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Surf’s Up: 9 of the World’s Best Beaches

Spring has sprung (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least) and Memorial Day is just around the corner, which means it’s time to consider heading for the beach

Once winter is behind us, it’s only natural that we are drawn back to the beach—a haven for Spring Break as well as a sunny refuge for enjoying the lengthening days. Ahead of Memorial Day (May 27), a federal holiday and day of remembrance in the United States—and the unofficial start to the summer vacation season—Luxury Defined has selected nine of the world’s most celebrated beaches and zeroed in on an outstanding residence at each strand—places to enjoy the surf, the sand, the salt air, and the many recreational opportunities that only an oceanfront mooring can offer. From the Atlantic Ocean to the tropical waters of the Caribbean and Coral Seas, these gleaming seaward estates will surely beckon the confirmed worshiper of sun, sand, and sea.

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands

A tropical paradise of white sands and turquoise waters, Grace Bay Beach on the island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos is consistently ranked among the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Grace Bay Beach in the Turks and Caicos Islands is consistently ranked among the top beaches in the world thanks to its sugar white sand and calm, crystalline turquoise waters, and no rocks, seaweed, or pollution. Located on the north coast of the isle of Providenciales, Grace Bay forms part of the Princess Alexandra National Park. A barrier reef, 1.6 miles out—one of the best places in the world to scuba dive—protects the beach against the swells of the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

This dream villa boasts 103 feet of direct frontage on the powdery white sands of one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, Grace Bay in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The creation of award-winning Caribbean architect Ron Shaw, Turtle Breeze is a dream villa on a 1.4-acre beachfront site at the western end of Grace Bay Beach. The living areas measure 6,589 square feet under roof, including the grand master suite and five guest suites, and 3,417 square feet of exterior space. The villa is surrounded by tropical gardens composed of meandering paths, waterfalls, pools, and lagoons, including an infinity pool with in-pool bar. The chef’s kitchen leads to a barbecue area and tiki-style gazebo. Double doors introduce the master suite with walk-in closet and 180-degree sea views, while three guest rooms are each fronted by a freeform reflection pool. A private, resort-style property, Turtle Breeze is well designed for easy living, yet also presents strong vacation rental possibilities.

The Hamptons, New York

Located at the eastern tip of Long Island’s South Fork, Montauk’s windswept beaches are ideal for surfers.

On New York’s Long Island, the Hamptons are the beachgoing preference for the well-heeled. While the spring solstice may be a bit early and blustery to take to the Hamptons for a beach trip, it’s not too early to plan that outing or to find the dream beachside retreat for the summer season. The Hamptons are made up of outstanding Atlantic Ocean beaches. Some of the most scenic beaches are in Montauk: Hither Hills, Kirk Park, and Ditch Plains, a surfer’s paradise at the tip of Long Island’s South Fork.

This oceanfront retreat has an unrivaled location on a private 36-acre nature reserve in Montauk, the jewel of the Hamptons.

Montauk Oceanfront Paradise overlooks the Atlantic from its own 36-acre private nature reserve, a few minutes from Montauk, the jewel of the Hamptons. The 7,000-square-foot contemporary residence, designed by architect Frank Hollenbeck, takes its inspiration from a Chinese tea house right down to its beautiful blue-tile roof. The unique three-level, five-bedroom home is equipped with multi-zoned cooling and heating systems, an automatic generator, and hurricane-proof steel reinforcements as well walls of windows to take in the panoramic Atlantic Ocean views. The setting is truly one of a kind: lush gardens, scenic pastures with a two-acre pond, and two 100-foot jetties at the water’s edge, which act as natural barriers to passing storms. The property offers the ultimate beachfront lifestyle yet is close to top restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, wineries, Montauk Yacht Club, and Montauk Airport.

Los Cabos, Mexico

A favorite escape of the Hollywood A-list, the beaches of Los Cabos are famed for their dramatic landscape and ultra-luxury resorts.

At the tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, Los Cabos is a subtropical paradise, just 38 miles south of the Tropic of Cancer. Bounded by the Pacific on one side and the Sea of Cortez on the other, this legendary resort, comprising the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, is noted for its fine beaches and dramatic coastline. The beaches to the east near the bay offer outstanding water sports of all kinds, including swimming, snorkeling, surfing, and scuba diving.  Every year, great numbers of sea turtles visit Los Cabos’ beaches, one species of which—the leatherback sea turtle—can weigh up to 1,500 pounds. No wonder these beaches have been the staple of many Spring Break visitors, vacationers, and sport fishermen

The legendary resort of Los Cabos is the setting for Casa Grande, a luxury villa in the exclusive beach community of Cabo Colorado, San José del Cabo.

