Ah...the beach. The destination of choice for sun worshipers, water sports enthusiasts, and people just looking to relax. Then there's people like myself who every so often inexplicably feel the need to find themselves on a shoreline somewhere. Beaches are rated in a myriad different ways, but at the end of the day it is all subjective. Here's a list of my personal "Top Ten" beaches - some famous, some less so - that should definitely be considered the next time you head for the shore.
10) Fire Island National Seashore, Long Island, NY, USA
I'll admit to being biased in favor of the beaches from my home region of Eastern Long Island. But as anyone who has visited the Fire Island National Seashore - a narrow barrier island along the south shore of Long Island - can attest, the broad swaths of sand, surf-able waves, and tranquil setting make this stretch of multiple beaches both world-class AND a national treasure. For more info see the post: Reflections on Shirley (And Don't Call Us Shirley)
9) Clearwater Beach, FL, USA
As a peninsula, it's no surprise that Florida has more than its fair share of lovely beaches. While the Atlantic beaches are definitely wonderful, my vote for Florida's best is on the gulf side, where inviting water, power-soft sand, and the occasional dolphin make for a great day at the beach.
8) Chiaia di Luna, Ponza, Italy
Ever since I first discovered this hidden gem of an island during my honeymoon, the beach of Chiaia di Luna has been on my itinerary. Essentially a large crescent of towering cliffs surrounding a turquoise center, it is arguably the most scenic spot on the island. Though temporarily closed due to rockslide issues (apparently they're working on it), this amazing space is still reachable via private watercraft. You can learn more in the post Ponza Revisited Part II - All About the H20.
7) Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
It's not for nothing that Grace Bay is the primary destination for visitors to this Caribbean outpost. Large resorts dot the gentle curve of this powdery beach that is also a gateway for some spectacular wall diving for those willing to go a little further afar. And with a semi-desert climate, the chances of catching some sun are high indeed.
6) Matira Beach, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Bora Bora doesn't have much in the way of publicly accessible beaches. But Matira Beach will allow you to lay out on the sand as you contemplate the most incredibly blue lagoon imaginable. This is the tropical paradise everyone thinks of when they hear the name Polynesia, and if you've come this far, you might as well verify it for yourself. For more information see the post Tahiti - Misconception in a Grass Skirt.
5) Patong/ Karon/Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand
When I was trying to decide which of Phuket's main three west coast beaches was the best, I realized that I couldn't. If you find yourself in this Thai island paradise, you won't go wrong with any of these choices. They combine awesome sand, gorgeous water, and some of the best sunsets on the planet. If you can ignore the one million percent humidity (mainly by dipping in the water) I'm sure you'll find it hard to decide which is best as well. For more information see the post Phuket - Paradise Restored.
4) Playa Knip, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles
Easily my favorite spot on this small but charming island, Playa Knip is a secluded haven of turquoise water that is so inviting that you'll want to jump in with all your clothes (or none, if that's your style). There's little in the way of facilities, but such is its appeal. For more information see the post If in Doubt, the Answer is Usually 'C'.
3) Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Made famous by an unnamed girl who used to frequent this trendy beach, Ipanema is one of the most desirable places to be in all of Brazil. With a more upscale and sedate vibe than even-more-famous Copacabana around the corner, Ipanema offers power-soft sand, Atlantic waves and great views of O Dois Irmaos - the iconic twin peaks that trail off in the distance. For more info on Rio and its beaches see the post In Rio de Janeiro, Save the Drama for the Scenery.
2) Megan's Bay, St. Thomas, USVI
It was on my first trip to the Caribbean that I came to Megan's Bay. After that, I knew my eyes had been spoiled. The lush green hills, white sand and ridiculously blue water was everything I'd ever envisioned (or hoped) a beach could be. If you're ever in the neighborhood, do yourself a favor and rent a floating mat for a few hours of soaking in this otherworldly beauty. It might sour your view of less-gifted beaches, but you will thereafter know how truly great a beach can be.
1) Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles
If your idea of a great beach is something right out of a calendar or screensaver, then this beach is for you. Appearing in its fair share of both, Anse Lazio at the tip of swanky Praslin Island is a gorgeous crescent of silky sand, lush forest and a collection of those signature eroded boulders the Seychelles are known for. It's also a great place to be as the sun goes down, and its combination of natural beauty, setting and the intangible 'WOW' factor makes it tops on my list. To learn more, see the post The Seychelle Islands - Vacationing Inside Your Screensaver.
With so many incredible beaches across the world, I couldn't very well list them all. But in the spirit of full disclosure I would feel remiss if I didn't mention the following amazing beaches: Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda; Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil; Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI; and the unique, boulder-ridden paradise of Anse Source d'Argent, La Digue, Seychelles. As I mentioned before, any "Ten Best" list is going to be subjective. What is not subjective, is that each place mentioned here is a fantastic destination for lovers of surf, sand and sun.
Do you have a favorite beach you think the world should know about? Share it by commenting below!