaches on an island that’s the preserve of luxury beachfront resorts, Matira is technically two beaches, with one on each side of Bora Bora’s southernmost tip. A turquoise lagoon laps the sand while palm trees offer shade.
Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand
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Most famous for being the setting of the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach, Maya Bay is surrounded by sheer, green-shrouded cliffs. These days, the water is crowded with tourist boats but even they can’t mar its paradisiacal beauty.
Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
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On the north coast of Zakynthos, one of Greece’s Ionian islands, is Navagio Beach. It’s also known as Shipwreck Cove, thanks to the wreck of a freightliner, the Panagiotis, that ran aground in 1980. The secluded little bay is only accessible by boat so BYO sunscreen and snacks.
Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia
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Stretching for seven kilometres along Whitsunday Island, Whitehaven can only be reached by boat, seaplane or helicopter. The sand is 98 per cent pure-white silica, which doesn’t heat up on a hot day, making barefoot wandering a pleasure rather than a hotfoot dash to the sea. To keep things beautiful and white, smoking and dogs are not permitted.
Los Roques, Venezuela
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An archipelago of 350 islets, cays and islands, reached by a half-hour flight from Caracas, Los Roques boasts deserted stretches of sand that’s so white it looks like icing sugar, plus blue skies and bluer oceans.
Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands
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A landscape of rugged hills, wild cactus and perfect beaches interspersed with colonial ruins and even relics from Caribbean pirates make up the island of Providenciales. Grace Bay Beach is its main drawcard, a stretch of white sand with water unmarred by seaweed or pollution and protected from Atlantic swells by a barrier reef just offshore.
Trunk Bay, St John, US Virgin Islands
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The pristine Trunk Bay is part of the Virgin Islands National Park, thanks to a donation by Laurance S. Rockefeller almost 50 years ago. Now visitors can bask on the powdery sand, swim in the warm water and explore the exquisite coral reefs.
Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa, Italy
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In recent years it’s become known as a primary entry point to Europe for migrants and refugees, however Lampedusa is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Part of the Sicilian province of Agrigento and the southernmost part of Italy, Lampedusa is remote but visitors to Rabbit Beach are rewarded with calm water and sightings of loggerhead turtles.
Paradise Beach, Rab, Croatia
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Among the 22 beaches on the charming island of Rab, Paradise Beach in the north is the most famous. Called Rajska in Croatian, this two-kilometre stretch of sand is a hub of local tourism – think parties, volleyball competitions and parasailing – but the island strictly maintains the purity of its water and surroundings.
Pantai Cenang, Langkawi, Malaysia
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The busiest beach on the island of Langkawi, Pantai Cenang draws crowds with its clear blue seas and plethora of daring water sports – and the beachfront bars and cafés keep them there long into the evening.
Eagle Beach, Aruba
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Say the word “Aruba” and try not to feel like you’re about to launch into a surf-tinged Beach Boys song. Apart from having arguably the island’s most beautiful shore, Eagle Beach is the chosen nesting place for several species of sea turtle and watching the hatchlings make their way to the sea is one of the big drawcards for visitors.
Wineglass Bay, Tasmania, Australia
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A trek in the pristine wilderness of Freycinet National Park reveals the pink granite peaks and fabled crescent of Wineglass Bay. The area’s dramatic beauty draws visitors intent on experiencing the turquoise water, wildlife such as quolls and sea eagles and the luxurious eco lodges that have sprung up around the bay.
White Beach, Boracay, Philippines
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White Beach is, as its name suggests, made up of four kilometres of very bright white sand. The most popular beach on the tiny island of Boracay, it offers a perfect curve of sand lined with resorts, bars and restaurants.
Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles
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Granite boulders sanded smooth over the aeons, powdery sand and clear, shallow waters protected by a coral reef have made Anse Source d’Argent one of the most visited beaches in the Seychelles.
Playa Paraiso, Cayo Largo del Sur, Cuba
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The small resort island of Cayo Largo used to be a go-to for pirates, who chose it not for Playa Paraiso’s soft sand or the chance to wallow in the gorgeous Caribbean waters but for its remote location – all the better to hide their plundered treasures.
Grand Anse, Grenada
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The island nation’s most famous beach is made up of endless sand, calm water and just enough commercialism – low-rise hotels, happening beach bars – to satisfy the not-so-intrepid holiday-maker.