Some of my fave beaches of the world: Maui, California, St. Lucia, Italy, Sydney
I haven’t been to a lot of cool places in the world; South America among them. But I’m up around 40 countries around the globe, and I’ve certainly never missed a chance to find a good beach. So here’s one traveling man’s opinion on the best stretches of sand on the planet. I’ve strived for a geographical balance and for beaches that have something different about them; not simply scenic beauty.
BONDI, SYDNEY: It’s a very pretty stretch of sand, for sure. Lots of beautiful bodies and beach volleyball and good surfing. Nearby shops and hotels and restaurants make it fun. But I think what I like most are the great walks you can make on the cliffs that line both ends. There are rock pools and salt-water-loving plants cascading over the rocks and glorious waves and lovely views all around. You can walk to a number of other great beaches, including Bronte, and they do a fabulous art walk every spring (their spring, not ours) called Sculpture by the Sea, with fun installations up and down the path.
CALADESI ISLAND, FLORIDA: You can walk from Clearwater Beach north to Caladesi at low tide. I like taking the small boats that run you over from Honeymoon Island, just north of downtown Dunedin. There’s a fun nature walk that explains how to look for animal tracks and tells you how even an elevation change of a few feet can mean the difference between a mangrove swamp and patches of tall pines. The beach goes on for miles, with great shell-seeking and plenty of space to let your mind wander.
CHESTERMAN BEACH, TOFINO, B.C.: Another stretch that goes on forever. Chesterman has good surfing, fabulously shaped chunks of driftwood, and lots of long walks along a beach lined with evergreens (see photo at right). A great spot for a beach bonfire. Whale watching is available from boats in town, and there’s also some fun restaurants. Better yet: the north end of the beach is fronted by the Wickaninnish Inn, one of the best hotels in Canada if not the world.
PORTHDINLLAEN, WALES: I don’t actually know if this is the proper name for the beach, but it’s the name of the village, anyway. It’s not miles long, but this little beauty sits at the bottom of a large cliff, on top of which is the stunningly beautiful if slighty tricked up Nefyn and District Golf Club. Lovely walks can be made both along the beach and up on the golf course, with great views of the Irish Sea. Best yet, the Ty Coch Inn sits just steps from the beach and is considered one of the top pubs in Wales.
TULUM, MEXICO: Not only is the water a most excellent shade of aquamarine, there are large cliffs backing the beach, good-sized waves for bouncing around in and pretty rock formations to gaze at. Oh, yeah, it’s also located at the base of ancient ruins, including one of the most photographed archaeological sites in the country.
CAPITOLA, CALIFORNIA: This is a beautiful beach with crumbling, golden cliffs on both ends, a wharf you can walk out on, a protected lagoon for kids to splash about in and, best of all, a fun and funky town with surf shops, beach clothes and more. Stop in at Margaritaville for a cold one (skip the food) and a great view of the painted homes for rent on one side of the beach, or grab a seaside table at Zelda’s or Il Pirata if the weather’s nice. I once called this the best California seaside town the Beach Boys never sang about, and I stand by that today. A word of warning: the water in northern California is COLD even in summer. The Beach Boys never told us that, either. Great views from the hills above town, as you can see.
HAC SA BEACH, MACAU: It’s kind of a dirty grey to be honest. And it’s not that impressive compared to, say, Waikiki or Ipanema. But it’s a great respite from the buzz and drone of busy life in Macau and Hong Kong. There’s a lovely Westin resort with a golf course at one end. You’ll also find a fabulous, casual seaside eatery called Fernando’s. The end opposite the Westin has a lovely walk you can take along the cliffs to charming Coloane Village, where you’ll want to grab a coffee or tea and some famous Lord Stow’s custard tarts.
SUGAR BEACH, ST. LUCIA: This might be the closest the Caribbean gets to feeling like the South Pacific. Sugar Beach is nestled between the two giant, green-clad mountains called The Pitons and is backed by the luscious Jalousie Plantation, which come November will be re-branded Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort. There’s world-class snorkeling on the reef just steps from the beach and top-notch sunsets.
NAPILI, MAUI: I’ve never found a beach yet that can match this for both visual beauty, ease of access and entertainment options. It’s a perfect crescent of golden sand on the northwest shore of Maui (see photo at right), just a few yards from the famous Kapalua golf resort and maybe 15 minutes from Lahaina. There’s great body surfing in the middle and excellent snorkeling on the calm bits at either end. The Sea House at the Napili Kai Beach Resort (one of the top hotels in Hawaii in my book) has fabulous breakfasts and dinners and a great happy hour, with killer views from seats that are maybe a meter or two from the beach. Unbelievable sunsets and great views of the islands of Lanai and Molokai.
PONZA, ITALY: Chiaia Di Luna is a more spectacular beach, backed by enormous, chalky cliffs. But it wasn’t open to the public when I was there. Instead, I loved the small beach just outside of town called Cala del Frantone, reached by a short, $5 ferry ride.You can sun yourself on the sand or walk along the rocks at one end for more privacy and good swimming. There’s also a lovely café with great salads and entrees and a real sense of Italian life. Casual and fun and not even remotely pretentious. You can get to Ponza on a boat ride of as little as 70 minutes from the mainland town of Anzio, itself less than an hour from Rome by train.
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