The Ultimate Beach Vacation Bucket List
Best for Straight-Up Relaxing: Matira Beach (Bora Bora)
OK, a Bora Bora trip probably doesn’t come cheap, but there is seriously no better spot for romantic relaxing than secluded Matira Beach. The only public beach on the island, Matira stretches from the Hotel Bora Bora to Matira Point. Think: palm trees, thatched-roof huts and translucent water. At low tide, you can even wade right out to the coral reefs.
Best for Fun and Games: Ipanema Beach (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
In Rio, summer never ends, and at Ipanema Beach, the city’s buzziest and most photo-worthy stretch of sand, there’s always activity. Save the tanning for a quieter spot; here is the place to join in for beach volleyball, soccer or surfing.
Best for People Watching: Baie de St. Jean (St. Barts, French West Indies)
Maybe it’s the aquamarine water set against the snow-white sand…or the glamorous sunbathers who look like they’ve been plucked right out of a Vogue spread. But something about this West Indies spot brings out the best in your fellow travelers. (You just might even spot a celebrity… folks like Leo DiCaprio and Jessica Alba have been known to stay at luxury hotel Eden Rock.)
Best for Surfing: Bondi Beach (Sydney, Australia)
This laid-back Australian beach attracts the world's best surfers, thanks to huge swells and curling waves. More of a beginner? Head to the northern end for gentler waters and a novice-welcoming crowd.
Best for Swimming: Lanikai Beach (Oahu, Hawaii)
There’s no shortage of incredible beaches in Hawaii, but with a name that translates to ”heavenly sea,” you know this one is special. Lanikai Beach is only half a mile long, but its crystal-clear sea is calm with almost no waves, and water that’s as warm as a bathtub. It’s basically a humongous tropical swimming pool.
Best for Instagraming: Praia Dona Ana (Lagos, Portugal)
Best for Sunsets: Captiva Beach (Captiva Island, Florida)
Set just off Florida’s Fort Myers beach, Captiva is known for its jaw-dropping sunsets, due to its westward-facing direction and unobstructed horizon toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Best for Kids: Paraiso Beach (Tulum, Mexico)
This hippy-bohemian beach enclave on the Mayan Riviera is a family-friendly town that offers hotels at every budget. The beach, less crowded than those of nearby Cancun, has soft, white sand and water so clear and calm, you can see tiny fish swimming by. (It’s also pretty close to the Mayan ruins of Tulum, if that interests any budding historians in your brood.)
Best for Snorkeling: Honda Bay (Palawan, Philippines)
If you love snorkeling in the Caribbean, you owe yourself a trip to this hidden paradise, nicknamed the Philippines' last frontier. Arguably the best site for swimming and diving in the world, the aquamarine waters of Palawan are home to over 1,600 species of fish. You'll see everything from starfish and seahorses to sea turtles and sea cows.