The World's Whitest Beaches

  • 01 of 10

    Queensland, Australia

    Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, Queensland, Australia
    ••• PETER HARRISON

    Spending a lot of time in Australia's Whitsunday Islands might end up disappointing you, but the quality of the islands' beaches themselves is sure to amaze you, particularly iconic Whitehaven Beach. While Whitehaven Beach doesn't boast the whitest sand in the world (more on which beach does in just a moment), it's certainly among the most-photographed and best-known, particularly the perspective seen from a high viewpoint.

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  • 02 of 10

    New South Wales, Australia

    Hyam's Beach
    ••• Hyam's Beach, New South Wales. Public Domain

    As for the honor of the world's whitest sand? Well, it goes to the little-known beach at Hyam's Beach, on the shores of Jervis Bay in the Australia state of New South Wales. According to the Weather Channel, Hyam's Beach has been named as having the whitest sand in the world by the Guinness Book of Records, although it's unclear which methods they used for quantification. Suffice it to say, Australian beaches are so famous for their white sand certain countries will pay to have it imported—more on these accusations in a second.

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  • 03 of 10

    Clearwater, Florida, USA

    Palm trees on Clearwater Beach.
    ••• Franz Marc Frei/Getty Images

    Looking for one of the world's whitest beaches closer to home? Head to one of the beaches of Clearwater, on Florida's Gulf Coast just a short drive from Tampa. Whether you laze on the main Clearwater Beach or collect shells on Treasure Island, you're sure to be amazed how white the sand is—although its whiteness is not, be warned, without controversy. You see, whole officially, Clearwater's trademark white sand is natural, many believe some or all of the sand has been imported from Mexico in recent years due to beach erosion, citing that they've seen barges carrying it in from the sea.

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  • 04 of 10

    Bora Bora, Tahiti

    Bora
    ••• M Swiet Productions/Getty Images

    While the main island of Tahiti is generally famous for its black sand, on account of its volcanic nature, you can absolutely find some of the world's whitest beaches in French Polynesia. Most specifically, if you make a bee line for Matira Beach in Bora Bora, you'll be amazed at how white the sand is, particularly given its contrast with the azure skies, the turquoise sea and the bright-green palm forest growing just behind it.

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  • 05 of 10

    Outer Hebrides, Scotland

    Hebrides, Scotland
    ••• Hebrides, Scotland. Christopher Combe via Flickr

    So far, this list of world's whitest beaches has focused on destinations that are obvious, or at least not surprising. Would you believe that Scotland is home to gorgeous white-sand beaches as well? The best-known on is on the Isle of Harris at Luskentyre Bay, but dozens of amazing beaches exist in the islands of the Outer Hebrides, although you should be careful before actually swimming at them—the water is too cold to spend much time submerged in for the majority of the year. The Outer Hebrides are far from big Scottish cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, but if you happen to be spending some time on the Isle of Skye, it's easy to make a trip further out.

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  • 06 of 10

    Boracay, Philippines

    Boracay Island
    ••• Hank Sun (HankSun88)/Getty Images

    It won't come as a surprise, given its name, that White Beach on the Philippine island of Boracay is home to some of the whitest sands in the world. Given its name, or the hundreds of thousands of tourists that travel each year to Boracay, largely from within the Philippines and around Asia but, increasingly, from around the world as well. Boracay is a great choice if you're on the lookout for one of the world's whitest beaches, but also want plenty of opportunities to socialize.

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  • 07 of 10

    Lofoten Islands, Norway

    Ramberg beach, Lofoten, Norway
    ••• Pawel Toczynski/Getty Images

    Like Scotland, Norway is a surprising entrant on the list of the world's whitest beaches. Another thing Norway's white-sand beaches have in common with Scotland's is that they exist on islands off the main coast—the Lofoten Islands are to Norway as the Outer Hebrides are to Scotland, although the Lofotens are even farther north, above the Arctic Circle in fact. As a result, the tropical look of beaches like Gimsøya is shocking, and almost surreal, although the low-temperature common sense you need to use in Scotland is even more important here. For great Lofoten beaches beyond Gimsøya, check out this guide to the best beaches in the Lofoten Islands.

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  • 08 of 10

    Zanzibar, Tanzania

    Boat at the coastline of small island
    ••• (c) Iztok Alf Kurnik - www.iztokkurnik.com/Getty Images

    Historically, most people have known Tanzania for the Serengeti Plain and, thus, for the country's prowess as a wildlife tourism destination. What more tourists are now beginning to realize is that Zanzibar, an island off the Tanzanian coast in the Indian Ocean, is home to some of the world's whitest beaches.

    In addition to the beaches themselves, which include Mnemba Island and Nungwi, Zanzibar boasts a unique culture that mixes native African customs with those of the Gulf Arab merchants who have traded with people on Zanzibar for hundreds of years. You should note that in spite of the fact that Zanzibar is in a relatively poor country, prices are here are high, given how famous it became with the celebrity crowd before becoming the more mainstream sensation it is today.

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  • 09 of 10

    Jericoacoara, Brazil

    Lençóis Maranhenses, Brazil
    ••• Lençóis Maranhenses, Brazil. Robert Schrader

    The location of Brazil's whitest beach depends upon how strictly you define a "beach." If your definition includes only ocean beaches, then your best choice is Jericoacoara, located in northeastern Brazil along the Atlantic Coast, a few hours by bus from the city of Fortaleza.

    If you're willing to open your mind a bit, however, you'll find even whiter sands in the Lençóis Maranhenses, a bizarre natural formation a bit further afield than "Jeri" (as locals call Jericoacoara). A collection of sand dunes formed by alluvial sand deposits over millions of years, the Lençóis sits between the Amazon and the Ocean, which means that the spaces between it are actually filled with fresh rainwater, rather than salty sea water. Which makes it better for swimming, anyway, even if it's not a beach by the strictest of definitions.

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  • 10 of 10

    Okinawa, Japan

    Tropical island beach paradise, Okinawa, Japan
    ••• Ippei Naoi/Getty Images

    After flying under the radar for decades, Okinawa's beaches are finally getting the publicity they deserve. In particular, the white sands and coral-filled waters of Tokashiki Island are becoming sought-after among tourists, after years of being popular only among Japanese, as well as the families of American military members. Like Clearwater Beach in the U.S., Okinawa's beaches have come under some scrutiny—some of the sand, although it's not clear which, has been imported from Australia, which is not surprising given that country's prominence on the list of the world's whitest beaches. Still, a trip to a beach in Okinawa will not disappoint.