9 of the World’s Greatest Beach Vacations

With sparkling water and exotic sights, these coastlines are worth seeking out.

9 of the World’s Greatest Beach Vacations

With sparkling water and exotic sights, these coastlines are worth seeking out.

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  • 01 of 09

    The Maldives

    Looking to get away? (And we mean really get away?) Consider the Maldives. This sun-drenched archipelago in the Indian Ocean is about as off-the-beaten-track as it gets. Laid-back and ultra-serene, the Maldives comprises more than a thousand dazzling islands. The beaches are especially tempting for divers — the area is considered a scuba-diving mecca. The warm sapphire water is loaded with eyefuls of exotic fish and marine life. Your sense of awe will hit new heights, thanks to the bioluminescent phenomena: Some beaches literally glow come nightfall.

  • 02 of 09

    Sumba Island

    Perhaps the most enticing beaches Indonesia has to offer can be found on Sumba Island. To visit this virtually undeveloped spot, about an hour's flight from Bali, is to step back in time. Traditional villages abound, as do roaming buffalo. Nihiwatu, the island's famed luxury resort, is known to offer treehouse breakfasts, horse-riding and outdoor massages by the surf.

    MORE: Top Tips for Booking a Luxury Vacation

  • 03 of 09

    Ko Phi Phi Island

    This Thai island is an absolute stunner, widely regarded as one of the top beaches in Thailand—if not the world. Located on the Andaman Coast, Ko Phi Phi is known for its ancient landscape and towering limestone fixtures. It's also a premier diving site, offering unmatched snorkeling opportunities. Adventure seekers should take note: The Phi Phi islands can also be explored by speedboat, making for an unforgettable island-hopping day trip.

  • 04 of 09

    Bora Bora

    There's a reason Bora Bora is such a standout destination. Lush, green mountains kiss the sky above turquoise water that stretches endlessly into the horizon. As the sky darkens and the days come to an end, be prepared for unreal sunsets. This private, famously romantic oasis is a bucket-list spot that has earned its reputation for being a jewel of the South Pacific.

  • 05 of 09

    Great Exuma Island

    The Exumas are actually 365 different islands and cays in the Bahamas. Of these, Great Exuma Island has long been considered a heaven-on-earth destination. This seemingly untouched sprawl of white sand is the ultimate place to disconnect from day-to-day life. Visiting Great Exuma also gives you direct access to Georgetown, the capital city. Here, you'll get a dose of culture and history set against live music and eclectic shopping.

  • 06 of 09

    Sri Lanka

    A day spent on the shores of Sri Lanka will seem unreal. This dreamlike Asian country is loaded with jaw-dropping coastlines. One obvious problem is choosing just one: The west coast is home to some of the best beaches in Sri Lanka, featuring Westernized hotels and entertainment. But the south coast is a truly Sri Lankan experience. In addition to its breathtaking beaches, the region has Buddhist shrines, ancient temples and colonial towns to explore. Mirissa is one of the most intimate beaches of the south coast. It's also a top spot for whale-watching.

  • 07 of 09

    Fiji

    This tiny South Pacific island packs a big punch where beach vacations are concerned, largely thanks to its abundance of natural beauty. You can rock-dive amid waterfalls, bathe in mud pools or explore rainforest terrain. Adrenaline junkies can indulge in whitewater rafting or zip-lining. It's little wonder that Fiji is positioning itself as one of the top places to visit in 2016.

  • 08 of 09

    Seychelles Islands

    On the east coast of Africa are the Seychelles islands, a largely unknown archipelago that's a true gem of the Indian Ocean. The 115 islands are the oldest ocean isles on the planet, sparsely inhabited by people. But you'll likely find that those who call Seychelles home have a reputation for being warm, boisterous and colorful. La Digue, Mahé and Praslin are among the best islands to visit. For a more remote experience, explore one of the outer islands, where the beaches are virtually free of footprints.

  • 09 of 09

    Tulum, Mexico

    This destination has definitely earned its bragging rights when it comes to spectacular beaches in Mexico. Playa Paraiso, which literally translates to "Paradise Beach," is a top pick for its thin crowds and relatively quiet atmosphere. It's also a winner for snorkeling. When you're ready for a seaside break, you can seek out ancient Mayan ruins or observe the many spider monkeys that inhabit the area.

For many, nothing says vacation quite like sunshine and white-sand beaches. And can you blame them? Research suggests that being near the ocean promotes relaxation and overall well-being. This, of course, begs the question: Which beachy locale should you settle on for your next vacation? To help you narrow down the choices, we're taking a closer look at nine too-good-to-be-true beaches across the world. It's time to channel your inner beach bum with this definitive list, compliments of Insight Guides!

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