Watching as the sunlight dances across the surface of a cyan-blue lagoon. Inhaling the tang of salt-misted air. Listening to the steady thrum of waves washing the shore. Then finally, immersing yourself to swim and float in the water. Isn’t this the essence of bliss?

For many of us, beaches are the ultimate embodiment of vacation magic. Part of the reason is that time spent on the shore makes us happier and more relaxed (there’s even science to back this up!). And our collective love of beaches goes a long way toward explaining why islands are some of our most sought-after destinations. 

But how to choose the best island for beach travel, when the world is filled with them? While nearly every island has some sort of beach, not all are graced with truly stunning stretches of shoreline. Of those, only a lucky few islands encompass a variety of beaches offering all kinds of pleasures, like amazing scenery and accessibility; privacy and partying; kid-friendly shallows and open areas for watersport adventures.

These are the places that can truly be called “beach-blessed,” and it makes sense that visiting them maximizes your chance of a dreamy holiday. Interested in vacationing on one of these exceptional islands? Here are a few to consider.

Photo by Oktomi Jaya
Bali

With a land mass of more than 2,000 square miles, including volcanic mountains, verdant farmland, and thick jungle, Bali’s coastline varies enormously in topography and vibe. Visitors come for its graceful Hindu temples and yoga retreats—but also for its diverse array of southern Indian Ocean beaches. Among them:

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  • Jimbaran Beach, on Bali’s southwestern coast, attracts those who like to sun and swim in luxury. Its long, white-sand strip is lined with five-star resorts, chic restaurants, and trendy cocktail bars overlooking the tranquil water.
  • Amed Beach, an 8.5-mile-long stretch of volcanic black sand in Bali’s northeast, is dotted with sleepy fishing villages and outrigger boats—and, just offshore, vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. It’s a favorite, naturally, of snorkelers and divers.
  • Padang-Padang, at Bali’s southernmost tip, is the most famous of the island’s surfing beaches, with challenging barrel-shaped waves that host international surfing tournaments each year, along with many thousands of expert (and wannabe expert) wave-riders.
Eagle Beach, Aruba
Aruba

Renowned for its rich cultural diversity, lively festivals, and happy vibe, this Dutch island in the southern Caribbean is even more famous for its dazzling shoreline. Some of One happy island’s most celebrated beaches include:

  • Eagle Beach, a pristine, mile-long stretch of powdery white sand perfection with luxurious resorts and palm-shaded cabanas is ranked the #3 beach in the entire world by TripAdvisor.
  • Baby Beach, located on the southern tip of the island, the aptly named Baby Beach is a calm lagoon with warm, shallow waters—perfectly suited for families with young children.
  • Dos Playa, a pair of remote and spectacular coves found in Arikok National Park.
    The rugged cliffs and rolling waves attract local surfers and nature lovers - and like all beaches on Aruba, open to the public.
Photo by Cris Tagupa
Palawan, Philippines

While it’s hard to pick a single island destination in the Philippines (a nation that comprises more than 7,500 islands), Palawan, in the southwestern part of the archipelago, offers the most strikingly different beach experiences. Getting there requires an hour-long flight from the Philippine capital, Manila; but beaches like these make it worth the trip:

  • El Nido, on Palawan’s northernmost tip, has dozens of white-sand inlets circled by dramatic limestone cliffs. Its clear South China Sea waters lure kayakers, while its after-dark beachfront parties are popular with night owls.
  • Sabang Beach, on the blustery southwestern coast, draws hordes of nature lovers for its boat access to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park—a waterway that winds through a cave system of otherworldly limestone stalactites.
  • San Vicente, on the west coast between El Nido and Sabang, is quieter than either of its neighboring beaches—and its long stretches of golden sand and gently lapping water make it a favorite of families and beachcombers.