Editors' Picks: Favorite Beaches
Where are our favorite beaches in the world? From Nantucket, MA, to Koh Tao, Thailand, see where our editors like to bask in the sun when they're not working.
Koh Tao, Thailand"Less famous than beautiful Phi Phi Islands and less touristy than nearby Koh Samui, Koh Tao won me over. This tiny island (less than 10 square miles) is easily navigated on motorbike or by foot. Despite its lack of high-rise resorts (for the time being), there's no shortage of scenic restaurants or a late-night bar scene. It's where I caught the diving bug, and nearly everyone has it here with more than 50 dive shops catering to those souls who long to be submerged in the clear turquoise waters for a glimpse of a stingray or sea turtle (or in my case, an unfortunately close call with the aggressive trigger fish)." -- Sara Gilliam, Senior Interactive Producer 960 1280
Positano, Italy“My favorite beach is Marina Grande in Positano, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. Nestled at the bottom of Positano's rocky village, Marina Grande is lively in the height of the summer months with locals and tourists sunbathing, dining at local restaurants – right off the beach – and visiting nearby boutique shops. And the views are immaculate!” – Rani Robinson-Kiganda, Managing Producer 960 1280
Goa, India“The western Indian state of Goa is heralded for its beaches and for good reason. The former Portuguese colony boasts more than 6o miles of coastline, home to everything from secluded beach towns like Mandrem to lively hot spots like Baga, where beach parties and endless nightlife mix with wind-surfing fun and dolphin cruises.” – Lisa Singh, Interactive Producer 960 1280
The North Shore, Oahu“It’s only an hour’s drive from Honolulu, but Oahu’s North Shore is a world away from the developed and crowded Waikiki Beach. North Shore’s Pipeline Beach is known as a surf capital of the world, but there is so much more here than monster waves. The little surf town Haleiwa is dotted with cute surf shops, healthy-minded restaurants and cozy art galleries. During the summer when the waves are smaller, go for a swim or a snorkel in the clear blue Waimea Bay. ” – Kathleen Rellihan, Interactive Producer 960 1280
Capri, Italy“Warm your body and your soul on the small rocky beach of Marina Piccola on the island of Capri, Italy off the Gulf of Napoli. Surrounded by bronzed Italian locals, you'll feel like you've found paradise on earth as you gaze out into the aquamarine waters and monumental Faraglioni rock stacks. After drenching yourself in sun, take 2 steps and refuel at Da Gioia Restaurant right on the beach. What to have for lunch? Their tuna fish salad. It was so fresh and delicious I had it everyday I was there!” – Elizabeth Fraser, Photo Editor 960 1280
Praia Mole, Brazil“Florianopolis, a small island off the southern coast of Brazil, is a popular beach destination for tourists and Brazilians alike. Praia Mole (Mole Beach) is by far one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever visited. Aside from its white sand and world-class waves, this beach attracts surfers, para-gliders and backpackers. I’d recommend taking a hike north of the beach to experience the best spot for nude sunbathing. Don’t miss happy hour at one of the nearby beach restaurants or bars like LGBT-favorite Bar do Deca, where you can grab a bite to eat, sip on a caipirinha and mingle with friendly locals and tourists.” -- Kwin Mosby, Managing Producer 960 1280
Bald Head Island, NC“Take the ferry from Southport, NC, and hop aboard a golf cart to explore the live oak-lined, winding roads of Bald Head Island. After catching some rays on any one of the island's 14 miles of beaches, climb to the top of Old Baldy, the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina. If golf is your game, look no further than the Bald Head Island Club's world-class golf course -- just watch out for the occasional gator that may cross your path. Finally, drop by the Club's Pelicatessen to cool off with one of North Carolina's own Nye's Cream Sandwiches.” – Amanda DiGiondomenico, Interactive Producer 960 1280
Nantucket, MA“Grab a sandwich at Something Natural (be advised: their “half” is your typical “whole”) and head to the beach on the beautiful and ever-so-quaint island of Nantucket, off the coast of Massachusetts. My favorite sandy spots? Steps beach for a beautiful view and calm waters, and Madequecham, Ladies or Fisherman’s for heavier surf but more privacy than some of the better-known beaches. When you’ve had your fill of sun and sand, a trip to Cisco Brewery is a must. “ Allee Sangiolo, Interactive Producer 960 1280
Huntington Beach, CA“If I'm looking for the best beach culture in the United States, the first place that comes to mind is definitely Huntington Beach, CA, a.k.a "Surf City USA." From a vibrant art community to a lively shopping district with tasty eats on every corner -- including Ruby’s Diner -- Huntington Beach offers a variety of fun activities for everyone. And humans aren't the only ones hangin' 10 at this beach. Don't miss out on the always-entertaining dog surfing competitions throughout the summer, culminating with the 6th annual Surf City Surf Dog in September.” -- Ben Breslerman, Interactive Producer 960 1280
ViareggioTuscany's largest beach town, Viareggio is one of the farthest points south on the Italian Riviera. Viareggio is a classic resort town with art nouveau buildings, bustling nightlife and endless food, but it's best known for its wild Carnival festival, a tradition since 1873. 960 1280
