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.
Sexiest Beach: MiamiYou 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. 960 1280
Best Unusual Beach: Red Beach, Santorini, GreeceNamed 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.” 960 1280
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.” 960 1280
Best Beach for Adventure: Praia do Futuro, Fortaleza, BrazilCharacterized 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. 960 1280
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. 960 1280
Best Beach You Haven't Heard of ... Yet: Lake Atitlán, GuatemalaThe 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.’” 960 1280
Best Beach Boardwalk: Coney Island, New YorkIf 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. 960 1280
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. 960 1280
Best Party Beach: La Barra, Punta del Este, UruguayThis 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 known for its upscale, 24-hour fiesta, where no one finds a siesta necessary and the beautiful landscape keeps you going long after the sun goes down (or comes up!). 960 1280
Best Exotic Beach: Ilhabela, BrazilIlhabela, 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, tourists revel in its popular sailing week, exploring underwater wrecks and the legends of pirate treasure. 960 1280
From the air, the Hana Highway looks like a zigzag line drawn by a three year old. It twists and turns for 52 miles and takes anywhere from two to four hours to traverse depending on how many cars you meet on the one-way bridges. In fact, there are 54 bridges and 600 curves to make sure you're paying attention. And please do, because in addition to the traffic, the flowing waterfalls, plunging pools, scenic rainforests and the town of Hana are well worth the drive. 960 1280
There are rewards in life that are all the sweeter because of the effort it took to get there. Hana is such a place. Separated from the rest of Maui, you'll feel as if you stumbled upon the land that time forgot. Spend a few nights in Hana and soon you'll have trouble remembering where you came from and wondering why you'd ever go back. 960 1280
Every evening on the northernmost cliffs of Maui's Kaanapali Beach, a cliff diver lights the torches then dives off Puu Kekaa, or Black Rock. This dramatic show is a reenactment of a feat performed by Maui's revered King Kahekili. Surrounded by restaurants, the ceremony also takes on a modern twist, signaling the end of the day and the start of your own private celebration. 960 1280
Maui has always been a magnet for those who love the sea, from Hawaiian voyagers to whaling ships and modern-day catamarans that glide upon the water. Complete your Maui vacation with a few hours offshore, tacking up and down the coastline with the West Maui Mountains in your view. Add a splash of champagne or a frosty mai tai and there's nothing else like it. 960 1280
It doesn't matter how old you are'when you walk 'through an ocean,' the little kid in you comes out to play. Fantasy mixes with reality as you come nose to nose with wide-eyed tuna and white-tip reef sharks. Yellow butterfly fishes flutter like leaves around coral, while slick stingrays glide by without a care in the world.
Molokini is a small, crescent moon-shaped atoll off the coast of Maui. It's in a State Marine Life and Bird Conservation District, which means fishing is prohibited, so it's teeming with life. Take a snorkel or scuba tour and you'll be treated to a kaleidoscope of over 250 colorful varieties of tropical fish. Tours are available out of Maalaea Harbor and Lahaina. Insider tip: Early morning is best because the water is clear.
Maui might be for lovers, but it's also for golfers. And if you love golf, that's even better still. There are 14 courses on Maui, with several ranked at or near the top of the 'world's best' list. The PGA TOUR's Hyundai's Tournament of Champions is held here each year, so you never know who you might see on the course.