Best Beach Awards 2015
Check out this year's winners hand-picked by our beach experts.
Just when you’re daydreaming of getting away to somewhere warm, we give you 10 times the beach inspiration. We sifted through the sexiest beaches and island vacations to narrow down the nominees for the Best Beach Awards 2015 in 10 categories, including the Best Party Beach, the Best Family Beach and the Best Beach You Haven’t Heard of … Yet.
Each winner was chosen by our expert panel of advisors, including Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Nina Agdal, professional kite surfer Chris DuComb and Travel Channel’s resident beach host, Marianela Pereyra.
Sexiest Beach: Miami
You don’t have to leave the East Coast to slip away to this year’s Sexiest Beach. An easy getaway from New York, Miami has everything you need, according to Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Nina Agdal: “soft sand, beautiful warm water, interesting people, volleyball and fun spots to go for a bite or a beverage nearby.” Plus, “it’s acceptable to wear tiny bikinis,” she says. Whether you’re reveling in South Beach’s legendary nightlife or sleeping off the night before in a private cabana, Miami is the place for hot days and nights.
No. 1 Red Beach 03:29
Best Unusual Beach: Red Beach, Santorini, Greece
Named the “No. 1 most spectacular getaway on Earth” on Travel Channel’s 101 Sand n’ Surf Hotspots, Santorini’s Red Beach is also the Best Unusual Beach, thanks to its striking crimson and black volcanic sands. “Set off by the deep indigo waters, there’s really nothing like it,” says Sara Gilliam, senior producer for TravelChannel.com. “To do Santorini justice, check in to a chalky cave house built into the lip of the volcanic crater and catch an unrivaled sunset over the whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches.”
Best Party Beach: La Barra, Punta del Este, Uruguay
This lush getaway spot, which used to attract the likes of Brigitte Bardot and the Rat Pack, is still bringing the party. "Rage with socialites and celebs alike at Bikini Beach in La Barra, Uruguay," says Marianela Pereyra, host of Marianela's Best Beaches. "With a name like that, expect lots of skimpy tops and supermodel bodies blessed with perfect tans." This small strip of sand in Punta's trendiest neighborhood is knownf or its upscale, 24-hour fiesta, where no one finds a siesta necessary and the beautiful landscape keeps you going l ong after the sun goes down (or comes up!).
Best Family Beach: Seaside, Florida
“Seaside is a beach community located near Destin, but it could not be more different in its features,” says Tamala Prickett. In place of high-rise condos, you’ll find pastel-colored houses lined with white picket fences and beach cruisers. “Families love to vacation in Seaside, as it is commonplace for children to jump on a bike to grab snow cones from an Airstream trailer on the way to the beach,” Tamala says. As night falls, families cover the amphitheater with picnic blankets to enjoy outdoor movies and live music.
Best Beach Boardwalk: Coney Island, New York
If you don’t consider a boardwalk a boardwalk without kitschy shops and Atlantic Ocean views, than Coney Island is your quintessential American beach boardwalk. With extensive renovations in 2010 (in Luna Park) and 2012 (after Hurricane Sandy), Coney Island has returned to its former glory. “Bring the family and enjoy rides, fireworks, shows and plenty of food all summer long,” says Sarah Fazendin, family travel blogger at A Week at the Beach. Coney Island manages to feel like a seaside escape and yet quintessentially New York.
Best Exotic Beach: Ilhabela, Brazil
Ilhabela, Portuguese for "beautiful island," is Brazil's largest island and a coastal Atlantic rain forest filled with more than 400 waterfalls, mountain peaks, incredible wildlife and tropical fauna. "It's without a doubt one of the most beautiful natural paradises," says Marianela Pereyra. About 85% of the island is designated as Ilhabela State Park, which includes a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve to protect the ecosystem. Beyond IlHabela's natural beauty, toursits revel in its popular saily week, exploring underwater wrecks and the legends of pirate treature.
Best Beach Bar: Vice, also known as Nissakia Surf Club, Artemida, Greece
“In Artemida, Greece, a seaside town better known to locals as Loutsa, Vice is an epic beach bar situated on one of the most active shorelines in the country,” says Chris DuComb. You won't find many tourists at Vice, which is tucked away about 15 miles outside Athens, but you’ll be met with a serene coastline and mountainous backdrop. The bar features local dishes such as grilled octopus and spins the most current, upbeat music, adding to the lively atmosphere. “Local kite surfers and windsurfers frequent this hidden gem for the warm water, local food and delicious drinks,” Chris says.
Best Beach for Adventure: Praia do Futuro, Fortaleza, Brazil
Characterized as one of the windiest places in the world, Fortaleza draws extreme-sports enthusiasts from across the globe. “Whether you're a kite surfer, windsurfer or someone who just wants to be close to the action, Futuro Beach will not disappoint,” says professional kite surfer Chris DuComb. “On a daily basis, athletes reach speeds of over 40 mph and boost over 100 feet in the air.” On the off chance the wind isn't blowing, you'll find athletes and beachgoers congregating at the many sand volleyball courts.
Best Romantic Beach: Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
“The crescent-shaped beach at Little Dix Bay is the epitome of barefoot elegance, with its palm-lined half-mile of white sand,” says luxury travel writer Tamala Prickett, founder of Chic Family Travels. Characterized by pristine, private beaches, exclusive yacht clubs, hidden coves and luxurious resorts, the island invites romance — and you’ll find it’s worth the price. Check into the 5-star Rosewood Resort, which was originally owned by Laurance Rockefeller, and you’ll discover why the timeless romantic retreat has earned a fiercely loyal following. “It’s common to see couples having a candlelit dinner on the beach arranged by the excellent hotel staff,” Tamala says. “It’s a scene right out of the The Bachelor.”
No. 38 Lake Atitlan 01:59
Best Beach You Haven't Heard of ... Yet: Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
The best under-the-radar beach does not find itself alongside an ocean, but the most beautiful lake in the world. Situated in the highlands of Guatemala, Lake Atitlán is Central America’s deepest lake. “Nestled in the valley of 3 volcanoes (one of them still active), you’ll not only take in peaceful volcanic views, but also absorb the vibrant pink, yellow and blue colors of the surrounding vegetation,” says Sara Gilliam. “In fact, Atitlán is Mayan for ‘where the rainbow gets its colors.’”