December 14, 2006

    The 25 Sexiest Beaches
    in the World
    In Pursuit of Beauty

    By Bruce Kluger

    (See Sexiest Beaches slide show
    online at

    Selecting the 25 sexiest beaches in the
    world is a lot harder than it sounds
    (though, by any measure, the
    assignment is not onerous).

    Whether carved into the earth by a
    volcanic cataclysm, formed by an
    ancient glacial migration, or simply
    stamped onto the planet by some
    prehistoric shifting of tectonic plates,
    the world's most alluring beaches are
    more than just the sum of their
    topographical parts. They are also about the people who routinely swarm to their
    aquamarine waters and pristine shores in search of beauty.

    The millions who escape annually to Ipanema, for example, are frequently seeking
    passion—and more often than not, they find it: in the pulsing rhythms of the bossa
    nova that spill out of the bars and onto the sand; in the sensual crashing of the
    South Atlantic waves; in the color and vibrancy of Carnival.

    And yet this is a decidedly different crew from those who flock to the tiny islets of
    the Caribbean or the South Pacific. There you'll find an insatiably curious crowd—
    adventurers who are as captivated by the cultural trappings of the island paradise
    they're visiting as they are by the blissful solitude of an hour-long snorkel, or the
    majesty of a perfect sunset.

    Given the task at hand, our methodology in making our selections was extensive.
    To determine which 25 beaches on earth had that special combination of
    sensuality, sassiness and scenic beauty (both geographic and human), we
    consulted with our own personal specialists—a well-heeled, well-traveled bunch
    who have been there, done that, and were so enchanted by what they saw, they
    never even bothered to buy the T-shirt.

    But in the pursuit of journalistic integrity, we also checked in with a sizable panel of
    experts: travel writers, tour planners, globetrotters, hotel owners, beach
    aficionados, marine biologists, meteorologists, cultural essayists, map makers, list
    makers, and an assortment of personal diarists devoted to covering the beach
    scene. Yes, there was also some Googling involved.

    Most of the usual suspects are included on our list: Copacabana, Playa Del
    Carmen, Saint-Tropez, South Beach. Some of the bigger names (Bondi, Waikiki)
    have been left out, mostly because of overcrowding. You'll probably find several
    surprises here; Byron Bay on the eastern shore of Australia, say, or Santorini's
    legendary Red Beach.

    Some of these spots are unabashed party scenes, like Ibiza's Playa d'en Bossa or
    Paradise Beach on Mykonos. Other locations, like Anguilla's Shoal Bay, attract a
    more relaxed clientele. Getting to Kauapea Beach, Kauai's legendary "secret
    beach," requires some effort, but it's definitely worth the hike.

    So pour yourself a rum, sit back and prepare to speed-dial your travel agent, as
    you take our virtual stroll down the 25 Sexiest Beaches in the World.

    (See Sexiest Beaches slide show online at

    Byron Bay (New South Wales, Australia)
    Chalk-white sands, deliciously temperate weather and occasional visits from
    dolphins and migrating whales make this picturesque strip of shoreline, just south of
    Australia's Gold Coast, a magnet for nearly two million visitors a year. Regular
    visitors range from the artsy to the backpacking to the well-heeled, and attractions
    include local festivals, aboriginal craft shops and a nearby beach hideaway where
    the mode of dress is decidedly optional.

    Eleuthera (The Bahamas)
    A few clicks east of the Bahamian capital of Nassau floats Eleuthera, a 100-mile
    ribbon of land adorned by tony cabana communities, lush pineapple plantations
    and naturally graceful beaches—from the legendary pink sands of Harbour Island
    to the vegetation-rich shores of Spanish Wells. "Eleuthera" is Greek for "freedom,"
    and the enthusiastic throng of visitors here live up to the word.

    Pinney's Beach (Nevis)
    Nevis, the sister isle of St. Kitts, is home to some of the Caribbean's most tranquil
    and unspoiled shorelines, among them Pinney's Beach, a four-mile stretch of
    volcanic sand along the west coast of the egg-shaped island. Lined by swaying
    coconut trees, the calm waters of Pinney's are popular with avid swimmers, rum-
    sipping loungers and sun-worshippers.

