You’ve finally taken that vacation to the beach. The kids are making sandcastles, your feet are in the warm sand, and the smell of sunscreen and salt lingers in the air. The shore is murky and brown, and… is that a tire that just washed up? OK, something’s definitely wrong with this picture.
For most people, no dream beach vacation is complete without crystal-clear water lapping the shore. It’s no wonder we associate clean shores with peace of mind; not only are “blue spaces” (like the ocean) proven to be good for our mental health, but clear water guarantees a swimming or a snorkeling session free of pollution in a world where 88% of the sea’s surface is tainted by plastic waste.
Whether a seashore is see-through or not depends on a variety of factors, including levels of sediment in the water and the way the Earth spins. Depending on where you are in the world, the nearest of these picture-perfect beaches might be just down the road or half a continent away… but which beaches boast the clearest water of all according to previous paddlers in their waves?
To find out, FloridaPanhandle turned to millions of publicly available traveler reviews for beaches in the U.S. and across the globe.
What We Did
We began with a seed list of the 50 beaches in 75 countries that were ranked the highest among publicly available traveler reviews. Focusing on English-language reviews, we then calculated which beaches globally, in each country and on each continent, had the highest percentage of reviews mentioning ‘clear water.’ In total, we analyzed more than 2.4 million reviews.
- Prassa Beach in Kimolos, Greece, has the clearest water, according to Tripadvisor reviews — 43.56% mention its clear water
- Overall, Greece is home to eight of the world’s top ten beaches with the clearest water
- The U.S. boasts three of North America’s top ten clear-water beaches, with Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island (WI) taking the lead
- But Florida and Hawaii each count three of the country’s top beaches with clear water
- Australia dominates Oceania’s rankings of the continent’s top beaches for clear water
Greek Beaches Have the Clearest Water in the World
Stretching on for 13,676 km, the Greek coastline is the longest in the Mediterranean Basin, a sea famous for its crystal-clear waters and rich blue hue. It’s no wonder, then, that the majority of the world’s top beaches for clear water are located in Greece, led by Prassa Beach on the island of Kimolos, for which 43.56% of publicly available traveler reviews mention the phrase ‘clear water.’ One happy reviewer sums up the heavenly spot: “Turquoise clear water, golden sand, beautiful beach.”
Another Greek beach that makes the top ten is Agios Dimitrios Beach (37.82% of publicly available traveler reviews) on the island of Alonnisos. Situated in the Aegean Sea, Alonnisos is just a hop, skip and a ferry from Skopelos, an island you might recognize from the first Mamma Mia film. Non-Greek entrants on the list include the turquoise waters of Pileh Bay in Ko Phi Phi Lee, Thailand (38.32% of publicly available traveler reviews), and Calo Des Moro, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (36.89% of publicly available traveler reviews).
The Beach in Every Country With the Clearest Water
All but 44 countries in the world have a coast, but which beach in every nation boasts the clearest waters according to tourists? Use our map below to explore each country’s winning seaside spot based on the proportion of publicly available traveler reviews that mention ‘clear waters.’
Even those countries with a reputation for polluted beaches lay claim to their own clear-water gems. Cambodia, for example, was found to have the “dirtiest” coastline in the world in a study of seaside trash — but reviewers rave over Saracen Bay Beach in Koh Rong Sanloem, labeled “good for a swim in [crystal-clear] blue water.” The UK, meanwhile, is one country that may not be associated with particularly see-through shores, but reviewers love the water at Sanna Bay in Kilchoan, Scotland.
Half Moon Beach in the Bahamas Is North America’s Top Clear-Water Beach
The Half Moon Beach on Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas is North America’s best beach for clear waters, with over a third (36.62%) of publicly available traveler reviews mentioning them. Located on a private island owned by the Carnival cruise brand, the only downside of such clear shores can be a lack of fish to spot when snorkeling; as one reviewer writes: “There are snorkel excursions available, where I’m sure you see a lot [of sealife], just don’t expect to see a bunch from snorkeling at the beach.”
Playa El Cielo in Cozumel, Mexico, comes in second place (33.49% of publicly available traveler reviews), a sanctuary of starfish and “friendly” stingrays. Two beaches in the Dominican Republic also make the cut (Bahia de las Aguilas and Playa Caleton), but it’s the United States that claims more top beaches than any other country on the continent.
Schoolhouse Beach in Wisconsin Has the Clearest Water in the United States
You might be surprised to learn that the beach with the clearest water in the United States is not lapped by either the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans but Lake Michigan — the third-largest of the country’s Great Lakes. With a third (33.41%) of publicly available traveler reviews mentioning its clear waters, Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island (off the coast of Wisconsin) takes the top spot. It’s not a sandy beach, and taking home one of the unique flat rocks that make up the shore carries a $250 fine.
Hawaii and Florida each claim three other winning seaside spots in our rankings of the U.S. beaches with the clearest water. Florida’s Crystal Sands Beach in Destin (27.44% of reviews) leads the Sunshine State’s pack, which — true to its name — boasts not only “crystal” clear water but clean seaweed-free sand. Hawaii’s top beach is Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) in Kailua-Kona (20.93% of reviews), where the “crystal clear, teal” shores are teeming with coral, fish and turtles.
Lagoa Azul in Ilha Grande, Brazil, Is South America’s Best Clear-Water Beach
At 15,800 miles in length, South America’s coastline is considered “exceptionally short” in comparison to its area — but it still boasts its fair share of beaches lapped by crystal-clear shores. The clearest water of all can be found at Lagoa Azul in Ilha Grande, Brazil, for which a quarter of reviews on publicly available traveler mention its dazzlingly crystalline water. Its name, which translates to “blue lagoon,” reflects its “crystal clear waters of a unique blue.”
