The world’s best beaches to set your sights on for summer 2021 and beyond

Emma Cooke
·4-min read
Whitehaven beach - Getty
Whitehaven beach - Getty

Now that May 17 has been set as the possible date for international travel to return, many Britons will be seeking a bit of sun and sand. Tripadvisor has today announced the winners of its annual Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Awards for Beaches, providing ample inspiration.

The awards are based on the quality and quantity of reviews and ratings from Tripadvisor travellers for beaches, gathered over a 12-month period, and the winners feature pristine sands and ultra clean seas.

New for 2021, the Best of the Best Beaches also takes into account the volume of “saves” for beaches on Tripadvisor, reflecting the beaches that were most dreamed of in 2020, when most of the world was left unable to travel.

Not all those named may be feasible for a 2021 visit – Australia’s Whitehaven Beach tops the list of the world’s best, yet the country may remain closed to travellers until 2022 – but many are looking very much in reach. Including Bournemouth Beach in Dorset, which has been named the fifth best in Europe and 20th in the world.

This stunning strip of sand could also become accessible even sooner than May, with April 12 set as the potential comeback of limited domestic travel.

Bournemouth Beach in Dorset - Getty
Bournemouth Beach in Dorset - Getty

A total of four UK beaches are included in Europe’s top 25 this year: in addition to Bournemouth, Cornwall holds two of Europe’s best, with Porthminster Beach and Perranporth Beach in tenth and 16th place respectively. Scarborough’s Filey Beach ranked 18th.

Porthminster Beach in Cornwall, which was named the tenth best in Europe, is close to the popular coastal town of St Ives. The sand at this beach forms a golden crescent, and those on it can see across to Godrevy Lighthouse, the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s famous novel To the Lighthouse. The beach also has the mildest climate in the UK, shown by the slightly surreal presence of palm trees.

Top 10 Beaches in Europe
  1. Spiaggia dei Conigli, Lampedusa, Italy

  2. Playa de Cofete, Fuerteventura, Spain

  3. Praia da Falésia, Olhos de Agua, Portugal

  4. La Concha Beach, San Sebastian – Donostia, Spain

  5. Bournemouth Beach, Bournemouth, United Kingdom

  6. Balos Lagoon, Kissamos, Crete, Greece

  7. Elafonissi Beach, Elafonissi, Crete, Greece

  8. Plage de Santa Giulia, Santa Giulia, Corsica, France

  9. Kleftiko Beach, Milos, Greece

  10. Porthminster Beach, St Ives, United Kingdom

Europe’s islands won big this year, with Spiaggia dei Conigli on the island of Lampedusa in Italy crowned the best beach in Europe, closely followed by Playa de Cofete on the Spanish island of Fuerteventura.

Known for its beaches, Lampedusa is the largest island of the Pelagie Islands, which can be found in southern Italy. Facing the Area Marina Protetta Isole Pelagie, the area is an egg-laying site for marine turtles, and Spiaggia dei Conigli is known for its excellent marine life.

Australia’s well-known Whitehaven Beach was named the best in the world, which many will be unsurprised by. This 4.3-mile (7km) stretch of beach is part of the Whitsunday Islands National Park. Photos of this region’s aqua waters and impossibly white sands are regularly turned into postcards or marketing material for Australia.

Despite its much publicised beauty, the beach is kept from being overrun by its remote location – it can only be reached by boat, seaplane or helicopter, and it’s proximity to the highly-protected Great Barrier Reef.

Top 10 Beaches in the World
  1. Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, Australia

  2. Santa Maria Beach, Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

  3. Baia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

  4. Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

  5. Saint Pete Beach, Florida, United States

  6. Turquoise Bay, Exmouth, Australia

  7. Eagle Beach, Eagle Beach, Aruba

  8. Spiaggia dei Conigli, Lampedusa, Italy

  9. Ka'anapali Beach, Hawaii, United States

  10. Baía dos Golfinhos, Praia da Pipa, Brazil

Santa Maria Beach, located on the island of Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba, took second place this year. This tiny island sits off Cuba’s northern coast, and is set against a backdrop of the Cayo Santa María Wildlife Refuge, which is rife with wildlife – such as the Cuban trogon.

Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba - Getty
Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba - Getty

“Your last trip to the beach probably feels like a lifetime ago, but with vaccine programs rolling out worldwide, safely making that beach getaway a reality just might be in reach,” said Christine Maguire, vice president and general manager, global media business at Tripadvisor. “In fact, a recent Tripadvisor survey revealed that 60 per cent of [travellers] are very likely to take a beach trip in 2021.”

“Whether your preferred kind of beach is preened and pristine or rugged and rough, this list of [travellers' favourites] is just the inspiration you need to get planning your next beach break,” she added.

What are you most looking forward to doing in June, if Covid restrictions have been lifted? Tell us in the comments section below