When I first went on holiday, I was 18 years old and on the lookout for the perfect beach. You know the sort: powdery white sand and clear turquoise water set against a blazing blue sky. In those early years of travel, I saw beautiful beaches in Barbados, Tunisia, Thailand, Mexico and Dubai, but none were quite the same as the brochures and billboards.
They were either lined with high-rise hotels (Waikiki), filled with tourists (Ko Phi Phi), or not quite as soft and powdery as the pictures would have you believe. Eventually, I concluded that all the adverts were photoshopped beyond reality and that there was no such thing as the perfect beach. And then we went to the Maldives and Fiji and Samoa, and I found what I was looking for.
To help you discover the same idyll, we’ve put together a list of the best beaches we’ve ever seen, accompanied by photos we took ourselves, so that you can see these beaches without brochure-style retouching.
1. Baros Island, Maldives
I can’t gush about this place enough. Baros is an exclusive private resort I had the fortune of visiting in 2012. Located in the North Male atoll, it is a tiny island which takes about eight minutes to walk across. The entire island is covered with powdery white sand with the warm water of the Indian Ocean lapping nearby. If you’re planning a honeymoon, this beach is number one on my list.
2. Motu Tapu, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Our first three days in Bora Bora were doomed with bad weather. We dreaded leaving without seeing it in its glory. Thankfully, on the fourth day, the skies cleared and we took some kayaks out to Motu Tapu, a small islet a short distance from the main town of Vaitape. We had the motu to ourselves and spent an entire day with views like this.
3. Muri Beach, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Muri is the only beach on this list that doesn’t tick my ‘secluded’ criterion as it, alas, has a line of hotels on one side. Despite this, it still qualifies as one of the best beaches I’ve seen because of the jaw-droppingly clear water and views of Rarotonga’s stunning interior.
4. Little Beach, Vanuatu
We visited this beach for five days straight and had it to ourselves every day, bar one Saturday when we were joined by some cheeky local kids who played joyfully in the water. Hidden away on Vanuatu’s Tanna Island, Little Beach looks out onto volcanic black rock and the beautiful warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.
5. Honeymoon Island, Fiji
When it comes to Fiji, we had many beaches to choose from, the top contenders being Malolo Island, Monuriki Island and Honeymoon Island in the Mamanuca Group. The last won the top spot, arguably because it came with a gourmet picnic hamper. Whichever you choose, be secure in the knowledge that you’ll enjoy vistas like those below.
6. Tortuga Bay, Galápagos Islands
We didn’t see any eponymous tortugas (turtles) on this beach but we did lounge with marine iguanas on its incredible strip of white sand. The bay is a 40-minute walk from the center of Santa Cruz island’s main town Puerto Ayora, so isn’t as populated as it could be – meaning if you’re very lucky you could have it entirely to yourselves.
7. Tafatafa Beach, Samoa
We walked for an hour and saw not another soul, only clear blue water and warm yellow sand. We spent the morning dipping in and out of the water, sunbathing until we got too hot and then having another lazy dip. With our base at Vaiula Beach Fales (a set of basic beach shacks with no walls), we weren’t exactly in the lap of luxury but we barely noticed.