Fancy a slice of sandy paradise?

Dust off your shades and dig out your sandals – we’ve rounded up the best beaches around the world, from quintessential paradise to bare-it-all glam.

Paradise beaches

Hawaii is known for some of the most famous beaches in the world, but if you fancy a secluded slice of paradise, hop on a 4x4 to Kaiolohia Beach on the island of Lanai. As you sunbathe, gaze at the eerie 1940s oil tanker wreckage peeking out from an azure coral reef.

More than azure waters and white sands, El Nido in the Palawan archipelago of the Philippines has coved beaches full of natural wonders such as ancient caves and limestone cliffs. You’ll be equally spoilt for choice if you head to Pemba, neighbouring Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean, which is abundant in unspoilt beaches and untamed forests. Limited in accommodation and transport, Pemba is a guaranteed beach adventure.

El NidoLimestone cliffs tower over El Nido's beaches
iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Built into a rocky hillside on the Ionian coast, Maratea in Italy’s Basilicata region is a serene alternative to the well-trotted Amalfi Coast. Zip along mountain roads to the nearby black sands of Macarro.

Resort beaches

Luxury and silky sands await you in the Maldives – a string of 26 coral atolls in the Indian Ocean that boast more than 100 stand-out beach resorts. Six Senses Laamu is situated on its own atoll where you can laze in a hammock in a villa stilted over crystal waters.

More affordable are the beach resorts in Turkey. Head to Antalya to experience a lively historic centre of Ottoman homes and narrow streets. Stay at one of the upmarket hotels along Konyaalti Beach where you can sunbathe by day and dine at seafront restaurants by night.

Mountains and towering sea cliffs etched into Tenerife’s terrain offer picturesque views from the volcanic sands below. One of the more popular Canary Islands, Tenerife has a dramatic black sand beach at Playa Jardin enlivened by beautiful flowers.

Beaches fit for adventure

Surf junkies should put the beaches of Jeffrey’s Bay along South Africa’s Eastern Cape on their travel wish list. Ride the waves with the pros at Super Tubes, Boneyards and Kitchen Windows – just a few of the areas’s popular and quirkily named surf beaches.

LonesurferA lone surfer at Jeffrey's Bay
iStockphoto / Thinkstock

The waters of Indonesia boast a quarter of the world’s marine life, making this South Asian archipelago ideal for a diving holiday. Novices will feel at ease at Amed Beach in the north east where a coral reef lies five minutes’ swim from the black-sand shores. Here snappers, triggerfish and other species teem in waters that are a toasty 28°C (82°F). For an off-the-beaten path adventure, head for the beaches of Lengkuas Island where you can dive with hawksbill turtles.

With a staggering 12,000 beaches, choosing a beach spot in Australia could be overwhelming, but some of the best silica can be found in Queensland. Surfers Paradise along the Gold Coast offers surfing, jet-ski rides and kayaking. Escape from the crowds at trendy Mooloolaba or book a dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef at top-notch sites such as Heron and Lady Elliot Islands.

For a holiday of equal parts relaxation and adventure, explore Alvor’s beaches in the Algarve. Praia da Rocha beach is a popular spot for jet skiing and paragliding whilst Meia Praia is ideal for Atlantic Ocean surfing. Take a break at the exquisite Praia dos Três Irmãos, home to magnificent rock formations, glistening waters and soft sands.

Unexpected beach treasures

In Northern Ireland, on the North Antrim coast, a spectacular white arc stretches for 2.5km (1.5 miles) between two headlands at a spot that is virtually secluded year-round. Backed by ancient dunes and grasslands carpeted in rare plants, including orchids, it’s no wonder White Park Bay has been designed an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

whiteparkbayUnspoilt beaches at White Park Bay and Lake Michigan
Creative Commons / pfwhyte and Amy Selleck

An African safari first springs to mind when thinking of Namibia but desert meets the Atlantic in Swakopmund, a beach favoured by local beach bums where you can find a slew of hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and water sports.

If you’re looking for a change from salty seas and oceans, set your sights on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of five Great Lakes in America. Here you’ll find 5.6km (3.5 miles) of sand along the plush, golden “mountains” of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Swim in the lake’s blue waters or climb one of the giant dunes for fantastic views.

City beaches

White-sand beaches along the lapping Mediterranean, spectacular architecture, cuisine and nightlife; Barcelona may very well have it all. Easily reached by metro and just a short walk from Las Ramblas, Barceloneta Beach is great for watching surfers, sunbathing and dining al fresco.

riobabyCopacabana beach sizzles by day and night
iStockphoto / Thinkstock

Downtown buildings and oceanfront granite peaks scrape the sky in Brazil’s vibrant Rio de Janeiro that boasts 40km (25 miles) of dreamy sandscapes. Stroll along the surf with scantly-clad Cariocas on Copacabana or take in the sun with millionaires on Ipanema beach.

In Tel Aviv, you’ll find unbeatable Med beaches with a flavour of the Middle East. Skyscrapers line the 10km-long (6 miles) beachfront where Israelis laze by day until the evening sunsets. For perfect views of the skyline, spend a morning in the markets and art galleries of the historic Old Jaffa before descending for an afternoon on the sands.

For further beach inspiration, check out our Qwiki:

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.