by Veronica Stoddart
So many beaches, so little time. Want to visit some of the most beautiful ones in the world? Condé Nast Traveler readers picked the top 20 from a recent Readers’ Choice Awards. Here are six that you can visit on a Windstar cruise.
Reduit Beach, St. Lucia
Golden sand. Check. Gin-clear water. Yes. Expansive mile-long shoreline. You bet. Reduit (pronounced “red-wee”) Beach has it all. Tucked away on the Caribbean island’s northwest coast, it also boasts a lovely view across the bay of double-humped Pigeon Island. While it’s popular for snorkeling, swimming, windsurfing and waterskiing, Reduit is an easy breezy getaway where sunning and strolling can also rule the day. On weekends, things can get hot, hot, hot with music blaring from beachfront bars. Don’t miss the tasty roti sold by vendors for a cheap beach lunch.
Bathsheba Beach, Barbados
Surfers, rejoice! The Atlantic rolling waves on Barbados’s rugged east coast make this wild and dramatic beach one of the best surfing locations in the Caribbean. If exhilarating breakers aren’t your thing, you can soak in the inshore Bathsheba Pools formed by huge coral boulders and rock formations that broke away from ancient coral reefs eons ago. If you’re lucky, you may even catch one of the famous rum punch parties that take place in the pools. Alternatively, you can stroll the beautiful sandy stretch and watch the foamy white waves cascade to shore — which gave this beach its name. According to legend, Bathsheba, the wife of King David, bathed in milk to keep her skin soft and smooth. Because the surf-covered white waters are said to resemble her bath and offer similar mineral-rich health benefits, the strand was named for this biblical temptress.
Matira Beach, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Calling all beach bums. On this South Pacific island known for gorgeous beaches, Matira is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the world. With its fine white sand, iridescent blue water, and feathery palms, it puts postcards to shame. The island’s most popular public beach slopes gently into a protected lagoon, making the oh-so-inviting water warm and shallow. During low tide, you can even wade out to the barrier reef. But it’s at sunset when the western-facing mile-long strand really shines. Sip a drink and watch the setting sun slowly slip into the lagoon while it paints the sky with vibrant pinks and oranges — for the ultimate pinch-me moment.
Orient Bay, St. Martin
Long to swim au naturel? This 2-mile-long, white-sand cove is probably as famous for being swimsuit-optional as for its natural beauty. After all, it’s home to the island’s only naturist resort, Club Orient, located at one end. But you don’t have to bare it all to have fun on this party-hearty beach, the most popular on French St. Martin. Known as the Saint Tropez of the Caribbean, it’s a prime people-watching spot lined with lively beach bars, open-air restaurants and live music. Prefer parasailing and windsurfing to dancing on the beach? You can do that, too.
Palm Beach, Aruba
Ah, paradise. With its calm turquoise water and talcum-soft sand, it’s no surprise this palm-lined 2-mile-long strip is one of the island’s most popular, especially with families. Even tots will be comfortable playing in the placid waters. But it’s also one of the liveliest beaches, dotted with high-rise hotels, beach bars and restaurants, and water sports concessions galore. Prefer a more laid-back experience? All you need is a cool umbrella drink and a straw hat to while away a perfect lazy day in the sun.
El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
El Nido, which means “the nest” in Spanish, is home to about 50 blindingly white-sand beaches and a scattering of stunning lagoons clustered around dramatic limestone karst cliffs. Known for its coral reefs, this marine and wildlife reserve is a popular SCUBA and snorkeling destination, too. You can tour these pocket beaches and coves by speedboat, visiting such places as Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Beach, Star Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Helicopter Island, and Seven Commandos — one more gorgeous than the next. Robinson Crusoe never had it so good.
When You Go
Visit these gorgeous beaches on a Windstar cruise. For The Philippines’ El Nido on Palawan Island, there’s 14-day The Best of the Philippines & Borneo. Bora Bora’s Matira Beach can be visited on the 7-day Dreams of Tahiti and the 10-day Tahiti & the Tuamotu Islands cruises.
For beaches in the Caribbean, you can check out Orient Bay on St. Martin on Classic Caribbean, Yachtsman’s Caribbean, Sailing the Caribbean or Gems of the Leeward Islands, which also includes St. Lucia. Bathsheba Beach on Barbados and Reduit Beach on St. Lucia can be visited on the 8-day Jewels of the Windward Islands. St. Lucia, St. Martin and Barbados are all included in the 14-day Bridgetown to Bridgetown cruise, the seven-day Caribbean Legends cruise and the 7-day Saints of the Caribbean cruise. Finally, experience Barbados’ Bathsheba Beach and Aruba’s Palm Beach on the 7-day Southern Caribbean Sweep.
Award-winning travel editor and writer Veronica Stoddart is the former editor in chief of the Travel Media Group at USA TODAY. She has written for two dozen publications and websites.