Location, as the saying goes, is everything—and that’s especially true when it comes to the perfect beach. Every so often the natural elements combine to create an awesome shoreline, complete with sand like talcum powder, water that is aquamarine, breezes that are gentle, and views uncluttered by shuffling tourists. These are the beaches you’ll happily travel far to find, and suffer any number of inconvenience or even indignity to plant an umbrella. We tracked down seven such wonders that should keep you tan all year round. From a private island once owned by a reclusive actor to exotic waters enclosed by rock formations to classic dunes ripped out of a Ralph Lauren shoot.
1. White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
Stretching just four miles long, Jost Van Dyke takes its name from an early Dutch settler (and pirate), and is one of the more secluded isles in the BVIs. The well-positioned White Bay beach has reefs close to the shore, making it the ideal spot to grab a snorkel and explore the coral. No need to change when you’re ready for a drink—just swim on over to the legendary Soggy Dollar Bar for a cult favorite rum concoction called a Painkiller.
2. Kailua Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii
Tucked away on the Windward Coast, Kailua Beach Park boasts a half-mile of pristine sand, turquoise waters, balmy breezes and plenty of awesome near shore waves. A popular spot for water sports—think windsurfing, parasailing and stand-up paddle boarding—this is where to head when you want to do more than just soak up the rays. Refuel on carbs and protein later by heading into the laidbackbeachy town of Kailua for a stack of guava chiffon pancakes at Cinnamon’s Restaurant or a Kiawe wood smoked burger at Buzz’s.
3. Playa de las Catedrales, Galicia, Spain
Definitely not your typical beach, this Spanish beauty has some of the most breathtaking rock formations you’ll ever glimpse. Etched out of the landscape by centuries of pounding waves and punishing winds, these Cathedral-like arches are only visible during low tide and are surrounded by soaring cliffs. If you visit in June, check out the Noche de San Juan, a festival that celebrates the summer solstice with bonfires and parties on the beach. (According to legend, if you jump over the flames three times, all your problems will be burned away—hey, worth a shot). For where to stay, the nearby Mi Norte Hotel has stylish rooms named after popular movies. 007, anyone?
4. Tetiaroa, Tahiti
Named after the Polynesian word for “stands apart,” this atoll is more commonly known as Marlon Brando’s private island, which the actor purchased in 1966 after falling in love with the area while filming Mutiny on the Bounty. Its inner lagoon is only 4.5 miles wide and is protected by 13 surrounding coral inlets, making it a secluded tropical paradise that is set to open to the public in July. The beachcomber recently acquired the island’s rustic resort - rightfully deemed The Brando- turning it into a sustainable property that adheres to Brando’s vision for ecological awareness.
5. Coast Guard Beach, Eastham, Massachusetts
Photo: Getty Images
What this Cape Cod spot lacks in temperature—the Atlantic water runs on the chilly side, even in the peak of summer—it more than makes up for in natural allure. Punctuated with Instagram-worthy sandy dunes, tide pools and crashing waves, this scenic beach is prime for surfing and body boarding during the warmer months, as well as year-round hiking through coastal trails at higher elevations. In keeping with the classic New England vibe, stop by Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar off route 6 for a fresh-caught half-pounder dipped in melted butter, with a side of onion rings, and vanilla Frappe. Beach bodies are for chumps anyway.
6. Taipu de Fora, Bahia, Brazil
Photo: Radius Images / Corbis
Come for the World Cup craziness, stay for the beaches. Located on the Marua peninsula, this Brazilian haven is lined with coconut palm trees and miles of golden sand. Flanked by coral reefs that form natural swimming pools at low tide, the beach draws those looking to take a dip, snorkel amongst rainbow-colored fish or just hang out with the insanely attractive locals. At night, hole up at the Dreamland Bungalows, an ocean-front pousada with its own beach-front bar where you can enjoy a nice cold cerveja while swinging in a hammock.
7. Katergo Beach, Folegandros, Greece
Photo: Tuul / Robert Harding World Imagery / Corbis