These beach bum-centric shores score big with both visitors and locals.
These beaches are without a doubt some of the world’s most beautiful strands. A vacation to any of them is like a few days in paradise, where the warmth of the sun, soothing breezes off the water and a tropical setting make getting up early a really good idea. Whether you just want to walk the shoreline, engage in offshore snorkeling or simply spread your towel and gaze at the horizon, these beaches won’t disappoint. So browse our 14 choice spots, all with fabulous hotels and resorts nearby, and start planning your tropical getaway.
Shoal Bay, Anguilla
If a white sand beach- and we mean blinding white silvery sand- is the beach of your dreams, then book yourself into a resort near Shoal Bay on the north side of Anguilla. On this low-lying island, the bay’s almost two-mile-long alabaster stretch is protected by an offshore reef that not only keeps the waters calm so mini waves lap at your tootsies, but provides a fantastic opportunity to snorkel among the Caribbean’s tropical fish population.
Where to stay: Those who want to be directly on the beach can book at Shoal Bay Villas. If close by—a two-minute walk away—works for you, then the Allamanda Beach Club, with its native gardens and suite offerings, is a good choice. But if top luxury is more your style, book at the CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, eight miles away on neighboring Rendezvous Bay and drive over.
Palm Beach, Aruba
Dramatic coral rock formations and caves make Aruba an interesting island to explore, but when it comes to beaches, the island’s most famous Palm Beach is where you want to spend the day. People watching is a prime reason to spread your towel on this white stretch, and a lot of that goes on just offshore, where windsurfers powered by Mother Nature’s force skim across the azure waters. There’s no shortage of entertainment on this beach.
Where to Stay: If you like big, book at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, where every room has a balcony overlooking Palm Beach or the pool area. If you have something more cozy in mind, stay in a casita at the Boardwalk Small Hotel, a three-minute walk to the sand. Relax in the thatched roof gazebo lounge, swaying in a hammock and breathing in the tropics.
Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Ranked by many to be one of the best beaches in the world, this long stretch of sugar-frosted sand is surprisingly uncrowded considering all the publicity the Seven Mile Beach receives. Lined with high-style resorts and condos, the crescent-shaped shoreline with its translucent aquamarine waters attracts water-sports enthusiasts and sun worshippers who want to do nothing but loll on the softest sand.
Where to Stay: Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort delivers a location that if it were any closer to the sands it would be sitting in the sea. Another full luxe resort is the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa, which boasts the island’s largest freshwater swimming pool and raised-platform cabanas on the edge of the sand.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
The 40 miles of Punta Cana beaches, bordering the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, is the Dominican Republic’s playground in the sun. Besides gorgeous sands and plenty of palm trees, the coastal strip is lined with resorts of all shapes and sizes as well as shopping and dining options. Plan time for exploring several of these beaches, each with its own name and vibe.
Where to Stay: The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club, situated in the Playa Blanca area, is a favorite because of its private three-mile beach and tiki hut pier. Part of the sprawling 15,000-acre Puntacana Resort & Club, the property has a village-like quality.
Grand Anse Beach, Grenada
Unspoiled is the keyword when talking about Grenada’s 45 beaches. Set against dramatic volcanic mountains, the two-mile Grand Anse Beach is a natural beauty. Sea grape trees and coconut palms make this sheltered bay even more inviting. Since it’s located on the island’s Western leeward side, strong currents, winds and high waves are non-existent. Most of the top hotels are within walking distance.
Where to Stay: The family-run Spice Island Beach Resort is about as close as you can get to Grand Anse’s shore. The boutique-like property with 64 suites has accommodations that open up onto the golden sands and turquoise waters. Its striking white architecture dazzles with curves and cut-outs that give the resort its signature design.
Seven Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica
Located on the west side of Jamaica, Negril’s sought-out Seven Mile Beach is the longest continuous stretch on the island. Some strands are sociable places where you can mingle with friends; others are more isolated for those who want to swim and sun in solitude. A lighthouse anchors one end of the curved beach and a dramatic cliff area to the south is spectacular for sunset viewing. Snorkelers find plenty to explore at the nearby coral reef as well as among the rocks at the southern end.
Where to Stay: A sophisticated, yet laid-back getaway, Couples Resort rests on the beach’s edge surrounded by island greenery. Step out of your suite right onto the sparkling sands. If a boutique hotel is more your style, check out the Sandy Haven Resort, which blends a contemporary design with the flair of the tropics.
Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico
With 272 miles of coastline, Puerto Rico has its share of beaches. But Luquillo, 30 miles east of San Juan, ranks as a favorite for its vast sandy beach that opens onto a crescent-shaped bay edged by a coconut grove. Its beauty is further enhanced by the hazy mountains of the rainforest looming in the distance. Offshore reefs protect the crystal-clear waters from the often rough Atlantic Ocean, making this an idyllic beach for families. Plus you’ll find souvenir and food stalls, along with small restaurants selling seafood fritters and cold beer.
Where to Stay: If you want to stay across the street from the beach, the Luquillo Sunrise Beach Inn is a boutique hotel considered a hidden gem by previous guests. Almost every room has a balcony facing the palm-studded beach.
