There’s just something magical about feeling the mist of the water, a refreshing coastal breeze, and the warmth of the sun as you stare out over the water and hear the crashing waves. There are many beautiful coasts on this planet of ours, and cities tend to be built in these advantageous and impressive locations.
Coastal cities have always had an important role in trade, transportation, the economy, and the environment. And they also tend to make lovely places to live and visit for vacation. These are some of the most beautiful coastal cities in the world to spend some relaxing time by the shore.
If you’re looking to flaunt your tan and snap selfies, Sydney’s Bondi Beach and the heavily Instagrammed infinity pool at Bondi Icebergs Club is the place to be. If you’re seeking a more laid-back scene in a truly spectacular natural setting, however, head to the sugar-sand beaches of Jervis Bay, located a scenic drive down the coast of New South Wales.
Huskisson, a friendly oceanside village, is the ideal place to grab a beer at the local pub before booking a boat tour to spy humpback whales.
The peach-pink sands of Crete’s Elafonissi Beach are a big hit on IG feeds, but travelers in the know go to Matala, a bijou beach town where singer Joni Mitchell wrote her hit song “Carey” in 1970.
Explore the caves above Matala’s horseshoe-shaped beach where Mitchell and folk-singing pals camped out, and then shop for handcrafted jewelry in narrow lanes behind the seafront.
As sunset spills scarlet over Homer’s “wine-dark sea,” sup on rice-stuffed zucchini flowers and other home-cooked mezeat Sunset, a family-owned tavern with spectacular views over Matala’s sheltered bay.
Although only a short hop from Bodrum, Orhaniye’s sheltered coves and sapphire waters are rarely on tourists’ radars.
After wallowing in Orhaniye’s bath-warm waters, be sure to “walk on water” at Kızkumu, dubbed “Jesus Beach” because of its walkable shallow sandbar heading far out to sea.
When the sun sinks over Orhaniye’s mirror-clear waters, bag a brine-side table at Zuzu Beach Club and enjoy breathtaking bay views from this beachside hangout. Succulent must-try Turkish culinary treats include Izgara kofte meatballs served with fluffy rice and succulent grilled red peppers.
Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
If you’re a repeat visitor to Costa Rica, chances are you’ve already stayed at one of the beautiful beaches in the Guanacaste Province. But if you’re looking to get the experience of a practically deserted beach on your next trip, head 2.5 hours south of San José to Manuel Antonio National Park instead.
Manuel Antonio is not necessarily off the beaten path, but while the main beach will always be dotted with bathers, the two beaches inside the national park are infinitely more beautiful and almost empty given that you’ll need to hike for half an hour or so to reach them.
Keep an eye out for howler monkeys, sloths and flocks of colorful macaws — they’re not shy, so you’re bound to spot a few.
Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
If you’re looking to escape the crowds in San Juan, Aguadilla, on Puerto Rico’s northwest shore, may just be the answer. While not exactly a small beach town, Aguadilla has plenty of secluded beaches to help you enjoy a relaxing vacation on this extremely popular island.
Playa Borinquen is an expansive sandy cove with interesting sights to explore, like the ruins of an old lighthouse or the remnants of Air Force planes. Note that the tides can come in quite strong, so this beach is best enjoyed in the summer when the current is weaker. Nearby Playa Peña Blanca, on the other hand, is perfect for snorkeling — and you may even spot a sea turtle or two.
Several charming villages dot the coastline of the Bas-Saint-Laurent region, less than a two-hour drive from Quebec City. One standout is the resortlike village of Kamouraska.
Spend some time along the coast relaxing and taking in views of the St. Lawrence River, islands and the wharf. If you’re feeling active, you can cycle along the St. Lawrence River or go mountain climbing or kayaking.
Back in town, shop in the local boutiques and visit the Kamouraska Regional Museum to learn the history of the area.
Queenworthy Swimming at Cleopatra’s Beach, Egypt
Fancy a photo at Cleopatra’s Bath for the ‘Gram? The village of Marsa Matrouh, Egypt, is the home of Cleopatra’s Beach, which was once overshadowed by the Egyptian queen’s palace.
Tucked into this rock-lined lagoon is a spot named Cleopatra’s Bath, which is said to have been the bathing destination of Cleopatra and her paramour, Mark Antony. (You can’t swim in the Bath, as the water is too rough and there are rocks offshore, but the beach is swim-friendly.)
A 3.5-hour drive from Alexandria, Marsa Matrouh’s powder-fine sand, sapphire blue Mediterranean beaches and otherworldly rock formations make the region photogenic, even without an empress. Enjoy a bracing coffee at friendly downtown Lux Cafe to round out your day.
Laid-Back Vibes in Coffee Bay, South Africa
The laid back village of Coffee Bay, South Africa, earned its name from Xhosa lore that a coffee barge crashed ashore and the beans germinated into coffee trees. The district surrounding Coffee Bay is also proudly the birthplace of Nelson Mandela.
Near enough to Durban for a day trip, Coffee Bay is on eastern South Africa’s Wild Coast. Stop at Friends Sea View Café for fresh coffee and baked goods with a backdrop of cliffs, hills dotted with wildlife and a white sand beach.
Post brunch, surf the south side of this Indian Ocean bay (lessons available) or simply soak up some sun, with toes in the sand, at the edge of the bright blue sea.
When Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Japanese waters for the second time, in 1854, one of his landings was this harbor on the tip of the Izu Peninsula. Nowadays this coastal town is a favored weekend getaway for locals in Tokyo, who either road trip or opt for a 2.5-hour rail journey to get here.
Once in Shimoda, make a beeline for Shirahamacho Beach, where the waters are serene enough for the tiniest of tots to swim, or Shirahama Ohama Beach, a blindingly white, 700-meter stretch of sand beloved by surfers.
Delray Beach, Florida
Just an hour north of Miami, this quirky beach town and surrounding area is a favorite for art galleries, upscale shopping and culture. Stroll Atlantic Avenue (the longest Main Street in Florida) all the way east to Delray Beach Municipal Beach, where you’ll find cabana rentals, volleyball courts and water sports.
Post-sun, explore the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, a wildlife habitat housing alligators, otters, turtles and more than 175 different species of bird. Come evening, check out the town’s dialed-up dining scene, starting with rum-driven drams at Death or Glory.
This coastal city is home to just under 600 inhabitants, but its world-class offerings suggest otherwise. Find them in international dining choices, a center for the arts and a beloved beach, with seven miles of prized Neahkahnie Mountain views.
Explore that stretch of coastline any number of ways, be it walking, horseback riding or kite-flying — then continue your adventures with a hike to Cape Falcon at Oswald West State Park or a boat cruise around Nehalem Bay.