A journey across the globe in search of those sandbanks that deserve a trip.

The planet earth has 595,814 km of coastline. An amazing figure that denotes another reality: the world is full of fascinating cliffs and, yes, beaches that are a scenic delight. Many of them are natural sanctuaries. Others, a geological oddity. And others simply meet all the requirements for a perfect day of sun and beach. But, to choose the best, there is nothing like enjoying this small atlas with the most beautiful beaches in the world, a selection of 40 sandy areas worth taking a plane for, or simply escaping from the madding crowd. 


A selection of the 40 selected by National Geographic Travel:

  1. Sarakiniko beach , Milos (Greece)
  2. Benagil Beach, Portugal
  3. El Nido, Philippines
  4. Cué Beach, Llanes (Asturias)
  5. Cathedral Cove, New Zealand
  6. Al Mughsal Beach, Oman
  7. Hidden Beach, Mexico 
  8. Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
  9. La Digue, Seychelles
  10. Ölüdeniz Beach, Turkey


A long line of palm trees shading the white sand is the characteristic image of Matemwe Beach, in the northeast of Zanzibar. The proximity of the African coast has made the island – and this beach in particular – the destination for those looking to relax after a safari through the parks of Tanzania or after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 m), the roof of the continent. Matemwe is an excellent place to dive among corals and sail aboard a dhow, the typical sailing boat of the Swahili coast.



This beach on the north coast of the island of Milos, in the Cyclades archipelago, owes its worldwide fame to the shapes that wind and water have carved into the volcanic rock, giving rise to its famous nickname “beach mole”. Milo is just one of the more than 200 Cyclades islands, in the middle of the Aegean Sea, which also include Naxos, Paros, Mykonos and the imposing Santorini. All of them are home to unforgettable beaches, some protected by cliffs, others scented with thyme and watched over by blue-domed churches.


The southern coast of the Balearic island brings together some of the best beaches in Spain: white sand coves embraced by pine trees that look out over the water from the rocks. Cala Macarella and her little sister, Macarelleta, are an excellent example of this Mediterranean landscape. They are located 14 kilometres from Ciutadella, following a road flanked by dry stone walls that, after winding through uncultivated fields, descends by a torrent until it almost reaches the sand. To thoroughly enjoy a day on these beaches, wearing goggles and a snorkel is essential.


The warm Arabian Sea bathes this beach on the west coast in the Indian state of Goa. Its 1.6 km sand tongue is delimited at both ends by two large rocks. Until recently, shacks and fishing boats were the only human evidence in Palolem, but a fledgling tourist infrastructure has emerged, thanks partly to its appearance in The Bourne Legend (2004). Just 12 kilometres away, the forests of the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary are the habitat of monkeys and Bengal tigers.


Anchored in the middle of the ocean, Tahiti and its Islands (French territory) keep paradises that have seduced sailors, explorers and artists of different times. Bora Bora atoll is one of them. Its turquoise water lagoon reflects the silhouette of Mount Otemanu, an extinct volcano that rises above a coastline of white sand and coconut palms. This idyllic image echoes a few miles to the east on the Cook Islands’ Aitutaki Atoll, where the Bounty men nearly touched their dream in 1789.


The main quality for which this beach gets its name is its simplicity. Playa Bonita brings together the main elements of an idyllic Caribbean retreat: palm trees, fine sand and crystal clear waters away from cars and vendors. A little frequented beach, ideal for immersing yourself in the greens and blues of the Caribbean and forgetting about the rest of the world for a few days.


The Algarve region in Portugal is famous for hosting some of the most beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula. And precisely, there is Benagil beach, an enclave where the Mediterranean forest meets the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. A small site of brown sands and open to the sea between whose surrounding cliffs the visitor can venture into the exploration of the many caves formed by the erosion of the sea.


The southern end of the long island of Corsica brings together beaches that, like Palombaggia, exemplify the purest Mediterranean. Under the shade of the pine trees, you can discover the play of light that the sun creates on the rocks and the foam of the waves.

The cove is within the term of Porto Vecchio, an old fishing town dedicated to tourism with a lively port. Another attraction of Palombaggia is its proximity to the Cerbicale Islands, a nature reserve inhabited by many seabirds.


