Go Sun Yourself: Photos of the World's Best Beaches

 
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Tulum, Mexico, was once part of a large group of Mayan structures.  
Credit: Hannele Lahti/National Geographic 
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A tall, thick stone wall surrounds the 60 buildings within the site. Hence, the name: Tulum is the Mayan word for 'wall.'  
Credit: Medioimages/Photodisc 
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At 207,749 miles, the coastline of the Philippines is the longest of any country in the world and twice the combined length of all U.S. shores. With 85-degree weather year-round (beware of the July-through-September monsoon season), 34 national parks, 580 bird species, and some 7,100 islands where you can surf, swim, snorkel, dive, kayak, hike, climb, and sweat, the Philippines certainly offer up the goods.  
Credit: allan_the_colorblind/Flickr 
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Well known for their spectacular beaches, there is one that tends to capture the most attention. Boracay Beach's white sand and endless ocean view is considered not only to be one of the best beaches in the Philippines, but one of the best in the world.  
Credit: Ingo Jezierski/Photodisc 
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Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is home to some of the best beaches in the country. These strips of sand are favorites among some of the world’s most avid surfers and sand-lovers.  
Credit: elainedawn/Flickr 
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: Costa Rica's Tortuguero National Park is host to green turtles, which swim up to 1,500 miles to lay their eggs on the park's beaches. The turtles consider this site one of few spots in the world clean and safe enough to nest.  
Credit: Paul Souders/Digital Vision 
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Known as the 'Island of Spices,' Zanzibar, Tanzania, produces a variety of crops including cinnamon and nutmeg. But it's the cloves that dominate the economy—and the scent  
Credit: mattk1979/Flickr 
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Zanzibar's miles of unspoiled beaches are considered to be some of the world's most peaceful and remote places to vacation. The locals' simple way of life is a pleasant change in direction from the resort-lined beaches of more popular destinations.  
Credit: Cazenove/Getty 
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Once referred to as the 'Cannibal Isles,' Fiji didn't quite have the same draw as it does now. Fijians practiced cannibalism in the 19th century and were known to eat people who they felt brought bad spirits.  
Credit: Ron Dahlquist/Digital Vision 
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Rialto Beach is a one-and-a-half-mile stretch of Olympic National Park, Washington, and a popular entry point for backpackers who want to explore the park's North Wilderness Coast.  
Credit: Photodisc 
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The best way to soak in the emerald peaks and azure lagoons of the 'Islands Under the Wind' is to take a 14-day voyage from Huahine to Raiatea to Tahaa to Bora Bora. Start in the tiny village of Fare, its quay lined with a little row of shops, then sail three to five hours, 20 miles west, to Raiatea. Anchor in the island's protected lagoon and snorkel in technicolor madness. Then sail four miles north to visit the famed vanilla plantations of Tahaa. From there it's a four- to six-hour sail 25 miles northwest to Bora-Bora, with its still-ample secluded anchorages.  
Credit: Mahe/Flickr 
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Portugal's landscape is as intricate as the country's Moorish architecture; the Mediterranean has carved secluded beaches, caves, and tunnels out of Algarve's rugged cliffs. The red-ochre sandstone is a striking counterpart to the azure ocean that laps at its base.  
Credit: Praia Da Rocha-Algarve/Corel 
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If you're vacationing in Waikiki, Hawaii, it's probably a safe bet that not a lot of time will be spent away from the beach and under the Hawaiian sun. The Beach Walk is a mecca for relaxation with beachfront rooms, an eclectic mix of shopping, and a deep assortment of dining opportunities—anything from crab-stuffed mahi mahi at The Ocean House Restaurant to a mai tai at Coconut Willy's.  
Credit: Gus Vanderelst/Photographer’s Choice 
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Located in the southern Pacific Ocean, Tahiti is encircled by a crown of lofty mountain peaks. The beauty of this island is defined by its deep valley streams, surging waterfalls, and wildly diverse fields of tropical flowers. Explore the translucent ocean waters by a catamaran cruise, sailing lessons, or testing your balance on a surfboard.  
Credit: Image Source/Getty 
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Perfectly situated on the international dateline, the tiny island archipelago of Tonga is said to be where time begins—while Samoans celebrate a sunny Saturday, just under 600 miles away, Tongans prepare for Sunday prayers. With nearly 170 islands, only the most prosaic would get bored here. Dive with the island's resident underwater inhabitants, kayak across the Visine-clear waters, or apply the sunblock and island hop every hour till you find your own perfect white-sand beach.  
Credit: Image Source 
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The small Caribbean island of St. Lucia boasts two alluring features for U.S. citizens: close proximity and English as its main language. Swim in crystal-clear water, laze on therapeutic white-sand beaches, and hunt for fresh bananas, mangoes, coconuts, and oranges in the island's tropical forests.  
Credit: St. Lucia Tourism Board 
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What had once been coral reefs formed when the Pacific was much higher are now known as Micronesia's Rock Islands in Micronesia. These mushroom-shaped landmasses number in the 200s, each capped with dense, intensely green forests. The underwater kingdom is alive here, and scuba diving is the best way to see it all.  
Credit: Keren Su/Photodisc 
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Barely six miles long and one-mile wide, Grand Turk, the political capital of the Turks and Caicos islands, is bursting with secluded coves and beaches. Grand Turk is consistently rated among the top destinations for water sports. Explore the island behind a sail, with a tank and fins, or with some bait and a pole.  
Credit: Purestock 
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A brilliant contrast of turquoise blue and deep crimson define Red Beach of Santorini, Greece. A steep cliff wall of red and black volcanic rock jets up from the red-colored sand, where visitors flock for prime real estate on the famed beach.  
Credit: Bryce Edwards/Flickr 
 
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