1. Tulum, Mexico
Along with Normandy’s D-Day beaches, a beach where you get a history lesson with your tan.
There aren’t many places in the world where people can swim in the shadow of ancient Mayan ruins. Mexico’s Tulum is one of them.
Tulum is famous for being the home of a Mayan archeological ruin that teeters on the edge of a sheer cliff. Beneath it, baby powder sands and jade green waters glisten.
The dramatically situated ruin makes it one of the three big Mayan sites for tourists, the other two being Chichen Itza in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala.
The Yucatan’s turquoise cenotes and excellent diving are also tourist draws. Everything from mega-resorts to thatched cabanas offering boutique accommodations are available.
For information visit www.travelyucatan.com.
2. Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia
Watercolors are made of this.
With more than four kilometers of sand that is 98 percent pure silica — so clean it squeaks — Whitehaven Beach is part of the Whitsunday Islands National Park.
As part of the park’s conservation policy, visitors have to register with a tour guide for access, and can stay only for a few hours. That’s one way it maintains its postcard-like perfection.
Local conservation efforts here have been internationally applauded. In 2010, the beach won CNN’s Most Eco Friendly Beach award.
Watch out for jellyfish in summer. For those who’d rather look like a condom than get stung, most tour boats provide head-to-toe, skin-tight stinger suits.
Whitehaven Beach is a natural park, so tour boats can stay only for brief periods. For more details visit www.whitehavenbeach.com.au.
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3. Champagne Beach, Vanuatu
If only this WAS a beach full of Champagne.
The South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu broke into the headlines a few years ago when the Happy Planet Index ranked it the happiest nation on earth. With beaches like this, how could locals not be euphoric?
The crescent of sand at Champagne Beach looks upon a lagoon fringed with coral. The beach gets its name from a phenomenon witnessed by the first travelers to the region — the shallow waters appear to fizz at low tide, as if the beach is swimming in bubbly.
In truth, the effect is caused by gas escaping from volcanic rocks on the sea floor.
On the east coast of Espiritu Santo, the country’s biggest island, Champagne Beach is a relatively popular tourist destination, particularly with Australian cruise shippers, though it does retain a quiet, laid-back feel.
There is no public transportation to the beach. For information on how to access the beach, visit www.vanuatu-hotels.vu. Champagne Beach Road, Lonnoc Village, North East Espiritu Santo Island, Vanuatu
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4. Anse Source d’Argent, Seychelles
The beach that makes everyone with a camera feel talented.
A major contender for the top spot, this ribbon of sand on the Seychelles’ third-largest island, La Dique, mixes salt-white and flamingo-pink sands to create one of the most photographed beaches in the world.
A reef keeps the water calm, so make the most of rental snorkels to explore the shallow waters, after which you can explore granite boulders further inland.
The nearby restaurant, Lanbousir, offers local Creole dishes, including the tempting fruit-bat curry. DIY lovers can fix their own picnic from a supermarket just five minutes from the beach.
From the Seychelles’ main island of Mahe, take a ferry to the jetty at La Passe, on La Dique Island. From there flag down an ox-cart to L’Union Estate. A footpath leads to Anse Source d’Argent. There’s a small entrance fee for non-residents.
5. Matira Beach, Bora Bora, Tahiti
No parties, but a whole bunch of dreams realized.
Bora Bora is like the Gwyneth Paltrow of beaches — a little too perfect to be believable.
But the spell that this small island in French Polynesia has cast on probably every traveler ever to dip a toe into its soft sands or calm waters has yet to be broken.
No question, Bora Bora is a heavy tourist destination — luxury resorts and budget bungalows dapple the white sand perimeter. But its best spot, Matira Beach, reminds you why places like this become popular in the first place.
Feed sharks, hunt for black pearls, look through World War II memorabilia or just laze on the sand. At the world’s greatest beach, life takes you easy.
Fly to Papeete in Tahiti, about seven and a half hours from Los Angeles. Then catch a flight to