Why is it that the concept of paradise is so tightly wound with beaches? Why do we spend the long winter months hankering for sun, and why does the random whiff of an old sun lotion bottle as we’re spring-cleaning instill in us a longing for holidays past? Maybe it’s because beaches, at least for those of us who don’t live near one, are so far removed from our everyday lives that they’ve become a benchmark for happiness. Sandy feet translate into a clear-cut sign of relaxation, and seafood becomes the fare of gods.
At least, that’s the way we portray it in movies—and combining the two (beaches+movies) makes for one hell of a nostalgic duo. Here are 10 fairytale beaches around the world that have been used as film sets—some of which should probably factor into your next holiday destination.
10 El Matador State Beach, California
The Beach: Cali’s up first on our list (well duh!)—with panoramic sea views and dune-like cliffs, El Matador State Beach is one of Malibu’s natural wonders you really ‘get’ once you’re there. It boasts of royal blue waters, craggy rock pools teeming with our favorite underwater friends and merciful beds of soft sand.
The Movie: In 2004, an iconic scene from The Notebook was shot here—including the cringe-worthy “if you’re a bird, I’m a bird” line. Ryan Gosling fan or not, this beach is still the perfect setting for amorous declarations.
9 Bagno Antonio, Italy
The Beach: While jetsetters and their cliques flock to Capri to soak up the sunshine and fine-dine on lobster bisque, Ischia Ponte is the cheaper alternative, for fellows in the know. Feast yourself on Bruschetta and calamari on the cheap, while taking in the magnificent backdrop of rocky islands out to sea.
The Movie: In 1999, this beach starred in a key scene from The Talented Mr Ripley, where Ripley meets Dickie (Jude Law) and Margie (Gwyneth Paltrow) for the first time and his milky, ‘grey’ skin amuses the pair. It’s not at all pretentious though, so if you haven’t had time to soak up some rays beforehand, we promise you won’t be laughed off it by socialites.
8 Joseph Sylvia State Beach, Massachusetts
The Beach: Come bearing gifts, a cooler chockablock with cold brew, a carload of deckchairs, one juicy detective novel and expect to lose yourself to the day. This long stretch of sheet-white sand prompts even the hardiest of workaholics to do nothing. The temperature is luke-warm all year round, so ditch the wetsuit and take to the deep dark blue ‘au natural’.
The Movie: It might contradict the above, but this beach was actually featured in Spielberg’s cult classic Jaws. Yes, the movie was shot here and yes, there may be some sharks lurking further out to sea, but remember how fine the water looked as the sun was setting, right before Chrissie dove in?
7 Cannon Beach, Oregon
The Beach: The sands are the color of peach, the sea a mellow tangerine when the sun sets, or a crisp, rich blue when it rises. When the tide is low, picture romantic strolls along wet sand or cozy bonfires further inland. Plus, Haystack Rock, the small isle jutting out of the sea, is the place to be if you’re a tufted puffin.
The Movie: Even 30 years later, rallying cries like “Goonies never say die!” and “Boodie Traps!” can still be heard around these parts. Dip your toes into its famous waters and you might have an instant flashback to The Goonies’ opening scene, where Fratelli’s Jeep Cherokee escapes the police and hurtles down the beach to join the town’s annual car rally.
6 Turtle Bay Resort, Hawaii
The Beach: There’s no beach in the world that comes close to Hawaii’s Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii. It ticks every box when it comes to the tropical cliché: legendary wave breaks, swoon-worthy sands and shaved ice desserts. But it’s also a spot where local tradition meets tourism—everyone is welcome.
The Movie: if you’ve ever suffered from the internal warfare that comes with heartbreak, you probably sympathize with Jason Siegel’s character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Need somewhere to heal in private, and Turtle Bay Resort is your go-to place. Just call ahead of time to make sure your ex doesn’t have the same idea.
5 Kastani Beach, Greece
The Beach: This small cove is made up of pebbly sands and gentle Mediterranean water lapping its shores, dotted by a small number of wooden huts serving exquisite cocktails. Greece is to Europe what Hawaii is to America, so if you don’t have thousands to spare for a ticket, Kastani Beach should definitely feature in your runner up list.
The Movie: Dancing, sing-offs and elaborate paternity mix-ups? Of course we’re talking about a musical, and yep, you guessed it, this means Mamma Mia. The movie and its sequel were shot (in grand part) on this beach, including Dominic Cooper’s lovable rendition of Lay all your love on me.
4 Chesil Beach, Dorset
The Beach: While English beaches are generally overlooked by tourists (do rain and clouds factor high on anyone’s summer bucket list?), Dorset is home to stunning shorelines. Chesil Beach has an eerie, magical quality well-worth checking out. One skinny slimmer of white sand, paired with the Atlantic’s electric blue expanse, and you’ve got the ideal combo for a romantic walk under the rain.
The Movie: The adaptation of Ian McEwan’s moody drama On Chesil Beach was set and filmed here. While the film is replete with awkwardly British encounters, the beach wins us over—try the spicy crab served at the Crab House Cafe, it’s sure to enliven your trip.
3 Maya Bay, Thailand
The Beach: This pristine slice of paradise is one of the most famous beaches in Thailand—thousands of tourists flock to it every day. And while anyone prefers staking camp on near-virgin beaches, its popularity has good reason. The coral reef is one massive hotel to snorkel your way around: turtles, octopi, clown fish, manta rays and Harlequin Shrimps hang here on the regular.
The Movie: This was the prime filming location in Danny Boyle’s The Beach. A private, elusive beach, select few tourists were invited to brave the journey it takes to get there. Ironically, as of 2016 Maya Bay was closed to the public to repair the damage caused to the reefs by humans. If you went there now you’d be met with the same disdain Leonardo DiCaprio’s character was.
2 Nanuya Levu, Fiji
The Beach: This pristine environment seems artificially designed to free you from the shackles of modern life, except that it’s all nature’s good will at work. The sunsets here have to be seen to be believed, and the walk to the blue lagoon is peppered with glimpses of Fiji’s wildlife.
The Movie: The Blue Lagoon is a tale that’s as everlasting as it is ridiculous. Two children are shipwrecked on an island, survive and grow up and learn to live off the island’s resources. They fall in love and have themselves a life-long honeymoon, give or take a few poisonous berries. Sound tempting?
1 Monuriki, Fiji
The Beach: Every beach on this list up until now is pretty popular with the crowds. Not this one. Monuriki, one of Fiji’s islands, is in fact uninhabited. It’s unspoiled, uncrowded and incredibly pretty.
The Movie: Remove “two children” from the description above and replace with “one man” and you’ve basically got yourself the plot for Cast Away. How can you get a taste of Tom Hanks’ freedom? Just catch a ferry over from one of Fiji’s neighboring islands. Schedules are temperamental though, so don’t expect to get there on time.