In total, Brazil counts three of the continent’s best beaches for clear water — the same number as Colombia. Colombia’s top beach is the aptly named Playa Cristal in Santa Marta (16.15% of reviews), where one reviewer writes that “the water is so crystal clear that you can see the small fish passing by your side.” Ecuador boasts two beaches in the top ten rankings, with the “paradise” of Puerto Chino Beach in San Cristobal (10.95% of reviews) taking the national crown.
After Greece, Spain Boasts the Best Beach for Clear Water in Europe
We already know that Greece’s beaches are world-class when it comes to clear water, so it’s no surprise that the country dominates our European rankings… but a Spanish beach completes the top five. Calo Des Moro in Palma de Mallorca (36.89% of publicly available traveler reviews mention its clear water) is so popular with tourists that one reviewer advises: “It is PARADISE, but it is not a place to actually relax … take amazing pictures, enjoy the crystal clear water and by 10, go somewhere else.”
Cala Brandinchi in Capo Coda Cavallo, Italy, comes seventh (36.14% of reviews), where the transparent water graduates prettily from a “yellow to green to aqua to a deep blue.” All of the beaches in our rankings are lapped by the Mediterranean Sea, but what makes this body of water so famously clear? According to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, it’s partly because its closed-system nature means that there are limited nutrients for phytoplankton (algae) to grow.
Thailand’s Pileh Bay Is Asia’s Best Clear-Water Beach
Asia has the longest series of coastlines of any continent in the world — but which of its countless beaches has the clearest water of them all? Situated on the picturesque island of Ko Phi Phi Lee in Thailand, Pileh Bay takes the overall crown, with 38.32% of publicly available traveler reviews mentioning the crystalline shores. You may recognize the island of Ko Phi Phi Lee from the 2001 film The Beach. Thailand is also home to two other beaches in Asia’s top ten rankings.
Also among Asia’s best beaches for clear water is Banul Beach in Coron, the Philippines (31.40% of reviews), where snorkelers and divers can spot old shipwrecks in the bay that have encouraged natural reef growth. Malaysia is home to two other beaches in the rankings: Pasir Tengkorak Beach in Langkawi (28.50% of reviews) and Turtle Sanctuary Beach in Pulau Perhentian Besar (26.13% of reviews), where — as the name suggests — the clear shores allow for sightings of turtles.
Half of Africa’s Top Beaches for Clear Water Are in Mauritius
Measuring just 864 miles2, Mauritius is Africa’s fourth-smallest country by area. Despite that, the island in the Indian Ocean sure packs a punch when it comes to beautiful beaches, claiming five of Africa’s top ten beaches for clear water (according to publicly available traveler reviews mentioning clear water). Leading them all is the “gorgeous” Plage de Trou aux Biches in Trou aux Biches (19.43% of reviews), one-time winner of the World Travel Award’s Leading Beach Destination in the World title.
Nakupenda Beach Nature Reserve in Stone Town, Tanzania, comes second, with 14.15% of reviews mentioning the beach’s clear shores. Meaning “I love you” in Swahili, Nakupenda is a long sandbank that treats beachgoers to glimpses of multicolored starfish through the transparent waves. Mahdia Beach in Mahdia, Tunisia, follows (13.93% of reviews), where the clean water and abundance of small fish to spot makes the seaside haven “excellent for families with children.”
Most of Oceania’s Top Beaches for Clear Shores Are in Australia… But Not the Very Best Beach of All
A range of factors makes Vanuatu — a collection of roughly 80 islands in the South Pacific Ocean — the second-happiest country in the world according to the Happy Planet Index… but could it also be because they’re close to the beach with the clearest water in all of Oceania? Popular with Australian tourists, Champagne Beach on Espiritu Santo (the largest of Vanuatu’s islands) claims the crown, with 35.45% of publicly available traveler reviews mentioning its clear water.
The rest of Oceania’s rankings are dominated by Australian beaches.Situated off the coast of Perth, Parakeet Bay on Rottnest Island (30.77% of reviews)leads the pack down under, where the clear blue water is a shallow and safe spot for new swimmers. Next comes Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay, New South Wales (29.51% of reviews), a hotspot for dolphin-watching.
Dive Into Our Rankings of the World’s Clearest Shores
Sparkling clean water at the beach is not only great for the ‘gram but for the safety of ourselves and the wildlife we share our shores with. For example, did you know that at least 800 animal species are affected by marine debris, most of which is plastic? If you get the chance, you can help to improve the appearance of your local beach and protect wildlife by picking up trash you find; the team at Mossy Earth advises using gloves and taking a reusable container with you to put the trash in (you can also make a record of what you’ve found).
You might also be able to make some changes at home to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in the sea. If you can, cut down on single-use products like plastic straws and utensils; instead, invest in products you can wash and reuse over and over again. When it comes to plastic packaging in your house, always recycle where possible, and make sure to thoroughly clean containers and wrapping — unclean items can contaminate the rest of the recycling.
For more information about ocean charities in the U.S., visit American Oceans.
What We Did
To determine the beaches with the clearest water, we analyzed more than 2.4 million Tripadvisor reviews of beaches. The 50 beaches that were ranked amongst Tripadvisor’s “Traveller Favourites” in every country were then ranked based on the percentage of reviews that contain the phrase “clear water.” Only beaches with at least 100 English reviews were considered, leaving us with a universe of 3,117 eligible beaches. The analysis in this research is correct as of September 2023.
This is an independent publication and has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Tripadvisor, Inc.