Grab your sunblock and snorkel and make a day of it on Hanauma Bay. (Photo: Alamy)
Take water. Add sand. Regular sand. Sandbox sand, even. Maybe a few fish? Trees? Sure. What do you have? A beach. A regular beach. Hmmm. There is an alternative: Spend your summer seeking only the globe’s most spectacular coastlines. Check out our list of the best beaches to visit this summer and step out of the bland and onto some of the coolest sands in the world.
10. Glass Beach at MacKerricher State Park; Ft. Bragg, California
No beach sparkles more than Glass Beach — a set of three nope-that’s-not-sand stretches that were once, incredibly, city dump sites. But the gross garbage is gone (goodbye, rusted toaster ovens and wonky car doors), leaving behind all the colors of the beach glass world. How? The water snagged bottles and other glass bits from the dump during high tides, tumbled them about, and redeposited its handiwork on the beaches. Wander, look, snap photos, picnic; but careful now! Don’t go pocketing the goods. It’s illegal to remove the brilliant, smooth glass gems. Sorry.
9. Antelope Island State Park; Syracuse, Utah
Head to northwest Utah to get your float on atop the Great Salt Lake and under the watchful gaze of Antelope Island’s namesake mammals (and a bison or two). From the white sand beaches, it’s water as far as the eye can see (it is one big lake) and plenty of vegetation, including grasses tall and short that the wildlife dines on. The drive down the causeway that links the island to the mainland feels like a drive into the world’s largest painting, changing from soft watercolors on foggy days to bright oils when the grasses are at their greenest. Bring a kayak along for a lazy paddle around the lake.
8. Bishop’s Beach; Homer, Alaska
Fans of cold water will be up for a dip here, but swimming is far from the great joy of Bishop’s Beach. This is one of America’s best beaches for those who enjoy their sand with a side of mountains. For a beach snack that can’t be beat, park up by Two Sisters Bakery, load up on baked goods and walk down the path that leads to Bishop’s. Pull up some driftwood and enjoy.
7. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Oahu
Bathing suit and coverup. Snorkel. Suntan lotion. Towel. Maybe flip flops. That’s the extent of what you’ll need for a day at Hanauma Bay. But even if you forget everything else, don’t forget the snorkel. (OK, bathing suit too. No getting arrested, please.) A crescent-shaped beach of white sands surrounds a calm calm bay. Hanauma Bay’s coral reefs are extensive but shallow, offering the perfect hiding holes, playground and feeding stations for a colorful array of marine life — more than 300 species of fish call these waters home. Get there early. It is, admittedly, very popular. But the snorkeling is divine.
6. Maresias Beach; Sao Sebastio, Brazil
Set down a blanket and focus on the water for an immersion course on Brazil’s surfing scene. Feeling bold? Give the board sport a try yourself. If a beach run is more your speed, Maresias provides — the soft white sand will turn you into a barefoot runner in no time. After hours, stick around for a whole other scene: Restaurants and clubs line the area.
5. Stanley Park; Vancouver, B.C.
One of the world’s best something-for-everyone locations, Stanley Park features gardens, totem poles, bike trails and other fun. Beach lovers will find much to enjoy at this local, easily accessible hang. Wander to the waterfront for a break from all of Vancouver’s go–see–do (it’s a truly awesome city). With nine park beaches to choose from — one even sits on the side of a freshwater lake — there’s no end of aaaaah in sight.
4. Orange Beach; Gulf Coast, Alabama
There is no must-do about Orange Beach. Well, almost none. Step onto the wide sands and your brain will say, “You must stay here forever.” That may not be possible, but you’ll want to return time and again to try everything from advanced beach sitting (it’s practically a religion here) to parasailing. Finish your day with a dinner of royal reds, some of the tastiest shrimp you’re ever gonna have.
3. Boulders Beach; Cape Town, South Africa
A trip to Boulders Beach offers the chance to be a voyeur of a different kind — watching the antics of the local African penguin population. (They are a loud bunch.) Though there’s a good chance you’ll extend your stay to visit with those noisy locals, Boulders does offer other wonders, should you need more entertainment. It’s super kid-friendly, with rock pools aplenty. Just make sure your kids don’t make playmates of the penguins; their beaks are far from kid-friendly.
2. Heart’s Desire Beach; Tomales Bay State Park, Inverness, California
No beach is kid friendlier than the well-named Heart’s Desire Beach. In a protected cove of white sand on Tomales Bay, the water stays flat and welcoming. Families with young’uns can get everybody in on the love of swimming in these warm waters. After a dip and some sandcastle-building fun, wander the park’s hiking trail to one of California’s last remaining groves of Bishop pine trees. Watch for chipmunks and other forest critters along the way.
1. Pink Sands Beach; Harbour Island, The Bahamas
Read this in the soothing dulcet tones of a meditation tape. That, friends, is the instant effect of a walk down this 3.5-mile pale pink sandy beach. Now, slip on a snorkel and mask. Float. Nothing will challenge you. All will be calm. Repeat … forever.