St. Jean Beach, St. Bart
St. Barts’ irregular coastline has 22 beaches—a big number for such a small spit of land. Shaped like an elbow, the island cradles the popular Bay of St. Jean in its crook. Often compared to the French Riviera, the beach has the air of a fashionable seaside resort in the South of France. Besides the beautiful people, you’ll find trendy bistros, beach bungalows and water-sports centers.
Where to Stay: One of the closest spots to rest your head is the Eden Rock, which oozes with luxury. Carved four-poster beds and French doors add splendid touches to the rooms, and the baths are super-sleek modern. No doubt it’s a fave with the rich and famous, and there’s even a rental villa in the Eden Rock inventory aptly named Rockstar. This is the kind of place where you say, “You only live once,” and then splurge! Another jetsetter getaway is the swanky Nikki Beach, a hot pick with those who love to party.
Orient Beach, St. Martin
Hands down the French side of this duo island shared by France and the Netherlands is where you’ll find the most popular stretch. Competing with 36 beaches for top ranking is Orient Beach, the island’s largest. Something is always happening on this sparkling white stretch, which is populated by restaurants, hotels, shops and water-sports activities. Tucked at the far south end of the bay is a clothing-optional area, which confirms this is definitely a French island.
Where to Stay: Check out Esmeralda Resort’s villa-style accommodations that overlook the alabaster sands of Orient Beach. Fitting right into the tropical environment, the buildings, painted cheery yellow and trimmed in white, have individual front porches for sitting and sipping pina coladas.
Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
To find this British group of island’s most popular beach head to Providenciales (or Provo as the locals call it). Because it’s the most developed of all the islands in the Turks and Caicos, it’s the epicenter for a vacation—and this is where you’ll find Grace Bay Beach. With the palest sands and intense clear aqua waters, this stretch retains its pristine aura despite the plethora of luxe hotels and villas, restaurants, spas, stores and golf courses that make the area a recreational mecca.
Where to Stay: The Alexandra Resort is the largest on the Grace Bay Beach and for those who want all the amenities, from a lagoon-style swimming pool to a restaurant with sunset dining, this is the place to kick back and enjoy.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Once a small fishing village on the Yucatan peninsula, Playa del Carmen has become a favorite with international visitors. Part of the Riviera Maya, a stretch of gorgeous beaches on the Caribbean Sea, this strand is more than just a sandy coast to sunbathe. A 621-mile reef offshore means snorkeling with sea turtles and angelfish is a must. Plenty of festivals keep the area hopping year-round, so take your pick: jazz, golf, film, food and wine and even a tequila festival!
Where to Stay: Accommodations range from all-inclusive mega resorts like the Playacar Palace, where the whole family can play between the beach and the pool, to budget-friendly inns, such as the Posada Mariposa Boutique Hotel, where Mexico’s colorful character is evident in the décor and both pedestrian-friendly 5th Avenue and the beach are nearby.
Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
No visit to the Aloha State is really complete without stepping on the sands of the ultra-famous Waikiki Beach. Its honey-toasted, crescent-shaped shoreline is striking when viewed from top floors of the high- rises that skirt the beach. In the distance the Diamond Head Crater shows off Hawaii’s topography. International visitors take surfing lessons, sail catamarans and power walk on this iconic stretch.
Where to Stay: If you want a one-stop vacation, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort has 22 acres of oceanfront—tropically landscaped with tall toothpick-thin palm trees. Besides five swimming pools, it has a lagoon with its very own waterfall-clad island; kayakers and paddleboarders spend lazy days gliding across its waters. This paradise is practically on top of the magnificent Waikiki Beach.
Kaanapali Beach, Maui
Lush greenery abounds, making Maui’s Kaanapali Beach a natural standout. This mile-long sandy stretch on the west side of the island is divided by Black Rock, a deposit of a large lava rock flow that juts into the Pacific Ocean. It’s encrusted in coral and home to fish and sea turtles, thus a natural snorkeling spot. On the shore kiosks offer sailing, snorkeling, kayaking and boating excursions.
Where to Stay: The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa is anchored right into Black Rock, giving it an unbeatable location. Lagoon-style swimming pools with waterfalls and outdoor bars designed on islands make this a stunning property. But the nightly show when a diver climbs out onto the end of Black Rock with a torch, tosses it into the ocean and then dives in is just one more reason to book here. Note: The cliff diver ritual has to do with ancient Maui residents’ belief that their spirits “jumped off” or left the world at this spot on Black Rock.
South Beach, Florida
The sexy Latin vibe that permeates South Beach is what draws and mesmerizes visitors from around the world. It’s not only the bikini-clad women and buff guys playing volleyball, but the melody of languages from Spanish to French to German to Russian heard when strolling the shore that makes SoBe amazing. Funky lifeguard stations in pastel hues pop up on the sands every few yards. And yes the lifeguards are magazine-cover worthy. The stretch parallel with Ocean Drive is the most popular place to be and be seen. After hours of sun hit any of the alfresco bars and cafes for a Cuban-inspired mojito.
Where to Stay: There’s something inherently glamorous and captivating about the art-deco architecture in South Beach and the hotels that occupy these fascinating structures. A classic is the Park Central Hotel on Ocean Drive built in 1937, where even the furnishings represent the art-deco era.