The Best 25 Beaches in the World

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These five ideal-at-dusk beaches are tops for toasting the end of the day

Emerald Bay, Pangkor Laut, Malaysia
As sunsets go, they don’t get more fiery, more orange or more breathtaking than those viewed from the beach secluded amid Malaysia’s tony Pangkor Laut Resort. After a late-afternoon hike through the rainforest, end in west-facing Emerald Bay for cocktails in the sand as the sun slips into the Straits of Malacca. Then enjoy "Dinner on the Rocks," a romantic, four-course al fresco feast. The next day, revive with a spa consultation in one of the Chinese, Malay or Ayurvedic "huts"—part of Malaysia’s healing culture—where healers "read" your health by placing fingers on wrist pulse points and prescribe treatment. Most fun for couples: an Ayurvedic massage, which uses hot oils and is done on hand-carved wooden neem tables from India. Dress code for the experience? Loincloth. Stay at: Pangkor Laut, where the ultimate digs for honeymooners are the Spa Village’s 22 luxurious overwater villas. (Doubles from $275; 866-960-1339) —Shari Mycek

Kaanapali Beach, Maui
At the end of this resort-speckled strand lies breathtaking Black Rock—the site of one of the last volcanic eruptions on Maui. The jagged cliffs were considered sacred by ancient Hawaiians, who believed that, after death, the spirit jumped off them to join its ancestors. Watching the sun first illuminate the dark crags and then slowly creep behind them, leaving only an auralike glow, certainly seems supernatural. After a day on the beach, visitors line up for the mystical show at dusk. For front-row seats, grab drinks at the Sheraton Maui Resort’s Sundowner Bar, then watch as a diver honors the legend with a dramatic leap into the sea, followed by a collective "ahhhhh" echoing down the sand. Stay at: Sheraton Maui Resort, a lush 510-room resort with a lagoon-style pool and lots of nooks for the private "Dinner Under the Stars." To win a four-night stay here, see page 164. (Doubles from $345; 866-716-8109) —Elaine Stuart

Laguna Beach, California
The sun may have set for good on MTV’s reality series Laguna Beach, but this scenic seaside town still retains its magic glow each evening. The view can be enjoyed al fresco with your toes in the sand, as you dig into a picnic basket filled with lobster rolls and chilled chardonnay, or atop the town’s cliffs at chic eateries such as Studio at Montage Laguna Beach, where chef James Boyce will wow you with his six-course tasting menu. You could argue that the entire California coast is ideal come sunset, but Laguna Beach has something many other spots do not: an artsy downtown filled with galleries, where you can buy a painting of a dusky seascape as a memento. Stay at: Montage Laguna Beach, poised on bluffs above several coves with 250 oceanview rooms and a sea-inspired menu at Spa Montage. (Doubles from $695; 866-271-6953) —Donna Heiderstadt

Lovers Beach, Los Cabos, Mexico
Watching the sun set behind the famed natural arch can be a bit touristy—all the boats in the Cabo San Lucas marina seem to anchor here at dusk. Those in the know watch from a hidden cove off the Sea of Cortez that’s so romantic it’s known as "Lovers Beach." Part of what makes it so special is that it’s nearly impossible to get to on foot. Instead, hire a water taxi at the marina and schedule a return time with the driver. Pack a lunch, and you can spend the day snoozing in the sun, frolicking in the surf and admiring wind-sculpted rocks. The finale? Sunset. Even the seals basking nearby seem to turn their lazy gaze to watch the show. One word of advice: Spread your towels on the Sea of Cortez side, because across the cove, where the Pacific’s wild waves pound the shore, is jokingly known as Divorce Beach! Stay at: Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, a luxe hotel with large rooms, sweeping sea views and a swimmable beach. (Doubles from$219;800-445-8667) —Elaine Stuart

Seven Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica
Want a party with your sunset? Head for this sweep of beige cashmere sand, speckled with palm trees and all-inclusive resorts and energized by rum and reggae. Lapped by aqua water that’s almost translucent at the shore, it’s a lanky, liberated stretch of fun in the sun. But what the bikini-clad crowds here crave most is that moment when the orange orb does its nightly limbo with the horizon. Bartenders turn up the volume, put extra Red Stripes on ice and help everyone party Jamaica-style. When you’ve had enough sand, head west to Negril’s 30-foot cliffs. Pull up a chair at Rick’s Cafe and toast the daredevils taking the plunge into the sea below. Or join them—and star in someone else’s honeymoon video. Stay at: Sandals Negril, where the newest digs are River Suites with swim-up patios leading into a flowing lagoon. (Doubles from $722, all-inclusive; 800-SANDALS) —Donna Heiderstadt

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