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Top 11 International Beach Destinations for Summer 2024

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Lori Zaino
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Lori Zaino

Senior Content Contributor

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Lori is an intrepid traveler who loves creating itineraries that exude “luxe on a budget.” She’s written for CNN, NBC, The Infatuation, and more, and loves to muse about points-fueled trips to Sri Lan...
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Despite inflation, short-staffed airports, and baggage chaos, Americans are prioritizing travel in 2024 — with 50% more planning to travel this year than in 2023. With trends like wellness travel, slow travel, and sustainable travel high on travelers’ bucket lists, there’s no better type of vacation to rejuvenate, relax, and absorb the local culture than a beach trip.

Of course, there’s plenty of sand and sun in the U.S., but for those who want to broaden their horizons, here are some of the best beach vacations in the world for summer 2024.

Keep in mind that we took the Atlantic hurricane season and other rainy seasons into account, so don’t expect to see too much of the Caribbean on here. We chose spots where visitors can hope to maximize their time enjoying sunny beach weather this summer.

1. Sicily, Italy

Cefalu Sicily
The charming seaside village of Cefalù is perfect for an Italian beach break. Image Credit: Sabine Kroschel via Pixabay

According to a Global Travel Trends report by Expedia, Vrbo, and Hotels.com, “[t]wo-thirds of global travelers have considered and 39% have booked trips to destinations after seeing them on streamed shows or movies.” Sicily, an island in southern Italy, has seen a 50% increase in bookings thanks to the popular TV series “White Lotus.”

While not every traveler can afford the room rates of $1,000 or more at the real-life version of the show’s hotel, the San Domenico Palace, Taormina, A Four Seasons Hotel, the Italian island offers plenty of other budget-friendly hotels and vacation rentals ideal for travelers to stay at, including some where you can use points.

This particular island is the largest in the Mediterranean, which means there are plenty of sandy beaches to enjoy, as well as charming hilltop towns, bustling cities, olive and pistachio farms, vineyards, and more.

There are even smaller islands off the coast of Sicily: The Aeolian Islands and the famed Isola Bella — a rocky islet known as “the Pearl of the Ionian” — are beachy paradises just waiting to be explored.

When it comes to enjoying the best of Sicily, you’ll want to cruise through the stunning villages of the Val di Noto, such as Ragusa and Modica, take the cable car in Taormina, and take in some of the most iconic beaches on the island, such as the sandy San Vito lo Capo, the fishing village of Cefalù, and the dramatic cliffs of Scala dei Turchi.

Hot Tip:

Be ready to brave the heat, as Sicilian summers are extremely warm.

2. Watamu, Kenya

Watamu Kenya
The white sands of Watamu in Kenya. Image Credit: Gil via Pixabay

Move over, Maldives. If you’re looking for fine white sands and crystal-clear waters, you’ll find them in Watamu. This particular coastal region of Kenya is famous for snorkeling and diving at Watamu Marine National Park, home to a diverse population of fish, turtles, whale sharks, and dugongs.

Beachgoers can see more than 100 different bird species along the coast, as well as dolphins in Watamu’s waters. You can also explore nearby Mida Creek’s mangroves via dugout canoe or kayak.

Kenya’s coastal areas, as well as the world-famous Masai Mara, both experience their dry seasons from July through September, making it easy to combine a safari with your trip to the beach. The best way to do so is to fly between Nairobi (NBO), which is closer to Masai Mara, and Mombasa (MBA), which is a short drive away from Watamu. And this summer is the ideal time to do so, thanks to the recent opening of the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge, the brand’s first safari property. It’s a space that focuses on protecting the local area’s beloved flora and fauna in sustainable ways.

While you won’t find many big-brand hotels in Watamu, there’s plenty of lodging from budget to luxe — in addition to home rentals — that would be ideal for a relaxing beach break.

3. San Blas Islands, Panama

San Blas Islands Panama
The tropical San Blas Islands are remote and brimming with natural beauty. Image Credit: Philip Melanson via Unsplash

Panama sits outside of the Atlantic hurricane belt, and it’s an easy escape from the U.S., where you won’t need to worry about adjusting to jet lag. Although June through November is considered the rainy season in the Central American nation, the likelihood you’ll have beautiful beach days is high, especially if you visit earlier in the summer.

Start your Panamanian adventure in Panama City, with a stay at Hyatt’s newish Unbound property, Hotel La Compañía, an ode to the country’s colonial roots in the heart of the capital’s historic center. Then, head to the islands by a combination of a 4×4 vehicle and a seaplane, water taxi, or sailboat charter. Many of the islands are only reachable by tour, which you can organize once you’re in Panama City.

