There’s no better boating destination than a good beach, and while any top 10 list is a matter of opinion (see our Editor’s Choice: Best Waterfront Restaurants and Bars for another example of our subjective selections), these beaches are some of the best around for visiting boaters. It’s a small sampling, for sure, but these beaches will make you want to set sail as soon as possible.
Avalon Beach, Catalina Island
The crescent-shaped harbor of Avalon has hundreds of boat moorings at its eastern end and a coarse sand beach that attracts tourists all summer long, but is blissfully empty on the mild days of winter. The famous Casino building stands like a sentinel, guiding sailors into this protected bay where Hollywood icons, including Marilyn Monroe, have dipped their toes into the cool water.
Balandra Beach, Mexico
Truly a locals’ beach, Balandra enjoys mostly calm and very shallow water and white sand. You can anchor out and walk for nearly a quarter mile in knee-deep warm water to reach this beach (there’s a road from town as well). The residents of La Paz on Baja California Sur fought to keep this area from being developed–and they won. Around the corner is the iconic mushroom-shaped Balandra Rock, so bring your camera.
Cow Wreck Beach, Anegada
A bar provides refreshments on this beach, which got its name from the cow bones that used to wash up from ships wrecked on the surrounding reef. The outer reef of this island in the British Virgins chain separates a long stretch of white sand from the pounding Atlantic Ocean, making the inside lagoon perfectly calm for swimming and snorkeling. Anchoring is advised only in calm conditions and only for the day because it can get rough when the winds start to rage.
Ffryes Beach, Antigua
Antigua’s western side has dozens of pristine beaches with white sand and gently lapping waves. One stretch of foliage-bordered beach, that also makes a great anchorage for cruising and charter boats, is Ffryes. You can while away the day on a beach chair or sip a cool rum drink at nearby Dennis’ Cocktail Bar.
Huahine Island, French Polynesia
Less an actual beach and more of an amazing fringing reef, Huahine’s windward side defines ocean colors like no place on Earth. Just over 100 miles from Papeete, the Tahitian island of Huahine is one of the least developed places to enjoy a Polynesian vibe and amazing tropical vistas.
Newport Beach, California
Arguably the most famous beachside destination along the Southern California Riviera, Newport Beach is home to the wealthy and the destination for tourists from all over the globe. Anchoring outside the bay is difficult as the continental shelf drops off quickly, but the one-of-a-kind harbor is only 15 feet deep and is perfectly calm for a night on the hook.
Sandy Island, Carriacou
To the west and in the lee of Carriacou is Sandy Island, a spit of white sand topped by a few palm trees, and surrounded by aquamarine water. You can’t anchor in this national park, but you can pick up a mooring and swim ashore to lounge on the sugary beach.
Small and arid, this island has the wonderful beach of Sarakiniko on its northern shore. Carved by wind and water, Sarakiniko’s cliffs are like Swiss cheese, punctuated by caverns. It’s a white moonscape carved into the volcanic rock that attracts swimmers and photographers from around the world.
Tahiti Beach, Elbow Cay
Tahiti comes to the Abacos. This lovely walking beach may be named Tahiti but it is actually in the Bahamas in the Sea of Abaco on the same cay as Hope Town Harbor. It’s a four-mile hike to get there from town but you can rent a golf cart and zip down, stopping on the way for a cocktail and conch salad at Sea Spray Marina.
The Baths, Virgin Gorda
One of the most-visited parts of the British Virgin Islands, the Baths on Virgin Gorda is a must-do trek through a magical cavern system. These unique geographic formations hide bits of beach, tidal pools, grottoes, and tunnels that you can traverse with the help of installed ladders. Bring your reef shoes and a waterproof camera and come early in the day to beat the crowds.
To be sure, there are more than 10 beaches in the world that are worthy of your bucket list. But if you hit all 10 of those above, you’ve got one heck of a good start.