Photo: Fotolia
Photo: Fotolia

Paradise by the Sea

What draws you to the beach? Maybe it’s the lullaby of the waves or the vastness of the ocean. Or maybe it’s just that the ambiance—or absence of Wi-Fi—prompts you to leave your laptop home and relax. Whatever it is, we’re here to help you find the best shoreline for your next vacation. From the coast of Greece to the rose-colored sands of Anguilla, here are some of the world’s finest beaches.

Bluefields Beach
Bluefields, Jamaica

Located in the western corner of Jamaica amid the laidback countryside of Westmoreland Parish, Bluefields Beach offers a delightful alternative to the crowded seashore of Montego Bay. This pristine place—tucked into the foot of the Bluefields Mountains in one of Jamaica’s oldest settled areas—once served as the playground of pirates. Today, it’s all yours.

Bluefields Beach Bluefields, Jamaica
Bluefields Beach Bluefields, Jamaica

Follow the stone staircase down the cliffside to find the white-sand shores dotted with pebbles and palm trees. A portion of the beach is open to the public, and while it’s more secluded than Montego Bay, it’s still a frequent destination for locals on weekends and holidays. For the most tranquil experience, consider escaping to the private coastline of the Bluefields Bay Villas resort, a popular destination for celebrities and politicians. In addition to its own beach, the resort offers boat and snorkeling charters as well as stand-up paddleboarding lessons and zip-lining excursions in the nearby forests.

When you need a break from the sun, consider a massage or facial at the resort’s seaside spa or a rum tasting at the Appleton Estate, about an hour inland. The beach is also close to the 18-hole, par-72 Negril Hills Golf Club, which borders the Great Morass wetlands. (Forget about retrieving any balls that fall into the water. They belong to the crocodiles now.) Closest airport: Sangster International

Grace Bay Beach
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Grace Bay, the premiere beach of the Turks and Caicos islands, boasts a three-mile-long waterfront that’s protected from the whitecaps of the Atlantic Ocean by a barrier reef. That means calm waters and excellent snorkeling opportunities. You can arrange for private charters to take you to the reef (just a mile offshore) as well as to nearby sites where you can snorkel with dolphins, sea turtles, and eagle rays. The entire coastline earns praise for its smooth white sand and waters that are so clean and clear you won’t even see a speck of seaweed.

Grace Bay Beach Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Grace Bay Beach Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Along Grace Bay, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to try your hand at windsurfing or parasailing, but for an only-in-Providenciales experience, consider a tour with Provo Ponies. After following the winding trails down to the sea, you and your horse can trot through the shallow waters of the ocean and explore the beach’s inlets and trails. Afterward, enjoy a drink at the Wymara Resort and Villas' Pink Bar. Its rotating menu of pink drinks—including rosés, blush champagnes, and the Passion (a mix of gin, ginger, and fresh raspberry jam)—offers excellent options for toasting the sunset. Closest airport: Providenciales International

Praia do Porto Santo
Vila Baleira, Portugal

This tiny Portuguese island, 340 miles off the coast of Morocco, has attracted everyone from Christopher Columbus to invading Moorish pirates to, today, Madeirans who cruise over to enjoy the six miles of beaches that stretch along its southern coast. The shoreline here is delightfully free of high rises and crowds. Instead, the mineral-rich yellow sand is surrounded by cliffs and dotted with the occasional umbrellas of a beachside cafe.

Praia do Porto Santo Vila Baleira, Portugal
Praia do Porto Santo Vila Baleira, Portugal

While there are places to see in downtown—including the Christopher Columbus House Museum, where the explorer stayed during his time on the island—much of the appeal of this island is its relative remoteness. The 16th century main square features a few boutiques as well as a handful of restaurants serving bacalao (dried cod) and wines made from the grapes growing near the shore. There’s also a par 72, 18-hole golf course stretching across the island that offers excellent views of its beaches and basalt cliffs. Spend an afternoon putting around the rocky crags and lakes that stud the course before enjoying a dinner of local mussels and shrimp in the golf course’s restaurant. Closest airport: Porto Santo

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Kama'ole Beach
Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

