Ipanema Beach - Brazil

Rio de Janeiro Why it made our list: The girl from Ipanema goes walking, as the song says, and she’s headed right down to this beach. Many girls, in fact, and lots of dudes too. And in keeping with Brazilian style, you bet your bottom dollar they’re all wearing thong bikinis and their finest zungas (Speedos). Of all Rio’s beaches, this is considered the prettiest, because it offers a great view whether you’re looking at the beach or the crowds. Bonus: Numbered posts (or postos) mark the beach, and Post 9 is where the see-and-be-seen crowd posts up.

Cariló - Argentina

Cariló Why it made our list: Consider Cariló the Hamptons of Argentina, but woodsier. Dotted with exclusive private residences (each uniquely designed to fit the owner’s fancy), Cariló features lush pine tree forests and grasses leading right up to the sand. Bonus: For livelier nights, people head to neighboring Pinamar just up the road.

  • Brava Beach - Uruguay

José Ignacio Why it made our list: Although Jose Ignacio usually gets lumped in with Punta del Este, it's technically about a 40-minute drive from the city proper. The extra time it takes to get there, however, is totally worth it. This one-time fishing village is now the sceniest spot in Punta del Este, yet it still manages to maintain a laid-back feel. Nestled in from the sand you’ll find art galleries, boutiques, and some pretty spectacular homes. Bonus: You won’t want to leave without having a meal -- accompanied by some Champagne, rosé, or clericó (white sangria), of course -- at the inimitable La Huella. This parador is an open-air restaurant situated mere steps from the ocean and serves delectable whole grilled fish, octopus, and more. I’ll make a bold statement and say it is my favorite restaurant in the WORLD. Yep, in the world. It's that good.

  • Playa Blanca, Isla de Baru - Colombia

Why it made our list: If we’re being honest, Cartagena’s storied beaches really aren’t all that impressive. The sand is dark and pebbly, and the hawkers pushing their wares, massages, and hair braiding are many, so, so many, and tireless. But then you hop a rickety little speedboat from the port one morning out to Playa Blanca and, wow. White sand beaches, clear blue water, and peace. That’s the stuff. Bonus: Some operators will whisk you off after a half day at Playa Blanca to nearby Islas de Rosario, known for dolphin sightings.

  • Anakena Beach - Chile

Easter Island Why it made our list: You’re on Easter Island! That’s incredibly impressive. I mean, how many people do you know who have made it here? And right on the beach you’ll find multiple moai, or those massive figurines the indigenous Rapa Nui inhabitants carved. (You know, the reason you’re here.) Bonus: Anakena is only one of two sandy beaches on the rocky island, so people really soak it up.

  • Baía do Sancho - Brazil

Fernando de Noronha Why it made our list: There’s a reason this beach was named the world’s best in TripAdvisor’s annual Travelers’ Choice Awards. Or maybe there are many, because the place has close to 4,000 reviews and a perfect five-star rating. For some, it’s how pristine the white sand and green-blue water appear, while others are taken by the recreational diving -- visibility stretches over 150ft and there are plenty of sea turtles. And still for others, it's the beach's exclusivity; the government only allows a limited number of tourists ashore each day -- the 21-island archipelago is a UNESCO World Heritage site and they’re serious about protecting it -- so you’re going to want to plan ahead. Bonus: Last year the island saw an invasion of cururu toads, which while reminiscent of a Biblical plague, somehow just make the place more endearing.

  • Máncora Beach - Peru

Máncora Why it made our list: Once a sleepy fishing village (weren’t they all), Máncora is now Peru’s marquee beach destination. Don’t worry, though, there are plenty of alternative digs like hostels mixed in with the grand resorts. That’s because surfing is a huge draw here, and thus, there are plenty of surfers, whose relaxedness mixes nicely with the heady nightlife and jet-set side of it all. Bonus: South Beach is about a 15-minute walk off Máncora’s main beach drag and weeds out the partiers from those looking for some peace.

  • Cabo Polonio - Uruguay

Cabo Polonio Why it made our list: Worlds away from Punta del Este, and just about everything else, is Cabo Polonio, the hippie beachfront hamlet with no roads, electricity, or running water. Yup, you read that right. Still, it’s a functioning locale with many happy residents who fully embrace the simple lifestyle… and the country’s legalization of marijuana. Bonus: You might recognize this place from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Uruguay episode. Bourdain stopped in at a bar with a pet penguin that had somehow found its way to the seaside haven. FLICKR/DW FROM THE PEG

  • Cayo de Agua - Venezuela

Los Roques National Park Why it made our list: While now might not be the best time for a US passport holder to vacay in Venezuela, one look at these waters and you may be willing to roll the dice. Los Roques National Park is an archipelago consisting of hundreds of tiny islands, so you’re bound to find a patch of sand to call your own. Cayo de Agua in particular is flanked by the Caribbean and you can expect astounding, sparkling, clear blue waters. Bonus: With over 900 square miles of coral reef in the national park, the life aquatic is spectacular.