idea_ss_oahu_001_peggy-hopper-gallery_596x334Artist Peggy Hopper is known for her distinctive paintings of island women, with soft tones and gentle shapes that welcome you like a warm embrace. Her gallery is just one of many you will discover on Oahu. The Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Contemporary Museum feature enviable collections from around the world. On the First Friday of every month, the Chinatown district of Honolulu explodes into an urban block party with niche galleries and art shows practically on every corner. 960 1280
idea_ss_oahu_002_royal-hawaiian-hotel_596x334What's a pink Spanish-Moorish hotel doing in Waikiki? The answer: stealing your breath away. The Royal Hawaiian opened in1927 when the era of luxury travel to Hawaii was just beginning. After a five-day sea voyage, passengers would move into the 'Pink Palace of the Pacific,' bringing with them steamer trunks, servants, and even their Rolls Royce vehicles. In 2008, this classic gem underwent an extensive restoration to become the Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort. Gorgeous. 960 1280
idea_ss_oahu_003_pearl-harbor_596x334A trip to Pearl Harbor will fill you with pride and also humility. The Arizona Memorial is dedicated to the USS Arizona's 1,102 sailors who were killed when Japanese Imperial forces attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Nearby, the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial honors the battleship where Japan's Emperor Hirohito surrendered to end World War II. A bit of trivia: the Missouri's bow is placed to convey that the battleship now watches over the Arizona so that her sailors may rest in peace. 960 1280
idea_ss_oahu_004_shopping_596x334Oahu is a shopaholic's paradise. Where else can you find Hawaiian-style coffee mugs in a big box store, hand-carved tikis made by those who understand the meaning of each groove, the latest designer brands, warehouse outlets with summer styles 365 days a year, plus, swap meets and farmer markets that offer foods and gifts you might not find anywhere else? 960 1280
idea_ss_oahu_005_duke-statue_596x334What's the best place to surf on Waikiki Beach? Just ask the 'Duke.' Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was Waikiki's best known beach boy, the 'Ambassador of Aloha' who introduced surfing to the world, and always, the consummate gentleman. He was also an Olympic champion who won three gold, two silver and one bronze medals. Today, residents and visitors alike drape leis on his statue as a gesture of aloha. And if you're searching for Waikiki's most perfect waves, Duke marks the spot. 960 1280
idea_ss_oahu_006_cocktails-waikiki_596x334There's an indescribable something special about Waikiki Beach when the sun goes down. It's an energy, an undercurrent of nightlife that's about to unfold. Sophisticated nightspots. Island music scenes. Mai tais with flavors like lychee, li hing and mango. This is Waikiki Beach--the one and only. 960 1280
idea_ss_oahu_007_surfing-waikiki_596x334If you can stand on two feet, you can surf. Perhaps not well at first, but that's half the fun. Waikiki beach boys will show you what you how. You'll start with a lesson on the sand followed by a gentle push in the waves, and off you go. If you're serious, start early in the morning before the crowd shows up. After your lesson, you can rent a board and keep practicing. Watch out. It's addicting. 960 1280
idea_ss_oahu_008_haleiwa-north-shore_596x334Haleiwa Town on Oahu's North Shore is part country, part chic, and all fun. It started as a beach town on the outskirts of the cane and pineapple fields and has retained its rustic roots. It's a must-stop for shaved ice, shopping, art galleries and crafts, and of course, good eats. It's also the perfect excuse to move a little slower and linger a little longer. Whether you're on your way to Pipeline and Waimea, or heading back to your hotel, Haleiwa is a 'no hurry, no worry' kind of place. 960 1280
idea_ss_oahu_009_canoe-paddling_596x334'One paddle, two paddle, three paddle. Four to take me home.' These famous song lyrics are synonymous with outrigger canoes and paddling on Waikiki Beach. Hop in and you'll feel the thrill as your canoe glides out to sea. The best part of the ride is when you turn back toward shore and ride the waves in. It's like surfing while sitting down. In paddling there are two words you won't want to mix up: 'hui' means to switch paddling to the other side, while 'huli' means to turn over. Fun, but wet. 960 1280
idea_ss_oahu_010_kailua-beach_596x334Ask anyone who lives on Oahu's Windward side where the best beach is located, and they'll say 'Kailua.' It's a thriving beach town where you can wear your pareo (wrap around) into the grocery store and flip flops (we call them 'slippers') are the only locally-approved footwear. And the beach, let's just say that it's the second-most photographed stretch of sand on the island. Kailua has several kayak rental and surf stores. If you're into kite boarding, this is also the beach of choice. 960 1280
Little St. Simons IslandOf Georgia’s 4 barrier islands, the Golden Isles comes closest to an unspoiled paradise. The island has been privately owned longer than the United States has been a country! Today, the descendants of the most recent owner oversee the maintenance of the island’s 100,000 acres.
