Whether you dive into the break line or prefer to bake under the sun, there’s a beach out there that speaks to you. Take the plunge:

Gladden Spit, Placencia, Belize

If your definition of a “day at the beach” is braving a high-pulsed journey to a remote destination to swim with the largest fish in the world, you’ll love Gladden Spit, near Placencia, in Belize.

Scuba-dive in the Great Blue Hole (a submarine sinkhole brought to fame by Jacques Cousteau) any time of year, but for real adventurers, the time is from March to June, when the reef is home to 60-foot whale sharks.

Hire a 90-minute boat ride from Placencia to Gladden Spit and watch them gather to feed on the eggs of spawning mutton snappers. The best time to visit is 10 days after the full moon.

Praia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

If you prefer your coastlines raw and undeveloped, opt for Fernando de Noronha, a protected marine ecological reserve where only 420 tourists are allowed on the beaches at a time. 

All are arresting, but secluded Praia do Sancho is paradise found. Framed by rocky cliffs, the bay comes alive with emerald water, home to spinning dolphins, egg-laying sea turtles, and striking stone spire.

Go early in the rainy season (think February or March) and be treated to two cascading waterfalls. No surprise: Sancho Beach (also referred to as Sancho Bay) is often named the most beautiful beach in Brazil.

Porto Cervo, Sardinia, Italy

High glamour and laidback luxury have been uniting on the Sardinian island of Porto Cervo since 1962. Founded by the Aga Khan, it was once a playground for ingenues like Grace Kelly and Brigitte Bardot.

Recent guests include Rihanna, George Clooney, and Naomi Campbell, who enjoy semi-deserted beaches and top-notch restaurants alike.

Whether you visit during the high season of July and August or in the quieter, milder spring and fall, be sure to indulge in an outdoor treatment at the Blu Mediterraneo Spa (Acqua di Parma’s first spa) at the seaside Yacht Club Costa Smeralda

Speaking of yachts, Porto Cervo has no shortage of mega-boats. The high-priced harbor can accommodate yachts up to 300 feet in length. 

Santa Cruz Beach, Santa Cruz, California

Do your beach days revolve around watching the little ones’ faces light up? Head for Santa Cruz Beach, the classic SoCal spot nicknamed the original Surf City.

Their old-school boardwalk is the last remaining family-ready, carnival-style park on the West Coast. 

The Looff Carousel from 1911 and the 1924 wooden Giant Dipper rollercoaster evoke nostalgia, while mini-golf and laser tag keep stimuli levels up.

Then take it easy on Monterey Bay’s sandy stretch of beach, ideal for swimming, and look for the old lumber train that weaves through the local redwoods.

 

Vaadhoo, Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, Maldives

If discovering inner peace is as important to you as locating outer beauty, head for Vaadhoo, on the Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, in the Maldives.

Besides ancient Buddhist ruins (including several stupas), look for blooms of bioluminescent plankton that make the nighttime beaches glow and witness awe-inspiring waves at Vaadhoo’s surf spot, the Blue Bowls.

Comprised of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives features spectacular reefs, home to over a thousand fish species, plus dolphins, sea turtles, and sponges.

Cape Cod, Provincetown, Massachusetts

Care to traipse the same dunes as Eugene O’Neill, Norman Mailer, e.e. cummings, and Jackson Pollack? Rent one of the Dune Shacks of the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, located in the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

The National Parks Service offers one and two-week residencies for writers, artists, architects, musicians, and scientists.

But be warned, it’s not for the high-maintenance set: The term “shacks” is no exaggeration, as the application notes that it “rains in on occasion.”

Saline Beach, St. Barth

You could argue that St. Barth already hit its apex of flash and panache, but the hilly island of volcanic rock still has French-meets-Caribbean appeal to spare. 

In 1995, Brad Pitt and then-fiancé Gwyneth Paltrow were photographed nude by paparazzi at Hôtel Le Toiny. In 2003, hip hop moguls like Diddy and Russell Simmons hit the newly opened Nikki Beach.

These days, expect to see Miranda Kerr and Alessandra Ambrosio posing for photo shoots, Beyoncé and Jay-Z lazing about their yacht, and stylish girls like Olivia Palermo and Jessica Alba strolling in the sand. 

It’s gorgeous Saline Beach that’s a must: not only should you feel free to ditch your swimsuit if you so desire, the beachgoers are sexy and absolutely anything goes. 

La Barra, Punta del Este, Uruguay

Amateur revelers, skip this one. As seductive as the sun is in Punta del Este‘s hottest hood, it’s what goes down after dark that makes it an addictive south-of-the-equator destination. Especially for the professional party set. 

After a late dinner, strike Tequila, the strip’s most exclusive club (open December through March). Or if you’re cunning enough, work your way into one of Punta’s many private parties and join the Buenos Aires elite in greeting the dawn.

Then weather your hangover by beach-hopping from Manantiales (think toned sunbathers) to Montoya (the surfers’ spot) to José Ignacio Beach, where come 4pm, DJs post up by tiki torches for sandy hangout sessions. 

 

Palm Jumeirah, Palm Islands, Dubai

Still in search of the perfect archipelago? All-natural is old news. If your dreams are on par with the Sheikh of Dubai, you’ll appreciate Palm Jumeirah, one-third of the world’s largest trio of manmade islands. 

At 2.2 square miles and sculpted in the shape of palm tree, Palm Jumeirah is the only finished island, and it’s as fantastical as it sounds.

Book a pricy room (doubles start at $950 a night) at the One&Only The Palm, located at the West Crescent of the island, where beach and marina views are unbeatable (it’s surprisingly effortless to ignore the skyscrapers across the Arabian Sea) and dinner at Stay is a must.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Forget Ipanema. These days, it’s all about sunny, spicy Salvador, nicknamed Brazil’s “capital of happiness.” 

A two-hour flight from Rio whisks you to the bacchanalian beachside city, pulsing with a plethora of outdoor parties. 

Visit between February 27 and March 5 to get in on the Carnival action (aka “The World’s Biggest Party”), when Afro-Brazilian beats pound and body-painted exhibitionists abound.

Check out Rio Vermelho’s Buracão Beach, the newest place to see and be seen; then dance the night away at Borracharia, a tire shop by day and club come evening. 

 

 

Jeffreys Bay, South Africa

More interested in ripping than tanning? The heart of South African surf country will leave you stoked. 

With 8-20-feet faces and the renown surf-break Supertubes, Jeffreys Bay is credited as “the Surf Mecca of the World.”

Better (and affectionately) known as J-Bay, it’s home to Billabong‘s annual July surf competition, as well as a number of surf schools to get you primed.

When you tire of the tubes, there’s no shortage of activities: hike, whale-watch, canoe, boardsail, or fish. While wave season runs from June to August, J-Bay’s summer is never-ending. 

 

 

Papakōlea Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

If long stretches of white sand aren’t enough to satisfy your senses, how’s a green seashore? Papakōlea Beach, on Hawaii’s romantic Big Island, is wildly unique.

One of just four green beaches in the world (the Galapagos Islands and Norway claim the others), the unusual hue is a result of olivine crystals, pushed up from beneath the earth’s surface by a volcanic eruption. 

Take the scenic drive or get there via a two-mile hike along the U.S.’s southernmost point.

For a break from the beach, check out the East Hawaii Cultural Center in Hilo, where exhibits feature traditional and modern local artists; it’s a beautiful two-hour car ride from Papakōlea.