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IN SEARCH OF
THE BEST BEACHES IN THE WORLD
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KNIP BEACH, CURAÇAO
Curaçao's Knip Beach is the very image of a Caribbean strand: a perfect curve of white, surrounded by a crescent of low-lying green hills. Because of the geography of this famously gay-friendly island, you won't find miles-long stretches of beach, rather, you'll find a series of individual beaches. The best lie along the northwest coast, isolated in little coves that make each succeeding beach a new discovery as you drive around that corner of the island, where all the best beaches are located. Knip, technically it's Grote Knip (Large Knip) as there's a smaller beach nearby that shares the name, is popular with Curaçaoans as well as tourists, and because it's a local favorite, you'll find a lot more people there on weekends. During the week, though, it's practically deserted. Reefs lie offshore, a decent swim for dedicated snorkelers but not out of reach. Before going down to the water's edge, stand on the cliff above and gaze down at this postcard-perfect Caribbean image. You might see young men diving from the rocks or, especially during the week, it might be just you, that vast expanse of incredible water, the manzanilla trees framing a view of rugged cliffs and blue/green seas, with perhaps a tiny fisherman's boat out in the water. Descend to the beach, where the sand is white as sugar, the water that aqua-emerald-who-knows-what-color-to-call-it-but-it's-amazing hue that you'll find only in the Caribbean. www.curacao.com
—Rich Rubin

CHINA BEACH, DANANG, VIETNAM
For shell-shocked American GI's during the Vietnam War, a few days R&R on China Beach's powdery white was about as close to heaven as one could get while still in-country. With a popular 1980s TV show of the same name, China Beach is undoubtedly Vietnam's most famous (and sentimental to Americans) seaside destination. Known locally as Non Nuoc Beach, this luscious expanse, virtually devoid of human beings during the day, extends from My Khe in the north to Cua Dai in the south and offers white sand, translucent jade water, and sweeping views of the South China Sea. The surf is usually up near Danang (in 1992, it hosted Vietnam's first surfing tournament), while Hoi An has drawn the premier resort developments, like the Furama Resort, one of the most luxurious hotels in all of Vietnam. Consumption of seafood is a given, either at a restaurant or a stall plunked down on the sand. Lacking a phrase book, simply point at a creature that strikes your fancy and give it a go. Looming over China Beach are the imposing Marble Mountains, honeycombed with caves that for centuries were Buddhist sanctuaries replete with pagodas and carved Buddhas; later the Vietcong used them as an almost impregnable guerilla base, while US grunts cavorted on the beach far below. Climbing up the steps to the Marble Mountains can be challenging, but from the top you will be feted with a panoramic view of the beach, the countryside, and Danang, Vietnam's third largest port city. www.vietnamtourism.com
—Bill Strubbe

GLASS BEACH, FORT BRAGG, CALIFORNIA
The dramatic coastline of Mendocino County in Northern California is dotted with scenic and cultural attractions. The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (www.gardenbythesea.org) offers scenic trails through manicured gardens with abundant birds, breathtaking views, and the opportunity to watch for migrating whales or enjoy a picnic lunch with the Pacific Ocean crashing just below. The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse (www.pointcabrillo.org) is another popular attraction for historic views of this storied coastline from a restored lighthouse. The most unusual stop on your visit through gay-friendly Mendocino County will surely be Glass Beach (www.fortbragg.com). Now a State Park, this coastal cove was once a public dump, of all things. It's hard to imagine how anyone would see fit to trash such beauty, but dating back to the 1940s, residents simply tossed their trash over the cliffs. Here sat everything from cars and appliances to household trash, including lots and lots of colorful glass. In the late 1960s, around the time plastics started taking the place of glass, officials closed the dump, and various cleanup programs began. Now, over forty years later, Mother Nature has helped correct our mistakes and even gifted us with a unique sight. The constant force of the ocean's waves has rounded the broken glass into a dazzling display of what looks like multi-colored candies covering the public beach. Glass Beach is located at Fort Bragg, and should be accessed wearing sensible footwear. Take all the photography you'd like of this unusual beach, but please, leave the glass where it belongs…on the beach. www.fortbragg.com
—Joe Schmitt

