Best Beach Awards 2015 Slideshow

From Best Family Beach to Best Exotic Beach and everything in between, see the fourth annual Beach Award winners, hand-picked by our experts.

Photos

RAINBOW: Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA

RAINBOW: Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA

This popular tourist spot is a former city dump site, but the multicolored glass from bottles and other trash was eventually crushed and smoothed by the waves. Unfortunately, many visitors come to collect pieces of the sea glass, carrying them away by the bagful or bucketful (even though it’s prohibited), so the beach’s namesake commodity is disappearing. 960 1280
ORANGE: Ramla Bay, Gozo, Malta

ORANGE: Ramla Bay, Gozo, Malta

The Maltese name for this Mediterranean island destination, Ramla il-Hamra, may mean “red sands,” but the shoreline actually appears fiery orange. The Virgin Mary statue that looks over the beach was built in 1881 to commemorate a shipwreck.  960 1280
PURPLE: Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA

PURPLE: Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA

Big Sur is full of majestic views, but Pfeiffer Beach is arguably one of the best. Hidden down a narrow, unmarked road, it nevertheless attracts countless photographers, thanks to its picturesque stone arch and the violet striations in its sand. 960 1280
GRAY: Ocean Cape Area, Gulf of Alaska

GRAY: Ocean Cape Area, Gulf of Alaska

The Gulf of Alaska’s shores have miles of gray sand near Yakutat, an isolated town with just 700 residents. The coast is also covered with driftwood that tends to wash up during violent winter storms. The area is part of Tongass National Forest and adjacent to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. 960 1280
RED: Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island, Canada

RED: Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island, Canada

The focal point of Prince Edward Island National Park is often considered to be among the best beaches in Canada. Nearby, visitors will find the historic house that inspired the setting of L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables. 960 1280
BLACK: Black Sand Beach, Vik, Iceland

BLACK: Black Sand Beach, Vik, Iceland

Beachgoers will certainly not want to take a dip in the water at this beach in southern Iceland. Aside from the temperature, Vik is also one of the rainiest towns in the country. But those who brave the weather are rewarded with gorgeous views of black sand, rock formations and maybe even a flock of puffins. 960 1280
GREEN: Kourou, French Guiana

GREEN: Kourou, French Guiana

Kourou might not be much of a travel destination, but that makes its rare-colored beach all the more special and undiscovered. The coastal town in French Guiana, which sits on the northern border of Brazil, is known mostly for its space center. 960 1280
DARK BROWN: Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, CA

DARK BROWN: Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, CA

You might call most beaches “brown,” but they aren’t the dark chocolate brown of Rockaway Beach near San Francisco. Stop here as you drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to gaze at the pounding waves and rocky shoreline. Mori Point, a tall bluff at the north end of the beach, makes the view postcard-perfect. 960 1280
PINK: Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia

PINK: Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia

A string of hundreds of islets surround a sizable lagoon to form Rangiroa, one of the largest atolls in the world. While remote, it is serviced by regular flights from Tahiti. The deserted, blush-colored beach is called Les Sables Roses, or “the Pink Sands.” 960 1280
WHITE: Hyams Beach, New South Wales, Australia

WHITE: Hyams Beach, New South Wales, Australia

Sure, plenty of beaches are billed as having white sand. But the absolute whitest sand — at least according to Guinness World Records — is at Hyams Beach on Jervis Bay, about 120 miles south of Sydney. The turquoise waters aren’t bad, either, and offer amazing diving, snorkeling and whale-watching opportunities. 960 1280

By Dave Naithani (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

RED: Kaihalulu Beach, Maui

RED: Kaihalulu Beach, Maui

This isolated stretch of coastline, also called simply Red Sand Beach, is near Hana, along Kaihalulu Bay. The source of the rough, rust-colored sand is the cinder cone behind it, whose cliffs also make it a very treacherous hike down to the water. 960 1280
GRAY: Shelter Cove, Humboldt County, CA

