Vamizi, Mozambique (above and below)
The islands off the coast of Mozambique [http://www.originaltravel.co.uk/sub-saharan-africa/mozambique/]are one of the hottest destinations in the world at the moment, with new and super-slick lodges popping up almost monthly. Our pick is at Vamizi in the Quirimbas Archipelago. This beautifully designed lodge consists of enormous villas hidden in the forests along the shore of a five-mile long and white powdery sand beach. There's a nice wild feeling to the place, with beautiful bits of driftwood washed up each morning, and some incredible snorkelling to be had straight off the beach.
Praia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil (below)
Any list of 'bests' is going to be fairly arbitrary, naturally, but the Brazilians have chosen their top ten beaches, and rated them in order. They've got a few thousand miles of sand to choose from, yet three beaches on the paradise island and UNESCO World Heritage site of Fernando de Nornonha make the list. Top of the pile is the wonderfully isolated Praia do Sancho for its picture perfect quality. It's one of the few beaches on the island where boats can moor, and it's also accessible by ladders fixed into the rocks or (for the less adventurous) steps carved into the rock face.
Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos Islands, Caribbean (below)
The Caribbean was always going to throw up some contenders, but the beach at the luxurious Parrot Cay hotel beats all-comers. Think glaringly white and super-soft sand stretching in either direction as far as the eye can see, and in front of you turquoise water that looks like it has been photoshopped to perfection. There's a reef about 100 yards offshore, and the warm water in the vast lagoon is a uniform four or so feet deep all the way out. The probable sighting of some A-lister or other walking along just adds to the glamour.
Spiaggia del Principe, Costa Smeralda, Sardinia (below)
In one of the ultimate 'Remington' displays of wealth, Prince Karim Aga Khan, while yachting off Sardinia in the late 50s, liked the rugged and beautiful northern coastline so much he bought it. What evolved is now the Costa Smeralda, and strict planning guidelines mean the region retains its stunning natural beauty. This is perfectly symbolised at Spiaggia del Principe, named after the Prince who thought it the finest beach on the whole Costa Smeralda. It's not hard to see why - this perfect crescent of sand with Caribbean-blue water is straight out of a fantasy. Incidentally, despite the glamorous nature of the Costa Smeralda, all the beaches are public, so you can visit any, and ogle oligarchs on their moored up yachts.
Amado Beach, Algarve, Portugal (below)
Another European one and more down to earth than any of the above. Despite the Algarve's reputation for huge villa complexes and endless golf courses, further west there are huge swathes of nature reserve, and Amado Beach is in the lovely Costa Vicentina national park, a mercifully undeveloped and beautiful haven yet just over an hour from Faro Airport. Amado itself is a wide and long arking bay with lovely hillsides protecting it from the rear. The sand is suitably soft, and one of the major draws is the perfect beach break that makes this a great place to learn to surf. There are charming and fun surf instructors on hand, a couple of scruffy beach bars and that's it. Not much beats a chilled bottle of local Sagres beer after a day's surfing, and watching the sun set over the Atlantic.
Zighy Bay, Musandam, Oman
Last but not least, our favourite Middle Eastern beach is the eponymous Zighy Bay, in the Omani province of Musandam, which is just two hours' drive from Dubai Airport. The immaculate Six Senses Zighy Bay resort occupies one end of the bay, while a ten minute walk away at the other end of the huge sweep of sand is a traditional Omani fishing village. The sand is superfine and warm water a perfect depth for swimming and snorkelling, with greenback turtles regularly sighted. As is so often the case, the beach here is best appreciated from the air, and this can duly be arranged on a paraglide from the mountainous backdrop and landing on the beach below. A truly amazing way to arrive at the hotel, and the beach.
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Emily Peck, Editor
View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor