Many of us want nothing more out of a vacation then a great beach, a couple of local beers and a Blackberry without batteries. If you prefer a tasting menu over a main course, cruise ships are a great way to sample the world's best bands of powdery sand without being tied down by one. If you choose the right itinerary, you could even get to three or four top beaches in a one-week cruise.
Turquoise Coast, Aruba, Caribbean. Beach lovers will be in paradise on Aruba's seven-mile stretch of uninterrupted snow-white sand -- known as the Turquoise Coast -- which is safely out of the hurricane belt and nice and dry year-round. While you can park your towel just about anywhere along the beachfront, Palm Beach and Eagle Beach are among the two best spots, and are just a 10-minute taxi ride from the port of Oranjestad. With the hearty trade winds and protected bays, windsurfing at nearby places like Malmok Beach is excellent.
Grand Anse Beach, Grenada, Caribbean. The spice island's Grand Anse Beach is one of the best in the Caribbean. The two-mile band of white sand is nice and wide, and the water is calm. With views of St. George's, the main town, looming in the distance, and a handful of restaurants beachside serving up the freshest seafood, curries and fruity frozen drinks, what else do you need? Watersports rentals are available, and the beach is only a 10-minute cab or water taxi ride from the port.
Trunk Bay, St. John, Caribbean. Gorgeous Trunk Bay is regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and for good reason. Protected by the U.S. National Park Service, you won't see high-rise hotels surrounding the beach, though it gets a decent crowd of visitors because of its beauty and excellent snorkeling. Lots of thick green palms and foliage making it seem like paradise found. There's a neat self-guided snorkeling trail just off shore.
Kapalua Beach, Maui, Hawaii. The land of hula and Don Ho claims some of the best beaches in the world. Take Kapalua Beach, for instance, a stunning stretch of golden sand along the west coast of the Keanae Peninsula, with a spectacular view of the island of Molokai. Also known as Old Fleming Beach, it's tucked in a bay well protected from heavy surf by offshore reefs and lava peninsulas, making this an awesome swimming beach for families with kids. It's also great spot for snorkeling and for whale watching.
Hanalei Bay Beach, Kauai, Hawaii. Set into a large bowl-shaped bay against a gorgeous backdrop of mountain cliffs, crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay Beach is a stunner. The scenic 2-mile stretch of white sand along Kauai's northern coast is among the most picturesque in all the Hawaiian islands. Watersports are available too.
Little Bay, Anguilla, Caribbean. The tiny half-moon shaped sandy bay on this miniature island is sheltered by high cliffs, so the ambience is wonderfully tranquil and excellent for sunbathing and snorkeling. You'll feel like you've arrived on a deserted patch of paradise. Access is by boat only; a 5-minute ride from Crocus Bay.
Matira Beach, Bora Bora, French Polynesia. If you look up exotic beach paradise in the dictionary, it says Bora Bora, and the brilliant turquoise water and palm-tree fringed Matira Beach on the dreamy mountainous island of Bora Bora is one of the best in South Pacific. Surrounded by coral reefs, the island sits in the midst of a tranquil electric-blue lagoon, so the current is as gentle and warm as bath water, especially at Matira Beach, which stretches for several miles between the famed Hotel Bora Bora and Club Med.
Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda. The softest sand I've ever trod upon, this stuff really is like silk; perfect if you're toting young children who invariably smear the stuff in their eyes. The beach gets its name from its shape, which is framed by scenic rocky cliffs at its edges that are straight out of central casting. Don't miss a day here.
Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Caribbean. Against a backdrop of Australian pines, the island's Seven Mile Beach is a stretch of pristine sand that begins just north of George Town and the cruise ship terminal, so it's easily accessible by taxi or on foot. Hotels, condos and open-air restaurants line the beach, so lunch and a cool drink are always close at hand. Diving at the Cayman Wall, a sheer 500-foot drop-off just offshore, is among the best in the world.
Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This sizzling hot city is as famous for its beaches as its dramatic harbor and glamorous nightlife. There are few beaches smack dab in the middle of a bustling metropolis, but Rio de Janeiro's famed Copacabana is among the best (just watch out for pick pockets). The two-mile-plus stretch of wide white sand is popular with locals and tourists alike, and the art of people watching is brought to a whole new level here, where those teeny tiny thong bathing suits (called tangas) and the deeply-tanned, often topless, bodies holding them together will surely get your attention.
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