ES CAVALLET BEACH, IBIZA, SPAIN
Just after dawn, as all the hard driving party people begin to wind down for the night, there is one sun soaked spot, far away from the blaring music and spectacle of Ibiza's nightlife scene, where the beautiful people gather to rest and repair—Es Cavellet Beach. Two rainbow flags fly high above the gayest section of the beach to welcome visitors to the world-famous, clothing-optional, white sand-covered slice of paradise on the Mediterranean where diehard sun worshippers can opt to rent a lounge chair and umbrella on the beach and order lunch and a few stiff cocktails from the seaside Chiringay so as not to miss a drop of glorious golden Mediterranean sun. Throughout the day an endless stream of tanned, European, hot bodies flows regularly through the Chiringay eatery en route from the beach, the neighboring shops or the surrounding dunes, which are notorious for randy daytime interactions that give new meaning to the term "fun-in-the sun." The ultimate indulgence is not, however, in the dunes, but on Es Cavellet beach itself, where several Adonis-like masseurs assemble daily to offer relaxing beachside massages to whip the party weary back into top form by soothing the aching muscles they wear like badges of honor on the flip side of an evening spent prancing around the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning. Partying and glitz may be the buzz words on the other side of Ibiza, but in the unspoiled, seaweed strewn environs of Es Cavallet beach, it's all about rest, blissful relaxation, and enjoying the beauty of nature, both human and otherwise. www.ibiza.travel
—Duane Wells

HANALEI BAY BEACH, KAUAI, HAWAII
Close your eyes and picture Bali Hai. Or Shangri-La. Or even Heaven. You might not realize it, but you most likely conjured Kauai's North Shore—it is as close as you can get to paradise in this lifetime, or in North America. Hanalei Bay Beach is a wide, two-mile fingernail of sand, crowned by the sheer sea cliffs of the Napali coast. Best of all, the beach is almost always entirely empty. That's not to say there aren't people on Hanalei beach, but simply there is such a wide swath of sand covering so much ground—and it is so remote—it is impossible to feel population pressures. The distance between towels on Hanalei beach can be measured in football fields, not feet. Hanalei is a sportsman's beach. On windy days, the multi-colored sails of kite surfers swing wildly above the treeline. Surf champ Laird Hamilton considers Hanalei his home break, and you can watch him and other big wave surfers towed by jetski into the massive rollers. There are also gentler, onshore swells for those who want to try surfing for the first time. Hanalei's coral reef is a snorkeler's playground, with parrot fish and octopus right off shore. Any remote beach paradise would be a little forlorn without some luxury: the newly remodeled St. Regis Princeville (www.stregisprinceville.com) is perched on a cliff overlooking Hanalei and the steep mountains beyond. Take a morning hike on the Kalalau trail along the pali, then return to the Halele'a Spa for a thorough pummeling and sunset cocktails as the sun arcs over the crown of cliffs. www.kauai-hawaii.com
—Sarah Rose

BELLS BEACH, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Bells Beach, south of Melbourne, is part of Australia's aptly-named Great Coastal Road. Here, a long road curves off B100 (the Coastal) toward the beach. There are, of course, very nice waves, as this is one of Australia's prime surf beaches and the site of the famous annual Rip Curl Pro, which is claimed to be the oldest professional surfing competition in the world. It's a straight stretch of beach, the shoreline backed by scrubby plants, with puffy little white flowers dotting the cliffsides above. The waves—sorry, "swells"—lift in tremendous motion as they roll in and crash against the shore. You're likely to see half a dozen surfers trying their luck even on an off-season weekday (and surfboard-topped cars all along the way); Bells is so iconic in the surfing world that no dedicated surfer could head down the Great Ocean Road without making a stop here. You can visit one of the many surf shops nearby if you're a partisan of this watery sport. Bells is just as nice, though, for those who just want to spend a few hours on the sand basking in the Australian sun or gazing at the water and the pounding of the waves (swimming is difficult because of the very swells that make it a perfect surfing destination). Green hills rise from the honey toned beach, cliffs surround it, the road rises behind in the distance, and the sea is deeply, amazingly blue. www.visitmelbourne.com
—Rich Rubin

TEMAE BEACH, MOOREA, TAHITI
There's a mystique about Tahiti that is only appreciated when you see the intense, natural beauty of this collection of Pacific Islands. On one of the most beautiful, the immensely alluring island of Moorea, mystique and reality merge at such spots as Temae Beach, one of the best public beaches of the Tahitian Islands and as amazing for its vistas as for the beach itself. A path through (what else?) coconut palms leads to this uninterrupted stretch of white sand. Palms spring up from the sand, and verdant cliffsides surround it. Look across the multi-hued, almost fluorescent waters to the island of Tahiti, eleven miles distant and beckoning like a siren from the other side of the romantically-named "Sea of the Moon." Snorkel in the peaceful clear waters, exploring the undersea life of the coral reefs that ring the island. James Michener fashioned his mythical Bali Hai after the island of Moorea. After an afternoon on Temae Beach—the pure sand, the deep lagoon, the sea, and Tahiti itself beyond—you can see where he got the inspiration for this piece of paradise. www.tahiti-tourisme.com
—Rich Rubin