Island attractions: Overnight accommodations for up to 32 guests. 960 1280
Sanibel IslandA young visitor does the “Sanibel Stoop.” Sanibel Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast attracts travelers with its large number of seashells that wash up on the beach. The island is also home to more than 6,000 residents, but don’t expect any stoplights here. Locals are fiercely protective of the island; more than half the island is composed of wildlife refuges.
Island attractions: Shell collecting (peak season May to September). 960 1280
Kiawah IslandWelcome to the “happiest seaside town in America.” That’s the motto of South Carolina’s Kiawah Island -- its world-class golf courses are a big reason why. Kiawah is home to 5 award-winning golf courses, including Ocean Course designed by Pete Dye. The course, located on Kiawah’s easternmost end, hosted the 2012 PGA Championship.
Island attractions: In addition to golf, Beachwalker County Park. 960 1280
Galveston IslandLook, Forrest, it’s Bubba Gump Shrimp! Load up the kids and head an hour’s drive from Houston to Galveston Island. The island is just 27 miles long and 3 miles wide, but big on family entertainment. At Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, enjoy rollercoaster rides, carnival games and Bubba Gump Shrimp’s first-ever Texas location.
Island attractions: Also, Moody Gardens, Seawolf Park, Stewart Park, Schlitterbahn. 960 1280
Bald Head IslandTake a 20-minute ferry ride from the town of Southport to reach Bald Head Island. Located at the tip of North Carolina’s Cape Fear, the island unfolds at an easy pace: No cars are allowed here, just golf carts -- and your 2 feet -- to get around. Kick back in a vacation rental, enjoy wine and music festivals, and take part in an annual fishing rodeo.
Island attractions: Bald Head Island Marina, Bald Head Island Golf Course, Island Retreat Spa and Salon. 960 1280
St. George IslandLove oysters? Head to Apalachicola Bay on St. George Island. The estuary is one of several outdoor pleasures on St. George, located off the Florida Panhandle. Along with oysters, the island offers great fishing spots for grouper, scallops, flounder, redfish, snapper, mullet and trout.
Island attractions: Also bird-watching, St. George Island State Park. 960 1280
Cedar KeysThe cluster of islands known as Cedar Keys near Florida’s mainland offer a laidback experience, and the city of Cedar Key is among the star attractions. The tranquil fishing village comes with a small-town Florida feel and wood-frame homes like this. Come lunchtime, swing by Tony’s Famous Cedar Key Clam Chowder, known for its signature dish.
Island attractions: Nature sites such as Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. 960 1280
Hatteras IslandEnjoy kiteboarding on Hatteras Island, part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The barrier island off the state’s coast is known for windsurfing and sport fishing -- earning it the nickname, “the blue marlin capital of the world.”
Island attractions: Also Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. 960 1280
Ship IslandWalk through the shimmering quartz sand of Ship Island, one of 2 barrier islands located off the coast of Mississippi; you’ll find Fort Massachusetts on the island’s western end. The fort was built following the War of 1812, and has stood the test of time and nature's fury; it faced Hurricane Katrina with minimal impact.
Island attractions: Fishing, swimming and tours of Fort Massachusetts. 960 1280
Grand IsleLouisiana’s only inhabited barrier island is home to 1,500 residents who make their living from the seafood and oil industries. While the effects of the BP oil spill will be studied for years to come, the dolphins have returned, the waters washing up on the shore are clear, and the annual Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo (one of America’s largest saltwater fishing events) continues.
Island attractions: Fishing -- more than 280 species in surrounding waters. 960 1280
Marco IslandWhat do Shania Twain, Leighton Meester and Alan Jackson all have in common? They all have homes on Marco Island. Located on southwest Florida’s Gulf coast, Marco Island entices visitors with white-sugar sand beaches and amazing marine life like this bottlenose dolphin.
Island attractions: The largest of Florida’s 10,000 Islands, Marco offers miles of beautiful beach. 960 1280
Georgia's Cumberland IslandBefore you dismiss this as a boring woodshed shot -- look closer: JFK Jr.’s nuptials took place inside this structure, known as the First African-Baptist Church, in September 1996. The small, 1-room church was established in 1893, rebuilt in 1937, and is located on Cumberland Island’s northern end.
Island attractions: Also Greyfield Inn, Plum Orchard mansion. 960 1280
Florida KeysThe expansive Seven Mile Bridge is your gateway to the Florida Keys. As you cross the bridge, linking the Middle and Lower Keys, get ready for a breathtaking sight: the Gulf of Mexico on one side, the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Keep going and you’ll reach the “southernmost city in the continental USA,” Key West.
Keys attractions: A lot. Including Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum. 960 1280
Dauphin IslandWe can’t forget Alabama. Of the dozens of islands off Alabama’s coast, Dauphin Island is among the star attractions. The barrier island, located 3 miles south of the mouth of Mobile Bay, is home to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and 164-acre Audubon Bird Sanctuary, making it a great getaway for the whole family.
Island attractions: Also Shell Mound Park, Fort Gaines. 960 1280