The so-called Costa Smeralda, north of the Italian island of Sardinia, is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the western Mediterranean. In the Gulf of Arzachena, Cala di Volpe gets the highest praise. It is a beach of reddish stone and blonde sand facing the La Maddalena Archipelago National Park, an ecological paradise due to its waters’ purity and abundant aquatic fauna. Nearby is the megalithic complex of the Tomb of the Giants, which is more than a thousand years old.


Hidden among calcareous rock formations that make it almost invisible from the sea, this white pebble beach is among the most attractive on the Croatian Dalmatian Coast. It is located on the island of Vis, linked by two hours by boat to Split, the city that grew on the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Protected Natural Monument since 1967, Stiniva cove is only accessible by boat through a narrow passage or on foot along a steep path that descends to its clear water lagoon.


The northwestern corner of the island of Puerto Rico guards the attractive beach of Aguadilla, a strip of sand bordered by palm trees that turn orange when the sun begins to sink into the Caribbean . Diving, snorkelling, and walking tours, windsurfing… Aguadilla and the nearby island of Culebra offer thousands of activities to make the most of your days. In the latter, bathing in the horseshoe-shaped Flamenco beach is unavoidable, as well as visiting the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge, a protected area since 1909.


The island of Palawan, between the China Sea and the Sulu Sea, has a spectacular landscape in El Nido: a spring surrounded by a circus of cliffs upholstered in the jungle right up to the shore. From the secluded beaches of this protected area in the western Philippines, you can see how the clear sky changes the colour of the water throughout the day, bringing out glimpses of a seabed rich in vegetation and fauna. Such biodiversity has made this enclave an ideal destination to see coral, sea turtles and birds of Southeast Asia.


The Mayan ruins of the city of Tulum and the proximity of the Caribbean Barrier Reef make many consider this beach the most beautiful in the Yucatan Peninsula. Bathing a few meters from El Castillo and the temple of the God of the Wind, elevated on a rocky hill, produces the sensation of living in another time for a moment. Deep in the sea lies the underwater paradise of Central America: a reef of more than 1,500 kilometres in length in which up to 60 different types of coral have been counted.


Up to 40 beaches are distributed along the coast of the council of Llanes, a strip declared Protected Landscape of the Asturian Eastern Coast. Some are sandy areas at the mouth of rivers (Guadamía, La Huelga); others are golden crescents like Torimbio or placid openings between cliffs and canyons (La Canal, San Martín). Among the most beautiful, Cué beach stands out, 380 meters long, which is usually attached to the Big Island during low tide. The small village of Cué is located two kilometres from Llanes.


The coral islet of Tapuaetai (“the island of one foot” in Maori) is home to the most famous beach in this South Pacific archipelago.

The largest of the hundred islands in the Whitsunday archipelago, off the east coast of Australia, it is an excellent first contact with the Great Barrier Reef. In 1770 Captain James Cook briefly landed on its sand and certified its beauty in the expedition’s logbook. Unlike other islands in the Queensland region, the interior is mountainous and covered in lush vegetation. At the same time, dwarf palm trees grow on the beaches and spiky fossils emerge from the sand.


This water emerald, set between rocks like a natural pool, is one of the jewels of Rodrigues Island, belonging to the Republic of Mauritius and, geologically, to the Mascarene archipelago. A coral reef almost completely embraces the island and protects it from the waves of the Indian Ocean. That is why it has such splendid beaches as Trou d’Argentideal for swimming in warm waters, with incredible visibility and seabeds covered in corals. A few kilometres to the south is Anse Mourouk, another beautiful beach.


Long stretches of sand colour the north coast of Fuerteventura in golden tones, one of the most desirable areas with the greatest ecological value in the Canary IslandsFrequented by windsurfers, the beaches of Corralejo have their greatest treasure in the Natural Park of the Dunes of Corralejo and the Natural Reserve of Isla de Lobos. Divers highly appreciate their seabeds. At the other end of Fuerteventura, the Costa Calma beach stretches for almost two kilometres along a strip that, at low tide, can be walked from end to end.


Agay is a coastal region of French Provence famous for the beauty of its landscapes. Whether in the interior or on the coast, tranquillity and nature have been values ​​historically claimed and preserved by their inhabitants. On its coastline, we will find, among other magical corners, the Calanque de Maubois, a paradisiacal place that is not overcrowded due to limited access to cars. The perfect destination for those looking for the not inconsiderable mix of crystal clear waters, clean beaches and absolute tranquillity on the shores of the Mediterranean.


