Photo by Sunil Makan
Miami lifeguards get to hang out in these cute painted watch towers. The white sands here stretch for miles and are rarely packed, as locals prefer posing by the pool
Photo by Getty
Playa Ancon, Trinidad, Cuba
If the Obamas had more time in Cuba they would have loved some downtime on this beautiful white beach just outside the pretty little colonial town (and Unesco Heritage Site) of Trinidad.
Photo by AndBeyond
Mnemba Island, Zanzibar
If ever a place deserved the name paradise, this is it: a tiny island, just 1.5 km in circumference (you can jog round in about 10 minutes), 3 kms off the east coast of Zanzibar, from where you get whisked over on a boat. Stay in one of just ten huts made from woven palm leaves. They may look a bit basic but inside they are all colourful local fabrics and soft mosquito netting, with a private verandah, an ensuite bathroom and even your own butler. Barefoot luxury like this doesn't come cheap but it's honeymoon heaven.
andBeyond Mnemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania
From £557 pp per night, including all meals, two safari activities per day and transfers.
Photo by Getty
Drake Bay, Osa Peninsular Costa Rica
Named for Francis Drake, who apparently landed here in the 16th century, Drake Bay still has that remote, undiscovered feel. The south West (Pacific) coast of Costa Rica is wilder and more unspoilt than the tamer, Caribbean side- and lined with lovely bays like this one - many only accessible by boat.
Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
There aren't many private beaches in the Caribbean, but this one is right in front of Little Dix Bay hotel, a 60s classic, with 100 rooms, suites, beach cottages and treehouses- all recently revamped.
Photo by Getty Images
Anse Source d'Argent, La Digue, Seychelles
This is the kind of beach holiday fantasies are made of - with massive granite boulders, silky white sand, and shady palms. In the south west of the very small (10 kms ²), island of La Digue, its calm shallow waters are protected by the reef. Heaven.
If you’re into remote and romantic beaches you'll love this four mile stretch of Pacific coastline from Chapman Point to Silver Point in north Oregon. It is renowned for its golden sand and beautiful rock formations like the famous Haystack rock,left, which rises 235 feet out of the sea, and even has its own ecosystem.
Oil Nut Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
If you're paparazzi-shy celeb looking for some exclusivity, you'll love the fact that you can only get here by boat or helicopter, and that you can rent a very private 6000 square feet Beach Villa ( if you have a spare $3950 a night), with its own pool and fitness studio. And with views like this, it has honeymoon written all over it.
El Secreto, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Time was when you could ditch your shoes the moment you landed on Ambergis Caye, as even in the (only) tiny settlement/town of San Pedro, the streets were just sand. They may be paved now - just - but drive 30 minutes north and you can still find Crusoe-esque beaches like this one - and beautiful hideways like the 13-villa El Secreto And with zillions of technicolour fish darting around the phenomenal reef just offshore - this is castaway heaven.
Shoal Bay, Anguilla
Everyone’s fantasy of a perfect Caribbean beach, this is a two mile stretch of the softest white sand mixed in with powdered shells– which give it an almost iridescent quality in certain lights. One end is slightly more buzzy with beach bars and hotels, the other is more chilled.
Bring mask and flippers, as just offshore you'll find a snorkeling wonderworld of reefs and rainbow-coloured fish. Just heaven.
For more information see here
Pansea Bay, Phuket
This lovely sweep of golden sand is right in front of the Surin hotel, with a feet-in-the-sand beach bar run by a local family, who, surprisingly, were not turfed out when the hotel was built nine years ago. But The Surin is community aware as well as stylish, and doesn't seem to mind taking the hit of its clientele drinking for half price (or less) right on their doorstep. And we definitely applaud that.
Teluk Balang, Penang, Malaysia
Penang, the small island off the Malaysian coast, is known for its lovely beaches, but many are way too touristy for our liking. If you drive about 5 kms west of the stylish Lone Pine hotel in Batu Ferringhi, you'll find this hidden-away stretch of golden sand, just opposite the Tropical Spice Gardens, and a few kms east of Taman Negara national park and the turtle sanctuary.
Praia dos Nativos, Bahia, Brazil
Ok, so it may be a bit of a schlepp to get to (via Rio, 1000kms south, to Porto Seguro, then bus and ferry), but it will be SO worth it when you get there. This 70s hippy enclave is the coolest beach hangout in a country of cool beach hangouts – with its laid back rustic Ibiza vibe, sleepy main square, barefoot luxe guest houses ( the most famous being Uxua Casa, owned by Wilber Das – ex Design Director of Diesel), and fashionable following: Beyonce, Mario Testino, Giselle, Mert & Marcus, DVF and Givenchy’s creative director Ricardo Tisci. There are four glorious beaches nearby - this one, Praia dos Nativos, is the nearest, where you’ll find palm trees, beach shack bars, pretty hotels, and miles of golden sand. What are you waiting for?
Playa d'Amor, Marieta islands, Mexico
In the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of Mexico, are the untouched Marieta islands, know as the Galapagos of Mexico, for their amazing wildlife. They were used by the Mexican government for bomb practice pre WW1, which created dramatic caves and craters like this one, known by the locals as Playa d'Amor, despite its origins. It's only accessible by helicopter or – if you're daring – by swimming through a small channel during low tide. Get there from Puerta Vallarta.
Former record producer Jon Baker’s original Jamaican hotel, Geejam, is an institution. Catering to a cool, rockstar crowd (Gwen Stefani, Rihanna and Wyclef Jean…). Geejam, with its on-site studio, has reached legendary status. About three minutes drive away is the award-winning Frenchman's Cove: life doesn't get more chilled than this.
