These Beaches Have the Bluest Water in the World

Whether in Australia or the U.S. Virgin Islands, these dramatic beaches offer water so bright blue you gotta wear shades.


Smooth granite boulders and swaying palms give Anse Source d’Argent in the Seychelles its distinctive look.

Photo by Sarika Bansal

There are many things that make beaches amazing, including silky white sand, luxurious resorts, or cloud-free weather perfect for all-day sunbathing. But for pure visual appeal, it’s hard to beat beaches with crystal-clear, ultra-blue waters. You’ll often find these peaceful stretches of sand in protected coves, where calm surf invites visitors to swim, snorkel, or commune with local marine life. Ranging in shades from pale turquoise to deep cerulean, these colorful beaches are nearly as dazzling as they are relaxing.

Anse Source d’Argent, Seychelles

Laid-back La Digue island is home to this impossibly scenic white-sand beach, which pairs gently lapping waves with sky-high palms and a cluster of smooth granite boulders that look a bit like a family of huddling elephants. Visitors access the beach by walking through L’Union Estate, a former French colonial coconut and vanilla plantation, and there’s a nearby beach bar selling tropical fruits, juices, and shakes. Bird-watchers flock here to spot Seychelles blue pigeons and an endemic species of paradise flycatcher, but the most magical way to explore these waters and the teeming coral reefs below the surface is by taking a three-hour guided tour in a transparent kayak with Crystal Water Kayaks.

Aerial view of small beach with a rusted shipwreck, surrounded by cliffs with bright blue water with a dozen small white boats

Navagio Beach on the island of Zakynthos takes its name from the Greek word for “shipwreck.”

Courtesy of Andrey Shevard/Unsplash

Navagio Beach, Greece

Part of the less-touristed Ionian islands chain off Greece’s western coast, Zakynthos is ringed with dramatic coves and sea caves. None can match the grandeur of Navagio (or Shipwreck) Beach, which is hemmed in by towering limestone cliffs and named for the hulking wreck of the Panagiotis, which ran aground here in 1980. Mystery surrounds its final days, but according to legend, the ship faltered while being chased by naval authorities for smuggling contraband cigarettes. However the Panagiotis ended up here, its rusted remains make for especially cinematic photographs against the azure Ionian Sea—and its use as a filming location in the Korean drama Descendants of the Sun has made it a favorite among Asian tourists. While you can visit on a guided boat tour, the grandest way to take in the scene is from the cliff-top viewing platform.

A clear blue bay with white sand and islets off shore; green mountains in the distance

The water at Trunk Bay is so clear that the park service has even installed an underwater marked snorkeling trail.

Courtesy of Josh Duncan/Unsplash

Trunk Bay, U.S. Virgin Islands

Sixty percent of the Caribbean island of St. John is covered by Virgin Islands National Park, which was created when philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller donated his land to the federal government so it could be preserved in perpetuity. Among the most “virginal” beaches in the area is the undeveloped Trunk Bay, which takes its name from the local word for leatherback turtles. Visitors pay $5 per person for the privilege of accessing this simple crescent of white sand, backed by a wall of palms and sea grapes. The aquamarine water hosts an underwater trail with interpretive signs introducing snorkelers to local marine life such as parrotfish, trunkfish, and brain coral.

A sea lion with its nose in the air on white sand with bright blue water in the background

The bright blue water of Gardner Bay makes for an excellent backdrop for Galápagos sea lion portraits.

Photo by Boyd Hendrikse/Shutterstock

Gardner Bay, Ecuador

Española is the southernmost of the Galápagos chain, and though the island is rugged and remote, that’s a big part of its charm. There are no hotels here, so you’ll have to stay on nearby San Cristóbal, and most day-trippers make a stop at Gardner Bay, a pristine, coral-sand beach that’s populated by a colony of sea lions. The playful animals will often join swimmers and snorkelers in the surf, and because the water is so gin-clear, you can watch their aquatic acrobatics underwater. Equally inquisitive are the endemic Hood mockingbirds that live on shore; they’re so fearless around humans that they’ll often land on visitors’ heads or shoulders in search of a snack!