GRAY: Shelter Cove, Humboldt County, CA

There’s so much beauty to discover at this spot on Northern California’s mostly undeveloped, 80-mile-long Lost Coast. The smoky color of the sand comes from eroding shale cliffs along the shore. But the sand isn’t the only gray attraction here; you may also spot migrating gray whales, as well as seals and sea lions. 960 1280
PINK: Balos, Crete, Greece

PINK: Balos, Crete, Greece

The Greek island of Crete has a number of amazing beaches, but none are prettier than Balos, which sits on an aqua-blue lagoon. Millions of crushed shells create its pink hue. Catch a ferry from the Kissamos port to discover this pristine landscape, which is also home to plenty of wildlife. 960 1280
GREEN: Papakolea Beach, Big Island, HI

GREEN: Papakolea Beach, Big Island, HI

From a distance, it would be easy to think that this remote beach is covered in moss. The green color comes from olivine, a mineral deposited into the sand by the adjacent cinder cone. Papakolea, aka Mahana Beach, is on the southern tip of the largest Hawaiian island. 960 1280
BLACK: Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

BLACK: Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

This spot — whose name (predictably) translates to “Black Beach” — is on the southeastern shore of Costa Rica, near the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Families love it for its calm waters and safe swimming. Even beyond the color, the sand has another interesting quality: Thanks to its iron content, it’s magnetic.  960 1280
ORANGE: Porto Covo, Portugal

ORANGE: Porto Covo, Portugal

A small former fishing village about 2 hours south of Lisbon, Porto Covo has not only phenomenal burnt-orange beaches, but also great waves for surfing. When you’re worn out, stick around for the sunset to watch the sky turn orange as well. 960 1280

  

WHITE: Clearwater Beach, FL

WHITE: Clearwater Beach, FL

The water isn’t the only thing that’s immaculate on this barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Families come from far and wide to play on the soft, powdery sands. And with an average of 361 sunny days a year, there’s plenty of time to enjoy all the beach has to offer, including the daily Sunsets at Pier 60 festival. 960 1280
PINK: Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

PINK: Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

This stretch of about 3 miles is famous for its turquoise waters and pastel pink sand. The latter color comes from the red shells of microscopic marine animals called foraminifera. Harbour Island also features a number of luxury resorts, as well as outlying reefs that are great for diving and snorkeling. 960 1280
RED: Kokkini Beach, Santorini, Greece

RED: Kokkini Beach, Santorini, Greece

This famous Greek spot on the southern coast of the island is well-known for its striking volcanic cliffs. To get to the appropriately nicknamed Red Beach, you can park nearby and walk about 10 minutes, or you can arrive by boat instead. Either way, you’ll want to stay to watch the gorgeous sunset 960 1280
BLACK: Punalu'u Beach, Big Island, HI

BLACK: Punalu'u Beach, Big Island, HI

You may have to share the black volcanic sands of Punalu’u Beach with the sea turtles that come to bask in the sun (just don’t touch; they’re protected). You may also have some company of the human variety, since it is among the most popular and accessible colored beaches in Hawaii. 960 1280
WHITE: Angaga Island, Maldives

WHITE: Angaga Island, Maldives

Part of the Ari Atoll, Angaga Island houses a resort with romantic overwater bungalows, a spa, a dive center and wide, sugar-white beaches all around. The resort strives not only to preserve the natural beauty of the island, but also to maintain its local Maldivian character. 960 1280
Praia de Pernambuco

Praia de Pernambuco

Praia de Pernambuco is located in São Paulo state – not in the northeastern state of Pernambuco. One of the many beaches situated in the municipality of Guarujá, this lovely coastline has the laid-back vibe of the northeast, even though it’s located approximately an hour away from Brazil’s largest city. A bit farther afield than the other beaches of the Litoral Paulista, Pernambuco also attracts more than its share of sun-tanned hotties. Distance from São Paulo: 60 miles. 960 1280

