We crossed nine countries on six continents — and a whole lot of sand — to bring you our favourite beaches worldwide
FOR SOME HARDWIRED reason, the few sandy metres between firm land and endless ocean captivate us. Is it the Dna-deep pull of watery roots? The leisure of the sand and romance of the sea? A seasonal craving for a massive vitamin D fix? Ponder that as you mix a mai tai and sink your toes into these blissful beaches.
Bahía Inglesa, Chile
Most of Chile’s coast is washed by the Humboldt Current, an Antarctic upwelling that can make beaches rather inhospitable for swimming. But the resort town of Bahía Inglesa, in the Atacama Desert about 75 kilometres west of Copiapó, is growing in popularity thanks to its long stretch of white sand and warm crystalline pools sheltered by rocky outcrops — perfect for acting out your mermaid fantasies.
Herring Cove Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.
There aren’t many beaches on North America’s East Coast where you can watch a sunset flare out over the Atlantic, but because Cape Cod is shaped like a burly arm flexed west, long, narrow Herring Cove Beach (on the “fist”) provides these nightly pyrotechnics. Here, the crowds are often sparse and the dunes and tidal pools magnificent. From the ample parking lot off Route 6A, the “adult” strips — LGBT and, yes, unsanctioned nudists — are to the left, and most others follow the shoreline right.
Boca Chica, Dominican Republic
Located a 25-minute drive east of the bustling capital of Santo Domingo, Boca Chica beach, with its shallow cove protected by a coral reef, is where Dominicanos go to unwind with family and friends on weekends. No sprawling, exclusive resorts here — just loud music, cold beer and warm, clear water. Bring snorkelling gear and swim between the mangrove islets at the edge of the reef.
Horseshoe Bay Beach, Bermuda
The pink beaches of Bermuda are globally renowned, but the island nation’s most famous is on aptly named Horseshoe Bay. Tourists and locals alike are drawn to this southern shore by the rosy grains made of crushed shells, coral and red foraminifera, as well as the sheltered electric-turquoise waters. Towels, chairs, snorkel gear, boogie and wakeboards can be rented on-site, and the surrounding rock formations await exploration. Tip: walk east for smaller but less crowded sands.
Claigan Coral Beach, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Coral? In Scotland? Yes, but in name only. Still, this gorgeous crescent of white sand formed from fossilized sun-bleached algae is a Gaelic idyll not to be missed. In fall it’s too chilly for lazing on the beach, so spend a day exploring, climbing a nearby hill called the Ghrobain for a better view of Loch Dunvegan (watch for sea otters and seals) and, at low tide, venturing about 150 metres out to Lampay Island — a getaway within a getaway.
Côte de Granit Rose, France
This rocky, fairytale coast in Brittany gives new meaning to la vie en rose. The pink-granite monoliths fortifying the shore are fantastical, if not inviting to bathers, but those who trek part of the Sentier des Douaniers (a 1,800-kilometre coast-guard trail cut in the 1700s) between towns such as Perros-Guirec and Trégastel will find sandy interludes in the ruddy rockscape where the Breton blue-green seas rival the Caribbean.
Betty’s Bay, South Africa
Paradise is tucked between the mountains and the sea in Western Cape. While in Betty’s Bay (a holiday town known for white sand and rugged coastal rocks), visit Main or Silver Sands beaches to sunbathe, surf or swim, or enjoy the tranquil seclusion at Jock’s Bay. Nature lovers will find the famed Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens and Stony Point African penguin colony nearby, but to get the heart racing again, go sandboarding down the Blesberg or Hangklip dunes.
Hatenohama Beach, Kume Island, Japan
Frenetic neon-lit megalopolises, serene Shinto shrines, steaming hot springs and impregnable feudal-era castles. Think of Japan and one of these images will likely pop into your head. Here’s another that likely won’t but should — beaches. The best are scattered across the southwestern Ryuku Islands, including Hatenohama, a sevenkilometre bar of pristine white sand that can only be reached by boat. Diving and snorkelling are the main draws, but there might be no better spot in which to act the castaway.
Hot Water Beach, New Zealand
Combine the ambiance of a beach with the comfort of a hot spring. Located on New Zealand’s eastern Coromandel Peninsula, this typically quiet beach ( above) can get busy in the two hours before and after low tide, when the sea exposes sandy areas atop deep volcanic fissures that leak mineral water as hot as 64 C. Dig a hole, create a hot tub.
Black Sand Beach, Alaska
Getting to Black Sand Beach can be quite an adventure. Accessible only by kayak or boat, reaching the shore requires weaving between icebergs and bits of fallen glacier in Prince William Sound. Yet visitors are rewarded with a coveted, quiet camping spot — charcoal-dark sands at the foot of mountains, where tidewater glaciers crawl down the slopes to hug the water’s edge.