Playa De Ses Illetes, Formentera
On a sandy spit, at the northern end of Formentera, this beautiful, untouched beach is typical of the laid-back, back-to-nature vibe of the whole island.
It gets busy peak season with Ibiza escapees having some downtime from the clubs, and fancy- yacht owners pulling up for lunch at the fishing-shack-turned-celebrity–beach- restaurant, Juan y Andrea. The northern (nudist) end is the quietest.
For where to stay see here
Punta Piedra, Tulum
About 5km north of sleepy-backwater-turned-hip-hotspot Tulum, Punta Piedra is the stuff holiday fantasies are made of - all soft white sand and snorkelling-clear sea. The best time to go is October- December, when you'll get cooling breezes, blue skies, calm water, and you'll beat the Christmas crowds booking up all Tulum's brilliant little bars and restaurants.
For the best place to stay, see here
Paradise Beach, Nevis
The 36-square-mile Caribbean island of Nevis is home to lots of perfect little bays like this one. Here you can take out kayaks, paddleboards or snorkels, ride along the sands, or just flop on a lounger with a rum punch from the tiki bar.
For where to stay, see here
The beaches of Porthcurno, in southwest Cornwall, are the closest thing to paradise you’ll find on these shores. For the more free-thinking , it’s worth the scrabble over the rocks from there to get to Pednevounder, but don’t be surprised to find a little more on show than the view - #nudists.
For where to stay see here
Xpu-Ha is probably the best beach on the Riviera Maya – the stretch of beautiful coastline from Puerto Morelos (38 kms south of Cancun) to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (74 kms south of Tulum ). Being protected by the MesoAmerican reef, expect calm seas and fantastic snorkelling, and if you stay in the boutique Hotel Esencia , you've got it just a few steps from your bed.
Grand Anse Beach, Grenada
Walk along Grand Anse, one of Grenada’s most beautiful beaches, and you’ll see a line of low-rise, whitewashed buildings among the palm trees at the edge of the sand. These are Spice Island resort's 32 Sea Grape Suites, and with just a few metres between your bed and the waves – they have one of the best locations in the Caribbean. Bathrooms are massive, beds are heavenly, and the views are just what you flew all this way for.
The coastline around Kassiopi, in the beautiful north-east of Corfu, is full of little secret coves like this one, mostly ony accessible by boat. Hire one from Filippos, pack a picnic, and claim your own deserted bay for the day.
For more on Kassiopi, see here
Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos
In the Turks & Caicos, south east of the Bahamas, Parrot Cay is the dream private island: 1000 acres of tropical vegetation - some of it taken up with the private holiday homes of the likes of Donna Karan, Keith Richards and Bruce Willis – enclosed by a mile- long white beach.
Want to know more? See here
Pantai Avoi, Sabah, Borneo
If you venture up to the west coast of Malaysian Borneo, you’ll find long bays of fine white sand lapped by blue water. Right at the northern tip is Pantai Avoia, where the most activity you’re likely to see is a local fisherman in a brightly-coloured boat casting his net, or a coconut falling from a tree.
For more on this see here
Fleming Beach, Goldeneye
This pretty cove is right below Goldeneye – the beautiful house where Ian Fleming dreamt up Mr Bond, and penned all 14 of the 007 novels. Book the house and you get the beach below to yourselves –so you can blast Diamonds are Forever through speakers wedged into the rocks while you're swimming. Want to know more? See here
Zlatni Rat, Bol Croatia
Possibly Europe's most photographed beach, the strangely pointy Zlatni Rat changes shape depending on the sea currents and the wind direction.
Canford Cliffs, Dorset
Some of the oldest beach huts in Europe are tucked away on the wooded approach to this beautiful stretch of Blue Flag beach, two miles from swanky Sandbanks - home to some of the priciest real estate in the UK. The sea is as blue ( if not as warm) as the Med, the sand soft and almost white, and it stretches for miles. All you need is the sun to come out and you could be in Miami...
For more on Canford Cliffs, see here
Alacati, Turkey The pretty seaside town of Alcati has been having a bit of a moment, with its pretty cobblestone streets and miles of sandy beaches like this one.
Want to know more? See our full review here
Harbour Cove, Padstow, Cornwall
Harbour Cove, on the camel estuary, is one of Cornwall’s few remaining secret beaches. This wide tract of soft caramel sand and shallow aquamarine sea is largely empty- even in high season.
The very stylish Redhouse Apartment is close by, see here for details
You don't get much more dramatic than the epically beautiful, black stone Reynisfjara. Just outside Vik, the most southerly village in Iceland, it's a spectacular landscape of crashing breakers, circling puffins and guillemots, gleaming back stones and striking basalt columns.
Want to know more? Then see here
Almagreira Beach, Portugal
Surf’s up at this spectacular beach on Portugal’s central west coast – just one hour from Lisbon. The very cool Surfers Lodge Peniche is just 300 metres from the beach. They run a first-class surf school, hold yoga classes, and have DJs keeping the party going in summer. Fancy staying here?
Le Pavillon Royal, France
There is something magical about being able to see mountains from the beach, and the view of the Pyrenees, bordering France and Spain, is one of my favourite things about Le Pavillon Royal beach. That, and the wild breakers of the Atlantic crashing onto the yellow sand. Swimmers play in the swirling waves while surfers head out beyond the whitewater - or mousse as the French say – to ride their boards.
Want to know more? See here
Sugar Beach, St Lucia
Bang between St Lucia’s famous twin peaks, the Pitons, Viceroy Sugar Beach is one of our favourite ELLE fashion shoot locations. Think plantation-house style rooms, lots of white, and tropical gardens. If you're after a quickei wedding, you can get hitched on the beach, on the Great Lawn or in one of the luxury suites high up over the sea.