From the National Geographic book The 10 Best of Everything
One of the most photographed beaches in the world, the pale pink sands of Anse Source d’Argent unfurls across the island of La Digue, one of the 115 components of this archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The sands sparkle against a backdrop of towering granite boulders, worn by time and weather. The turquoise water is relatively shallow and protected from the ocean’s waves by a reef.
Whether your dream beach trip consists of spending a few pampered nights in a four-star resort or swimming among tropical fish some 80 feet (24 meters) underwater, the Maldives are the sort of islands where either—or both—can come true. Straddling the equator southwest of Sri Lanka, the 1,102 islands that make up the Maldives form 26 atolls. The soft air enveloping the archipelago blends into a beautiful palm-fringed haze.
3. Bora Bora, Tahiti
This is one of the magical islands that make up French Polynesia in the South Pacific. Just 18 miles (29 kilometers) long, this lush little slip of land lies in a protected lagoon edged by white sandy shores, the best being at Matira Point. Bora Bora boasts the nickname the “Romantic Island,” a moniker easy to appreciate with its isolated beaches, intimate hotels, and quiet atmosphere.
4. The Hamptons, New York
One of the hip spots for the air-kissing, well-heeled set, the Hamptons boast some of the prettiest beaches on Long Island. The unspoiled shoreline begins around Southampton and runs east to the end of the island at Montauk. Windswept dunes and waving grasses border the Atlantic Ocean.
5. Lanikai Beach, Hawaii
Half a mile of sparkling sand, palm trees swaying over a white beach, lush tropical plants, and endless sunshine make Lanikai one of Hawaii’s most scenic beaches. The shore is protected by a nearby coral reef, which keeps the surf relatively calm. The water is always deep green and postcard-perfect.
6. Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
The most popular beaches on this island in the North Atlantic are Surfside and Children’s. The waters here are relatively calm, and there’s plenty of sand to use for sunbathing or castle-building. Madaket Beach is known for its rougher surf and not-to-be-missed sunsets. Quidnet Beach provides great views of Sankaty Head lighthouse.
7. Fraser Island, Australia
Perched on the sunny Queensland coast 161 miles (259 kilometers) northeast of Brisbane, Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island and home to a wonderful beach. This World Heritage Site is an ecologist’s dream, with 640 square miles (1,664 square kilometers) of unspoiled natural paradise. Rain forests with 1,000-year-old trees sprout from the sand. Lodgings here accommodate a wide range of tourists, from the backpacking ecology lover to pampered resort fans.
8. St. Bart’s
One of many islands in the Caribbean Sea, St. Bart’s stands out with its blend of French chic and island relaxation. With beautiful secluded beaches, fine French cuisine, and gracious hotels, this tropical playground is popular with the Jet Set. The 8-mile-long (13-kilometer-long) island is edged by 20 beaches and small coves for swimmers and sunbathers, with sparkling water and white sand.
9. Langkawi, Malaysia
The name “Langkawi” translates into “the land of one’s wishes,” a welcoming concept that somewhat belies the island’s historic origins as a reputed refuge for pirates. Langkawi has since become a modern hideaway for the traveler seeking an escape. If your vacation wishes extend from uncrowded white sands and clear waters to lush green forests, you will find yourself content here. Datai Bay, located on Pulau Langkawi, is a heavenly retreat on the Andaman Sea.
10. Kauna’oa Bay, Hawaii
Located on the Kohala Coast of the Aloha State’s Big Island, Kauna’oa Bay is the quintessential Hawaiian spot. The 0.25-mile-long (0.4-kilometer-long), crescent-shaped beach has plenty of white sand, palm trees, and calm, clear, blue water. In addition to swimming and sunbathing, beachgoers here can snorkel or ride boogie boards. (Be careful swimming, however, because there are no lifeguards on this public beach.) At night, nestle into the sands and peer out into the water to see if you can catch a glimpse of manta rays swimming.