Embratur  

Canoa Quebrada

Canoa Quebrada

Just a few hours away from Fortaleza and minutes from the equator, Canoa Quebrada enchants visitors with its incredible sunrises and sunsets. It not uncommon for beachgoers to climb the beach’s highest sand dunes to witness this spectacular view. Windsurfing, swimming, sun tanning, and people-watching are the daylight past-times; while the bars and nightspots along Rua da Broadway keep the scene hot after the sunset. One of the more dramatic ways to get to Canoa Quebrada from town is by dune buggy. Distance from Fortaleza: 103 miles. 960 1280

Embratur  

Maracajaú

Maracajaú

Nicknamed “The Brazilian Caribbean” because of its powdery white sand and spectacular coral reefs, Maracajaú offers the perfect mix of sea, sun, and sand. The 3.5-acre Maracajaú Reef, located just 4 miles offshore, hugs the Brazilian coastline near its easternmost point and mesmerizes divers and snorkelers with its colorful array of coral and marine life. Visitors from Natal can come down for the day by dune buggy or stay at one of the town’s 3 intimate inns. Distance from Natal: 31 miles. 960 1280

Embratur  

Arraial do Cabo

Arraial do Cabo

The tip of land pointing into the Atlantic Ocean a couple of hours east of Rio de Janeiro is home to some of the most spectacular beaches in the country. Arraial do Cabo, just south of the resort town of Cabo Frio, features brilliant white sands and cerulean seas, with a string of beaches ranging from intimate to party-size. Beautiful Praia do Farol is only accessible via a launch and sits in the shadow of the impressive Fenda de Nossa Senhora rock formations. Distance from Rio de Janeiro: 105 miles. 960 1280

Embratur  

Baía do Sancho

Baía do Sancho

Secluded and far, far away from the Brazilian mainland and the world, the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha is home to the World’s Best Beach in 2015, according to the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice poll. Baía do Sancho is the perfect crescent-shaped stretch of sand with a protective layer of thick tropical vegetation that make this a secluded spot. The striking, rocky outcroppings and calm turquoise seas lull lucky visitors into a dreamy paradise come true. Distance from Natal: 217 miles. 960 1280

Embratur  

Jericoacoara

Jericoacoara

Affectionately known as Jeri, the backpacking haven of Jericoacoara still packs a punch as one of the world’s best beaches. Guarded by a verdant, 20-acre national park, Jeri features exotic landmarks such as the Pedra Furada stone arch and the abandoned town of Tatajuba. It’s also a great destination for fun activities like kitesurfing, windsurfing, swimming, sandboarding, horseback riding, and yes, even capoeira lessons. The beach at Jeri faces west, setting the stage for phenomenal sunsets over tranquil waters. Distance from Fortaleza: 185 miles. 960 1280

Embratur  

Praia do Forte

Praia do Forte

An eco-friendly beach and a popular resort area, Praia do Forte offers a cleaner, quieter alternative to Salvador da Bahia’s socially sizzling, but not-altogether-pristine beaches. The peaceful atmosphere of this fishing village – rich in history and culture – is undergirded by the impactful history and culture of the place, while the extensive coral reef, whale and sea turtle sightings, and ecologically focused non-profit organizations operating in the area mean a rich experience that goes beyond the typical hang-out and tanning session on the beach. Distance from Salvador: 50 miles. 960 1280

Embratur  

Praia Mole

Praia Mole

Long, wide, and often populated by some of the most beautiful young hipsters ever to frolic on a Brazilian beach, Praia Mole is Florianópolis’ answer to Ipanema. Due east of the city – in the middle of Santa Catarina Island’s Atlantic shore – Praia Mole is the center of the region’s youth culture and it’s also an LGBT-friendly hotspot as well. Surfing – and “sightseeing” – make this stretch of sand popular, but it remains arguably the most pleasant of the country’s urban beaches. Distance from Florianópolis: 11 miles. 960 1280