The San Blas Islands, an archipelago of more than 300 islands (fewer than 50 are inhabited), are ideal for a sunny vacation. Expect far-flung, pristine beaches and lush, tropical jungles on these remote islands. Once there, plan to snorkel or dive, as the islands are home to a reef. You can explore them directly via chartered boat or stay in local beach bungalows and small rentals around the islands.

Hot Tip:

Stay for free at Hyatt properties using Hyatt points. Earn these from a co-branded Hyatt card, such as The World of Hyatt Credit Card, which offers perks like complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status. Or, transfer Chase Ultimate Reward Points to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio. Earn more Chase points using a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers 2x points on travel and dining.

4. Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Fisherman in Sri Lanka
Expect to see locals fishing during a Sri Lankan beach escape. Image Credit: Julita via Pixabay

This eastern province of Sri Lanka sees dry weather in the summer, making it perfect for a beach break after you’ve explored the temples of Anuradhapura in the country’s interior and viewed herds of elephants in the wild in the protected national parks of Minneriya and Kaudulla.

Sri Lanka is a small country, so you can fly into the capital, Colombo (CMB), but then easily escape the summer rains there in just a few hours by driving toward the east coast. Trincomalee has long stretches of white sand, such as Uppuveli, where you’ll sunbathe and frolic on the sands alongside locals fishing. Perhaps you’ll even see cows roaming the beach during your surf lesson.

Accommodations come in the form of affordable guest houses, surfer hostels, and family-friendly vacation rentals. This particular slice of the coast is slightly further from Colombo than some of the more popular beach resorts in the south of the island, but this means you’ll see fewer tourists and enjoy a more authentic Sri Lankan vacation.

Sri Lanka is a wallet-friendly destination that can be easily combined with the Maldives, one of the world’s most sought-after high-end destinations. You can use your points to fly and stay at a fancy resort in the Maldives, then pay affordable cash rates for lodging and activities in Sri Lanka.

5. Iceland

Iceland Beach
You may spot ice on Iceland’s dark volcanic sands. Image Credit: Susanne Stöckli via Pixabay

Maybe you’ve never considered Iceland as a beach destination, but for thrill-seekers and those looking to have a different kind of beach escape, Iceland offers beach experiences that you would not be able to have anywhere else in the world.

While you can swim at many of Iceland’s beaches (just use your best judgment), don’t expect the traditional sand-and-sun experience here. This country is for those who are looking for a change from the traditional beach vacation. On Iceland’s beaches, you encounter black and even red sand, stretches of shore strewn with petrified rock remains, geothermic waters, and pieces of icebergs lying on the sand.

See icy glacier blocks at Diamond Beach (be careful not to climb on them — they’re super slippery), or snap photos of the reddish sands at Rauðisandur. Those who want a break from sightseeing in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík should dip into the artificial, geothermal waters of Nauthólsvík.

Don’t miss checking out the charming lighthouse on Grotta Island or the basalt rocks jutting out of the water or the angular rock formations along the coastline’s black volcanic sands of Reynisfjara Beach. And for all those AvGeeks out there (you know who you are), the rocky, gray sands of Sólheimasandur Beach are home to a plane wreck.

6. Gulf of Thailand Islands: Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Tao

Koh Nang Yuan Beach in Koh Tao Thailand
The white sands of Koh Nang Yuan Beach in Koh Tao, Thailand. Image Credit: Poswiecie via Pixabay

While much of Thailand suffers through monsoon season in the summer months, the Gulf of Thailand, home to islands like Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Tao, doesn’t have its rainy season until October.

Koh Samui is a short flight away from hubs like Singapore (SIN), Kuala Lumpur (KUL), and Bangkok (BKK), and is the largest of these 3 islands. From there, you can take several different ferries to the other 2 islands. Each of these islands has seemingly endless beaches, but as Koh Tao is the most remote of the 3, getting to the best beaches there requires navigating seriously steep, unpaved, and curvy roads on a rented motorbike or via taxi.

One of the best beaches to visit on Koh Samui is Silver Beach, a golden-sand cove dotted with boulders, beach restaurants, and hotels. On Koh Pha Ngan, youthful party animals should attend the monthly full-moon party on Haad Rin beach, while families may prefer the less-developed Haad Son, also known as Secret Beach. Meanwhile, in Koh Tao, snorkelers should visit Sharks Bay to see blacktip reef sharks, while sun-seekers should head to Aow Leuk or the iconic Koh Nang Yuan Beach to relax on the island’s white sands.

All of these islands are relatively affordable, but if you’re looking to use points, Koh Samui has the largest selection of points properties, like the Conrad Koh Samui and the W Koh Samui.

