Some of the hottest destinations to visit right now come with a bonus: a beach nearby that’s every bit a must-see in its own right. Here you’ll find ten of the best.
El Nido, Philippines
Photograph by Emilio Maranon III, Getty Images
The Philippines, on our hot list for 2016, is in fact a nation of 7,107 islands. That means lots of beaches, literally thousands, in all their variety, from black sand to pink, from palms to the green pastureland that tops the towering cliffs at Racuh a Payaman, known as “Marlboro country,” on Batan Island.
Island-hop and explore the possibilities. The best way to get around is by a high-speed ferry or traditional outrigger boats called bancas. If you just can’t get enough of the silky waters, stay at one of the El Nido resorts that offers traditional Filipino cottages on stilts over the water.
The beaches provide the usual array of water activities: kayaking, snorkeling, and diving amid exotic coral and fish species. To view more than 1,300 species on land, head to the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage site. And there are even fans of the Philippines food scene: The cuisine is a zesty mix of Spanish and Chinese spiced with Malay and Indian influences.
—By Kathleen Beckett
Carne Beach, England
Photograph by Maurizio Rellini, SOPA/Corbis
The rugged region of Cornwall is enjoying its time in the sun. The TV series Doc Martin has drawn fans to the quaint fishing village of Port Isaac, while the Tate St. Ives and Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden attracts art lovers to the former fishing village where J.M.W. Turner, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Ben Nicholson once lived and worked. The remains of Tintagel Castle, associated with the legend of King Arthur, command the coastline. There are world-famous gardens such as Caerhays Estate, which served as a background setting for a BBC production of Rebecca and is home to the United Kingdom’s National Collection of Magnolias, with more than 600 species and named hybrids. And Cornwall is also the land of Poldark, the TV series that recently sent hearts aflutter in the U.K. and United States.
The rocky Cornish coast gives way to beaches, and one of the broadest and most beautiful is Carne on Gerrans Bay. Residents of the nearby villages swim, walk their dogs, and play beach volleyball and cricket along its sandy surface, which at low tide extends to about a mile when neighboring Pendower Beach adjoins. At high tide it’s easy to imagine pirate ships plying the waters.
One perfect way to enjoy Carne Beach is to drop by or stay at the charming country house The Nare Hotel. It offers sweeping views from Nare Head to Falmouth and an afternoon tea complete with warm scones and generous lashings of clotted cream. As you indulge, you can easily imagine actor Aidan “Captain Poldark” Turner taking his much admired dip in the waters below, propelling adoring fans to explore Cornwall’s beaches.
Panama City Beach, Florida
Photograph by Louis DiBacco, Getty Images
What’s not to love about a beach that promises an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, is 27 miles long, and has sand that is so purely white, locals challenge you to place a handful next to some sugar and tell the difference. That’s what the “other” Panama City, the one on Florida’s Emerald Coast, has to offer. The beach is so expansive that years ago MTV started hosting its spring break coverage there. Drunken brawls and wet T-shirt contests ensued, and Panama City withdrew its permission for filming.
While still a popular destination for spring breakers (meaning you just might want to stay away in March) Panama City, also called “P.C.,” is a perfect place for families. It offers accommodations at every affordable level, from a Days Inn to a Wyndham, plus more than 16,000 condos for rent. Panama City has a state park with alligators, five golf courses, miniature golf, and enough waffle houses to feed an army (or maybe the Navy divers who train here.) The uniquely bleached-white sand is actually something you won’t find most anywhere else. It’s superfine white quartz, and it has an unusual property: Some say it squeaks when you walk on it. Try doing that with sugar.
Glenelg, South Australia
Photograph by Daniel Kalisz, Getty Images
With more than 3,000 miles of coastline, South Australia offers a beach to suit every taste. The variety starts right in the capital, Adelaide, a gracious city with a growing arts and food scene. The city’s beach, Glenelg, is reachable by tram; the short half-hour ride makes it popular with Adelaide residents who want an escape. Glenelg offers both excellent swimming, thanks to its calm location on the Gulf St. Vincent, as well as wave skis and bikes for hire. There’s a lively community of cafés and shops too. Buy an ice-cream cone and walk out on Glenelg’s long jetty, a popular pastime.
Then there are beaches so remote and undisturbed you’ll swear you discovered them. The Eyre Peninsula, reachable by a highway west out of Adelaide, is dotted with remote beauties, such as Sceale Bay or Point Labatt, which only a colony of sea lions seems to have discovered.
Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda
Photograph by Scott Dunn, Getty Images
Bermuda has 34 beaches stretching some 75 miles, each one a beauty of pink coral sand and turquoise sea, a color scheme that has come to symbolize the island. There’s a lot of pink and green in Bermuda too; you might say the island is nirvana for preppies. Thanks to its British heritage—it is the oldest self-governing British overseas territory—everything is quite proper. This is the island, after all, that gave the world Bermuda shorts for a gentleman to wear with kneesocks, blazer, and necktie.
Happily, this bent for propriety extends even to the beaches. There are no honky-tonk hot dog stands, no loud music—just miles of pink-sand beach often nestled between striking coral formations producing fodder for Instagram.
One of the most photographed beaches is Horseshoe Beach, a wide, curving swath of pink sand a 20-minute drive outside the main city of Hamilton. It is arguably the most popular beach on Bermuda, so it can get crowded. But there is a trail that heads toward its eastern end, where you just might find some quiet patches of pink sand to call your own.