Casa Grande overlooks the Sea of Cortez from a prime hilltop setting in San José del Cabo. With nearly 5,000 square feet of lavish living space, composed of expansive reception rooms, three master suites, two guest rooms, five full baths and two half bathrooms, this exceptional home provides room for grand entertaining and relaxation. The great room features a 20-foot beamed ceiling, cantera stone fireplace, and dual sweeping staircases. The highlight of the home is a spectacular flagstone terrace with alfresco living area and infinity pool with access to the beach beyond. The property is fitted with a whole-house water filtration system, custom furnishings. Staff quarters and a two-car garage further complement this private beach retreat.

North Queensland, Australia

North Queensland’s beaches are a paradise, where lush jungle opens to golden sands and azure seas.

With more than 16,000 miles of coastline, Australia’s beaches are as famous as its cosmopolitan coastal cities and vast, ochre-hued interior, the Outback. North Queensland, on Australia’s northeast coast, is a paradise, where lush jungle opens to golden sands and azure seas. Just 2.5 miles off the coast is Bedarra Island, a jewel in the Coral Sea. It’s a place where those looking for a tropical beach escape come to enjoy year-round sunshine and, perhaps, the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world.

Jewel of the Reef has a prized location on a pristine white beach- and coral reef-front on Bedarra Island, just off the North Queensland coast.

Bedarra Island is a world away yet has the convenience of city life on its doorstep: the island is just 2.5 miles off the Australian mainland, between Townsville and Cairns in North Queensland. Jewel of the Reef is a tropical hideaway perched on nearly an acre of white-sand beach and coral seafront. Designed to take in the sea breezes and breathtaking ocean and island vistas, the serene indoor-outdoor living spaces include a gourmet kitchen, king suite with rain shower, queen suite with reef views, and a 1,600-square-foot covered deck floating above a natural granite tidal pool. The self-contained caretaker’s residence is completely sustainable with 100 percent solar power. There’s also a natural spring and captured rainwater system. Residents can swim, snorkel or scuba off the beach into a coral wonderland, ocean kayak to secluded coves, or sail to the surrounding tropical islands.

Maui, Hawaii

One of Maui's signature beaches, the undeveloped Makena Beach spans nearly two-thirds of a mile between two black-lava outcroppings on the island’s southwest coast.

The beaches of Maui are some of Hawaii’s most celebrated, with Makena Beach on the south side perhaps the most expansive and well known, and Kapalua Bay on the north side considered to be the exclusive and finest beach on Maui. At Kapalua, residents can take in views of the islands of Molokai and Lanai, and marvel at the sight of spouting whales. Kapalua and the adjacent beaches along the Kapalua Coastal Trail, such as Oneloa, a beautiful and uncrowded quarter-mile-long beach next to the Ritz Carlton and Kapalua Resort, offer outstanding swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.

Overlooking Oneloa Bay, this chic, custom-designed home offers an ultra-luxurious beachfront lifestyle in the exclusive gated community of Kapalua Place.

This private, gated, and ultra-luxurious beachfront residence is perfectly situated in Kapalua Place, a private enclave on Oneloa Bay. Built by the current owner, renowned maritime artist Christian Riese Lassen, the 7,800-square-foot home was built to capture and maximize the essence of indoor-outdoor oceanfront living and entertaining. The home has five bedrooms, six and a half bathrooms, a lounge with office, an oceanfront dining room and gym, a media room, and an elevator. The grand hall has 25-foot-high motorized glass pocket doors that open to the lush grounds: an infinity pool and integrated rock waterfall, two oversized hot tubs, outdoor grill station, wet bar, and private beachfront access await.

Antigua, Leeward Islands

Antigua claims to have a beach for every day of the year, including the palm-lined Jolly Beach, the longest and widest beach on the island.

Just 14 miles long by 11 miles wide, Antigua forms part of Antigua and Barbuda, a two-island nation in the Leeward Islands. This tropical idyll bordered by coral reefs claims to have a beach for every day of the year. And all 365 of its powder white sand beaches are open to the public. The palm-lined Jolly Beach is the longest and widest beach on the island. Its westerly setting means it’s also the perfect place to take in the sunset. The romantically named Rendezvous Bay is, unsurprisingly, Antigua’s most secluded beach. Another top sightseeing draw is English Harbour. Its historic Georgian dockyard, today a marina and museum, was the former base of Admiral Horatio Nelson in the 1780s.

Villa Sandcastle has an enviable setting on the north beach in Jolly Harbour, a gated resort community on the island of Antigua.

