Shaded spots go early at Cape Town's crowded Camps Bay, where locals picnic and play in the strong Atlantic waves. Look for the flagged bathing areas for safer swims for all the family. Festive cafes sit adjacent to the sands, which are dramatically set at the foot of the Twelve Apostles mountains.
Beginner surfers flock to the wide swath of sun-kissed sands known as the Golden Mile, where the Indian Ocean washes against South Africa's eastern shores and the country's third-largest city. The Golden Mile stretches 3.5 miles and encompasses North Beach, the Bay of Plenty, Dairy Beach and Snake Park.
Couples and families stroll the undeveloped sands of Essaouira, skirting soccer players and kite surfers. The strong northeastern winds that sweep the palm-fringed playground make it an ideal beach for wind surfing. Most popular beach spots include Cape Sim, Sidi Kaouki and Mouley Bouzertoune.
This Indian Ocean group of 100+ islands is home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches, including the popular white powder of Beau Vallon on Mahe and Anse Lazio on Praslin. The stunning pink sands and boulders of Anse Source d'Argent on La Digue lead many to call it the most gorgeous beach on earth.
Phuket is Thailand's most popular island destination, and one reason is that its coastline is divided into bays that form intimate beaches. You can get a soothing massage right on the beach, the scuba diving is spectacular and the locals greet you with smiles.
Koh Samui's myriad beaches present everything you could ever dream of in a tropical beach. Picture-perfect sands, coconut trees and palm fronds adorn each one, but there the similarities end. Choose from busy beaches, teeming with vendors and cafes, or secluded strips with not another person in sight.
With some of the best waves in the world and reliably great weather, Bali is a surfing paradise. Beach lovers can take their pick from a wide array of choices from crowded to deserted, with white sand or black.
During dry season, there are few better beaches to be found in this part of the world than the famed White Beach, a sparkling stretch of pristine, powder-white sands on the west of the island. Cafes and restaurants nestle demurely behind palms, providing tasty delights for hungry beach-goers.
More than two dozens Indian Ocean atolls and thousands of islets comprise the Maldives. Idyllic beaches, such as South Ari Atoll on Nalaguraidhoo, the Sun Island, are a dream come true for sand lovers. Swim out to the barrier reef - or from some parts of the island, admire the reef right from the gorgeous white beach.
Distinguished by long stretches of glowing white sand and gorgeous blue water, Dominican beaches rank among the best in the world. From Puerto Plata to Punta Cana to Barahona, these beaches cater to bar lovers, sunbathers, jet skiers and scuba divers.
Swaths of powdery sand separate green hills from the crystal-clear Caribbean waters surrounding the U.S. Virgin Islands. Beach aficionados should beeline for idyllic St. John, home of windsurfer-friendly Cinnamon Bay, the beachside cafes of Cruz Bay, and less-frequented Francis Bay beach.
Blessed with miles of stunning natural coastline, Jamaica is a paradise for beach-lovers. Among the island's best offerings are Negril's Seven Mile Beach--rife with great snorkeling and diving, Treasure Beach on the South Coast and Doctor's Cave Beach in Montego Bay, which has sand that looks like sugar.
Spectacular for water sports or just sitting on the sand and admiring the tides, Aruba's beaches are truly special. Swimmers and sunbathers will enjoy the calm waters and white sand at Palm Beach, while water-skiers and surfers love the surf at Eagle Beach.
There is no shortage of beautiful shoreline on St. Martin, which boasts some 37 beaches. What sets these apart from other Caribbean beaches is their breathtaking environs--visitors will not only be stunned by the white sand and gorgeous water but also by caves, cliffs, palm trees and rock formations.
Turquoise waters, fine and soft sands and picturesque rows of palm trees make the beaches of Barbados a true pleasure. Stick to the south and southwest coasts for calm waters and good swimming; for a surfing thrill, don't miss the massive, competition-caliber waves off the south and east coasts.
Most St. Lucian hotels are right on the island's best attraction--its beautiful beaches. Visitors will find sands that vary from white to gold in color, waters that range from calm and placid to rough and dangerous and locales that can be crowded and lively or peaceful and romantic.
Grand Cayman is known as a scuba diving paradise with more than 130 dive sites surrounding the island, including its most famous one, Stingray City. Deep-sea fishermen enjoy the island's "national sport," and the coral reefs can be explored in many ways. The island also contains one of the Caribbean's best strands of sand, 7 Mile Beach.
Scuba divers delight in exploring hundreds of wrecks surrounding St. Kitts, some of which date back to the 1700s. This relatively undeveloped island features quiet beaches with volcanic black sand on the northern half and white sand on the southern half.
Whatever you look for in a beach, the Bahamas has it. With sands that range from pink to white to sugary, waters that are blue or crystal clear, waves that cater to water sports or swimming and sunsets that are always romantic, the Bahamian shores are brilliant and unforgettable.
Blessed with crystal-clear waters and gorgeous white or golden sands, Puerto Rican beaches have a lot to offer. Swimming is great at Luquillo Beach and Playa de Ponce.