The Best 25 Beaches in the World

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These five postcard-perfect paradises are ready for their close-ups

Captiva Island, Florida
To get here, you leave Ft. Myers and navigate a causeway, drive the length of charming Sanibel Island, cross a bridge and drive a bit more. When you finally arrive, you find a small-town kind of place with a great big beach. Its bright white sand goes on for miles, dusted with seashells and blessed each evening with the kind of sunsets that turn visitors into zombies, walking west as the sky is streaked with orange and mauve. Perhaps it was a sunset that inspired the over-the-top Orange Crunch cake at The Bubble Room, a kitschy eatery. To best appreciate the water’s beauty, skim its entirety on a Wave Runner—talk about untamed! Stay at: South Seas Island Resort, a 330-acre property with 465 rooms and 2.5 miles of sand. Book a Beach Villa for privacy. (Doubles from $149; 866-565-5089) —Donna Heiderstadt

Maroma Beach, Riviera Maya, Mexico
The saying "I’ve died and gone to heaven" comes to mind here. This strand, just south of Cancun, is truly one of the world’s most idyllic beaches. It has the same ingredients as other top beaches—sugar-white sand and inviting water—but what makes it special is the resort that calls this scenic strand home. Maroma Resort & Spa, designed with handcrafted Mexican adobe, painted tile and carved wood, perfectly captures the essence of Mayan culture. What’s more, this delightfully isolated beach is not too far from the fun of Playa del Carmen and the beauty of Tulum. In other words, it’s heavenly. Stay at: a href="http://www.maromahotel.com/" target="blank">Maroma Resort & Spa, the perfect spot to relax, with 65 rooms and suites and the indulgent, mystical Kinan Spa. (Doubles from $510; 866-454-9351) —Donna Heiderstadt

Pink Sands, Harbour Island, Bahamas
There are other pink-sand beaches, but this one is actually called Pink Sands—and it lives up to its name. Wondrously wide, perfectly flat and an amazing shade of deep terracotta when wet, this three-mile strand casts visitors in a flattering rosy glow. Plus, it helps that Harbour Island is as chic a spot as you’ll find in the Out Islands of the Bahamas, filled with multimillion-dollar homes whose owners scoot around on golf carts. Check out the local scene over lunch at Restaurant Sip Sip (242/333-3316), set right on the beach and known for its conch fritters, the local favorite. Stay at: Pink Sands, tucked on 20 lush acres beside the sand with 25 cottages done in Balinese, Moroccan and Indian decors. (Doubles from $600; 800-407-4776) —Donna Heiderstadt

Shoal Bay East, Anguilla
This Caribbean island is known for its beaches, and this one often earns the most kudos. Why? It offers the perfect combo of relaxation and recreation: sublime powder-soft sand sloping gently into the calm aquamarine sea and backed by bars and eateries that turn it into a lively party—especially on Sundays. Here, you get a feel for the real Anguilla: grilled lobster, rum punch and live music at Elodia’s and Uncle Ernie’s BBQ. More delights await along the reef offshore, where the sea life is just as entertaining. They should have named it Smile Bay East. Stay at: Ku, a sunny, low-key enclave of airy suites that is the no-fuss little sister of chicer Cap Juluca, which Ku guests can visit. (Doubles from $160; 800-869-5827) —Donna Heiderstadt

Warwick Long Bay Beach, Bermuda
Horseshoe Bay gets the press (and the cruise-ship crowds), but those in the know tag Warwick as Bermuda’s best strand. Long, wide and laced with sand that runs from burnished gold to soft pink, it is framed by jagged offshore rocks and bluffs cloaked in windswept vegetation. Weekends bring a fair amount of locals, but on weekdays Warwick is largely deserted and ripe for the sort of romance that tropical beaches inspire. You’ll be looking out on the northern tip of the Bermuda Triangle, the watery geometry that has spurred so many myths and legends. Whether you believe or not, the beach views are awesome—especially at sunrise, when the shore is flooded in golden light. Stay at: The Fairmont Southampton, perched atop Bermuda’s highest point, it blends bygone British charm and new-age panache—with spectacular ocean views. (Doubles from $269; 800-441-1414) —Joe Yogerst

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