Villa Sandcastle is on the North Beach of the gated community in Jolly Harbour in St. Mary’s, Antigua. The classic Caribbean-style beach house was designed as a luxurious yet casual space to enjoy the laid-back Antigua island lifestyle. The single-level home has four bedrooms, two master suites with oversized en suite bathrooms, walk-in closets and verandahs, and two junior suites, all with sensational sea views. The great room comprises formal living and dining rooms, a media area, and luxurious kitchen; it opens to a barbecue and alfresco dining area and several chill-out zones. A beautiful travertine terrace surrounds an infinity pool and separate Jacuzzi facing the Caribbean Sea; the beach is just steps away.

South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida

One of the world’s most glamorous beaches, South Beach is the southernmost 2.5 miles of Miami Beach on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

Miami’s South Beach—SoBe to the locals—is another beachgoers’ landmark: It’s the iconic “picture postcard” vision of Miami that has been recognized for its famous Art Deco architecture, fine white sand beaches and aquamarine waters, celebrated nightlife, and world-class restaurants and boutiques. Its Ocean Drive skyline has been featured in film and on television, and as a result it’s no accident that South Beach enthusiasts call it the American Riviera.

South Beach is just a short drive or boat ride away from this grand waterfront estate with 500 feet of waterfront on Biscayne Bay.

This waterfront estate has a coveted Miami Beach location on La Gorce Island. A grand, gated entrance and tree-canopied drive lead to grand main residence, which is situated on two acres of private grounds with 500 feet of waterfront on Biscayne Bay. The elegant 12,687-square-foot interiors offer seven bedrooms, nine and a half bathrooms, a guest wing, 950-square-foot chef’s kitchen, dining and living rooms. A covered terrace opens to a resort-style pool with spa and wading area. The grounds include a separate guest house; gym and poolhouse with full kitchen, bathroom, and fabulous rooftop deck; Hydro tennis court; and three-car garage. The water frontage is protected by a seawall and includes a dock and two boat lifts, offering easy access to the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

With 110 miles of coastline, Nantucket has a diverse array of beaches for surfers, swimmers, sunbathers, and sand-castle builders, and virtually all are free and open to the public.

Nantucket is a tiny, picturesque island just 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. From the late 18th until the early 19th century, this remote outpost in the Atlantic Ocean was the center of the whaling industry—famously portrayed in Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. In the summer, Nantucket is all about the beach. With 110 miles of coastline, there are beaches for surfers, swimmers, sunbathers, and sand-castle builders, and virtually all are free and open to the public. On the north shore, Dionis Beach, Jetties Beach, and Children’s Beach are among the favorites due to their protected location on Nantucket Bay where the waters are calmer and warmer than those on the Atlantic. Strong swimmers, surfers, kayakers, and anglers flock to the island’s windswept oceanside beaches, Siasconset at sunrise or Madaket at sunset.

Atlantic Ocean views and more than an acre of grounds with a pool and spa make this beachfront compound the ultimate Nantucket summer home.

Facing the Atlantic Ocean on the island’s northeast coast, this newly constructed beachfront compound is the ultimate Nantucket summer home. Designed and built by Graham Goldsmith Architects, the property comprises a four-bedroom main house, a two-bedroom guest house, a separate garage with studio, and more than an acre of seaside grounds with a private pool and separate spa. The main house and guest house offer a total of 6,309 interior square feet with ocean views from almost every room. A private path leads through the sand dunes to a secluded beach.

Biarritz, France

The jewel of Biarritz, Le Grande Plage is a magnificent Atlantic Ocean beach, famous for its Phare de Biarritz lighthouse, the Hôtel de Palais (built by Emperor Napoleon III as a summer retreat for his bride, Empress Eugénie), and as one of the best spots in the world for surfing.

Biarritz is one of France’s favorite beach towns. This elegant 19th-century seaside resort sits on the Bay of Biscay, just 20 miles from the Spanish border on the Côte Basque, a region famous for its dazzling sandy beaches and dramatic surf breaks—the town of Soorts-Hossegor, 12.5 miles north of Biarritz, is the surfing capital of Europe. Biarritz’s six beautiful white sand beaches are also a surfer’s mecca yet offer plenty of variety for swimmers and families with small children. The town’s breathtaking landscape and beautiful architecture—a blend of neo-Gothic, neoclasssical, Belle Époque, and Art Deco styles—and its revitalized restaurant scene add to the allure.

This apartment in the center of Biarritz offers spectacular vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and is just a short walk from the town’s famous beaches.

A short walk from Biarritz’s spectacular beaches and Les Halles market, this luxury apartment offers sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean from the upper floor of a prestigious building in the Saint Eugenie neighborhood. Spanning nearly 1,000 square feet, the bright and airy interiors include three bedrooms (one with a balcony), one-and-a-half bathrooms, a well-equipped kitchen, and a spacious living/dining room that opens to a balcony commanding a superb view over the rooftops to the coast. The residence also has ample storage and the building includes an elevator, all a stone’s throw from shops and restaurants.