Reader Recs: World’s Best Beach Towns

Summer is officially underway in the Northern Hemisphere, and if you’re anything like me, that means one thing—beach season. Whether it be a long weekend at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina or an extended stay in sandy Punta Cana, I’m always ready for an ocean breeze and the sweet tang of saltwater.

To toast the warm weather–and to provide inspiration for all those last-minute vacation planners out there–we asked our Facebook community to share their picks for the best beach town in the world.

Our readers didn’t disappoint. Recommendations ran the gamut–from St. John to Singapore–so grab a beach chair and a fruity drink and explore standout seaside spots with Nat Geo Travel:

Let’s kick things off in the quaint college town of St. Andrews, Scotland, where Lauren G. suggests “afternoon tea at the Old Course Hotel” and a visit to 1 Golf Place “for a pitcher of Pimm’s on the second-story deck.” This beach town served as the setting for the opening sequence of the 1981 blockbuster Chariots on Fire, so be sure to head down to West Sands to reenact the famous scene in ankles-deep surf.

Next we head to Trunk Bay in St. John. The “crystal clear water” is perfect for snorkeling, says Kristi E., and the panoramic views are second to none. A veritable Virgin Islands paradise, to be sure.

Otranto in Puglia, Italy was added to the list by Arianna V. for its spectacular cliff diving, nightly live music, and exquisite food.

For Penny R., nothing can compete with the Oregon coast. She recommends heading to Depoe Bay to watch the whales and splash in the many tide pools at Sunset Beach. But if it’s great seafood you’re after, head south to the fishing town of Bandon, where you can “get a shrimp cocktail cup straight from the sea.”

San Sebastián, Spain came highly recommended by Anastasia B. Fresh Atlantic cuisine, top-notch surfing, and beautiful architecture are just a few of the reasons she gave to convince folks to add this Basque Country beach to their bucket list. If you’re there late in the summer, don’t miss the San Sebastián International Film Festival, which takes place each September.

Meanwhile, clear on the opposite coast of Spain, Marbella seemed to be a popular favorite among our followers, with many people noting the beautiful weather and superior eats. Julius S. enjoys “sailing, water sports, fishing, golf, and nature walks” when visiting this Andalusian beach town.

For anyone looking for an “off the grid” destination, Laura M. suggests San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua. For the ultimate experience, she recommends cruising the coast in rented boats, hitting the local beaches, exploring volcanoes and pristine springs, and drinking mojitos at the Pelican Eye Resort.

If you’re set on bringing your furry friend along for the ride, consider Dog Beach in Coronado, California. Kayla P. loves that Dog Beach is less crowded than other California spots, and “allows our four-legged friends to enjoy all the beach has to offer.”

Mya P. is sold on Waikiki in Oahu, Hawaii for the excellent food at Morimoto and Nobu restaurants, although there is plenty for the outdoor enthusiast to do as well. Kayaking, fishing, surfing, diving, and hula dancing are just a few of the activities that are readily available.

Sentosa Island in Singapore gets Seven Up’s vote for the best beach town in the world. It’s “home to an exciting array of themed attractions, award-winning spa retreats, lush rain forests, golden sandy beaches, and world renowned golf courses.”

If you’re looking for diverse culture, fantastic food, and an abundance of wildlife, Nathaniel T. suggests Cairns, Australia for your next trip. Janice P. also has a thing for Australian beaches, but she recommends Bondi Beach for the “hustle and bustle” or Manly Beach for a more family-friendly escape.

Speaking of food, Richie C. swears by the local fish and chips (“with a pint of Guinness”) at Marazion Beach in Cornwall, England.

Liz F. went the sentimental route for her recommendation. Ocean City, New Jersey is where she “went every summer as a kid, so it’s filled with wonderful memories.” No matter how many beaches she visits, the family-friendly vibe at Ocean City will always keep her coming back.

Megan Heltzel is an associate producer on National Geographic Travel’s digital team. Follow her on Twitter @MeganHeltzel.

What’s your favorite beach town, and why? Tell us in the comments section for a chance to appear on Intelligent Travel.

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  1. subha
    October 15, 2014, 1:39 pm

    Although these beaches are one of the best and the information provided here is pretty nice. However search for exotic beaches never ends and I can say there are hell lot of other exotic beaches across the world. Among the most beautiful beaches, I agree it could be florida which is never missed in the list.

    I have also collected information on exotic beaches across the world and this information could also help others to get some reviews. Check the blog mentioned in the signature.


  2. Leah
    September 3, 2014, 10:50 pm

    Cairns! Are you kidding.. its a mud flat and you cannot swim because of crocodiles and jellyfish. We have far better beaches to be seen in Australia.

  3. Paul Gurda
    July 15, 2014, 2:46 pm

    I don’t know who or what Seven Up is, but I think a basic element to a wonderful beach town is that you can actually go into the water. Sentosa, off Singapore, fronts on one of the busiest shipping ports in the world, and its water is incredibly filthy. People go to the beach, play on the sand, but they’d be crazy to get wet there.

  4. dwat
    July 10, 2014, 1:43 pm

    Pardon the misspellings; that’s Charlotte Amalie and Megan’s Bay.

  5. dwat
    July 10, 2014, 1:39 pm

    I don’t know how or why Ocean City, Maryland, or Charlotte Amali, St. Thomas, USVI, for Magan’s Bay, Coki Beach and Sapphire Beach, or Key West, Florida, didn’t make the list. These all are or have great beaches, and I have been to all many times and enjoyed each visit.

  6. mel stevenson
    Costa Rica
    July 10, 2014, 11:30 am

    Samara Beach Costa Rica is a beautiful Beach Town protected by coral reefs. Its a laid back beach town with great food and night life. Lonely Planet refers to it as one of the safest and prettiest beaches in Latin America.

  7. Pieter Gent
    Durban South Africa
    July 10, 2014, 11:25 am

    Miles of sand, washed by the warm Indian Ocean with African, European and Indian cultures. First world facilities with wild life safaries just minutes away. African, Indian and European cuisine and Durban’s own speciality “the bunny chow”

  8. bj
    July 10, 2014, 10:54 am

    Grace Bay – when you google it, take note of the lack of people in the pictures! Ahhhh

  9. Ak
    July 3, 2014, 1:37 am

    I think if you have done a fair survey or anyone of you have visited Maldives you would not say this as Maldives beaches are with white sands n clear warter

  10. Kay Latona
    San Miguel de Allende, Gto, Mexico
    June 30, 2014, 4:57 pm

    Bruce Schoenfeld must travel to Fernandina Beach, Florida. I haven’t been there for 20 years or so, but if the photos on Google are examples of present-day Fernandina Beach, things haven’t changed there. Just remembering now, the nostalgia bug has bitten me hard! We were there for only a few days and wanted desperately to stay longer in one of those places you wondered why it was you didn’t live there. It was a charming beach with a charming historic district, and, with any luck (and going by Google’s photos), it still is. I dare you to click on those photos without drooling.