Two-thirds of the globe is covered by the ocean, so you’re never too far from a great place to get into the water. But where are the best places to swim in the world?
Needless to say, this is a matter of personal choice, partly because of the incredibly wide variety of such places. It’s also a matter of whether you prefer freshwater or seawater, and temperate, tropical, or even cold waters.
Most people like the idea of a beautiful tropical beach, of course. But you’ll also find a few famous spots that offer an alternative experience.
Here are the 18 best places to swim in the world.
Blue Lagoon Island, Bahamas
Just three miles from Nassau, Blue Lagoon Island is a privately owned beach with plenty for everyone. The beach itself is beautiful: white sand and clear blue sea are a given here.
However, what makes the island stand out is the chance to swim or snorkel with dolphins, rays, or sea lions. Beyond that, there is also a vibrant coral reef to explore.
The island is reached by a short boat ride, which is part of the fun. Good food, and drink, plus plenty of water sports are also always close to hand.
Silfra Fissure, Iceland
Who can resist the chance to swim between two continents? Sifra is the crack between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which widens by about three-quarters of an inch per year.
You’ll be kitted out in a dry suit, as this is Iceland and the water is cold. Glacial meltwater has been filtering through lava and rock for about a century before it reaches Sifra.
You have a choice of snorkeling or diving—this has been called one of the top dive sites in the world, partly thanks to its geological novelty and partly because of the extraordinary visibility.
You should be able to see 100 yards through the vivid blue waters. There’s not much life here, just brightly colored algae on the rocks, but the feeling of being suspended in the chasm’s glass-clear water is extraordinary.
Buck Island, St. Croix
Turtle Beach on Buck Island is among the best beaches in St. Croix, if not the Caribbean. The island is a protected area, reached only by boat, adding to the beach’s exclusive appeal.
It’s a great place to swim, but even better to snorkel in one of only three Underwater National Monuments in the US. Signs guide you through beautiful coral, across white sands and amid countless colorful fish that makes this one of the best spots for snorkeling in St. Croix.
Turtle Beach is a nest site for leatherback, hawksbill, and green sea turtles. If you ever get tired of swimming or sunbathing here, there is also a nature trail on the island.
Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
Greece is a place where beautiful beaches are almost countless, although this cove on Zakynthos stands out for its picturesque setting.
The beach is named for a rusting wreck lying in the sand (“navagio” means shipwreck). The boat is said to have belonged to smugglers, run aground during a pursuit by the Greek Navy.
Hidden by towering white cliffs, this small bay is therefore also known as Smuggler’s Cove. All this adds to its romantic atmosphere, completed by soft white sand and clear blue water.
Grand Anse Beach, Grenada
If you had to design the perfect Caribbean beach, you’d struggle to better Grand Anse, a perfect curving bay, two miles of powdery white sand, warm blue sea, and a fringe of shady green palm, almond and sea grape trees,
While the beach can be busy on weekends, it’s long enough to absorb any crowds, and much quieter at other times.
Of course, there is a good choice of atmospheric beach bars serving the perfect tropical cocktail. There is even free wifi, although some might argue that this is the only flaw of this Grenadian beach.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef stretches for 1,400 miles along the northeast coast of Australia. Its amazing corals and vibrant marine life form one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.
With such a size, there are many ways to explore it. The popular resort town of Port Douglas is one base from which to enjoy a snorkeling or diving trip.
Another is the Whitsunday Islands, which are notable for their beautiful tropical beaches. Among the most scenic are Whitehaven Beach, Basil Bay, and Catseye Beach.
The Baths of Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Virgin Gorda is only the third-largest island of the British Virgin Islands, but The Baths are one of the BVI’s biggest attractions. This jumble of massive granite boulders rising from bright blue waters makes for a photographer’s dream image.
There is a lovely beach, but swimming amid the rocks is one of the best things to do in the British Virgin Islands. A highlight is the Cathedral Room, a pool within a rock cave.
The Baths are reached by a short walk down a hill, topped by a restaurant. Be aware you’ll need to do some scrambling to get the very best of the experience.
Poetto Beach, Sardinia
With over four miles of sparkling white sand, this beach is within easy reach of the capital, Cagliari. Those factors combine to give it the nickname of “Spiaggia dei Centomila” (Beach of 100,000) for its summertime crowds.
However, walk any distance away from its center, and you’ll find a tranquil spot for a swim. The water is warm, the bottom sandy, and gently sloping, and there are no currents, making Poetto one of the best beaches in Sardinia for less confident swimmers.
There are also plenty of water sports, including kayak, boat, and yacht hire. Finish the day with an Italian ice cream, or some delicious fresh seafood from one of the many cafés and restaurants.
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Mexico
The Costa Maya is a delight for visitors who love swimming. Its sandy beaches and warm water are a great combination for relaxing in the Mexican sun.