Secretaria de Turismo de Santa Catarina  

Praia da Pipa

Praia da Pipa

Cliffs of sand and seaside shrubbery tower over Praia da Pipa. It is still one of the more laid-back jewels on the Brazilian coastline – despite the surfers and beach bums from around the world who make this a popular beach. Situated amidst a lush ecological sanctuary, Pipa also features a small but diverse dining scene as well as a handful of fun spots for drinking and dancing the night away. Distance from Natal: 50 miles. 960 1280

Embratur  

Ubatuba

Ubatuba

Known as the “Capital do Surf” in Portuguese, the town of Ubatuba – with more than 100 beaches in the vicinity – hosts at least 10 international surf competitions every year. Among them are Ilha das Couves, with its deserted sands and excellent diving; and Itamambuca, known for pretty tubular surf action. Distance from São Paulo: 139 miles. 960 1280

Embratur  

Lovin’ Summer Beach Tent

Lovin’ Summer Beach Tent

First one down to the beach pitches the tent. Thanks to its smart design, you can tote Aussie brand Lovin’ Summer’s beach tent on your shoulder and assemble it yourself — making you the envy of all the other early birds struggling to put up their tents. 960 1280
The Original Double-Sided Canvas Game-Bag Set

The Original Double-Sided Canvas Game-Bag Set

Who doesn’t like a 2-in-1? A Summer Shop’s reversible backgammon and checkers game bag turns into the board. 960 1280

A Summer Shop  

The Beach People Original Roundie

The Beach People Original Roundie

In a sea of beach towels, stand out with this plush, 100% cotton stunner from the Beach People that’s affectionately called the Roundie. 960 1280

The Beach People  

Ultimate Ears Speaker

Ultimate Ears Speaker

Pint-sized. Portable. Bluetooth. Waterproof. The UE Roll is everything you could want from a speaker and more. Bring 360-degree sound with you to the beach and beyond (just strap it on with a marine-grade bungee cord before jumping off that cliff). 960 1280

Ultimate Ears  

Acme Picnic Basket for 4

Acme Picnic Basket for 4

Just add food and drinks to this ready-made picnic basket. With bamboo plates, linen napkins and a glass carafe, your beach spread never looked so elegant. 960 1280

ACME Party Box Company  

Huffy Cape Cod Cruiser

Huffy Cape Cod Cruiser

Splurge on the ultimate beach accessory: a classic Huffy beach cruiser bike, whose nautical-inspired design, leather saddle bag and roomy basket make it worthy of a ride down Main Street in Hyannis, MA. 960 1280

Huffy Corporation  

Venice Beach Deck Chair

Venice Beach Deck Chair

On a Venice Beach, CA, deck or the beaches of the French Riviera, picture yourself taking a catnap in this foldable Gallant & Jones chair. 960 1280

Gallant & Jones  

Define Bottle Sport Flip Top

Define Bottle Sport Flip Top

Staying hydrated should be a top priority when your plans mostly involve roasting in the sun, and this BPA-free bottle has separate compartments to infuse your water with fresh fruit. Opt for the ice pack to keep your fruit (and you) cool when temperatures rise. 960 1280

Define Bottle  

Mini Seashell Bag

Mini Seashell Bag

If shelling is a family tradition, these mesh seashell bags are a must. Kids will love picking out a fun pattern to keep their finds separate from their siblings’, and adults will appreciate that you can dip them in the water to rinse instead of tracking sand into the house or car.  960 1280
Lomo’Instant Havana Edition

Lomo’Instant Havana Edition

Who doesn’t love instant gratification on vacation? See the world through rose-colored glasses — or one of the colored filter options — on this Lomography camera. Plus, old-school Polaroids will make memorable souvenirs. 960 1280

Lomography  

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