Kama'ole Beach Park is actually three beaches, which are separated by rocky ridges. Nicknamed Kam I, Kam II, and Kam III, these beaches stretch for a mile and a half along Maui’s western and southwestern coast (the sunny and dry sides of the island) and offer fantastic views of the neighboring Kaho’olawe and Lanai islands, as well as the gorgeous Maui sunset. Kam I offers some of the area’s best snorkeling, while Kam III is the best for boogie boarding. Kam II, meanwhile, features a long, sandy coastline. Enjoy the view from the 60-foot-wide lanai of the Penthouse Maui, a 2,824-square-foot luxury beachfront vacation condo. When you tire of dolphin- and whale-watching, head to the Shops at Wailea, Maui’s most popular spot for shopping and dining. Closest airport: Kahului

Kama’ole Beach Kihei, Maui, Hawaii
Kama’ole Beach Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

Shoal Bay East
Shoal Bay Village, Anguilla

Of Anguilla’s 33 white-sand beaches, the two-mile Shoal Bay Beach, on the island’s East End, is the one that earns the most plaudits. And for good reasons. First, there’s the scenery, which features pinkish-white sand, striking blue waters, and palm trees. Also, Shoal Bay East is one of the island’s quieter and more exclusive beaches. Head to the West End for lively fish shacks and bars, but return to Shoal Bay East when you want to get back to nature.

Shoal Bay East Shoal Bay Village, Anguilla
Shoal Bay East Shoal Bay Village, Anguilla

Another option if you’re after peace and quiet is a visit to the Zemi Thai House Spa, home to the island’s only hammam. Inspired by the traditions of the native Taino people, the spa offers experiences like the two-hour Zemi Sun Ritual, which starts with a sea-salt massage and ends with a scalp acupressure session. If you’re seeking a more active retreat, play a round at the nearby CuisinArt Golf Resort. This 7,063-yard championship course winds through saltwater lagoons and forests of sea grape trees while offering spectacular views of the water. No matter how you spend your day, finish it with a dinner of fresh mahi and mussels at the nearby Madeariman Bar & Restaurant. Closest airport: Clayton J. Lloyd International

Panormos Beach
Mykonos, Greece

Located next to the harbor Blo and considered one of the most beautiful locations in all of Greece, Panormos Beach in Mykonos is popular with European celebrities and models. They don’t come just for the DJs and dance floors of the Principote Beach Club or the modern take on traditional Grecian cuisine at luxury spots like Kensho Psarou, a restaurant and resort with its own helipad. Many arrive to enjoy the simple pleasure of sitting on the beach’s golden shores while savoring views of Panormos Bay and the surrounding hillsides studded with whitewashed homes.

Panormos Beach Mykonos, Greece
Panormos Beach Mykonos, Greece

While Panormos appeals to high-end clientele, this beachside community maintains a delightfully bohemian vibe. Just duck into any of the crochet-ceilinged beach bars to enjoy the laidback atmosphere. But come early. By late morning, people are almost always queued up for a lunch of sea bass and feta at Kiki’s Taverna. Same for the nearby Reeza restaurant, which offers cooking lessons in a dining room overlooking the Aegean Sea. To fully explore the surrounding Panormos Bay and the smaller islands of nearby Cyclades, consider chartering a yacht from Mykonos Sailing. Closest airport: Mykonos Island National

Bean Point Beach
Anna Maria, Florida

Thanks to strict local building regulations, the three cities that make up the seven-mile strip of Anna Maria Island have managed to strike a perfect balance between modern amenities and Old Florida charm. Limited access via a single bridge from the mainland also helps keep the shorelines of Bean Point, the most exclusive of the island's beaches, and all of Anna Maria Island as unspoiled as possible. Here, the sand is as white as it is powdery soft, with wide beaches offering plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the sun. There are also many wildlife preserves to explore. At the Robinson Preserve, just a 15-minute drive from the island, you can hike, paddleboard, and kayak through more than 600 acres of wetlands.

Bean Point Beach Anna Maria, Florida
Bean Point Beach Anna Maria, Florida

Dining options abound, especially for seafood lovers. The Beach Bistro in Holmes Beach, near the northern edge of the island, has been rated as having the best food on the Gulf Coast by Zagat; and the Sandbar restaurant is one of the only places on Anna Maria where you can eat freshly caught grouper with your feet in the sand. If you’d prefer to catch your own dinner, contact Galati Charters, which offers full-day fishing tours. Closest airport: Sarasota International

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