  • Galapagos Beach at Tortuga Bay - Equador

Puerto Ayora, Ecuador Why it made our list: You’re not really here to swim, but neither was Darwin. The beach is a ways from the center of Puerto Ayora, and the last mile or so of the trek is only doable on foot. The reward, however, is a pristine beach with a wide array of flora and fauna. Bonus: Farther afield is a small lagoon where people swim. And other than folks renting kayaks and snorkels and such, you won’t see nary a vendor. FLICKR/ALEXANDER SCHIMMECK

  • Tayrona Natural National Park - Colombia

Santa Marta Why it made our list: If you ask a Colombian for a beach recommendation, chances are they will name Parque Tayrona immediately. Colombians are proud of Tayrona, which is located along the Caribbean coast near the Santa Marta mountain range, and they love when foreigners experience it. The national park is so geographically diverse that, in addition to beaches, it includes mountains, rainforest, and even arid sections with cacti. And while the riptide is strong, in certain areas you can still surf and snorkel. Oh yeah, you can also rent a hammock and spend the night! Bonus: Not only do some indigenous tribes continue to call this area home, but there are also ruins nearby that you can visit if you hire a guide.

  • Montañita - Equador

Santa Elena Why it made our list: Popularized by surfers and settled by hippies, Montañita hasn't strayed far from its roots; it's about as liberal a beach destination as you can get, right down to people partaking in (legal in small amounts) marijuana. All with an open mind will certainly feel welcomed. Bonus: In addition to throwing massive celebrations for Carnival, Montañita also hosts an international surf competition every year around the same time.

  • Gold Harbour

South Georgia Islands This beach in the South Georgia Islands (not be be confused with the Republic of Georgia or that state with all the strip clubs) is completely uninhabited... unless your definition of "inhabitants" includes ADORABLE PENGUINS! Because the islands sit between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica, they're home to all kinds of crazy arctic wildlife. No, this isn't the beach for tanning and catching up on 50 Shades, but if you want to visit one of the world's best breeding grounds for elephant seals, sooty albatross, and, yes, those zany king penguins, it's a tough place to beat.

  • Anakena Beach

Easter Island, Chile The rocky coastline of Easter Island and Rapa Nui National Park is not what one would call "calming." The exception being Anakena, a white coral sand beach that was home to the island's first permanent settlement. There's not much here now, save for the giant ahus that were restored in 1954: Ahu Ature Huki and Ahu Nau Nau.

  • Mount Fitz Roy - Argentina

El Chaltén Before you read another word, take a careful look at the picture above. Recognize the silhouette of those perfect peaks? No? Perhaps you’re wearing them right now, you know, maybe on your stylish black fleece. Hint, hint. Okay, fine, you win -- it’s Patagonia, as in the clothing brand. Yes, the mountains are the inspiration behind the logo. And even though Mount Fitz Roy is apparently one of the toughest mountains in the world to climb, there are a bunch of easy-to-moderate treks in the area so you can still earn/enjoy the spectacular views.

  • Baia do Sancho - Brazil

Fernando de Noronha The principal beach on the 21-island Brazilian archipelago of Fernando de Noronha consistently ranks as the best beach in the world. How is it underrated then, you ask? Simple -- no rating does this place justice. It’s UNESCO-protected and the Brazilian government restricts the number of tourists allowed on. So if you’re reading this while relaxing on this Brazilian beauty, consider yourself privileged.

  • Atacama Desert stargazing - Chile

You can do it on your own or take a tour, but this is the place for some serious, next-level stargazing. Don’t want to take us at our word? How about the fact that the world’s largest telescope (officially and creatively named the Very Large Telescope, or VLT) is located on this same stunning arid desert plateau land?

  • Quilotoa - Equador

Pujilí Canton, Cotopaxi Province Local legend has it that this volcanic cauldron in the Andes is bottomless. And one gaze into the crystalline, gemstone blue perfection will have you believing too (common sense be damned). While you’re there, take a road trip around the the body of water -- it offers a revealing peek at a number of indigenous communities that call the area home.

  • Iwokrama Forest Reserve - Guyana

If you’re into bird watching (no judgment), this is your spot. If you’re not into bird watching, but have at least a modicum of appreciation for nature, this is your spot. The 1,430-square miles comprise one of the few swaths of pure, untouched rainforest in the world today. And not to be downer, but you’ll want to get to it while it’s still that way.

  • Archipelago Los Roques National Park - Venezuela

Sure, the Caribbean islands are beautiful, no one is going to argue that. But it’s actually this national park in Venezuela that’s home to the largest marine park in the Caribbean Sea. Think untouched coral reefs and picture-perfect, white-sand beaches. Government and economic crisis aside, this place is paradise.

  • The Marble Caves of General Carrera Lake - Patagonia
  • Tierra Patagonia

For the eco-adventurer, Patagonia is a must. To take things a step farther, so is a stay at the Tierra Patagonia. Designed with natural materials from the region, a stay here isn’t just a stay at a hotel, but a space meant to incorporate yourself into the atmosphere of Torres del Paine National Park. Each room provides a sprawling view of Lago Sarmiento and the Paine massif beyond, and offers immersive experiences horseback-riding, hiking, even treks to visit Andean condors. Award-winning in terms of its sustainability, this hotel has nothing but its homeland at the forefront, enabling you to enjoy it fully and with a green peace of mind.

  • Choripán - Argentina

A classic Argentinian street food, the choripán consists of split chorizo on a roll with chimichurri, a sauce of herbs, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. While sausage on a roll may not sound thrilling, a well-made chimichurri is an incredible delight that makes choripán worth tracking down.

  • Floreria Atlantico - Argentina

Hidden behind the guise of a flower and wine shop, this Buenos Aires speakeasy would be a shock to stumble upon if you weren’t seeking it out. The cocktails run the gamut from Italian to French to Spanish and more, while housemade gins prove easy-drinking.

jan 11 2016 ∞
apr 9 2018 +