Long before Leonardo DiCaprio found utopia (and also a whole lot of drama) in The Beach, travellers have been searching for that strip of blue water and white sand to call their very own paradise.
In Australia we’re lucky enough to have some of the world’s best beaches in our own backyard, and there are plenty more to be found overseas. Whether you like your beach days peaceful and quiet, buzzing with activity, or with a side of tacos, we’ve got you covered.
1. Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the country’s east has a stretch of Caribbean coastline that needs no filter.
From large-scale resorts in Cancun with water activities to keep the whole family occupied for days, to exclusive boutique properties in boho-chic Tulum, you can tailor a Mexico beach holiday to your own tastes.
And that’s just the mainland – Isla Mujeres, just 20 minutes by ferry from Cancun, offers relaxed island vibes but still plenty to eat, do and shop, or Isla Cozumel is a hot spot for diving and a popular cruise ship port. No matter where you stay, you can guarantee delicious Mexican cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner – washed down with a cold Corona or margarita.
2. Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Australia is lucky to lay claim to some of the world’s best beaches, and many of them are to be found in the Whitsunday Islands off Queensland’s north-east coast.
Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island might be the most jaw-dropping – it has some of the whitest, softest sand in the world, with the warm, clear Coral Sea lapping on the sand.
You can’t stay overnight unless you charter a private boat and anchor offshore, but it’s a good excuse to stay at one of the region’s incredible resorts: Qualia on Hamilton Island and One & Only on Hayman Island are probably the most Instagram brag-worthy.
3. Florida, United States
Holiday-makers flock to America’s most southern state for the comforts of the US – namely fast food and shopping – and with beaches like those in nearby Cuba or The Bahamas.
Miami is for glitz and a little grit – it is a major city after all – where South Beach offers the area’s best beach resorts (every room at the W South Beach has a balcony with ocean views).
Or if you’re looking for a laid-back vibe, Fort Lauderdale 40 minutes north has its own airport far easier to navigate that Miami International (stay at Marriott Harbor Beach, it’s got a private stretch of sand). And if you want to try to spot the President of the United States, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is an hour further north in Palm Beach.
4. Phi Phi Island, Thailand
The Beach was filmed on Thailand’s Phi Phi Island; you can visit Maya Bay which featured heavily in the movie.
Although since the release of the flick it’s often crowded and not quite as idyllic as when Leo strolled its sands, so if you’re looking for a peaceful spot to swim, snorkel and sunbathe, check-in to one of the island’s many resorts with their own private beaches.
Phi Phi Island Village Resort offers stylish bungalows, a beautiful beach, epic pool, and is less than 10 minutes by car to Ao Tonsai Pier and the busy part of the island packed with restaurants, bars and shops.
5. Sydney, Australia
For travellers who want some action with their beach holiday, Sydney is the ultimate spot. Relax on the sands of Palm Beach, Manly, Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte or Coogee, and when you get bored head into the city for a never-ending list of things to do.
From climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge to catching a show at the Opera House to exploring hip inner-city neighbourhoods Surry Hills, Potts Point and Newtown, it won’t be long until your tired legs carry you back to the beach for some more downtime.
6. Bora Bora, Tahiti
The impossibly beautiful Tahitian island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia is a favourite of honeymooning couples, with its overwater bungalows, many of which have glass floors for watching the sea life below, and romantic candle-lit dinners on the sand, but it should be on the bucket list of any beach-lover.
Making Bora Bora especially picturesque is Mt Otemanu, a 700-metre tall dormant volcano at the centre of the island. Pick an award-winning resort – the Four Seasons is pretty much unbeatable – and get ready to relax.
Less than four hours by plane from Sydney, Fiji is a convenient option for Aussies in need of some deep relaxation on the beach.
Famous for its world-class snorkelling thanks to its clear waters and colourful sea life, and the warmth of the smiling locals, beach holiday options in Fiji range from the Mamanuca Islands to the west of Nadi, where the impossibly perfect beaches of Castaway and Tokoriki islands lure travellers, to popular mainland spot Suva to the remote beaches in the Yasawa Island area.
There are so many picture perfect beaches you’re bound to find one to have all to yourself.
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8. Bacuit Archipelago, Philippines
Boracay is beautiful, but if the crowded and sometimes seedy scene isn’t for you, head to Bacuit Archipelago just outside El Nido in Palawan.
The peaceful coast and islands are dotted with limestone carsts rising up from the water, a lot like those in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, and you’ll never tire of swimming in the clear water and exploring the hidden beaches, caves and lagoons.
Take an island-hopping tour and your guide will catch and barbecue fresh seafood prepared right on the beach. Book a resort on Miniloc for a luxe experience.
9. The Greek Islands
Hopping around the Greek Islands is the perfect trip for those that start to feel a bit stir crazy on a beach holiday.
Every few nights you can discover a new island paradise, from the romance of Santorini, with its iconic blue and white domes dotting the cliff-sides, to vibrant Mykonos where partying from dusk until dawn is the norm, to the chilled out bliss of fishing town Corfu.
But if you’re on a serious search for the world’s most beautiful beach, Zakynthos off Greece’s west coast in the Ionian Sea is home to Shipwreck Beach, a stretch of sand between two steep headlands only accessible by boat but totally worth the trip. You can go right up to the almost 40-year old shipwreck on the sand, and dive into some of the bluest water on earth.
10. Rio De Janeiro
A heaving city by the sea, Rio De Janeiro is for those who like their beach holidays to be buzzing.
Have the full experience on Copacabana Beach, where you could people-watch all day and never get bored. Nearby Ipanema Beach is pretty much the same, just more glamorous – the people you watch will almost definitely have ridiculously toned and tanned bodies draped in beach-chic outfits.
Whichever beach you choose, do it like a Rio local: rent a sunbed, feast on Brazilian barbecue and coconuts from the vendors on the beach and never feel shy about your beach bod.