Hot Tip:

Beach bums will be in heaven in a country like Thailand, home to numerous islands and hundreds of beaches. If you’re having trouble narrowing it down, these top beaches in Thailand are some of the best.

7. Cádiz, Spain

Playa de la Bolonia
The blustery dunes of Playa de Bolonia in southern Spain. Image Credit: Quino Al via Unsplash

While most of the tourists head to overpriced Ibiza and crowded Mallorca, those who want to vacation alongside locals should head to Cádiz in Andalusia. Cádiz is home to a charming historic center, but its coastal Atlantic location ensures it stays breezy and cooler than some other Mediterranean locations — a plus, as these Southern European destinations often have unbearable summer heatwaves.

Head south along the coast from Cádiz and you’ll run into endless sandy stretches. Visit beaches like El Palamar, Caños de Mecca, and La Fontanilla. Rarely crowded or full, these beaches feel delightfully airy and ample, a welcome change from many Mediterranean beaches in Spain, such as Alicante or Valencia, where you’ll sit umbrella-to-umbrella in the summer months.

Zahara de los Atunes is another long stretch of sand, and its nearby downtown area is complete with restaurants and boho-chic boutiques. Playa de Bolonia is one of the most famous in Europe for being impeccably clean, with pristine waters and a wild, remote feel, thanks to its location in a protected natural area, El Estrecho Natural Park. Don’t forget to climb up its giant sand dunes!

End up in Tarifa, a breezy beach town perfect for surfers, where the wind blows for more than 300 days a year, ideal for kitesurfing and windsurfing, in addition to just catching waves on your board. And even if you’re not a surfer, the hip beach clubs and trendy restaurants make Tarifa fun for everyone.

Hot Tip:

You can take the train from Madrid to Cádiz instead of driving — just know it takes more than 4 hours. Or fly into nearby Jerez (XRY) to sample some its famous sherries, then hop over to Cádiz from there.

8. Baja California Sur, Mexico

Los Cabos Mexico
The sand and rocks of Los Cabos, Mexico. Image Credit: Vania Medina via Unsplash

Home to famous Los Cabos, this region, the southernmost part of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, has plenty of tourist resorts and hidden, beachy gems to discover. An easy flight from many cities in the U.S., the obvious choice for beachgoers is to head to Los Cabos (SJD), an area home to stunning beaches like the iconic Playa del Amor, a stretch of golden sands dotted with massive granite cliffs and rock formations along turquoise waters.

Although the rainy season in the region occurs during summer, most of the rain tends to fall in September, so a summer trip, especially in June or July, should provide plenty of lazy beach days in the sunshine.

Those who want a dash of culture along with their beach break should head to the colorful village of Todos Santos, backed by the Sierra de la Laguna mountains. Nearby, surfers can catch big breaks at beaches like Cerritos or Pescadero, both located on the Pacific side of the peninsula. Those with a penchant for the finer things should keep an eye on the St. Regis Los Cabos and the Park Hyatt Los Cabos, both opening soon.

Sustainable travelers looking to get off the beaten path, away from the more touristy beaches of Los Cabos, can take a day trip from La Paz to the uninhabited island of Espíritu Santo, designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve and in the calmer waters of the Sea of Cortez. Summer is mating season for the local sea lion population.

9. Portugal

Nazare Portugal
Waves crash in Nazaré, Portugal. Image Credit: Katharina Mende via Pixabay

Portugal continues to emerge as an affordable destination for U.S. travelers. And TAP Air Portugal — the country’s flag carrier — is ready, increasing the number of flights between its home base in Lisbon and cities across the U.S., including Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Miami (MIA), San Francisco (SFO), and Washington, D.C. (IAD). Now that you know it’s easy enough to get there, let’s talk about the beaches.

Just outside of Lisbon, there are plenty of stretches of sun and sand, from beach towns like Cascais and Estoril to the famed surf hubs of Nazaré and Peniche, which are just north of the Portuguese capital.

But some of the best beaches in Portugal are in the south in the Algarve region. The area is especially ideal for families, with large resorts like the Conrad Algarve and Pine Cliffs Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Algarve.

Marinha Beach is one of the most popular in the area, featuring calm, emerald waters and backed by towering, rocky cliffs. Make sure to snap a photo of the double-arched rock formation in the sea, Arco Natural. This beach is busy and popular in the summer months, so if you’re looking to escape the crowds, consider heading to one of the Algarve’s islands — like Armona Island or Tavira Island — by ferry. Both of these islands feature long stretches of sand that feel more remote than the mainland beaches.

