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IN SEARCH OF
THE BEST BEACHES IN THE WORLD
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From the idyllic white sands and sensuous turquoise waters of Bora Bora to the windswept grandeur of the rocky coast of Wales, the world's beaches are a source of inspiration and solace, recreation and relaxation. For many, the beach is a direct lifeline to the planet, providing a sense of wonder and appreciation for the beauty and power of the great oceans that surround and sustain us. For others, the beach is that happy place of childhood memories, teenage desires, and adulthood escapes. Whatever the beach means to you, we hope you enjoy our 25 choices for the best beaches in the world.

L'ESPIGUETTE BEACH, AIGUES-MORTES, FRANCE
In stark contrast to the fashionable and manicured beaches of Cannes, Nice, and Saint-Tropez are the wild and windswept beaches of Languedoc-Roussillon. Instead of the superficial hype of playboys and attention-seeking starlets, here you'll find natural beauty on what's considered to be one of France's best gay beaches. Close to the stunning fortified town of Aigues-Mortes, and 40 minutes by car from Montpellier, Plage de l'Espiguette extends for over six miles so you're guaranteed to find a quiet spot. Remote and unpretentious, l'Espiguette has few amenities besides the occasional drinks seller—be sure to bring a beach towel, parasol, and bottled water. Other than Phare de l'Espiguette, a towering lighthouse that dates to 1869, there are no buildings in sight, so you get a genuine sense of having escaped the world. Beyond the beach are miles of sand dunes, salt flats, and a nature reserve where you might spy flamingos or wild Camargue horses. Should you have a sudden urge to reconnect with humanity…there inevitably is some cruising in those dunes. Popular with a predominantly French crowd, from slender young mecs to the more mature, it's a seven-km drive south from the town of Grau-du-Roi along Route de l'Espiguette. From the carpark, turn left and walk for approximately 20 minutes along the beach to the gay section. L'Espiguette is mixed, but the farther you walk from the carpark the more nude and more gay it becomes—whether or not you pack your Speedos is up to you. www.leguidemontpellier.com
—Stuart Haggas

KAREKARE BEACH, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
Movie buffs will remember the classic image from the film The Piano, with the eponymous musical instrument sitting on a glorious beach. If you've seen that scene, you've seen New Zealand's Karekare Beach. Just twenty miles from the capital city of Auckland, Karekare might be a movie star, but it wears its fame and beauty effortlessly. Stroll along a path through the volcanic cliffs of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, past a lagoon and over a tiny stream. The Watchman, a lava outcropping set back from the beach, oversees the journey. The beach itself has a wildness, an out-there quality that makes it exciting. While not exactly unfrequented, there's still a feeling here that one is an intrepid explorer discovering previously unknown worlds. Adding to the drama is the jaggedness of the coast, the fine dark sand, the rough-hewn peaks, the alluring Karekare Falls just moments away, and, most of all, the overpowering elements, the impression of being out at the edge of the world. You might find a soft mist in the air that comes from nature, not a cinematographer, and heightens the sense of mystery and spectacle. A single, jagged rock sits just offshore, waves crashing against it. Take a deep breath, envision yourself as Xena, Warrior Princess (that series also used Karekare for filming) and soak it all in. www.aucklandnz.com
—Rich Rubin

BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA
There is not a single big, brand-name hotel or any specifically gay nightlife in Bocas del Toro. That's the part of the allure in this Panamanian paradise. Bocas, as it's often called, is the perfect antidote to the non-stop activities in fast-paced Panama City. Located in far western Panama, not far from the border with Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro is a province on the Caribbean coast. The main town—also called Bocas del Toro, and located on an island called Colón—is easily reached by plane from Panama City's Allbrook Airport, and is so small you might be tempted to walk from the airport to your hotel. Waterfront hotels like the Hotel Bocas del Toro (www.hotelbocasdeltoro.com) are the best bet for getting views of the stunning Caribbean Sea, and while there is no beach downtown, you're never far from crystal-clear water. You can actually jump off the pier at most of the waterfront hotels, or rent a sea kayak and paddle your way to postcard-perfect beaches on neighboring islands in the archipelago. For a splurge, rent a cabin at Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge (www.puntacaracol.com), a lovely group of cabins on stilts over a dramatically blue-green stretch of shallow water. Even if you decide against the $350+ room rates at Punta Caracol, you can still stop at the restaurant for lunch. There are nine main islands to explore in Bocas del Toro province, and day trips aboard motor boats will lead you to pristine, isolated stretches of sand that feel like they were made just for you. Swimming and snorkeling are both good here, and evenings in town are spent enjoying freshly caught seafood in small restaurants, and perhaps sipping a Panamanian cerveza. There are no big dance clubs to distract, so you'll be able to turn in early and wake for another day in paradise. www.visitpanama.com
—Mark Chesnut

MATIRA BEACH, BORA BORA, FRENCH POLYNESIA
Fabled Bora Bora in French Polynesia is perhaps the quintessential image conjured when one thinks South Pacific—verdant volcanic peaks rising from a blue lagoon fringed with palm trees. Captain Cook, who surely set eyes on more than his fair share of gorgeous islands, christened it "The Pearl of the Pacific." (Oddly enough, for early Polynesians Bora Bora was an exile for outcasts; my, how things have changed.) Nestled at the north end of the beach is Hotel Bora Bora (www.amanresorts.com). From there, the arch of sand sweeps south past numerous resorts of varying luxury to Maitra Point. One could easily spend all day on Matira Beach just watching the ever-shifting multitude of blue hues: cerulean, turquoise, teal, jade, sapphire, navy, cobalt, and Prussian, something to which only Maxfield Parrish could do justice. Like a giant swimming pool, the dazzling water is calm, warm, and impossible to resist for repeated plunges. Fish, stingrays, and dolphins are frequently present and the rays like to be fed breadcrumbs as they slink around your body. When swimming and sunning become weary there's a variety of aquatic activities like snorkeling, diving, sailing, jet skiing, or paddling about in very cool glass-bottom canoes. Just in case you need to get away from your island getaway, take a walk on one of the deserted motus (islets) poking up from the crystal-clear waters (it's like being Robinson Crusoe for an hour). Sunset, likely as not, will be other-worldly, so around cocktail hour position yourself facing west and bask in the beauty. www.tahiti-tourisme.com
—Bill Strubbe

CLICK FOR SLIDESHOW OF BEST GAY BEACHES

BÚZIOS, BRAZIL
Rio de Janeiro may be the first place that comes to mind when you think of Brazilian beaches, but it's far from the only worthwhile choice in this South American nation. That's no surprise, considering Brazil's long, inviting coastline, which is lined with pristine stretches of sand. Vacationers looking for a sun-soaked Brazilian getaway in a quieter setting than Rio often head to Búzios, which sexy starlet Brigitte Bardot first put on the international tourism map back in the 1960s. Where the city of Rio de Janeiro exudes urban excitement, Búzios—located just 105 miles from Rio—goes for a more peaceful, yet no less stylish, vibe. Small hotels, elegant dining, and uncrowded, nearly hidden beaches make this a great place to relax and rejuvenate. Búzios, in fact, has no less than 23 beaches, each with its own ambiance. You may divide your time among Ferradura (Horseshoe) Beach, which has gentle waves and open-air restaurants; Geribá, the longest beach in the area; and Olho de Boi, the secluded nude beach that attracts a decent percentage of gay people. When you're not soaking in the sun, you can stroll Rua das Pedras, the charming waterfront street lined with restaurants and shops. An especially good time to visit is during the pre-Lenten Carnaval celebrations, which is also the best time to see a visible gay community. Gay-friendly lodging is plentiful in Búzios, mostly in the form of pousadas which are charming guesthouses. Top choices include Our House (www.ourhousebrazil.com), a lesbian-owned property that's just a ten-minute walk from Ferradura beach; Pérola Búzios (www.atlanticahotels.com.br), a hotel with contemporary décor; and Casas Brancas (www.casasbrancas.com.br), a Mediterranean-style property that looks out on the town center and the bay. www.buziosturismo.com
—Mark Chesnut

