Sand & Beach: 7 Great Must Stops for Soaking up the Sun

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Elia Beach in Mykonos, Greece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About this time every year, when the very last of the leaves have fallen off the trees, and a gray gloom hangs over the sky more days than not, I get the itch to head to the beach. (My pasty white complexion looking back at me in the mirror each morning greatly intensifies this itch.)

If you’ve also got a case of the winter blues, this list of some of my favorite beaches around the world is sure to warm you up. I’ve listed some popular beaches, as well as some lesser-known ones, so it will also provide you with some fresh inspiration for your next beach holiday.

1. Ras Mohammed National Park, Sharm el-Shiekh, Egypt

The desert terrain of Sharm el-Shiekh contrasts beautifully with the Red Sea

The desert terrain of Sharm el-Shiekh contrasts beautifully with the Red Sea. When you think of Egypt, you probably think “desert” more than “beach.” To be sure, it is the stark contrast between the parched, desert terrain of the Sinai peninsula and the crystalline, blue waters of the Red Sea that place the stretch of coastline in and around Sharm el-Shiekh, Egypt among the world’s best beaches.

2. Koh Kradan Island, Thailand

Think of Koh Kradan, Thailand as your own, personal island

Think of Koh Kradan, Thailand as your own, personal island

I haven’t listed a particular beach for Koh Kradan, an isolated island in the middle of the Andaman Sea off Thailand’s Trang province, because the whole coast of the island is incredible. When my sister and I visited this past October, the island was quite literally ours, a handful of local Thai families notwithstanding. But Koh Kradan, which I’ve speculated might be Thailand’s best island,  is slated to undergo major development in the next several years, so hurry up and get there!

3. Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The crowds at Ipanema Beach in Rio are part of the experience

The crowds at Ipanema Beach in Rio are part of the experience

It’s far from a secret that Rio de Janeiro has some of the world’s best beaches — not to mention, some of the world’s sexiest sunbathers. And while it’s difficult to find anything resembling peace or quiet on busy Ipanema Beach, it’s still possible to get some great R&R amid the festiveness. Personally, I used Ipanema Beach as a recharge zone after a two-month trip in South America, and spent nearly a week basking in the sun, sipping on freshly-made caipirinhas.

4. Elia Beach, Mykonos, Greece

You're not seeing things: Many of these Mykonos sunbathers are nude!

You’re not seeing things: Many of these Mykonos sunbathers are nude!

I traveled to the Greek island of Mykonos in September 2011, at the end of its annual tourist season. Although the ferry from Athens was packed to the gills, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to find serenity and solitude, simply by walking a few hundred meters up or down the coast from a particular, crowded beach. If you’ve got a free afternoon and about 5 euro, take a boat to pristine Elia Beach, home to electric blue waters, soft, sandy shores and — I warn you — lots of nude sunbathers.

5. Palolem Beach, Goa, India

India's Palolem Beach is named for the forest of palm trees that lines the beach

India’s Palolem Beach is named for the forest of palm trees that lines the beach

Goa, India’s coastal gem kissed with a Portuguese-colonial influence, has long been a top destination for people looking for the world’s best beaches. Although Goa’s popularity among Western holiday makers has lead to overdevelopment of its northern coast, the southern Goa beach of Palolem, named for the lush forest of palm trees that sways behind it, still provides for a delightful, relaxing experience. Sunbathing aside, I loved strolling along the entire length of the horseshoe-shaped beach under the starry, night sky.

6. Costa Verde, Lima, Perú

The dramatic scenery of Costa Verde in Lima, Perú is what steals the show

The dramatic scenery of Costa Verde in Lima, Perú is what steals the show

The Spanish phrase “Costa verde” translates to “green coast,” and while the waters of Perú’s Costa Verde are indeed green, the coast itself, which is lined with smooth, black rocks, is what steals the show. Likewise, the dramatic cliffs that rise up from the beach and extend for miles in either direct add to the atmosphere of this awesome, lesser-known beach. Another aspect of Costa Verde that makes me consider it one of the best beaches in the world is that it’s just 15 minutes by foot from Lima’s cosmopolitan Miraflores district.

7. Tallow Beach, Byron Bay, Australia

This picture of Tallow Beach in Byron Bay, Australia speaks for itself, no?

This picture of Tallow Beach in Byron Bay, Australia speaks for itself, no?

Bohemian Byron Bay is one of the most beloved spots along Australia’s coast, and Tallow Beach is a great illustration of why. Miles upon miles of snowy, white sand with blue-green waves breaking over it, backed by an emerald green rainforest and covered by perfect blue skies as far as the eye can see make for an incredible beach experience. Get a great aerial view of Tallow Beach by climbing up to the Cape Byron lighthouse, the easternmost point of the Australian mainland or, if you’re really adventurous, by hang gliding!