10. Peloponnese, Greece

Shipwreck on Valtaki Beach in Peloponnese Greece
Sunbathe while admiring a massive shipwreck on Valtaki Beach in Peloponnese, Greece. Image Credit: Monique Stokman via Pixabay

When most Americans think of a Greek beach escape, islands like Santorini or Mykonos come to mind. But they may not realize that these islands are crowded and expensive, especially during the peak summer months. Instead, vacation where the locals do and head to Peloponnese, a peninsula that’s a short drive from Athens.

Peloponnese’s beaches rival those of Greece’s most famous islands, featuring white sands and transparent waters, and are often much less crowded than ones you find on more traveled islands. If you want to go fully Greek, visit Voidokilia Beach, which is actually shaped like the Greek letter omega (Ω). The sands are set along Gialova Lagoon, which is one of the best birdwatching spots in the region.

And it’s not just beaches you can see in Peloponnese. The area is home to quaint villages and beautiful natural sites, too. For example, visiting the village of Nafplio is a must. Its emblematic Venetian castle, seaside promenade, and neoclassical architecture have led locals to deem it one of the most romantic destinations in Greece.

For a wilder feel, the long sands of Valtaki and Selintsa (separated by a shipwreck) are ideal for relaxing. And if you’re up for an evening beach stroll, you may even spot sea turtles nesting here.

Hot Tip:

Peloponnese is a couple of hours away from Athens (ATH) by car. That’s infinitely easier than figuring out the ferry system or catching additional connecting flights, as Greek airports can be chaotic in the summer months.

11. Fiji

Beach Fiji
Fiji’s beaches are blissful and exotic. Image Credit: Dean McQuade via Unsplash

Home to some of the prettiest beaches in the world, Fiji sees dry season in summer, the ideal time to explore more than 300 islands that belong to the nation. Summer is also when Fiji celebrates many of its festivals, including the Bula Festival, which invites tourists to join in the cultural fun — “bula” means “welcome.”

Among the many islands, you’ll find dozens of idyllic beaches, from Liku Beach on the Mamanuca Islands, backed by verdant, Jurassic Park-style foliage, to the clear, swimmable waters of Natadola Beach, where visitors can swim then play a round of golf at the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa. However, IHG loyalists may prefer to stay in the brand-new Crowne Plaza Fiji Nadi Bay Resort & Spa (formerly the Pullman), set to open in stages through 2024.

Yes, we know Fiji may be far, which is why you may want to combine a Fiji break with a visit to one of its South Pacific neighbors. Traversing the world just to head to some beautiful beaches may just be worth it, especially when you mix your Fiji trip with cultural and outdoor pursuits in Australia or New Zealand — just know summer is more like winter in those countries, so pack accordingly.

Hot Tip:

If you have your heart set on an IHG property in Fiji or elsewhere, work on building up a collection of IHG Rewards points by getting an IHG co-branded credit card, such as the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card. You’ll get automatic Platinum Elite status and earn up to 26 total points per dollar spent when you stay at IHG Hotels and Resorts.

Final Thoughts

Yes, you can always enjoy a summer breach break at home in the U.S. But there’s something to be said about international sands, whether you’re on mainland Europe or visiting far-flung islands, that feels like a true escape. Enjoy a beach break abroad this summer, and you might just fall in love with a destination you hadn’t considered before.

And you may end up surprised — a jaunt to southern Portugal or Sri Lanka may actually be more affordable than that beach rental in California, Cape Cod, or northern Michigan when all is said and done.

The information regarding The World of Hyatt Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which beaches are the best in summer?

The best beaches to visit in the summer are the ones that offer sunshine and little rain. Whether you love a beach with all the amenities (beach chairs, restaurants, and shops) or a more remote beach experience, there are plenty of beaches worldwide that are ideal for summer visits, from beaches in Portugal to Sri Lanka to Thailand to Mexico.

Where should I go on a beach vacation in July?

In July, head to destinations like Portugal, Spain, Greece, Panama, or western Mexico if you want to enjoy sunny weather. Skip anywhere that’s rainy or excessively humid, like parts of Florida and much of the Caribbean.

What country is best to visit in August?

In August, visit countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, or Portugal. Although many of the beaches are crowded and the weather is hot, these countries have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, especially during summer months like August.

Where is the best beach holiday in August?

This depends on your interests. If you want to escape the tourist crowds, head to Trincomalee in Sri Lanka or the remote San Blas Islands in Panama. For a true adventure and cooler temperatures, visit Iceland. Or, for a more traditional summer beach experience, head to Portugal, Spain, or Greece.

Lori Zaino's image

About Lori Zaino

Lori is an intrepid traveler who loves creating itineraries that exude “luxe on a budget.” She’s written for CNN, NBC, The Infatuation, and more, and loves to muse about points-fueled trips to Sri Lanka, Sicily, and Myanmar.

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