Before I begin this countdown, here's a disclaimer: It is pretty much impossible to rank all the beautiful beaches in the world and limit them to just the 15 best. Wherever you go—be it in Southeast Asia or the Caribbean or Latin America—you're bound to encounter breathtaking and unforgettable beaches that would make you want to thank the heavens for making you live in a planet that's roughly three-quarters water.
But it's also undeniable that there are certain beaches that get all the attention, maybe because of their tropical vibe, their unspoiled beauty, or their sheer pristine magnificence. No wonder why travelers all over the world flock to these beaches to claim their piece of paradise.
If visiting exquisite beaches is right on your bucket list, here's a list of 15 of the world's most beautiful beaches. Consider this as a list for starters, for there are, of course, a lot of other attractive beaches in the world to dive into.
15 Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia
Australia has a lot of spectacular beaches like the popular Whitehaven Beach, but if you're looking for something that's equally beautiful yet attracts far fewer tourists, then you should visit the stunning Fraser Island in Queensland.
The whole island is a World Heritage site for being the largest sand island in the world. One of its more famous beaches is the Rainbow Beach, which sports as many as 70 different sand colors created by a combination of leached vegetable dyes and iron oxides. You'll also find Lake McKenzie on this island, which is considered as the cleanest freshwater lake in the world. It also boasts of an ancient rainforest filled with native wildlife.
14 Baia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Voted as TripAdvisor's best beach in the world, Baio do Sancho faces the coast of Brazil rather than the Atlantic Ocean, and that accounts for its calm waters. However, be forewarned that this secluded Brazilian escape is a bit difficult to get to. You have to pass through a dirt road, a few rickety ladders, and a tight crevasse on the way, but it's all worth it once you spot its turquoise waters and coral reefs. Add to that a backdrop of steep and rocky cliffs covered in vegetation and you have a paradise that's just waiting to be found.
13 Puka Beach, Boracay, Philippines
Boracay's White Beach is definitely the Philippines' most popular beach destination, but if you're not in the mood for a lively party scene, slip into the serenity of Puka Shell Beach, also known locally as Yapak. Unlike White Beach's powdery white sand, Puka Beach sports coarse sands, since the beach is named after the Puka shells lining up its shores.
In fact, you will find stalls selling shell souvenirs and jewelry on this beach. However, it is devoid of resorts and only has a limited number of restaurants, which makes it a pretty laidback alternative to the noisy and crowded White Beach.
12 Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
As the setting of the cult movie "The Beach," you'd expect Maya Bay to be brimming with tourists all year round. But even if all the people in the world are there, this exquisite white sand beach bordered by huge limestone cliffs is just too beautiful to pass up.
Still, if you want to avoid the crowds, it's better to go here very early in the morning or after sunset. You may also visit other beaches in Ko Phi Phi like Long Beach and the neighboring Phi Phi Leh island, which are both great for snorkeling. Maya Bay is also close enough to the party scene of Tonsai village.
11 Honopu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Also known as Cathedral Beach, Hawaii's Honopu Beach served as the location for films like "King Kong" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." However, it's challenging to reach. It's only accessible by water, but don't think that you can simply ride a boat to reach this beach. You actually have to swim from an offshore boat to get here, or if you're up for it, you can do a quarter-mile swim from neighboring Kalalau Beach.
But it's definitely worth all the trouble, considering the view that you'll get: cumin-colored sand, vegetation-cloaked cliffs, and pristine blue waters. The best part is, the beach is all yours—at least most of the time.
10 Champagne Beach, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
The small Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is famous for its beautiful white sandy beaches, often visited by tourists and cruise ships from Australia. Champagne Beach is one of its more popular beaches, owing to its clear blue waters and a phenomenon that makes it unique among all the beaches in the world.
According to the first travelers to the region, the shallow waters of the beach appear to fizz at low tide like champagne. This effervescent phenomenon is caused by gas escaping from volcanic rocks on the sea floor. Plus, the coastline is shaped like an old-fashioned champagne flute, hence its name Champagne Beach.
9 Honokalani Beach, Maui, Hawaii
White sand beaches are beautiful and all, but there's also something appealing with black sand beaches like Honokalani Beach in Wai'anapanapa State Park in Maui, Hawaii. Its jet black shore made up of tiny lava pebbles juxtaposed with lapis lazuli waters and jungle-like foliage makes it every photographer's dream subject.
You'll surely make a stopover here on the way to Hana, but aside from simply taking photos and dipping on the beach, you can also explore the seaside lava tubes and sea caves carved into lava cliffs along the shore. If you're lucky, you can even catch some surf action on Honokalani Beach.
