There is never a bad time to go to the beach, and with 620,000 kilometers (about 372,000 miles) of oceanic coastline worldwide, there are plenty of beaches to go around. From rugged dramatic beauties to turquoise waters perfect for relaxing, there's a perfect kind of beach for every vacationer. The ten that we’ve rounded up today are all in National Parks or Reserves around the world, so you know they’re not exploitative—you can have your vacation and preserve the local ecosystem too. The ten beaches we’ve rounded up today include spots for thrill-seekers, people looking to unplug, and everyone in between.
10 Phong Nha Cave
This is a slightly uncommon destination, as far as beaches go, but don’t skip it if you’re in Vietnam and able to visit Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. This beach is actually along the Son River, which winds through the beautiful the granite peaks of Vietnam. You’ll need a tour guide to get to this cave that extends into the water, but it’s worth paying for.
Visitors have to take a boat to get in, and at the exit of the cave is a small and secluded beach. It is surrounded by 400 million-year-old limestone that twists and turns in such beautiful patterns it’s hard to believe they’re not manmade. The journey there takes you through a save so beautiful it’s sometimes referred to as a grand stone cathedral.
9 Komodo National Park
This national park is in the center of the Indonesian Archipelago. It includes three major islands: Komodo, Rinco, and Padar, as well as a few other smaller islands. It was established to provide refuge for its namesake the Komodo dragon, but it also has one of the richest terrestrial and marine environments in southeast Asia. It’s a World Heritage Site
These islands are full of great beaches to visit if you’re there just for nature, because there are no clubs on Komodo. But the diving on the coast is amazing—it includes several beautiful and largely untouched sites like Cannibal Rock and Batu Bolong. Take a boat trip from Labuan Bajo pier to get there and enjoy the beautiful clear blue water.
8 Gold Bluffs Beach
Redwood Forest National Park in California includes nearly 40 miles of wild coastline. It has dramatic cliffs and wildlife that aren’t reclusive. Gold Bluffs beach, named for the gold that miners used to seek there, is about 10 miles long. You can camp right in the sand dunes and enjoy the dramatic views, especially beautiful sunsets.
There’s an easy hike from the beach up to Fern Canyon, which winds through canyon walls beautifully covered with lush mosses. It’s dreamy. The famous Redwoods that give the park its name are nearby as well.
7 Loch Ard Gorge
The Great Ocean Road is famous as one of the most beautiful drives in Australia, and the plethora of amazing beaches on it make it obvious why. It was hard to pick just one from this drive, but Loch Ard Gorge in the Port Campbell National Park has to be it. The clean beach is surrounded by tall cliffs on either side, making it feel like your own private cove, and the water is a clear and pure blue.
The rugged coastline is especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset. The nearby Twelve Apostles are massive limestone rocks that seem to jut up from the ocean all on their own. Only eight of the Apostles are still standing—see them before they all erode away.
6 Lagon de l’Hermitage
Hermitage beach is part of the National Marine Reserve of Réunion Island, which is a French overseas region in Africa, near Madagascar and the Indian Ocean. (It is the outermost territory of the EU!)
The National Marine Reserve has 40 km (about 25 mi) of coastline, about half of which are coral reef. It provides shelter to nearly 3,500 marine species, including places where sea turtle eggs are laid—at the right time of year, you can see the babies hatch and return to the water.
The beach is really easy to reach by car. Water sports are heavily regulated, but there is an amazing water “trail” that is marked by buoys. Snorkel along it and be absolutely stunned by the lavish seabed.
5 Kiwayu Island Beach
Within the protected Kiunga Marine Reserve in Kenya lies the beautiful Kiwayu Island. It has miles of long empty beaches, and there is easy snorkeling close to shore. Look for dolphins, whales, sea turtles, and the timid and endangered dugong. If you know how to sail, you can charter a personal vessel to both fish and explore around the island more freely.
Book early! There are only two camps and a few private villas for people to stay at and limited to no wifi, so this is ultimate beach to come to for a truly disconnected vacation.
4 Baie Ternay
The Seychelles National park is dedicated to rebuilding the forests and beaches that were nearly destroyed by exploitative harvesting of cinnamon by in the 19th century. As such, access is limited, and to get anywhere you’ll have to book tours. There are no coastal roads at all, but you can still get to Baie Ternay beach by boat. It is worth the work.
Baie Ternay is characterized by its amazing secluded beaches that are idyllic for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. While snorkeling, look for the majestic coral reefs that are growing back, as well the elusive whale shark, dolphins, and sea turtles. In the seagrass beds on the north side, moray heels like to hide.
3 Cayo de Agua
In Venezuela, Los Roques Archipelago National Park covers nearly 546 acres of archipelago, making it the biggest marine park in the Caribbean. As one of the most beautiful parts of Venezula, Los Roques is full of beautiful beaches. But its iconic one is Cayo de Agua, which as powdery white sand beaches and incredibly clear blue water. You can walk along the beach to the ridge that connects to another one of the islands and stroll along the thin strip or wade through the shallow water.
The entire park includes beautiful coral reefs that must be explored by scuba diving. The area is also very practically suited for a lot of aquatic sports such as windsurfing because there’s always wind somewhere.
2 Wai’anapanapa Beach
The Wai’anapanapa State Park in Hawai’i (on the island Maui) is famous for its lush exotic coastline and its black sand beach. The turquoise waters form a gorgeous contrast to the inky sand that comes from all the volcanic activity on the island. The name means “glistening water,” and when you visit you’ll see why. It was created by waves crashing over flowing lava from the volcano Haleakala.
This beach is nestled in a private cove, but it’s not too hard to get to. Look for the amazing giant sea stacks rise from the ocean and tower over the beach, as well as ancient lava caves. Just watch out—black sand is considerably hotter than white sand.
1 Whitehaven Beach
The Whitsunday Islands National Park is practically paradise for beach lovers. It contains 74 islands and plenty of amazing white sand beaches to enjoy. Whitehaven Beach is its most famous beach. It consistently makes top 10 lists of Best Beaches, period. The shallow water is a clear blue, and tends to make beautiful swirling patterns in the powdery soft sand.
Nearby there’s snorkeling, and it’s possible to see whales, manta rays, and batfish that are so used to people they’re eat right out of your hand. It’s an amazing experience, especially if you’re bringing kids with you.