11 Beaches with the Clearest Water in the World
What is the clearest natural water in the world? And what about those piercing-cyan-blue beaches at vacation spots around the world: “It’s like a screensaver!” says Jon Favreau’s character Joey in Couple’s Retreat. We’re going to look at the world’s clearest water beach.
Countless blue-clear beaches around the world provide incredible opportunities to snorkel or scuba and take in the baffling grandeur of what’s just below the surface—or just taking in the sun, sipping expensive fruit-decorated drinks, and reading your Kindle (or paperback) in a chair. Either way, the view will be amazing.
New Zealand’s Blue Lake, Kiwi’s Clearest Water Beach, but No Swimming
The aerial photographs of Rotomairewhenua (Blue Lake) on New Zealand’s South Island are indeed stunning. These pictures show Blue Lake does have a small patch of sand road leading up to it. The rest of the water’s perimeter is cobbles or a hard break into the forest. Because of accommodations for local indigenous peoples, no swimming is allowed.
So, Blue Lake has a beach, but not really. It does allow for great hiking, camping, and fishing.
Numerous sources list it as having the deepest water clarity on earth, and its brilliant transparency is often compared to distilled water.
Middle of the South Pacific Has No Beach, but This Spot Could Top Blue Lake for Water Clarity
The Kiwi nation’s clearest water beach may have been dethroned.
According to a little-known 2007 article in New Scientist, researchers sounded UV light over 100 meters (328 feet) into the depths of the South Pacific. And that 100 meters could be an unofficial record: New Zealand’s Interior Department used aerial observations of Rotomairewhenua, also called Blue Lake, to list this clearest water beach at 70 to 80 meters (229 to 262 feet). But the crucial distinction of clearest “freshwater” is noted by the Kiwis.
That (likely) clearest water in the world that scientists have measured is off the coast of the Pacific’s Tahiti, heading towards the enigmatic Easter Island. Tahiti does have nice beaches, but this potentially record-setting clear water spot is very far off the coast. The exact location is not specified. There’s no beach or much of anything nearby.
But it may set a new record for water clarity.
(Oddly enough, there are many rival claims regarding the clearest natural water in the world.)
Lake Tahoe in California Dozens of Beaches and Improving Water
This enormous freshwater lake sits on the California-Nevada border in the Southwest US and is a popular resort destination for Hollywoodites. With 72 miles of shoreline, it has at least a dozen popular beaches and means “big water” in the Washoe First Nation language.
As of 2022, the clearest water beach reading for Tahoe was 71.7 feet. That measure was a jump of 10.7 feet from the year before.
Lake Mashu in Japan Is Ideal for Volcano Lovers
This one is another no-swim option, and it’s quite understandable why. Mashu offers a chance to contemplate nature’s wild paradoxes. It sits inside a volcano, a testament to the earth’s raging glory. Then, in the winter, wispy tendril-tipped trees are coated with the finest layer of frost, and this naturally-preserved lake becomes a winter ponderland instead of a wonderland.
BBC Travel suggests it’s in the running for the clearest water in the world, saying visibility is generally 20 to 30m (65 to 98 feet).
If getting away from it all and seeing the stark, natural world in the midst of volcanic lakes and powdery snow drifts is your jam, this is the place. In the summer, it might be a great place to experience hamorebi, but in the winter, it’s probably komorebi.
Exuma Beaches That Are Literally Caribbean Blue
Though known through internet lore as the islands with the swimming pigs, it’s much more than that. This scattershot group of islands sits in the West Indies. It has the glowing-baby-blue waters that most people imagine when thinking of the quintessential romance of a tropical island.
There is a TripAdvisor page on the topic of finding hidden beaches in Exuma. In it, one traveler notes that she and her husband were the only people on many of the beaches they explored.
Reportedly, there are 365 islands in this Caribbean constellation, one for every day of the year!
Manini’owali Beach, Kalaoa, Hawaii
Manini’owali Beach is part of Kua Bay. Part of the Kona district on Hawaii’s Big Island, this beach recently got an infrastructure upgrade with a large paved road. The turquoise reefs, white cap waves, and deep blues are now a hub for snorkelers.