    Punta Cana (Dominican Republic)
    Rapidly shedding its former reputation as an inexpensive getaway destination, the
    Dominican Republic is going seriously upscale, as luxury resorts continue to spring
    up and A-list celebrities flock to its shores. Center stage in this transformation is
    Punta Cana which, cozily situated on the easternmost tip of the island, is quickly
    earning itself the nickname "the new Cancun."

    Saline Beach (Saint-Barthélemy)
    Nearly two dozen beaches dot the French-Caribbean settlement of St. Bart's,
    lending a bright white glimmer to an elegant island known for its lavish villas and
    world-class restaurants. Audaciously sprawled along the island's south shore is the
    celebrated Saline Beach (La Grande Saline), where free-spirited beachcombers
    flaunt their glitz and glamour.

    Shoal Bay (Anguilla)
    Placid waters and pristine beaches are hallmarks of Anguilla, the glittering sand
    and coral jewel atop the arc of the Lesser Antilles. Graced by gentle breezes and
    blessed with an average monthly temperature of 80 degrees, the crescent-shaped
    shorelines host a dazzling assortment of regulars, from the romantic strollers along
    Rendezvous Bay to the afternoon cocktail contingent of Little Harbour. But the real
    magic happens among the colorful umbrellas and reclining lounge chairs on Shoal

    Copacabana (Rio de Janeiro)
    With its breathtaking views of Sugarloaf Mountain, seven-foot swells and endless
    sea of barely-there bikinis, Copacabana still reigns as Rio's most proudly hedonistic

    Ipanema Beach (Rio de Janeiro)
    Just around the Brazilian bend from Copacabana, the exquisite and electrifying
    Ipanema continues to stand tall as a tireless sand and surf playground, with its
    bustling beaches, fashionable shops and non-stop nightlife.

    Placencia (Belize)
    For natural diversity, it doesn't get much better than the crystal cays and lush
    mangroves of Placencia, on the water's edge of Belize. Wedged between sea and
    lagoon, the 11-mile peninsula is an ecological eyeful, where tropical birds and
    iguanas share space with diehard scuba divers and mellow hammock-swingers.

    Lover's Beach (Cabo San Lucas, Baja Peninsula)
    Located on the pencil-point of the Baja peninsula, Cabo San Lucas is famed for its
    sportsfishing, spas and "Golden Corridor" of immaculate beaches. Tucked among
    the giant white rock formations of Land's End is the elusive but spellbinding Lover's
    Beach (Playa del Amor).

    Playa del Carmen (Yucatan Peninsula)
    Hugging the northeastern shoreline of the Yucatan Peninsula, just below Cancun,
    high-energy Playa del Carmen teems with youthful visitors, many from Europe, who
    spend as much time in the beach bars and dive shops as they do in the water.
    Further north, however, the hot sand widens and the crowds thin out.

    Monterosso al Mare (Cinque Terre)
    The achingly romantic Cinque Terre, a quintet of five coastal cities strung along
    Northern Italy's Ligurian Sea, is best loved for its colorful Old World villages quaintly
    carved into the rolling green hillsides. But beach enthusiasts can still find solace on
    the sands of Monterosso.

    Nissi Beach (Cyprus)
    This is a place where visitors are hopelessly devoted to baking in the sun, and on
    Nissi Beach—a stunning sanctuary protected by a cove on the island's east end—
    that devotion is downright religious.

    Paradise Beach (Mykonos Island)
    What distinguishes Mykonos from the 200-odd inhabited islands of Greece are the
    hours kept by its pleasure-seeking visitors: Nightlife is notorious here, and travelers
    tend to sleep late. By afternoon, however, the action has usually begun to kick up
    on Paradise Beach.

    Playa d'en Bossa (Ibiza)
    Ibiza, proud bad boy of the Balearics, is internationally renowned for its raucous
    nightlife, a turbo-charged revelry that begins with after-dinner club-hopping and
    concludes with "disco sunrises." During daylight hours, however, the order of the
    day on the Playa d'en Bossa is "let loose."

