1. Rangiroa (French Polynesia)

Scuba diving in Rangiroa, French Polynesia © MaFelipe / Getty Images

This impressive coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific, the second largest in the world, is  the most remote and lonely place  you can find. Many tourists go there to go scuba diving , but what’s wrong with lying on the beach and having a couple of cocktails? There is also a  huge lagoon , almost an inland sea, which increases the already wide perception and sense of perspective; even the name of the island itself means “vast sky”. Rangiroa  is one of the travel proposals within French Polynesia for those who find Bora Bora, Moorea or Tahiti too touristy places.

2. Cape Tribulation (Australia)

Australia, Cape Crew beach © Darren Tierney / Shutterstock

This   World Heritage  -listed region of Queensland deserves attention for many reasons; splendid beaches  and ancient tropical forests that reach down to the water, fringing reefs, beautiful fauna and flora, rock pools, mangroves,  wooden boardwalks  and impressive rugged mountains as a backdrop. 40 minutes from the coast is the Great Barrier Reef, a unique place in the world.

3. Gili Islands (Indonesia)

Islas Gili, Indonesia © John Laurie / Lonely Planet

Located  northwest of Lombok, Indonesia, this group of three enchanting islands  has the essentials for a vacation:  coral reefs , pristine waters, great fishing or diving spots, and  friendly locals . According to legend, there is also a  magic ring  around it that prevents people from leaving. You have to go and check it out. If one is immune to the power of the ring, perhaps the tuna loins, abundant local beer, and the complete absence of motor vehicles will achieve what magic could not.

4. Fernando de Noronha (Brazil)

Brazil, Playa Fernando de Noronha © TaniaBertoni / Shutterstock

This sparsely populated archipelago, located off the northeast coast of Brazil, is especially famous among  divers  for its dolphins, wrecks, and coral. And not only that, but it is home to the  largest colony of tropical seabirds in the western Atlantic , something that will quicken the pulse of any observer. In Fernando de Noronha there are not many facilities, but instead the islands are preserved more or less as they have been for the last 500 years.

5. Lalomanu (Samoa)
Upolu, Samoa © Richard Vandewalle / 500px

Thank God that the  South Pacific exists,  guardian of more sea, sand and sun than a person can see in his entire life. This time it’s Samoa’s turn, whose Lalomanu beach in Upolu is the  perfect spot for world-class swimming and snorkelling  . From the beach you can see the uninhabited island of Namua. If you want to sleep in it, the  fales  (open cabins) corroborate that you are on a tropical island, a kind of virtual reality for jaded Westerners. The locals are in complete agreement:  Lalomanu  is what it is and its  sunsets have to be seen  to be believed.

6. San Andres and Providencia (Colombia)

Colombia, San Andrés y Providencia beach © Jess Kraft / 500px

Lovers of tropical paradises with a Caribbean flavor should visit this little –   known refuge, with its adventurous stories of Englishmen, Jamaicans and pirates. This enclave enjoys a strong Rastafarian influence and its  beautiful beaches, caves, coves and pools  join the local architecture with a lot of  reggae,  rum and cocktails to provide a sensual pleasure. It is essential to visit the perfect islet of Cayo Johnny with boats that depart from the port near the Decameron Aquarium.

7. Tulum (Mexico)

Tulum, Mexico © Sven Hansche / Shutterstock

There is no mistake; This place on the  Yucatán peninsula,  in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, is an archaeological center, but also one of the best beaches in the world. It has 7 km of fine  sand, perfect blue waters  that seem to come out of a dream and its famous cabin-type accommodation, without electricity, next to the coast. Isn’t all this enough? As an added value, the backdrop is amazing: the  ruins of a walled Mayan city  whose origins date from the s. VI (Tulum means “wall” in Mayan), surely the most majestic setting in the world.

8. Cape Verde

Cape Verde, Santa María beach © Samuel Borges Photography / Shutterstock

This archipelago of  10 volcanic islands  off the coast of Senegal has always been synonymous with  mystery and exoticism . A strange amalgamation of West African rhythms and Portuguese colonialism, it has finally succumbed to tourism and the government intends to commercialize all its sun-drenched splendor. But you have to tread carefully: its coast without tourist development and its  attractive deserted beaches  protect a very fragile ecosystem full of native species.

9. Playa de Ipanema (Brazil)

Playa de Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock

There is nothing comparable to the experience of taking off your flip flops and  walking along the  most famous beach in Rio de Janeiro. Surrounding the base of the Dois Irmaos (Two Brothers) mountain, at the western end of the beach, Ipanema is the backyard of the city, free and open to everyone, with all kinds of entertainment, from jogging on the promenade until sitting down with a coconut water in hand to watch how the volleyball players sweat profusely.

The beach is divided by a series of  postos  (lifeguard towers) into sections of 2 km; and each section houses its parishioners. Post  9  points to the Garota de Ipanema, where bathers with athletic bodies tend to go  . The area is also known as Cemitério dos Elefantes after the  former hippies and artists  who frequent it. Gays go to another beach sector known as Praia Farme, and  posto 8  is the area for children from the favelas. It doesn’t really matter where the towel is planted: there is no doubt that thebirthplace of the bikini top is still as sexy as ever.

10. Aitu (Cook Islands)

Islas Cook, Aitu © Pete Seaward / Lonely Planet

The entire tropical trousseau is in this  corner in the middle of the Pacific:  deserted beaches, blue waters and snow-white sands. There’s something else, though: a group of   multi-chambered limestone caves , tucked away in the thick jungle of the surrounding coral coastal plains. Some were used as tombs, but rest assured, the island’s fierce warriors are long gone. Today it is a  mecca for ecotourism  and has more flora and fauna than can be captured with binoculars.

11. Ko Phi Phi (Thailand)

Ko Phi-Phi Leh, Thailand © Catherine Sutherland / Lonely Planet

With its azure blue waters, surrounded by a crown of  jungle-covered limestone cliffs  , Maya Bay on Ko Phi-Phi Leh topped the list of places every backpacker must visit after the movie  The Beach  was released in 2000. This place pilgrimage is one of the most beautiful and crowded in Thailand. With no overnight stays in Leh, at sunset the day-trippers flock back to their barracks on neighboring Phi Phi Don , where long days lounging on  white beaches  give way to sweaty  nights of drinking and dancing . You have to climb the 300 mPhi Phi viewpoint to contemplate the exuberant beauty of the butterfly-shaped island or take a boat tour of the sea. 

12. Kuna Yala (Panama)

Panama, Kuna Yala beach © Andy Troy / 500px

If you enter “tropical paradise” into Google, you will surely find images of this archipelago. These islets (also known as  the San Blas Islands ) are part of the semi-autonomous territory of the Kuna people and have palm trees,  fabulous beaches , thatched-roof huts and timeless charm. Development has not made a dent thanks to the  environmental conservation laws  imposed by the Kuna. So there are no hideous hotels to spoil the landscape and no mass tourism to pollute the environment, just many uninhabited islands to explore.

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