Waikiki Beach, Oahu, United States
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This is the place Hawaiian royalty honed their surfing skills and where Kurt married Courtney. Most importantly, it’s Hawaii’s most famous beach where visitors surf, paddle, swim or tan by day and dress up to stroll the promenade at night.
The Barceloneta, Barcelona, Spain
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What used to be a small fishing community is now one of Barcelona’s drawcards. The Barceloneta beach was virtually non-existent before the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when the fishing shacks were demolished and a three-kilometre beachfront and modern marina were constructed. Now, it’s hard to imagine Barcelona without envisioning the sun and sand of the Barceloneta.
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia
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Bronzed limbs, beautiful people and British backpackers – Bondi’s got all those things in spades. Come summer it’s packed with bikini-clad sun worshippers, though in 1951 Hollywood actress Jean Parker was escorted off the sand because her bikini was deemed too brief.
Brighton Beach, Brighton, United Kingdom
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Brighton became a fashionable seaside resort around the mid-19th century and was a popular place for city-dwellers to holiday, especially those in ill health. Today, Brighton’s pebbled beach is popular with sun-starved Brits, but if it’s too cold to swim, a stroll along the Brighton Pier and some fish and chips should suffice.
Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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This beach became widely known after Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes wrote the bossa nova classic Girl From Ipanema in 1962. It’s now one of the most expensive places to live in Rio, and its beach was named by the Travel Channel as the world’s “sexiest”.
Paloma Beach (Plage de la Paloma), Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France
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The French Riviera is the playground of the rich and famous, which explains why guests are obliged to pay 26 euros for a day at Paloma Beach in glamorous Cap Ferrat. For the particularly wealthy, there’s a private part of the beach reserved – see how many famous faces you can spot.
Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas
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The pink, pearly sand on this idyllic Bahamian beach comes from microscopic coral insects called foraminifera. These tiny organisms die and are washed ashore by waves where their bright red shells mix with the white sand to create a gorgeous petal-pink.
Red Beach, Santorini, Greece
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Santorini isn’t really known for its beaches, but the dramatic red-hued rocks and black volcanic sand make Red Beach worth slipping into your swimmers for.
Shipwreck Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
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Even though it can only be reached by boat, this Shipwreck Beach, on the northwest side of the Ionian island of Zakynthos, is probably the most famous beach in Greece. Undeterred by the hull of a wreck that the beach was named for, thousands of visitors sail into the secluded bay for a day of white sand and flat, unfeasibly blue water.
Venice Beach, Los Angeles, United States
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The lifeguard station here was made famous by David Hasselhoff’s gift to the world, Baywatch. Cue slow-motion jog into the water.
Amfora Grand Beach, Hvar, Croatia
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Hvar is tiny, pebbly island redolent of lavender and tanning oil. In town, the Amfora Grand beach, in front of the Hotel Amfora, has a sunbed-lined sunbathing platform and individual change rooms dating from the 1930s.
Blue Lagoon, Comino, Malta
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This bright-blue inlet off Comino Island shimmers. It’s popular with daytrippers from larger islands who visit for the gorgeous beach and the clean, thyme-scented air. There are no cars on Comino and just one hotel, meaning most of the beachgoers disappear before sundown. Bliss.
Cable Beach, Broome, Australia
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If you visit Broome, you must ride a camel along the 22 kilometres of pure white sands at Cable Beach ¬– at sunset. Trust us on this one. Stick around after dark to see the natural phenomenon of the Staircase to the Moon (check to see when the full moon will be first, though!).
Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Another Rio beach; another catchy tune. Copacabana is Brazil’s most famous beach and features heavily in Rio de Janeiro city life. On New Year’s Eve it plays host to a wild party with an enormous fireworks display, and most years the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup is held here. BYO itsy-bitsy bikini.
Main Beach, East Hampton, United States
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Make like a New Yorker and board the Jitney (that’s a bus) from Manhattan to the Hamptons for the summer. This playground of New York’s elite has played host to Kennedys, Roosevelts and Clintons, not to mention Jaggers and Warhols. The beach has clean, white sand and the only development is residential.
Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand
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Patong is the most famous beach at the most famous beach resort in Thailand. Sunny days and steamy nights make for a party scene like no other; tourist shops, hotels and raucous bars fringe the beach and by day there are sun lounges and hawkers selling everything from drinks to massages.
Playa Tortugas, Cancun, Mexico
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Beach volleyball, a bungee-jumping platform, margaritas and the odd exclamation of “Spring Break!” Yep, we’re in Cancun. Playa Tortugas has clean turquoise waters, great views, decent snorkelling and oceanfront restaurants.
South Beach, Miami, United States
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South Beach is the Miami of postcards, all Art Deco buildings, vibrant nightlife and that beach. Palm trees sway, skaters roll along the boardwalk and lifeguards survey the scene from the brightly painted station.
Gouverneur, St Barths, the Caribbean
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The French West Indian island is a playground for the rich and famous, and Gouverneur is its most beautiful beach. This secluded beach has a hilly backdrop and deep green foliage, which contrasts nicely with the white sand and blue water.
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, Australia
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Whitehaven Beach is protected by the Whitsunday Islands National Park, meaning it’s one of the world’s most eco-friendly beaches. Its famous sand is 98-per-cent pure white silica, which explains its brilliant, bright white, and the water is aqua-clear. It’s only accessible by boat and visitors can camp on the island.
Maya Bay, Phi Phi, Thailand
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Remember the Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle The Beach? No one quite remembers the plot, but everyone remembers the divine deserted island on which it was filmed. Maya Bay became the main tourist attraction of Phi Phi islands after the film’s release in 2000.