    Pula Beach (Sardinia)
    Take your pick: Pretty much any beach on the Mediterranean Shangri-la of
    Sardinia (due west of Italy's boot, shin-level) qualifies as sexy. However, the
    flashing white sands of Pula Beach, on the island's southern tip, are something
    special—with its charming coves, deep blue bay waters and nearby ruins of a
    Roman amphitheater. The adventurous can also check out the juniper-scented
    Chia Dunes, which are only a few kilometers away.

    Red Beach (Santorini)
    Camera-toting tourists will marvel at the striking blend of colors along Red Beach,
    located on the southern flatland of Greece's Santorini—black sand, royal blue sea
    and crimson lava cliffs.

    Tahiti Beach (Saint-Tropez)
    The sacred sands of Saint-Tropez are to the sexy beach what the New York
    Yankees are to professional baseball: the undeniable gold standard, whether or not
    they're having a good season. These days, the most popular locale along the
    bustling Baie de Pampelonne is Tahiti Beach, with its generous mix of Cote D'Azur
    day-trippers and high-living jet-setters.

    Lhaviyani Atoll (Maldives)
    With its ample fruit trees and colorful wildflowers—and more than 80 strategically
    located resorts—this lush cluster of coral islands in the Indian Ocean plays host to
    half a million visitors a year. Among the most alluring destinations on the
    archipelago is the Kuredu Island Resort on the northern reef of Lhaviyani Atoll, with
    its bright white sands, thatched-roof bungalows, and villas-on-stilts that rise from
    the lagoon.

    Natadola Beach (Fiji)
    Picking a favorite spot among the 300-plus islands that comprise the tropical
    paradise of Fiji is a little like trying to select which morsel of Godiva chocolate to
    start with after opening the box. Thankfully, mother nature has intervened: A break
    in the reef along the southwest curve of the main island—at the horseshoe-shaped
    Natadola Beach—makes for some perfect body-surfing.

    Phang Nga Bay (Phuket)
    Guidebooks will have you believe that the hottest hot spot on Thailand's satellite
    island of Phuket is the distinctively decadent Patong Beach, with its noisy
    nightclubs, dimly-lit massage facilities and ever-buzzing beaches. But for true
    beauty head north to the spectacularly scenic Phang Nga Bay, where giant
    limestone formations spike dramatically out of the jade waters. Note to James Bond
    fans: Phang Nga Bay co-starred as the background in 1974's The Man With The
    Golden Gun.

    Sanur Beach (Seminyak, Bali)
    Despite its tiny size and remote location (on a map, it looks like an afterthought to
    Java), the Indonesian outpost of Bali packs a lot of tropical splendor into its spare
    square-mileage. Draped onto the island's southern neck is the sheltered Sanur
    Beach, famous for its dense foliage, black and white sands and beachside Balinese

    Ka'anapali Beach (Maui, Hawaii)
    In ancient times, Ka'anapali was the retreat of choice for the royal rulers of Maui,
    with its three-mile sweep of sand framed by an awesome topography bathed in
    greens and blues. One thousand condo units and 3,500 hotel rooms later, the
    beach remains the island's gemstone, and an irresistible draw for flocks of dewy-
    eyed romantics eager to soak up its magnificent sunsets. (Think Waikiki without the
    cheesiness factor.)

    Kauapea Beach (Kauai, Hawaii)
    The so-called "secret beach" on the northern rim of the "Garden Isle" of Kaui isn't
    such a secret anymore. Curious tourists regularly stream onto its majestic span of
    white-gold sand, which offers nice views of the Kilauea Lighthouse. Access to the
    beach is fairly rugged—getting there requires 15 minutes of agile hiking—but
    funseekers continue to make the trek.

    South Beach (Florida)
    Cycling legend Lance Armstrong and Hollywood hunk Matt McConaughey (voted
    People's Sexiest Man Alive in 2005) are fans. Maybe it's not as exotic as Rio, or as
    glitzy as the Cote D'Azur, but those 23 blocks on the bottommost tip of Miami Beach
    possess their own brand of star-spangled sexiness. From the pulsating club scene
    to the enticing shoreline itself, South Beach is our own little slice of paradise here
    on the home front.

    (See Sexiest Beaches slide show online at