Best Beaches in the World

What makes a great beach all depends on the traveler. Some like wide, open beaches with throngs of things to do and people to watch, while others prefer deserted shorelines with calm waters. U.S. News took this and factors, such as unique scenery, beach quality and overall accessibility, into consideration to determine the world's best beaches. Want to put in your two cents? Cast your vote below for next year's ranking.

  • Fiji
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    Fiji

    #1 in Best Beaches in the World

    Boasting 333 islands, resplendent resorts, sparkling waters and endless stretches of pristine sand, Fiji is the perfect spot for paradise-seeking beachgoers. If you want to snorkel while on vacation, set your sights on Taveuni's diverse coral reefs. But for those pining for the tropical beaches featured in "Cast Away" and "Survivor: Fiji," you'll want to catch a ferry from Port Denarau and head right to the 20 islands that make up the Mamanucas. Popular options include Qalito Island and Vomo Island.

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  • Tahiti
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    Tahiti

    #2 in Best Beaches in the World

    Tahiti should be high on your list if you like your beaches paired with gourmet French cuisine. The 118 islands that make up Tahiti are known for top-notch fare, verdant jungles, lavish resorts and sandy shores. The smaller section of Tahiti (known as Tahiti Iti) is more secluded than the larger Tahiti Nui, but both are worth seeing. Tahiti Iti's famous La Plage de Maui is popular for a reason (think: sparkling sands and crystal-clear water), but the popularity comes with crowds. Check out Papenoo Beach on Tahiti Nui for excellent surfing and more breathing room.

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  • Bora Bora
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    Bora Bora

    #3 in Best Beaches in the World

    Bora Bora is small but mighty. Measuring only 6 miles long and 2 miles wide, every inch of the island is packed with stunning beaches, green jungles and ritzy resorts with overwater bungalows. Matira Beach is ideal for sunbathing and strolling along sandy shores, while the beach at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora is where you should head for Mount Otemanu views and calm water. Snorkeling and shark-feeding excursions are also available for the more adventurous traveler.

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  • Maldives
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    Maldives

    #4 in Best Beaches in the World

    The Maldives is unlike any beach vacation you'll experience. This tropical destination is made up of several ring-shaped atolls and hundreds of islands, with each beach more beautiful than the last. You'll likely stick to the island your resort is on, but you can expect pearlescent sands, towering palm trees, incredibly blue waters and surreal sunsets at all of the beaches in the Maldives. Most public beaches require covering up, so if you do stray from your resort's sands, consider checking out the bikini-friendly beaches on Rasdhoo and Maafushi.

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  • U.S. Virgin Islands
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    U.S. Virgin Islands

    #5 in Best Beaches in the World

    A trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands appeals to all types of travelers, as St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix cater to different categories of beachgoers. Beach lovers who want to get away from the crowds should head straight to St. John, where the quieter sands of Caneel Bay appeal to privacy-seeking honeymooners. St. Thomas' photogenic Magens Bay is perfect for photo ops (though you might have to battle crowds to get your shot), and St. Croix's Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge is ideal for travelers wanting to share the sand and surf with leatherback sea turtles.

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  • Maui
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    Maui

    #6 in Best Beaches in the World

    If you're looking for a taste of Hawaii's beautiful beaches without the crowds on Oahu, retreat to Maui. The island boasts impressive beaches both big and small, adult and family-friendly, as well as the black sand shores at Waianapanapa State Park. Southern Maui is especially popular with families, as it is home to Wailea Beach, which is known for its mostly calm waters, bustling resorts and highly regarded restaurants.

     

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  • Kauai
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    Kauai

    #7 in Best Beaches in the World

    Adventure travelers flock here in droves for the many heart-pumping excursions the island has to offer. And its beaches are no less action-packed. Take a trip to Polihale State Park to hit secluded shorelines that overlook the island's jaw-dropping Napali Coast cliffs. Or, relax on an easily accessible shore like Po'ipu Beach. Just keep in mind that swimming here can be challenging (because of the rough waters), so pay attention to the lifeguards.