ELIA BEACH, MYKONOS, GREECE
Although Super Paradise is without doubt one of the world's most legendary gay beaches, it's no longer the scene it once was. Nowadays, Elia is the preferred choice for gorgeous gay Greeks, sexy international visitors, people-watchers, and celebrity spotters. Accessible either by local bus from Mykonos Town or by taxi-boat from Platis Yialos, Elia is one of the island's biggest and most beautiful beaches. A crescent of fine golden sand, caressed by the crystal blue Aegean Sea, this chic and cosmopolitan beach is lined with sun loungers and palapas. Cold drinks, cocktails, and light lunches can be ordered and enjoyed right on the sand, or for something more substantial, there's Elia Beach Restaurant, a stylish beach bar and restaurant with a shady terrace where you can dine on fresh line-caught fish and delicious Greek specialities. It's even possible to stay right here, in one of fourteen simple studio rooms and apartments built in a traditional Cycladic style. On the surrounding hills are a handful of villas and small luxury hotels such as Arte & Mare Elia Suites and Royal Myconian Resort—but the area is relatively undeveloped and retains its ruggedly handsome topography. If you're more of an anthropologist, ruggedly handsome men can be studied on the gay section at the western end of Elia beach. Although nude sunbathing is permitted, voyeurs and exhibitionists might be disappointed because the majority prefer to conceal their assets in designer swimwear by the likes of aussieBum or XTG. Nudity is more prevalent on the rocks just beyond the beach, which, coincidentally, is where most of the cruising occurs. www.mykonoselia.com
—Stuart Haggas

KANEOHE BAY SANDBAR, OAHU, HAWAII
When the tourist throngs of Waikiki are too intense for your tropical island fantasies, head to the windward side of Oahu for the best beach party in the state. Opposite the Pali cliffs from Honolulu, sheltered Kaneohe Bay is a local weekend hangout where fishermen, kayakers, snorkelers, and power boaters gather on a sandbar that rises up in the middle of protected waters. This six-mile strip of talcum powder sand lies just a few inches under calm waters, barely ankle high at low tide and almost body-temperature warm. Pack a picnic, a hibachi, a cooler, and a beach ball for this all-day bacchanalia. There is nothing fashionable about this party: no one cares what you're wearing, only that you're wet. Too many vacationers miss the rough beauty of Oahu's windward side when parked in a Waikiki hotel room, but it is where people actually live: wetter than Honolulu, jungly, and heart-stoppingly beautiful. Fans of television's LOST will recognize the wild landscape: looking toward the surf beaches of the North Shore, a small island called Chinaman's Hat looks just like, yes, a Chinaman's hat. Toward tony Kailua (where President Obama spends his Christmas holidays) you'll spy the original Gilligan's Island. www.gohawaii.com/oahu
—Sarah Rose

BARAFUNDLE BAY, PEMBROKESHIRE, WALES
Barafundle Bay, part of southwest Wales' Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, is a revelation—all the more so for the process of arriving there. As you approach by car, rolling countryside turns more dramatic, sheer and craggy cliffs dropping precipitously to the sea. Heading off the main road, drive down to Stackpole Estate, a National Trust site and part of the national coastal walking path. Set off on a long dirt track through this now-deserted estate, perhaps noticing a couple behind you carried along swiftly by their excited dog and a pair of elderly walkers leaning on canes and walking sticks. Let them get far ahead as you stand admiring the deeply-striped cliffs on the cove to your left, the bright emerald fields surrounding you. Ascending, the dirt track disappears and you're in open green fields, the pastures backed by rolling hills and the shimmering bay below, ringed by rocky cliffs. A few more minutes and you're standing above Barafundle Bay. A fairly steep flight of steps brings you down to the sand. It's been consistently voted one of Britain's best by whomever votes on these things, and it's easy to see why: it's a luxuriant curve of sand, topped by dunes and grasses on hills that make it feel immensely private. The long stretch of cliff known as Stackpole Head sticks straight into the sea like an arm. A little boulder sits jauntily offshore. The waves crash against the smooth sand. Your company here? Twelve people, four dogs, and a visual overdose of beauty. www.visitwales.com
—Rich Rubin

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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