The Coromandel Peninsula, at the northern tip of the North Island, is a must-see on any New Zealand tour. A trail from Hahei Beach takes an hour to reach the white rock arch of Cathedral Cove. Its ogival shape is reminiscent of European Gothic cathedrals, albeit in a much warmer setting. The strip of fine sand marks the limit between the waters of the Pacific and the pohutukawa trees, typical of the area. In the background emerges Te Hoho, a pinnacle of white rock that turns pink at sunset.


This beach is almost a miracle because of the colours that it mixes on its bed. The most surprising is the pink one, which originates in the typical coral bottoms of this island. A unique, magical place that, out of season, offers the charm of its uniqueness without many disoriented tourists. 

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This archipelago located in the heart of the Caribbean is everything that any beach lover can dream of:  white sand, a warm coconut tree and a tropical sea. To this is added the fact that everything is peaceful and tranquillity in these islets, making it possible to enjoy paradise exceptionally. 


40 km from Salalah, south of Oman, stretches a 7 km long sandbank with the ocean on one side and hills on the other, where several geysers up to 30 meters high dot the coastline. The landscape is, without a doubt, the main attraction of this corner of the country, since the strong waves and the wind mean that bathing is not always recommended. However, you can enjoy this Dhofar beach by walking along its shore, watching the sunset or observing various species of birds.


Being part of the Fernando de Noronha National Marine Park (Brazil) has allowed it to slip into one of the best beaches in the world, thanks to its protection and unique beauty. Access to this sandy area is limited, and it has a preservation rate to prevent the overcrowding of a delicate ecosystem inhabited by endangered species. 


The Caribbean surprises the traveller with its turquoise water and white sand beaches and unique geological formations such as those found in The Baths, 1.9 km south of Spanish Town, on the southern tip of Virgin Gorda Island. Between Spring Bay and Devil’s Bay. As a consequence of the slow cooling of the magma, this granite formation was created and eroded into piles of rocks. Today, they form natural pools, tunnels, arches, and caves that are the stars of the image of this Caribbean beach. 


Its volcanic origin and erosion over thousands of years are responsible for the success of this beach on the Marietas Islands, a unique place in the world in the form of a crater that can only be accessed by water. This jewel of nature hidden among the steep rocks of these islands in the Mexican state of Nayarit only allows access to a hundred people a day. The crater that opens between the rocks formed by the karstic collapse of the dome stands out.


Española Island awaits one of the most spectacular beaches of the Galapagos Archipelago. Colonies of sea lions, turtles and various species of birds welcome visitors to this paradisiacal beach. Also, marine animals can be seen driving around the islets that make up the bay. To preserve the entire environment, it has been suggested to restrict the number of visitors to 80 people per day, especially during the turtle nesting period.


The Auckland region of New Zealand awaits one of the area’s most popular beaches: Piha Beach, which is popular with city dwellers and visitors as it is just 39 km away. Its dark sand stands out due to the high iron content resulting from its volcanic origin. The sandbank is divided by Lion Rock, a 16-million-year-old eroded volcanic neck named for its shape.


The basalt columns, the black sand and the rock formations that emerge from the water are the protagonists of this Icelandic beach. Hálsanef is the name of its hexagonal columns, which reach 66 meters in height, while the islets were named Reynisdrangar. They are three rocks that were part of a cliff. Another of its attractions is the Halsanefshellir cave, which can be visited when the tide is low.


On the Mediterranean coast, the Lycian coast offers the opportunity to bathe in beaches that have seen a dozen civilizations pass by. The route that links the most beautiful sandbanks must stop at the long bay of Ölüdeniz, whose calm waters have earned it the nickname Blue Lagoon. A part of the bay has been declared a national park and is an ideal spot for canoeing and diving in search of a sea turtle. The Roman and Lycian ruins are a perfect historical complement.

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Archipelago and national park, the nine small islands of Similan – in the Malay language, Similan means nine – are a paradise in the middle of the Andaman Sea. Close to the popular Phuket but more virgin, they are the favourites of scuba diving lovers due to the transparency of their waters and the biodiversity that inhabits their seabed.