A small beach with pure white sand and bright blue water, with green mountains in distance

The sand on Whitehaven Beach is almost purely silica, giving it a soft, cool texture and bright-white appearance.

Courtesy of Zhimai Zhang/Unsplash

Whitehaven Beach, Australia

About 550 miles north of Brisbane, the Whitsundays are a 74-island archipelago beloved by recreational sailors. The turquoise waters of Whitehaven Beach are rendered even more dramatic against the bone-white sand, which is more than 98 percent silica, or eroded quartz; its presence is a geological mystery, because the mineral isn’t found in these parts. The resulting sand is powder soft and cool to the touch, and it was nicknamed “whispering sand” by the Ngaro people due to the way it squeaks underfoot. While here, you may encounter baby lemon sharks, blue soldier crabs, goannas, and white-bellied sea eagles. You can camp on the beach’s southern end, although most travelers stay on the mainland in Airlie Beach or on neighboring Hamilton Island and then access Whitehaven for a day trip by seaplane, helicopter, jet boat, or even a privately chartered yacht.

Aerial view of curved sandy beach, with limestone cliffs in distance and small village of orange-roofed houses at left

The karst limestone cliffs behind Railay Beach are popular among rock climbers.

Courtesy of Rachael Annabelle/Unsplash

Railay Beach, Thailand

Although it’s part of the Thai mainland, Railay Beach is sometimes mistaken for an island because it’s cut off from its surroundings by impenetrable karst limestone cliffs and dense mangrove forests. You can only access this protected bay by catching a long-tail boat in Ao Nang (about $3 per person each way). When you arrive, you may spot rock climbers tackling the cliffs, but you’ll be excused if you want to simply enjoy the clear water. From here, you can wander into town for a seafood lunch and then continue on to Phra Nang Cave, a shrine filled with wooden phalluses left for the eponymous princess goddess by local sailors among the stalactites and stalagmites.

An overhead image of white sand with umbrellas and surfboards at top, with clear green-blue water dotted with coral

The waters off of Lanikai Beach are a favorite feeding ground of green sea turtles.

Courtesy of John Ko/Unsplash

Lanikai Beach, Hawai‘i

This white-sand beach is hidden behind a residential neighborhood on O’ahu’s quieter Windward Coast, but don’t assume it’s private property: All beaches in the state are open to the public, and you can reach this one via a series of narrow access paths. In the 1920s, developer Charles Frazier came up with the name Lanikai, which he thought meant “heavenly sea,” but his fractured Hawaiian resulted in a word that’s a bit jumbled to local ears. Looking out over the green-blue water, you’ll see Nā Mokulua, or “the Mokes,” a pair of islets you can explore via kayak. On a guided paddling trip with Kailua Beach Adventures, you’ll glide through sea-turtle feeding grounds, over coral reefs, and past a seabird sanctuary that’s home to wedge-tailed shearwaters.

A secluded cove with bright blue-green water and a sandy beach with colorful umbrellas; a few swimmers in water

Cala Macarelleta is one of many secluded coves along the southern shore of Menorca.

Photo by Jacinto Marabel Romo/Shutterstock

Cala Macarelleta, Spain

Mallorca’s laid-back little sister, Menorca boasts a coastline dotted with serene coves like Cala Macarella; it’s such an iconic beach that it often makes its way onto travel brochures and postcards. But if you want an even calmer, quieter experience, stroll five minutes farther down the coast to Cala Macarelleta. The water is just as Gatorade blue and so clear that it sometimes looks like visiting yachts are floating there. One of the coolest ways to take in the scenery from above is on the Camí de Cavalls (Path of Horses), a 116-mile trail for walking, mountain biking, and horseback riding that used to connect coastal watchtowers and fortresses and may date back as far as the 1300s.

Nicholas DeRenzo is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Brooklyn. A graduate of NYU’s Cultural Reporting and Criticism program, he worked as an editor at Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel and, most recently, as executive editor at Hemispheres, the in-flight magazine of United Airlines. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Sunset, Wine Enthusiast, and more.
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