And that Kona district is, in fact, the famous coffee-producing spot of the Aloha State.
Cala Mariolu in Sardinia of Italy
Floating in the Gulf of Orosei is Sardinia, the largest island of the Mediterranean. In a small cove, right about the center on the island’s east side, is Italy’s Cala Mariolu.
A native resident notes that the beach part, like many on this list, can be tricky to get to. (But that it’s worth it.) Some of the cliffs are over a quarter-mile high, and there is no wheeled transport to the sand and white-pebble beach. A steep and challenging hike or going by way of boat are the only options, she says.
It’s a more relaxed vibe here as the beach part is smaller, and the sloping cliffs offer some shade. But it still has the sharp, deep blue ocean waters dancing in and out of turquoise boulder-strewn shallows.
Navagio Bay in Greece, Despite a Shipwreck, Is Still One of the Clearest Water Beaches
K-Drama, or Korean films and shows, have a large audience. For a brief period in 2016, a K-Drama mini-series called Descendants of the Sun put the island of Zakynthos on the map. Part of the storyline involves a military medic rescuing a woman from a marine disaster.
Indeed, a famous shipwreck in 1980 put Navagio Bay on the map first. The story was so well known that the bay where it ran aground changed its name to Navagio or “shipwreck.” Panogiotis, the ill-fated ship, still sits rusting in the Mediterranean as an off-beat tourist attraction.
The white-sand beach sits huddled by leafy rocky outcroppings and features a stunning, brilliant azure inlet.
Baia do Sancho in Brazil Has Ladders
At over 200 miles off the coast of Brazil, Baia do Sancho qualifies as “off the beaten path.” There is no path: most sources (including US News & World Report) note the only access to this cove is by ladder. Workers coordinate via walkie-talkie to help tourists up and down the shimmy.
The beach itself has the appearance of an opulent French pastry layering out from latte-colored sand to the darker tidal ridge to the aquamarine shallows, to turquoise to mysterious dark blue. Boulders and ancient tectonic parting gifts are visible through the waters.
Baia do Sancho is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Crater Lake in Oregon Sets Records
America’s Crater Lake in Klamath County, OR, is the deepest lake in the US. At its deepest, it goes down over one-third of a mile to almost 2,000 feet. Being in the Northwest, the area around Crater Lake appears to be popular with skiers and less so for fun-in-the-sun beach time. It is just one of many crystal clear, record-setting lakes.
The National Park Service states that the average summer-time surface temperature is between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. For most people, this can lead to shock! Biologists sampling the water clarity had readings of 88 feet for this frigid behemoth out West.
Maldives in the Indian Ocean Has Marine Christmas Lights
This island nation in the Indian Ocean has countless beaches, but not all of them sparkle. Mudhdhoo Beach, a UNESCO site, shimmers at night from millions of bioluminescent organisms. The island is technically an atoll, and, interestingly, the word “atoll” comes from the Maldivian language, which had this specified term for a ring-shaped island that encloses a lagoon.
There are over 1200 islands in the Maldives. 1200. Almost 1,000 are not inhabited. Many of these are dots on the map that contain coral and expansive sand banks. Beaches in the Maldives have sandbars that can stretch for up to a mile. As for water clarity, one curious professional wanderer posted an online video of the ocean’s crystal-clear water side-by-side with bottled water.
But this created another friendly competition. A commenter chimed in that the Bahamas has clearer water.
Clearing Things Up
One might think that Clearwater, FL, would have the clearest water in the world or that maybe the record has something to do with the classic rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival, but apparently, it does not.
Nonetheless, brilliant beaches from the frigid Pacific Northwest to the middle of Pacific nowhere to 1200 scattered islands in Southeast Asia, there are some gorgeous, pristine beaches on this blue marble.
Clearwater gives us a sense of calm from the eternal mystery of what’s just below the surface.
Sometimes, indeed, it’s the things we can’t see that are the best.