Whether you’re looking for a calm stretch of sand in the Caribbean or a family-friendly resort in the middle of the Indian Ocean, there are enough options out there to suit every type of traveler. Scroll down for the 24 best island beaches in the world, according to Condé Nast Traveler readers in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards.
Blue Beach (La Chiva), Vieques, Puerto Rico
A long, thin stretch of white sand and clear water makes this one of the Caribbean’s top beaches. Getting there is part of the adventure: It can only be accessed by parking in one of 21 tiny turn-offs along a bumpy, unpaved road in the middle of the island’s western National Wildlife Refuge (formerly off-limits as a U.S. Navy training base). Snorkel on your own around a small cay, or book a trip with one of the island’s operators to check out its secret underwater spots.
Where to stay: The W on Vieques was nearly completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria in 2017. However, other properties on the island survived, and one of our all-time favorites—and Hot List 2014 winner—is El Blok. In a nod to 1950’s tropical modernism, the 22-room inn has a curvaceous exterior with intricately carved louvers that prompt the bright Caribbean sun to cast dramatic shadows. Interiors have a restful vibe, thanks to clean-lined wooden furnishings and strategically placed sculptures.
Seagrass Bay, Laucala Island, Fiji
This 7.5-square-mile private island paradise is a 50-minute charter flight from Nadi and worlds away from everyday life. Covered in tropical jungle (reached via guided walking tours or horseback rides), Laucala is home to some of the archipelago’s rarest birds and animals, pristine beaches, and spellbinding marine life. Seagrass Bay is the quietest of the resort beaches, and a perfect spot to play at being Crusoe—albeit with a fabulous, open-air dining room nearby.
Where to Stay: Your only option—Laucala Island Resort—is far from shabby. In 1972, Malcolm Forbes bought this luscious green morsel as his private refuge; its current owner, Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, has spared no expense to create a spectacular hideaway. The high price tag gets you over-the-top luxury and total privacy in one of the 25 villas—all glamorous versions of traditional Fijian dwellings. Each opens onto its own private pool, and a handful of villas are set directly above Seagrass Bay.
Bathsheba Beach, Barbados
Rugged, wild, and untouched are just some of the words used to describe this shoreline, where photographers and surfers flock to catch the best waves and watch the “Soup Bowl,” a name for when the waves crash into the white sand and huge boulders to create a mesmerizing natural phenomenon. It’s less of a swimming locale, but you’ll have plenty of shots to post on Instagram.
Where to stay: Your top pick for Barbados in our annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey is Sandy Lane. This landmark resort is something of a Bajan institution, with elegant interiors and an impressively beautiful setting. This splendor runs through everything, including the hotel’s Treehouse Club for little ones: They’ll be kept busy from morning until sunset with sailing, outdoor movie nights and even themed dinner parties on the itinerary. Teenagers are catered for with a special Den fitted out with pool tables, table football and a jukebox, plus a mocktail bar.
Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
One of the world’s best places to watch big wave surfing in winter (the beach is home to the Vans Triple Crown), the water here becomes as calm as a lake in summer, making it an excellent spot for snorkeling. After a day spent in the sand and surf, don’t towel off and head home just yet: As its name suggests, it’s the sunsets that really seal the deal for visitors.
Where to stay: Turtle Bay Resort—closest to the beach, one of few along the north shore, and ranked third best in Hawaii in our annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey. (It has also served as a filming location for Lost and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.) Turtle Bay is fresh off a $45 million renovation, refurbishing 410 of its rooms and opening a new 11,000-square-foot spa, two restaurants and a bar. The five-mile beach is ideal for snorkeling.
Banana Beach, Koh Hey (Coral) Island, Phuket, Thailand
Banana Beach has a backdrop of impossibly-green jungle and looks out on crystal-clear water—all part of a national park and marine preservation area (30 minutes by boat from Chalong Pier on Phuket). Banana Boat rides are popular, hence the name, as is snorkeling, sea kayaking, and parasailing. With minimal infrastructure, and one restaurant built out of bamboo, this is a great, less-than-crowded spot to park yourself for the day in the sun.
Where to Stay: You picked the Iniala Beach House as your favorite place to stay on Phuket in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey. The design credentials are incredible at this collection of three villas and a penthouse, back on Phuket at Natai Beach. No matter where you stay, you’ll have a butler, driver, chef, spa therapist, and housekeeper to attend to your every need. American chef Tim Butler heads up two restaurants: Iniala Dining, which dishes up Mediterranean-inflected meals and whose menu rotates daily, and Esenzi, which focuses on sustainably sourced seafood.
Siasconset Beach, Nantucket, MA
At the eastern most flank of the island, Siasconset can be reached from town via a six-mile bike ride on the Milestone Road path (or, in the summer, on a NRTA shuttle bus). Food and restrooms can be found nearby in the adjacent historic village of ‘Sconset. Built in 1850, the Sankaty Head Light is well worth a wander to the northern tip of the beach (it’s rarely open to climb, except on specific days—the next one being Sunday, June 16, 201`9). Best of all, though, is the ‘Sconset Bluff Walk—with the strong Atlantic on one side and a row of multi-million-dollar homes on the other. Waves here are rough, even in summer, so bundle up for a long winter walk if you’re on the island during the off season.
Where to Stay: Your number one pick on the island in our Readers’ Choice Awards survey was venerable Wauwinet. Just nine miles from downtown ACK, the three-story gray-shingled cottage not only has unbeatable views of the Bay and the Atlantic, but a boat—the Wauwinet Lady—where you can sip a glass of Chardonnay as you crest the waves. For an extraordinary dining experience, try Topper’s, where the modern American menu includes Hudson Valley foie gras and locally harvested Retsyo oysters on the half shell, cultivated 300 yards away, and paired with one of the restaurant’s more than 1,450 wines.
Honopu Beach, Kauai, HI
Also known as Cathedral Beach, Honopu—like Waipio Valley—is quite difficult to reach. For starters, it’s only accessible by water; to get there, you must swim from an offshore boat, or from neighboring Kalalau Beach (a quarter-mile swim). But the trouble is worth it: Think cumin-colored sand bordered by soaring, vegetation-cloaked cliffs—and, usually, not a soul in sight. Fun fact: It’s served as a location on such films as Six Days, Seven Nights, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and King Kong.
Where to stay: Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach—rated the number 10 resort in all of Hawaii in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey. With just 121 rooms—all with balconies or lanais and within earshot of the waves—the resort is considerably smaller than its brand-name neighbors on the sunny south coast. Eschewing waterslides and swim-up bars, Ko‘a Kea has more sedate pleasures: an unadorned swimming pool tiled in deep blue, a sophisticated restaurant/lounge with a sashimi tasting menu, and an expansive lawn overlooking a cove where guests (mostly honeymooners) can take in the sunset.
Temae Plage Publique, Moorea, French Polynesia
The ocean is clear enough here to see straight to the bottom and Temae’s coral reef is home to thousands of sea creatures. This is a public beach, on the northeastern shores of lush Moorea, but it rarely gets crowded (except occasionally for a fever of sting rays—harmless and mesmerizing). Views across the Sea of the Moon to the island of Tahiti are splendid, and those with surfboards flock to a challenging surf break. Easiest access is via the Sofitel (see below) for snorkeling and sun bathing—but watch out for wild roosters!
Where to Stay: The Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort was your favorite on the island in our latest Readers’ Choice Awards survey and it sits at the very southern edge of Temae Plage Publique with 60 roof overwater bungalows (35 are beachside or have garden views). This is an excellent choice for exploring Moorea’s lagoons and mountainous interior.