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The 10 best beaches you can visit on a cruise

Feb. 25, 2021
9 min read
Tropical beach with a palm tree
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For beach lovers, a cruise may be the ultimate getaway.

On a single week-long voyage, you sometimes can visit beaches in three, four or even more countries -- an impressive feat that would be difficult to do on any other type of trip.

Royal Caribbean's new seven-night Southern Caribbean Explorer itineraries out of Barbados, for instance, will get you to five island nations with stunning beaches: Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and St. Lucia.

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On Western Mediterranean itineraries operated by the line and others, you often will have the opportunity to visit beaches in Spain, France, Italy and Malta -- all within a few days.

To be fair, some of the world's most spectacular beaches -- Balos Beach in Crete, for instance -- aren't easily reachable from the places where cruise ships dock. But cruise ships can take you to a surprising number of the world's most famous and alluring stretches of sand.

Here, a look at some of our favorite beaches at TPG you can visit on a cruise:

South Beach, Miami

Distance from cruise port: 6 miles

Cruise ships departing from Miami sail right by the southern end of South Beach. (Photo by Pola Damonte/Getty Images)

One of the world's most famous beaches is just down the road from the port that draws more cruisers than any other in the world. Miami's iconic South Beach, long a tourist hot spot, is located just north of PortMiami, the cruise world's biggest hub. That means that more than a million cruisers every year have the opportunity to begin or end their trips with a visit to the 2.2-mile stretch of white sand. In addition to a place to lounge on the beach, you'll be able to check out South Beach's storied art deco hotels.

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Playa de la Barrosa, Spain

Distance from cruise port: 24 miles

Located near the port of Cadiz, Spain, Playa de la Barrosa offers nearly 4 miles of glittering sands, separated into two parts. There’s the main beach area with plenty of rental chairs, beachside cafes and restaurants and lifeguards, if you prefer having all the amenities. But there's also the southern side, which is a little more wild. It's home to sandy dunes and pine trees for travelers who really want to escape.

Related: 15 of the most beautiful beaches in Spain

Half Moon Bay, Antigua

Distance from cruise port: 17 miles

Half Moon Bay, Antigua. (Photo by IndustryAndTravel/Shutterstock)

Named by TPG as one of the 10 best secret beaches in the Caribbean, Antigua’s Half Moon Bay tends to be more deserted than others on the island; there’s no sign identifying the mile-long stretch of pink and white sand. Once you find it, though, you’re in for crowd-free euphoria. The beach has something for everyone — windsurfers flock to the center to take advantage of the waves, while snorkelers float around the calmer water near the edges.

St. Peter’s Pool, Malta

Distance from cruise port: 7 miles

One of TPG's picks for the 11 best beaches in Europe, St. Peter's Pool isn’t really a beach — at least, not in the traditional sense. What you'll find at the destination, which is just a few miles away from where cruise ships dock in Valletta, Malta, is a stunning bay framed by smooth, flat rock instead of sand, with the rock appearing almost as if it was carved away to create a very special pool of water: Imagine swimming and sunbathing on the moon. “Beach”-goers can spread their towels out on the unusual stretch of coast and dive into the refreshing water.

Waikiki Beach, Oahu

Distance from cruise port: 3 miles

The iconic crescent that is Waikiki on the island of Oahu. (Photo by M Sweet/Getty Images)

You'll see the full splendor of Oahu's Waikiki Beach from your ship as it pulls into Honolulu Harbor, and getting there is a breeze. Just hop in an Uber at the port, and you'll be there in less than 10 minutes. Once there, you can soak in the views of the famed Diamond Head crater, which frames the southeastern end of the beach. Or, pay homage to Duke Kahanamoku, Olympic swimmer and father of modern-day surfing, at the statue in his image. Visitors also can take surf classes or try their hand at canoe paddling along Waikiki, and you'll find lifeguards and restrooms.

Nusa Dua Beach, Bali

Distance from cruise port: 8 miles

Just 8 miles from the Bali cruise port of Benoa, the beaches at Nusa Dua are known for being some of the island's cleanest and most beautiful, as well as its least crowded. Relax in the white sands at Pantai Geger — the water temperatures here are among Bali's warmest. Then, take the boat out to Turtle Island, where you can see the area's cutest aquatic animals in a protected conservation area.

Related: 27 stunning Indonesian islands you should visit

Ka'anapali Beach, Maui

Distance from cruise port: 3 miles

Kaanapali Beach on Maui (Photo by ejs9/Getty Images)

Just a few miles from the cruise port at Lahaina on the island of Maui (and a bit farther away from the cruise port of Kahului) is one of Hawaii's most famous beaches, Ka'anapali. Located on Maui's West Shore, the 3-mile-long stretch of sand fronts a variety of big resorts (if you decide to come here on points, you'll find such favorites as the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, and The Westin Maui Resort and Spa). It’s easy to swim and snorkel from this long, walkable and lifeguard-protected beach, which offers views of Lanai and Molokai. You can rent snorkel gear as well as surfboards and wakeboards at nearby shops, and also arrange for a shaded cabana. And be sure to keep an eye out for sea turtles in the water (and, during certain times of year, humpback whales breaching in the distance).

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman Island

Distance from cruise port: 5 miles

This famous, gorgeous crescent of coral sand is easy to reach from the Grand Cayman Island cruise pier, and a top draw for cruisers visiting the island. Named by TPG as one of the world's seven great family beaches, it's particularly appealing to families due to its calm surf. It's also home to nearby Stingray City, where kids can swim with the gentle (and friendly) giants. Just don't be fooled into thinking it's really 7 miles long. It measures closer to 6 miles in length -- still an impressive stretch of sand that's open for strolling from end to end.

Manly Beach, Australia

Distance from cruise port: 12 miles

Taking the ferry to Manly Beach is half the fun. (Photo by Gordon Bell/Shutterstock)

You'll need to take a 30-minute ferry to reach Manly Beach from the spot where cruise ships dock in Sydney, Australia. But it's well worth the effort. Lined with beachside cafes, restaurants and bars, Manly is one of the Sydney area's iconic beach getaways. It's best known as surfing hot spot (it's home to the Australian Open of Surfing every February) and is backed by a tree-lined promenade. Its fine soft sand has a lovely golden color.

Governor's Beach, Grand Turk Island

Distance from cruise port: 1 mile

Governor's Beach on the island of Grand Turk (part of the Turks and Caicos) can be crowded at times -- particularly on days when cruise ships are visiting the island. But it's popular for a reason. It offers a fine curve of white sand and clear turquoise water. It's also super close to Grand Turk Cruise Center, where cruise ships arrive when visiting the island, making it an easy outing for cruisers.

Matira Beach, Bora Bora

Distance from cruise port: 4 miles

Access to Matira Beach is near the Intercontinental Le Moana Bora Bora. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Just about any spit of sand you find on Bora Bora will offer a little slice of paradise. But if your cruise vessel pulls into the famed French Polynesian island, we recommend a trip to Matira Beach -- on the southern tip of the island. This public beach is 2 miles long and open to all for free, and the sand is impossibly soft and silky. It's also rarely crowded (access for the public is right near the entrance to the InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora). You'll find the water crystal clear and shallow out to the coral reef offshore. Just be sure to watch for falling coconuts.

Related: What to do when your ship docks in Bora Bora

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Featured image by Getty Images
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