Playa Ancón, Cuba
Photograph by Dmitri Alexander, National Geographic
When President Barack Obama opened diplomatic relations with Cuba, the die was cast for development. The sleepy country, where time stood still for more than 50 years, is about to wake up and find itself in modern times, for better or worse. Already Airbnb has a presence, major hotel corporations are vying for space, and airlines are establishing flights.
So go there now. And when you’ve seen the sites of Havana, head to the countryside. One of the most popular beaches is Varadero, about a two-hour drive from Havana. Twice as far is Playa Ancón (Ancon Beach), three miles of white beach next to the town of Trinidad, a cobblestoned charmer.
Still need a reason to visit? Tourists can now leave the country with a hundred dollars’ worth of alcohol and previously banned Cuban cigars, which is good news for rum punch lovers and cigar aficionados.
Anse de Grande Saline, St. Barts
Photograph by Sergio Pitamitz, National Geographic
There are 17 beaches on the island of St. Barts, each with a different personality, each kissed by the transparent turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Nikki Beach, with its daybeds and beach bars, is for partying; Marigot, with its calm waters, is for families. Each beach has a French style and spirit about it as well: They are all topless for those who wish. But Anse de Grande Saline—Salt Beach (there was a salt marsh nearby)—is often, well, even more than that. Although nudity is officially against the law here, the beach is so secluded that authorities turn the other cheek.
Anse de Grande Saline is also a very beautiful beach, and it’s worth the effort to get there. Rent a Mini Moke, a beach buggy–type vehicle that’s wide-open to the balmy breezes—it’s a favorite form of transportation for scooting around the hilly island. Saline Beach lies two miles outside Gustavia, St. Barts’s main town with a harbor filled with the yachts of the rich and famous and streets lined with the kind of tony shops they like to patronize. As you head out of town, you’ll enjoy an exhilarating ride up and down hills, truly like a roller coaster, until you arrive at a small parking area. Grab your towel and walk the pathway through the sand dunes. You’ll arrive at a beautiful, serene expanse of beach, a setting of unspoiled natural beauty. Don’t forget your sunscreen.
East Coast, Sri Lanka
Photograph by Munem Wasif/Agence VU/Redux
While the western side of the South Asian island of Sri Lanka welcomes enough visitors to become downright touristy, the eastern side has been bedeviled by civil unrest and a tsunami. But things are changing as the situations have resolved, turning the region into one of the hot travel destinations for 2016.
That’s especially true for beachgoers who want something more than sun, sand, and surf. Eastern Sri Lanka delivers. There are land safaris for leopard spotting, trips to ancient Hindu temples, back-road cycling, yoga classes, and ayurvedic spa treatments. Back on the beach, there’s snorkeling with blue whales and deep-sea diving amid shipwrecks in the Bay of Bengal. And when you’re ready to rest your head, you’ll find a selection of new hotels, from a tree house to private villas.
Playa Blanca, Panama
Photograph by Hemis/Alamy
Panama City is a vibrant mix of contrasts. It is populated by a large contingent of Americans, many either working on the Panama Canal or retirees wearing Tommy Bahama and Tory Burch and drawn by the inexpensive cost of living and welcome tax incentives. Then there’s the indigenous population, the Kuna, sporting their colorful handworked costumes. Many of Panama City’s resident brew are also descended from France and Spain, adding their European flair and making this a very cosmopolitan city.
The city is replete with sparkling high-rises, including the flashy Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower. Yet there’s also enchanting Casco Viejo, or Old Town, with piazzas bordered by pastel town houses, their wrought iron balconies spilling over with bougainvillea.
As the newest section of the Panama Canal is due to open this spring, Panama City has never been more bustling, and all sorts of events are on tap to celebrate. It’s a good time to visit. But when you’ve had your fill of city life, head to the beach. Although Panama City is rimmed by the Gulf of Panama, the beaches in or near the city are often described as “mud flats.” A trek to the countryside is required. That’s where you’ll find the popular Playa Blanca in the town of Farallón on the Pacific coast. It’s within a two-hour drive of Panama City (which explains why it can get a bit crowded on the weekends), but you’ll be greeted by the glistening white sand from which the beach got its name.
Gooch's Beach, Maine
Photograph by Carl D. Walsh, Aurora Photos/Alamy
Do you enjoy a bit of winter with your beach? Then look no further than Gooch’s Beach. The rather silly-named spot could serve as a stage set for coastal Maine at its most picturesque. The broad semicircle of talcum powder sand is fringed by quintessentially New England white-trimmed and weathered clapboard cottages. Sailboats add their grace note to the horizon, while back on dry land church steeples and lighthouses punctuate the skyline. Gooch’s is sometimes referred to as Kennebunk Beach, named for the town it occupies; with neighboring Kennebunkport, the towns offer quaint inns, lobster shacks, sea captain mansions, saltwater taffy shops, and enough fine dining to keep any visitor happy.
Kennebunk is the only town in the world so named (the name is Native American in origin, meaning “long-cut bank”), while Kennebunkport gained recognition as the summer home of one of the country’s noted political families (the Bushes). They’ve no doubt taken a dip at Gooch’s Beach, where the waters can be bracing, even at the height of summer, which is just how hardy Yankees like it.
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