When the temperatures drop and the hassles of everyday life start to overwhelm, it's comforting to know we can escape to the warm sun and surf of a beach. Luckily, there are great beach destinations located in all corners of the globe, and you're bound to find one that's a perfect fit for you. With that in mind, we asked our readers and scoured the world for 10 places that embody the perfect beach getaway for 2011.
With Emirates Airlines increasing its daily flights to Seychelles, it's easier than ever to visit the archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Our readers recommend Anse Lazio on Praslin, Seychelles' second largest island, for an ideal beach getaway. Nestled in Chevalier Bay, Anze Lazio feels like a hidden oasis, thanks to the giant granite boulders that shelter its white sandy beach and bright turquoise sea. The shoreline remains largely untouched by buildings, aside from a few beach bars and restaurants located back amongst the palm trees, and a coral reef that keeps the waters calm also makes for an ideal snorkeling and swimming spot.
Bali is known as the Island of the Gods, and thanks to the film, Eat, Pray, Love, which highlighted the culture, travelers are starting to understand why. Sanur Beach is Bali's first developed tourism destination, and combines the amenities of a tourist locale with the culture of a traditional village. Here, you'll find an array of fine dining establishments, luxury hotels, and unique shops alongside ancient temples, art museums, and historic monuments. Plus, you'll want to enjoy the warmth of the ocean waves, which reach temperatures of nearly 90 degrees.
As a popular site for several epic films, with more on the horizon, New Zealand has proven to be a picture-perfect locale, often with its beaches as the main attraction. Our readers particularly like Hahei on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula. The small settlement town serves as a gateway to the popular Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve. Art galleries, accommodations, restaurants, and gift shops are available in the town center, but most visitors come to relax on the pink sands or dip their toes in the naturally occurring thermal springs at nearby Hot Water Beach. Visitors can even dig their own spa pool two hours on either side of low tide. If you want to do more than sit and watch the sunset, several water sports are available at Hahei, including scenic boat trips, sea kayaking, and snorkeling.
Though Hawaii is always a top spot for beaches, the recent revival of the popular show Hawaii Five-O has many people yearning for the Aloha State. Our readers recommend Ka 'anapali Beach as the best place to catch some waves and have some fun in the sun. Located on the tip of Maui, this planned resort town offers hotels and condominium rentals right on the three-mile stretch of beach. Visitors can spend the day sunbathing, snorkeling, surfing, or whale watching. Plus, if you need to step away from the sand, you'll find waterfront shopping, a sugarcane train, open-air restaurants, and championship golfing.
Chosen as one of our Destinations to Watch in 2011, Curacao's popularity is on the rise, and for good reason. Recently becoming its own country, the small island in the Caribbean is a hot spot for beach-goers, and our readers suggest Casa Abao Beach as the place to soak up the sun and swim in the sea. Located on the northwest coast of the island, Casa Abao offers crystal-clear waters perfect for an array of water sports, including snorkeling, diving, and kayaking. While on dry land, you can take advantage of the daiquiri bar, partake in a free salsa lesson, or even have a seaside massage.
Recently receiving acclaim as one of Dr. Beach's top 10 beaches, Coronado Beach is far more than sand and surf. This luxurious escape in southeastern California is a favorite among our readers, and its Mediterranean-like climate offers a warm welcome for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, or fishing. Families can feel at ease here, as lifeguards patrol the beach regularly. Turn-of-the-century mansions provide a backdrop for the soft stretch of sand, which includes Coronado's most famous landmark, the Hotel del Coronado. For more than a century, this hotel has hosted many prestigious guests, and is now a prime spot for celebrity sightings. The hotel even offers beachside service, where you can enjoy a drink or a light snack on the sand.
Though it has been out of the tourism spotlight for quite some time, Colombia is starting to take center stage in travel once again, with new hotels and airline routes that connect to several international destinations. Plus, Colombia offers plenty of prime spots for surf and sand, with more than 300 beaches running along the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, including the serene beauty of Santa Marta. As Colombia's oldest city, Santa Marta is gaining popularity with locals and tourists alike for its lively and revamped beachfront, close proximity to Tayrona National Park, and a brand new marina that opened in May of 2010. The white sandy beaches, however, are a major draw, and many people come to swim in the calm waters.
Although this entire gallery could be filled with Florida beaches, there is one in particular that caught our eye this year. Recently celebrating its centennial anniversary, Santa Rosa Beach, and its long stretch of untouched sand and calm seas offers a quiet escape on the Hogtown Bayou. Though the lapping waves and cool sand are the main attractions, there is plenty to do inland, such as shopping, fine dining, and golfing, and exploring the town's many art galleries and nature trails. As one of the 13 communities of South Walton, Santa Rosa Beach is now easily reached by flying into Panama City's new airport.
Just a quick ferry ride from raucous Cancun, you'll find an oasis of peace and tranquility on Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women. Though the small dolphin-shaped island has several beaches, Playa Norta, known as the North Beach, is the most popular with our readers and tourists alike. Its turquoise waters and soft sand provide an ideal spot for a bit of fun in the sun, including activities like kayaking, snorkeling, or simply lounging under an umbrella. Plus, there are a few bars and restaurants that will deliver drinks and snacks right to your beach towel. If you're feeling more adventurous, you can explore one of the world's largest underwater sculpture parks at Cancun's new Underwater Museum, located near the island. Opened in November 2010, the brand new attraction includes more than 400 life-size figurative sculptures beneath the sea.
When it comes to something a bit different, our readers recommend the black volcanic sands of Monterrico, Guatemala. Located on the Pacific coast, Monterrico differs from the calm waters and soft sands of other popular vacation spots—its powerful waves are suitable for only the strongest swimmers. Aside from the challenging surf, most people come to see the endangered sea turtles that use the beach as a nesting ground. You might even catch a glimpse of the newly-hatched offspring during your visit. The small fishing village of Monterrico provides plenty of options for inexpensive accommodations and restaurants.