Best Beach

Mahaulepu Beach, Kauai

Mahaulepu Beach, Kauai     Photo: Douglas Peebles

Hall of Fame

We pick seven of our all-time favorite adventures.

There are plenty of Hawaiian beaches well suited to sipping mai tais, surfing, and admiring a parade of imaginative swimwear. Mahaulepu is not one of them. Located on the south side of Kauai, this two-mile stretch of coast is accessible only by a brain-rattling two-mile dirt road or a three-mile hike that passes by Hawaii’s biggest sinkhole cave—both of which tend to weed out the cooler-toting riffraff. The area is considered sacred by native islanders, with ancient burial sites in the dunes and water where endangered monk seals outnumber people and whales pass by in winter. Bring a sailboard, snorkel the offshore reef, or simply take in the mountains and the sea from your own private stretch of shore. The closest hotel is the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort in Koloatwo miles away. This is the Hawaii of centuries ago.

RUNNER-UP
Ilha Grande, Brazil
No country does beach culture better than Brazil, and Ilha Grande’s 106 white-sand ones are pristine. One hundred miles southwest of Rio and 14 miles into the Atlantic, this 75-square-mile island was once home to Brazil’s common criminals. The prison closed in 1994, and the government turned the island into a reserve. Abraão is the only town large enough to mention, and most beaches are a short hike, bike, or boat ride away. Lopes Mendes, with its empty lineup, is impossible to beat for surfers. Stay at Abraão’s Pousada Naturalia ($135), a small guesthouse with a hammock on your own private balcony, a mere 150 feet from Praia do Canto beach, another beauty. 

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