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Beach culture in Cape Town plays a huge part in the day of a local, and for visitors to the Mother City as well. If your priority is sun and fun with the gay community, there are definitely a couple stretches of sand where you'll want to lay your blanket. By far the busiest and most lauded gay beach is Clifton Third, number three of a few beaches called Clifton, separated by tumbled down rocks and natural cliff formations. The other Clifton crescents of sand are popular with families or young, straight hipsters, but there'll be no question when you get to Clifton 3. It is practically a mandate that the hordes of perfectly tanned and toned wear as little as possible before they begin a complex ritual of promenading and stopping to chat with small groups of friends. Upon arrival it may seem cliquey and off-putting, but the crowd (and if it is sunny, it will be crowded, seven days a week) is actually quite welcoming and low on the attitude scale. Pretty much nobody goes into the water, at least not beyond ankle depth, because this is the Atlantic, and the water is freezing—and, of course, super cold water is not the most flattering element for tiny bathing suits. There are mansions on the cliffs above, white sand beneath your feet, and this is one of the best-sheltered beaches from the wind that can make the coast occasionally inhospitable. The (unofficial) gay nude beach is Sandy Bay, also along the Atlantic, about 20 minutes farther south. Here you'll hike a trail from parking for a good ten or more minutes, and when you get to the beach, keep going to the far end where the gay zone is. Boulders dot the fine, soft sand, and there is rarely a huge crowd, though you won't have it all to yourself. Camps Bay, between the two, is a laid-back beach community, with a walkway lined with palm trees, cafés, restaurants, and bars. It is popular among all the beautiful people, gay and straight, and gets even more crowded as the day wanes toward sunset for the amazing views out to sea and up toward Lion's Head and the Twelve Apostles mountain formations. Proximity to cocktails and restrooms makes this less of an excursion and more of a mellow afternoon party. www.capetown.travel
—J. Michael Nemeth

VARADERO BEACH, CUBA
Don't forget your sunglasses because the glare off of the 32 kilometers of Varadero's platinum-blonde beaches and exquisite turquoise waters will undoubtedly be fierce. This narrow spit of sand 140 kilometers northeast of Havana draws locals and international tourists alike to its natural beauty, nightclubs, and luxury hotels. The sea drop is so gradual that you can wade far out into the warm water without hitting the surf. With more than 40 species of coral, numerous fish, shrimp, crabs, 70 kinds of mollusks, and if you're lucky, some inquisitive dolphins, it's a great place to snorkel. Scuba equipment can be rented to explore the underwater caves at La Cueva de Saturno, a stalagmite and stalactite cavern flooded with water. Sports enthusiasts can indulge in sail-boarding, aqua-biking, catamaran rides, and paragliding. On the northeastern tip of the peninsula is the Hicacos Point Natural Park with the 820-foot long Cave of Ambrosio and Mangón Lake, home to 24 species of reptiles and 31 of birds. Spotting rare specimens of a more mechanical sort can also be amusing in Varadero: pre-1959 American relics—57 Bel Airs, a chrome-laden De Soto, and a 56 Plymouth Fury—chugging past like so much flotsam and jetsam from a long-receded political high-tide. On the San Bernardino crags, French American millionaire Irenee Du Pont built his sumptuous winter hideaway, Xanadu, complete with hydraulic organ, rooms inlaid with precious hardwoods and marble, and a spectacular penthouse ballroom where one can sip mojitas—an indigenous concoction of rum, lime juice, sugar, and mint—with a panoramic vista of the peninsula and sea. www.travel2cuba.co.uk
—Bill Strubbe

Continued

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The best gay nude beach in the world is on Maui called little makena beach
- Jay Schneider , Tulsa,ok,usa


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