Whether you’re diving into the deep caldera of an extinct volcano or skimming along the top of crystal-clear waters, the world offers many truly awesome places for a beautiful swim. Here are the 6 best that you’ll find anywhere on earth.
Red Beach, Santorini , Greece
A crescent-shaped island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, Santorini was once a massive volcano-archaeologists say it blew its top way back in the Bronze Age. It left behind a fascinating place where whitewashed buildings cling to the edge of towering sea cliffs, and beaches come in many colours-including black, brown, white and even red. At Red Beach, iron-rich sands-and the cliffs that hem them in- have taken a curious and beautiful rust-coloured hue, which forms a stark contrast when they intersect with the beach’s deep blue waters.
Santa Monica Beach, California
While there are certainly more idyllic waters in the world, no place really matches Santa Monica’s cool factor. Hosting a variety of surfer bums and California girls, this broad beach is bisected by the truly remarkable Santa Monica Pier, a place teeming with energy and home to everything from a roller coaster, seafood restaurants, and old men angling for a big catch. And if you want a cool place to rest after a long day in the sun, the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows brings together the best of the beach with the legends of old Hollywood (it was a favourite of Marilyn Monroe’s, among others).
Contrary to popular belief, the warm, brown, slow-moving waters of the Amazon are actually safe for swimming, if you know what you’re doing. Yes, you will be sharing the river with caimans (a kind of crocodile), piranhas and the bizarre-looking pink freshwater river dolphins (called boto) that are found only here, but an experienced guide can tell you where, and when, it’s safe to dive in. You may even get a visit from a boto-a favourite excursion takes swimmers out to a mid-river sandbar, where you wait for the arrival of this mysterious, playful animal.
This beautiful, historic town-think horse-drawn carriages, cobblestone lanes and squares bordered by aging church clock towers-sits at the heart of a Caribbean playground. Just beyond its own sun-kissed beaches lie the 27 Rosario Islands, reachable by a short boat ride, which are filled with palms and fringed by aquamarine waters. Spend your day on the beach, then dance the night away in the city’s amazing array of salsa clubs.
Blue Lagoon, Fiji
In many ways, Fiji-a cluster of 330 islands in the South Pacific-is the ultimate paradise, an almost mystical place where the palms seem taller, the water always feels bathtub warm, and coral reefs extend themselves and their aquatic bounty before snorkelers from all over the world. While pretty much any spot in Fiji would do for a wonderful swim, perhaps the most beautiful spot of all is the remote Blue Lagoon. Part of the Yasawa Islands, Blue Lagoon is a spot where the water seems bluer, the often empty beaches appear whiter, and the aquatic wonders-from starfish to seahorses to sharks-are truly mind-boggling.
Long Beach, Tofino, B.C.
Although its waters can be chilly (even in the summer), Vancouver Island’s Long Beach-which is surrounded by the majestic, temperate rainforest of Pacific Rim National Park-is an almost mystical place. Mists roll in off the grey, crashing waters, the long span of sand is lined with driftwood, and people swim and surf to small, rocky islands that are only visible at low tide. Spend the day, then stay nearby at a luxe beach house like those at Pacific Sands Beach Resort, which sits directly on nearby Cox Bay.