8 Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It's definitely not the best place to be if you're looking for solitude, but if you flew to Brazil in the first place, partying is certainly foremost in your mind. Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema Beach has a bustling beach scene all-year-round. There's never a dull moment as you engage in lively football and volleyball games happening non-stop on the beach, coupled with an insatiable supply of cachaca and beer.
The majestic view of the sunset against the Dois Irmaos mountains is also worth the wait, but I doubt you'll ever get bored as you feast your eyes on the seemingly never-ending parade of sexy beachgoers all-day long.
7 Wineglass Bay, Tasmania
This Tasmanian gem is part of the Freycinet National Park, located northeast of the capital city of Hobart. Its white sands, green peaks, turquoise sea, and pink granite rock formations make Wineglass Bay one of Tasmania's most stunning coastal scenes. This fact is validated by tourists who constantly vote for Wineglass Bay as one of the world's best beaches.
Aside from lying on the perfectly contoured beach and admiring the scenery, you can do a plethora of things around the park, such as hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, boating, and scuba diving. You can also visit nearby popular tourist spots like the Hazards, Cape Tourville Lighthouse, Honeymoon Bay, and Moulting Lagoon.
6 Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa, Italy
No, there are no rabbits on this Italian beach—just blinding white cliffs, warm weather, and fluorescent blue waters. No wonder this beach frequently tops surveys of people's favorite beaches.
Despite the sheer number of tourists in the past couple of years, Rabbit Beach is actually a secluded nature reserve that can only be accessed by boat. It's quite easy to spot dolphins frolicking in the water and protected sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach. And in case you get tired of the white sand of Rabbit Beach, you can drop a visit to the nearby volcanic island of Linosa, which boasts of a Mars-like black and red beach.
5 Tulum, Mexico
The town center sitting right on the highway may look like a truck stop rather than a tropical paradise, but don't be fooled. What makes Tulum truly unique is its dramatic backdrop of ancient Mayan ruins that teeters on the edge of a cliff. Its confectioner-sugar sands, balmy breezes, and glistening jade green waters also make it one of the most scenic beaches, not just in Mexico, but in the world.
Aside from swimming on the beach, tourists will also enjoy cave and cavern diving. A variety of lodgings is also available, from luxury resorts to small cabanas that fit every tourist's budget.
4 Shipwreck Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
Navagio Beach, more popularly known as Shipwreck Beach, is perhaps the most popular beach in Greece, thanks to its picturesque quality that has graced many holiday brochures, travel books, and advertisements. It got its moniker from a freight liner that shipwrecked back in 1981 and still rests buried in the white sandy dunes of the beach.
It can only be accessed by boat because it is enclosed by large steep cliffs, but that doesn't deter loads of tourists from visiting it. In order to avoid huge crowds, schedule your trip very early in the morning or after three in the afternoon.
3 Matira Beach, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Bora Bora in the island of Tahiti is a heavy tourist destination full of luxury accommodations, but the beautiful Matira Beach remains to be a public-access beach that anyone can enjoy even if they're not checked-in a five-star resort. And it's not just any beach since Matira Beach is considered one of Tahiti's best spots, with its mile-long stretch of powder white sand that gently slopes into a shallow emerald lagoon against a backdrop of tropical foliage.
You can also engage in various activities there, like hunting for black pearls, looking for World War II memorabilia, and even feeding sharks. But then again, there's nothing wrong with just lazing on the silky sand.
2 El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Dubbed as "the last frontier" of the Philippines, El Nido can be reached through a five to six-hour drive from Palawan's capital, Puerto Princesa. It is home to more or less 50 powder-fine white sand beaches set around dramatic limestone formations. El Nido's stunningly clear blue waters complement spectacular views of empty lagoons, marble cliffs, prehistoric caves, waterfalls, and picturesque sunsets.
But the beauty doesn't stop there. Underwater, you'll find more than 50 species of corals as well as rich marine life composed of whales, whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays, sea cows, and endangered turtles. This place is truly a piece of paradise on Earth.
1 Anse Source d'Argent, La Digue, Seychelles
Considered as the most photographed beach in the world, Anse Source d'Argent is located in Seychelles' third largest island, La Digue. Its towering granite boulders mixed with white and pink sands and electric blue waters give it a dramatic flair that any photographer would die for.
You can enjoy Creole dishes in nearby restaurants, or treat yourself to a picnic with food bought from the supermarket that's just five minutes away from the beach. You might even spot a rare black paradise flycatcher bird, of which there are only 100 left in the world—all of them located in La Digue's Veuve Natural Reserve.