We could spend hours daydreaming about the world’s best beach destinations. Choosing only 10 isn’t as easy, but we did it. In this year’s Editors’ Choice Awards category for best beach destination, we’re highlighting the world’s best beaches that have a little something extra to offer in 2018.
Best Beach Destinations 2018: The Methodology
To determine the best beach destinations for 2018, we first looked at TripAdvisor awards, Dr. Beach rankings, and other travel industry round-ups that helped filter limitless possibilities into a destination shortlist. We then applied criteria that included exceptional beauty, clean sand and water, destination tourism infrastructure, and trending popularity.
Editor’s Choice Winner: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Providenciales, our top pick for best beach destination of 2018, also snagged the number-one spot on TripAdvisor’s 2018 Top Beaches in the World list. “Provo” is the picture-perfect Caribbean destination, one that’s been discovered but not overrun. There are clear turquoise waters, coral reefs for snorkeling, and soft white sand where you can beach comb for miles without encountering crowds. Groove to ripsaw music with the locals and savor conch fritters and jerk chicken at the outdoor island fish fry on Thursday nights.
Providenciales is surprisingly affordable. According to Airfarewatchdog data, you can score cheap round-trip flights to Providenciales in May from Miami ($208) and New York City ($308). The three-star Grace Bay Suites averages $155 per night in June.
Editors’ Choice Finalist: Maui, Hawaii
Maui is among America’s most iconic bucket-list beach destinations. Its beaches—including Ka’anapali Beach and Kapalua Bay Beach—consistently rank among the best in the world. And what Maui lacks in affordability it makes up for in beauty and novelty far beyond the perfect palm-fringed beaches.
Experience fire dancing at luaus, sunrise hikes to dormant volcano summits, and countless waterfalls along the curvy drive to Hana. The Maui Ocean Center just added ti-leaf lei making classes to its lineup of cultural experiences. And Hawaiian Airlines recently announced the addition of two year-round, daily nonstop flights from Portland and San Diego to Kahului, Maui.
Editors’ Choice Finalist: Bali, Indonesia
Find your beach nirvana on the southern peninsula of Bali, where scenes from Eat, Pray, Love were filmed. Spirituality infuses many aspects of daily life here, so expect encounters with local traditions that prompt a little soul searching. You won’t be alone—searches for Bali on Kayak shot up 27 percent this year, landing the Indonesian island the number three spot on the site’s hottest destinations for 2018 list.
This year, Indonesia’s currency is undervalued by 49 percent, according to The Economist’s Big Mac Index, so you can really make the most of every vacation dollar. TripAdvisor data shows the average annual hotel rate in Bali is about $155 per night, and round-trip flights from New York City are as low as $444.
Semi-Finalist: Grenada, Grenadines
Ringed with silky white sand, Grenada, the Caribbean’s “Spice Island” even smells like paradise with all the nutmeg grown here. While you can find cruise passengers and hawkers if you go looking for them (at Grand Anse Beach, for instance), the beauty of this island lies in its quieter corners, including Morne Rouge Beach, the underwater sculpture park, and rainforest trails.
Grenada tourism is on the rise, with a 30 percent increase in arrivals since 2017. The island is growing its infrastructure to meet the demand, with new hotels that will add nearly 3,0000 new rooms by 2020.
Semi-Finalist: Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
A 21-island archipelago and natural UNESCO World Heritage Site 224 miles off the northern coast of Brazil, Fernando de Noronha is home to three of the world’s top-ranked beaches.
The archipelago limits the number of visitors to protect its delicate ecosystems and wildlife. Those lucky enough to experience Noronha’s secluded beaches will see crystalline waters flanked by reddish sand, volcanic cliffs covered in lush vegetation, and dramatic sightings of the local spinner dolphins.
Semi-Finalist: Clearwater Beach, Florida
White sand as soft as powdered sugar brings spring breakers and retirees in droves to Clearwater Beach, where restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops vie for space within sight of the calm waters. In 2018, TripAdvisor reviewers named Clearwater the best beach in America.
Clearwater Beach recently saw the addition of three new hotels, with even more in the works. This year, the New York Red Bulls Major League Soccer team will join the ranks of professional teams that head to the Clearwater area for spring training and preseason exhibition games. You can catch round-trip flights from Chicago to Tampa for only $104 in May, July, and August, according to Airfarewatchdog data.
Semi-Finalist: Crete, Greece
This summer’s release of the Mama Mia! sequel brings the buzz back to the magical Greek Isles, where the storyline is set. Crete, not as popular or pricey as Mykonos or Santorini, was nevertheless ranked the number five destination in the world on TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice list.
Go now while the exchange rate is still favorable. You can split time between the island’s rich culinary culture, ancient ruins, and alluring beaches. Laze in sheltered coves or on the top-rated Elafonissi Beach, a nearly mile-long protected stretch of white sand with shallow turquoise lagoons and sea turtles.
Semi-Finalist: St. Lucia, Caribbean
Named one of the top 12 destinations for 2018 by the Association of British Travel Agents, St. Lucia is setting records in the Caribbean for its popularity. Last year, this exclusive tropical paradise posted the highest growth in overnight visitors and cruise passengers among all the Caribbean Tourism member countries.
And it’s about to get busier. In January, the Castries port reopened after a multi-million-dollar expansion and the island welcomed its first megaship, Royal Caribbean’s 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas.
Semi-Finalist: Praslin Island, Seychelles
Secluded and romantic, the 115-island Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean off East Africa has a mystical draw. Seychelles’ beaches, including Anse Lazio on Praslin Island, are among the most photographed in the world.
With sand like talcum powder, Anse Lazio is a sweeping white crescent framed by granite rocks and tropical rainforest. It’s isolated but worth the effort to get to Anse Lazio, where solitude and nature reign. Hop a 15-minute ferry from Praslin Island to La Digue to see the stunning pink sands of Anse Source d’Argent.
Semi-Finalist: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach landed in the number two spot in Oyster.com’s 2018 roundup of the world’s most affordable beach destinations. The often jam-packed family favorite destination offers 60 miles of sandy shores with nonstop fun for kids, plus reasonably priced condo-style accommodations that parents love.
Construction is now underway to extend Myrtle Beach’s famous boardwalk. It will soon connect to a new Hilton hotel and a new 55,000-square-foot complex featuring restaurants, shops, and a live music venue. This year, Spirit Airlines and five other U.S. carriers are adding direct flights to Myrtle Beach, offering easier access from more departure cities.
— Original research and reporting by Jamie Moore