The Best Beaches on 6 Continents

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Trou aux Biches

You want a beach vacation, but you just don’t know where to go.  With the exception of Antarctica, there are plenty of  beaches on the other six continents and one of them is probably just right for you.  So here are six continents, with my top beach recommendations for each, along with a few runner up choices.  These selections will give you different experiences; which one you think is best will depend on your mood, the time you have to explore, and your personal preferences.


While you might not first think about a beach when you visit Africa, you might want to think again.  Some of the top beaches here are located on the little islands off the mainland.  For example, Mauritius, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Indian Ocean, consists of four inhabited islands and 22 that are more or less uninhabited.

One of the top beaches in Africa is Trou aux Biches in Mauritius (in photo at top). It’s a mile long with the kind of sand you want to run through your toes.  The water is calm most of the time and another plus, Trou aux Biches is not only family-friendly, but diver friendly too.  Located on the west coast of the island, this beach gets almost no rain and wind.  There are other things to do here within walking distance, and you will find restaurants and accommodations nearby.

Runners up:  Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar, Tanzania and Anse Source D’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles


Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park

For Australia lovers looking for the perfect beach setting, Wineglass Bay comes as close as you will find with adventure and isolation in one package.  Wineglass Bay is located in Freycinet National Park in Tasmania and is shaped just like a smile.  A part of the national park system, the beach is easy to get to by road or path.  Do come prepared with essentials, as there are no shops to be found only the tranquil water and the sand.  Did I mention not many people either?  Freycinet has been a National Park since 1918 and in addition to the beach there are animals and birds to enjoy while you are lounging on the shore or splashing in the aqua water.   The water is always exceptionally clear, and the night sky is just as clear.  It feels like you can see the stars forever, so opt to stay out past sunset for another beach treat.

Runners up:  Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia and Whitehaven, Queensland, Australia

North America


Let’s face it, there are some amazing beaches to choose from on North America.  That’s why when trying to decide on the best beach here, I had to add in the fact that personality was also important.  For me, it is Malibu, California – which actually consists of a number of beaches one after the other.  Just 30 minutes from Hollywood, Malibu might as well be as far away as the moon from the hubbub of the sprawling metropolis.  It offers a 27 mile stretch of sandy beach, views of multi-million dollar beach houses, and maybe even a glimpse of a celebrity.  Some of the more popular beaches in Malibu’s 27-mile stretch are Zuma Beach, Malibu State Beach, Surfrider Beach, Dan Blocker Beach, Topanga State Beach, and Point Dume State Beach with turquoise waters, great restaurants nearby, and even high-end shopping.

Runners up:  Waianapanapa Beach, Maui, Hawaii and Ocracoke Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina

South America

Mike Vondran, Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil January 3 2009.

If you have ever been to South America then you know there is no shortage of beaches waiting for you to discover.  Many of those beaches are secluded, with plenty of reasons to be chosen as the best on the continent.  But who can argue with naming Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeria the best beach on this continent?  With personality plus, Ipanema Beach really is one of the most beautiful in the world – and with a song named after it,  “The Girl from Ipanema.” Sitting on the Atlantic Ocean, Ipanema Beach offers aqua marine water and views of Rio de Janiera sites like Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain.  The beach is also packed with activities and loads of locals (called cariocas) enjoying water or sand sports and, in general, taking the time to enjoy the day in true Brazilian style.

Runners up:  Parque Nacional Tayrona, Santa Marta, Colombia and Praia do Forte, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil


Phuket Mai Khao Beach - South End

When in Asia, it definitely is Thailand that comes to mind for those not-to-be-missed beaches. Phuket’s Mai Khao Beach is one of those deserted beaches that is reminiscent of paradise.  With no one seemingly around for miles, the beach is 11 miles long (the longest in Phuket) and offers a deserted beachfront with only one very high-end resort nearby.  During April the beach is also home to baby sea turtles being released into the ocean, and that’s about the only time there will be more than you and your friends hanging out and enjoying the sand and sun at Mai Khao Beach.