The beach of Ko Similan, the largest island in the archipelago, is famous for the curious shapes of its submerged rocks (a deer, a 


The pirate Francis Drake and Christopher Columbus landed in Cayo Largo before crossing the Atlantic. Five centuries later, that islet located 177 kilometres from the southwest coast of Cuba is a unique destination to enjoy the sun and the waters of the Caribbean. The Sirena, Lindamar and Paraíso beaches, with dwarf palm trees leaning over the white sand, preserve the image of Eden found by ancient navigators. Cayo Largo is connected by boat with Varadero and by plane with Havana, the Cuban capital.


Los Roques is a natural paradise and one of the best-kept secrets on the Venezuelan coast. It is famous for its paradisiacal beaches and for having some of the most impressive underwater seabeds in the Caribbean. A visit to Los Roques offers the possibility of choosing between multiple keys and islets, inviting the visitor to lose himself in many exuberant nooks and crannies.


Kauai, the geologically oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago, has a diverse coastline with cliffs plunging into the ocean and coral reef-protected beaches. Kee Beach, in the north, brings together powerful attractions: a wave-free lagoon and rocky bottoms with many fish and sea turtles. Here begins the Kalalau Trail, an 18-kilometre path that skirts the rugged Na Pali coast and reaches the Kalalau Valley, a tropical corner with waterfalls accessible only on foot or by sea.


Large blocks of granite dot the sand and shoreline of the beaches of this teardrop-shaped island. Dominated by the Nid d’Aigle hill (300 m), La Digue is located half an hour by catamaran from the island of Praslin; it only has one paved road, and there are hardly any motor vehicles. Calm is therefore assured, especially if you spend the day at Anse Source d’Argent, the beach with the most amazing rocky masses. You can see corals and tropical fish almost without leaving the shore and equipped with diving goggles.


Curaçao, officially the Country of Curaçao, is a small island of about 444 square kilometres located northeast of Venezuela that currently belongs to the Netherlands. In it, we can find a wide variety of beaches, mostly scattered along the island’s calm and protected southwest coast, where the waters are calm and clear and where scuba divers can enjoy the beauty of the underwater world at its best.


Located on the Cantabrian Sea, in the Galician province of Lugo, As Catedrais owes its name –and its presence on the list of the most beautiful beaches on the planet– to the curious arches up to 30 meters high and the caves that the erosion of the sea ​​and wind have carved into the rock. It is one of the most spectacular beaches in Spain.

Above all, these formations can be seen from the beach during low tide hours, when it is possible to enter some caves or walk under the flying buttresses. A short distance away, in the Ribadeo estuary, you can follow a section of the Camino de Santiago.


Fans of surfing and windsurfing have no hesitation in saying that Essauira’s beaches are the best for enjoying the rough Atlantic waves. From the walls of this World Heritage city, you get a splendid view of the long sandbanks that surround it and of the island of Mogador emerging from the west. The originality of these beaches on the Moroccan western coast are the rides on the back of camels, the visits to the souks of the nearby towns and the succulent gastronomy.


Located in the Indian Ocean, south of India, the Maldives is one of the favourite destinations for beach tourism. The possibilities become infinite in them since it is a group of 1,200 coral islands distributed in 26 large atolls extending over about 300 square kilometres. With an invariably hot and humid climate, it is a paradise of turquoise waters where you can find a haven of peace and tranquillity at any time of the year.


Cannon Beach is one of the beaches in the state of Oregon that still retains the charm of small American cities thanks to strict local legislation that has prevented access by large hotel chains. Its sands stretch for more than 16 kilometres, making it a perfect setting for strolling along the seashore and where you can enjoy observing a great diversity of flora and fauna. In addition, the unique rock formations that emerge from its waters and are called Haystack Rock and Needles make the place one of the most picturesque settings on the US coast.


Its name is already an invitation to the senses: a pink sand beach nestled in the Caribbean Sea on the island of Harbor. Along its five kilometres of length, millions of powdered corals and shells have spread a carpet of pink tones that shine when the waves wash over it. The island has become a relaxing haven for celebrities and a paradise for scuba divers. The only inhabited town on the island is Dunmore, a lovely city with pastel-painted houses.

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