In Mahahual, you have a choice of several great beaches with every facility from sunbeds to spas. Even better is to take an excursion out to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world’s second largest.
Snorkel or dive among Caribbean sea life and magical corals. There are tours to suit all abilities, from experienced divers to complete snorkeling beginners.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
You’re not going to do much swimming here because of the Blue Lagoon’s warm temperature. Most people are content to bob around in the water, chatting and enjoying the sensation. However, no visit to Iceland is complete without a dip in this famous spa.
The depth of the pool varies from 2.6ft to just under 5ft, so even the least confident swimmer can feel secure. The water is opaque, so you’ll probably want to stick to breaststroke.
After a few gentle circuits, however, you’ll be ready to take advantage of all the spa facilities; at the very least, make the most of the mud mask that’s given to every visitor. Incidentally, you can buy or rent a swimsuit here if you forget yours.
Bacalar Lagoon, Costa Maya, Mexico
The so-called “Seven Colors Lagoon” is named for its vivid colors that range from turquoise to deep blue. The spectrum comes from variations in water depth and temperature.
At 30 miles long, and about a mile wide, with a white sandy bottom, the vast lagoon is best seen by boat, or kayak. Swimming in the warm, clear water is a more leisurely option.
Any visitor will also enjoy the Isla de Los Pájaros bird sanctuary. Take a guide to help you spot the many different species.
Kitsilano Pool, Vancouver, Canada
Canada’s largest saltwater swimming pool is 450 feet long, meaning you only have to swim 12 lengths to cover a mile. This massive public open-air pool is on the Vancouver waterfront at Kitsilano, near the famous Granville Island.
Kits, as it’s known to locals, is famous for having one of the world’s top ten best city beaches. That has its own attraction if you want to enjoy open water swimming in the Pacific.
The pool is open from May through September, and you’re wise to book in advance to make sure you can get in. There are few urban pools with such a view of mountains, city and an attractive harbor area.
Stingray City, Grand Cayman
Stingray City in Grand Cayman has its origins in fishermen cleaning their catch in shallow waters off George Town harbor. Rays (and other fish) were attracted to the waste, becoming regular visitors.
The result is a site where you can stand on a sandbar, and feed rays as they circle around you. It’s a real thrill for anyone, and one of the best things to do in Grand Cayman.
You reach Stingray City by boat, but the water is only from three to four feet at its deepest. That makes it suitable for the least confident or even for non-swimmers.
Gardner Bay, Galapagos Islands
Gardner Bay on the island of Española in the Galapagos is famous for its long, white sand beach. And even more so for the fact that the beach is home to a colony of sea lions.
Swimming in the company of, hopefully, a sea lion or three—and possibly even a Galapagos shark—is a real thrill. The large colony is now accustomed to visitors and will approach you as you swim around Turtle Rock in the bay.
Juvenile sea lions are like boisterous puppies and will buzz you in the water, zooming around you as you swim.
You’ll need a wetsuit, fins, mask, and snorkel to get the best out of the experience. However, it’s an adventure you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda
The impossibly fine, pink-white sands of Horseshoe Bay have made it a favorite of visitors to Bermuda for generations. They contrast with the azure sea, and the greenery atop the curving bay that gives the beach its name.
The island’s south coast, facing the Atlantic, is wilder than the more sheltered northern side. That gives the landscape a rougher and more picturesque edge.
There are lifeguards on duty from May through September, and the beach can become crowded then. Walk down to the left side of the beach for some smaller coves that offer more privacy.
Read: Best Beaches in Bermuda
Allas Sea Pools, Helsinki, Finland
If you have had your fill of warm tropical beaches, why not try something a bit different in the heart of Finland’s capital, Helsinki? The Allas Sea Pools are seawater pools, filled with clean water from far offshore.
One is actually heated, but the authentic Finnish experience is to enjoy a full sauna before jumping into cold water. This is especially invigorating in mid-winter but can be enjoyed at any time of year as part of a cultural ritual.
Be warned that the after-glow of the hot sauna followed by the bracing water, said to be good for the heart, is a high that can become addictive. Celebrate it anyway with a drink in the pools’ rooftop bar.
Ho‘okipa Beach Park, Hawaii
One of the classic North Shore beaches on Maui, Hoʻokipa is popular with windsurfers, surfers, and parasailers. The adrenaline appeal of those more active sports masks how great a place it also is for swimming.
In winter, many days see waves as tall as a house, but in summer it’s a more placid place. If the surf is high, you might want to be trying out some sort of board anyway.
Go to the Pavilions (east) side for more sheltered swimming, with a lifeguard tower nearby. Incidentally, the reef is a great place to spot Hawaiian green sea turtles.
Does this list of the best places to swim in the world inspire you to take the plunge? Then browse Celebrity’s worldwide itineraries to find the best cruises to visit these wonderful destinations.