December 14, 2006
The 25 Sexiest Beaches
in the World
In Pursuit of Beauty
By Bruce Kluger
(See Sexiest Beaches slide show
online at ForbesTraveler.com.)
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
aquamarine waters and pristine shores in search of beauty.
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 ForbesTraveler.com.)
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.
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
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
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
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 ForbesTraveler.com.)