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  • Phuket
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    Phuket

    #8 in Best Beaches in the World

    Trust us, you're going to want to go the extra miles for a vacation on Phuket's captivating beaches. That's because this Thai island is home to natural wonders, such as Patong, Karon and Kamala beaches. These beautiful shorelines lead to striking teal water, which you can explore on a long-tail boat. Nai Harn Beach (the most southern beach on Phuket) is another popular spot among tourists and locals because of its pristine sand and clear water.

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  • Railay Beach
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    Railay Beach

    #9 in Best Beaches in the World

    Railay Beach (also known as Rai Leh) is located in Thailand's Krabi province and abuts the Andaman Sea. Made up of four main beaches, the region is home to sparkling sand and water, staggering yet climbable cliffs (for the experienced climber) and lush jungles. For a truly spectacular beach experience, head to Phra Nang Beach, where you'll find caves, islands and coral reefs to explore, along with pillowy sand and crystal-clear water.

  • Costa Rica
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    Costa Rica

    #10 in Best Beaches in the World

    This Central American country's vibrant flora provides a stunning backdrop to its plentiful shorelines. Beaches here are often backed by forests or flanked by lush mountain peaks. Travelers say that the 80-mile Nicoya Peninsula (home to the popular Nosara Beach), Guanacaste (dubbed as the country's "Gold Coast") and Manuel Antonio National Park (a 3-square-mile park with remote beaches) are among the best places for sunbathing and swimming.

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  • Bahamas
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    Bahamas

    #11 in Best Beaches in the World

    With countless beaches on 700 islands to choose from, it's easy for you to find your perfect spot in the Bahamas. From massive resorts (Atlantis, Paradise Island) to privately owned islands, the variety of beaches here run the gamut. Pink Sand Beach on Harbour Island will wow you with its rosy hue, while you'll delight in swimming with wild pigs in The Exumas. And if you're after underwater caves, diving excursions and a beach featured in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, look no further than Gold Rock Beach in Lucayan National Park on Grand Bahama Island.

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  • Crete
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    Crete

    #12 in Best Beaches in the World

    Sometimes overlooked by travelers in favor of other Greek islands, Crete is home to several incredible beaches. Travelers will find pink-hued sands that pop against the bright blue sea at Elafonisi beach. And Vai Beach is famous for the thousands of palm trees that back the white sand. If you're aiming for seclusion, head to Achlia Beach or Damnoni Beach on the island's southern coast.

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  • Sicily
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    Sicily

    #13 in Best Beaches in the World

    As the Mediterranean's biggest island, you can expect loads of picturesque beaches. Bright blue waters flank charming Italian towns and craggy coastal cliffs. You won't find any waves here, and there's plenty of space to stretch your legs. The stunning San Vito lo Capo attracts beachgoers with its limestone cliffs and nearby top-notch eateries. Meanwhile, Mondello Lido appeals to those who want to watch the sun set or rise, but keep in mind that there is a fee to access the beach if you're not staying at one of the hotels along it.

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  • Puerto Rico
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    Puerto Rico

    #14 in Best Beaches in the World

    Known as one of the Caribbean's most affordable destinations, Puerto Rico's beaches don't disappoint. Palm tree-lined beaches with soft sands framed by rich blue waters are abundant on the island. Visitors have miles of shore to explore, including big beaches like Carolina and Condado, and island sands on Vieques and Culebra. Head to Vieques' Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay at night to see the water and sky glow blue from the bioluminescent dinoflagellates that live in the bay water.

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  • Santorini
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    Santorini

    #15 in Best Beaches in the World

    The renowned white and pastel-colored homes that pervade Oia tend to distract from the fact that this Grecian island is home to some pretty unique beaches. Venture down the island's famous cliffs and you'll find red sand at Red Beach, turquoise waters at Amoudi Bay and black sand at Kamari Beach. Remember to pack a pair of sandals or water shoes, since recent visitors said the sand and pebbles at Kamari Beach can get hot and slippery.

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