Runners up:  Mui Ne Beach, Phan Thiet, Vietnam and Lombok, off the coast of Bali, Indonesia


Patara Beach

When in Europe, think beyond the South of France when it’s time for a beach vacation.  Instead, think of an unusual destination that offers culture in addition to the sun.  The best European beach is Patara, on the Turquoise Coast of Turkey.   About a 15-mile stretch of beach, it’s soft Mediterranean sand with a background of the Taurus Mountains rising above.  Patara Beach is also a nesting area for the endangered loggerhead turtle. Its national park status keeps development at bay, and you’ll find the dunes here stretch for miles, with no buildings are restaurants anywhere in sight to spoil the moment.

Runners up:  Cala Tarida, Ibiza, Spain and Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece

Any “Best of” list is a matter of opinion, and this list represents mine based on years of travel and experience.  Feel free to share your bests in the comments below.

Photo credits:  All via flickr.  Winkelbohrer (Trou aux Biches); Andrea Schaffer (Wineglass Bay); tesaibuta (Malibu); Mike Vondran (Ipanema); Greg Strosaker (Mai Khao); SLR Jester (Patara)

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4 thoughts on “The Best Beaches on 6 Continents”

  1. Unbelievable to see that Mauritius’ Trou aux Biches beach has been voted the best beach in Africa…?!!
    The start to the article where Ms Cook claims that one doesn’t tend to think ‘beach’ when first thinking about Africa shows that someone with little or no knowledge or familiarity about Africa wrote the article and I am disheartened that the writer continues to punt the old safari cliche albeit somewhat subconsciously. Has the author been to Cape Town? Namibia? The Wild Coast? Zanzibar? KwaZulu-Natal? To name but a few.
    And interesting too to see that the famed Seychelles’ beach ‘Anse Lazio’ did not make the cut despite having been voted as one of the world’s best beaches on numerous occasions.
    Although I wouldn’t want to presume to what extent Ms Cook’s lack of familiarity of all things Africa I must say I think she is magnificantly off course with her nominations and urge her in future to either do a bit more research or take some advice from the locals who know best.

    1. Mary Jo Manzanares

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I want to be clear that this article is a personal opinion one – as are most “best of” stories – there wasn’t a vote or poll involved. It wasn’t intended to be a guide to beaches of Africa. The beaches cited are what the author believes, based upon her personal travel experiences and those she may have interviewed, to qualify as ones that she’d recommend. It is by no means scientific, all-inclusive, or anything more than an opinion – and we invited readers to join the discussion and agree or disagree. We’re glad that you offered your differing opinion.

      Our readership is predominantly North American and our articles are written for that audience. While locals and those well-traveled in Africa will have different knowledge, preferences, and information, our stories try to more basic information for someone who does not have much familiarity with a destination. Those unfamiliar with Africa may not realize how impressive its beaches are. Rather than criticize readers for being unaware, we try to present information in a way that helps them see and think about other possibilities. Once someone starts to do that, we hope they’ll be motivated to keep reading and learning more.

      I’m sure Rita will respond, but considering the looming holiday I wanted to provide an editorial response. Again, thanks for reading – and disagreeing with us.

    2. Thanks for your comments on my article regarding “best beaches.” I have actually been to Africa a number of times, I visit a few times a year. The Best Beach roundup was my personal opinion and I stick by it. I do appreciate that everyone does have different opinions, but let’s face it, there are alot of beautiful beaches out there.
      Many folks in North America do not consider Africa’s amazing beaches and they do just visit Africa for the safari, but thank you mentioning that. I too, wish more folks knew just how amazing Africa is for many reasons.
      I will mention that recently I saw a roundup of “best beaches in the world” that a very respectable magazine put together and I didn’t agree with most of the choices, but in the case of amazing beaches everyone has their own specific reasons for liking one over another.
      Again, thanks so much for your comments and for taking the time to share them with us.

  2. Pingback: Paraty: Small Town Paradise in Brazil

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