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Imagine yourself stretched out on a beautiful beach somewhere, a cold drink in one hand and a good book in the other. The sun is shining, the ocean breeze is blowing, and the people are splashing and laughing. Life is good. If this sounds like your #happyplace, then look no further: lather on that SPF 30 sunscreen and grab your swimsuit and sunglasses, because here are some of the best waterfront destinations around the world.

Brazil

With both the World Cup and the Summer Olympics arriving in the next few years, Brazil is set to become a top-tier tourist destination. Its largest city, Rio de Janeiro, is well known for its beaches. Copacabana beach, perhaps Rio’s most popular stretch of sand, lies in the shadow of the famed Sugarloaf Mountain and is adjacent to the fashionable Ipanema district. You can easily pass several hours here by sipping something refreshing while watching the beautiful people pass by. For a slightly quieter Brazilian getaway, head to the city of Salvador de Bahia. Here, the waters of the Atlantic contain gorgeous coral reefs, and the beaches occasionally play host to nesting sea turtles. You may even spot a humpback whale on its way south! Also worth a visit is the beautiful volcanic island of Fernando de Noronha, a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site.

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China

If you’re looking for a scenic seaside promenade along which to stroll, Qingdao in China’s northeast is the place for you. A former German concession, the city is dotted with gorgeous parks lining colonial-style streets leading to six miles of white sand beaches. In the summer, Qingdao’s beaches are packed with tourists from all over China as well as various vendors hawking their cheap wares, so it can be difficult to find a place to sunbathe. A great place to beat the crowds is at the revolving restaurant on the 25th floor of the Huiquan Dynasty Hotel. Soak up the stunning views, then head across town to the Tsingtao Brewery to sample China’s most famous beer.

A glitzier alternative to Qingdao can be found in Macau, located right next to Hong Kong and the unofficial gambling capital of Asia. Imagine Las Vegas, but twice the scale and with the added bonus of a waterfront location, and you have the alluring Macau. Several Vegas casinos have set up sister properties here, including the MGM Grand and the Wynn, but the must-see casino is the Venetian, which is the world’s largest casino resort (clocking in at twice the size of its American counterpart) and includes a full-scale replica of St. Mark’s Square in the real Venice. Away from the casinos, though, Macau offers plenty of other things to do. Hac-Sa Beach is noted for its distinctive black sand, while Cheoc Van Beach is perfect for a romantic stroll winding around sheltered coves.

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Italy

Sicily is often overlooked by tourists seeking the “ultimate Italian experience”, but it’s quickly making a resurgence in the travel scene. The city of Taormina is nestled between the slopes of Mount Etna and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and is the perfect combination of tranquility and vibrancy. Some of the best beaches can be found on the island of Isola Bella, where you’ll see many a young Sicilian stretched out on a chaise lounge enjoying the sunshine. For the more active traveller, there are many trails leading up to the summit of Mount Etna that you can hike; on your way down, drop by one of the many wine estates on the slopes of the volcano for a great meal. Many of these vineyards also offer accommodation in gorgeous villas with great views of the sea.

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South Africa

Durban, located in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, is a gorgeous seaside city often overlooked by visitors to South Africa. Since it is located south of the equator, summertime in Durban occurs during wintertime in North American and European countries, making it the perfect winter getaway. Nonetheless, the weather in Durban is generally sunny all year round, so any time is a good time to come here and check out some of the most beautiful beaches in Africa. Several nature reserves are located within the city and are a must-see if you’re interested in seeing exotic varieties of flora and fauna not found anywhere else. On weekend nights, head to Durban’s most popular nightclub, The ORIGIN, for an unforgettable party experience.

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Thailand

Phuket is the most visited of Thailand’s islands, and for good reason. If you’re looking for beautiful beaches, world-class diving, and luxury resorts, Phuket is the place for you. Check out the beachside restaurants serving freshly caught seafood at Nai Yang beach, or dine on the edge of a cliff (literally) at the Baan Rim Pa restaurant on Patong beach, Phuket’s most popular beach. The sheer number of beaches on Phuket and their close proximity to each other means that a short and inexpensive taxi ride can transport you from a beach full of partygoing revellers to an idyllic and calm oasis. My recommendations for hotels on Phuket is to stay in the area of Kata beach, which offers lots of cheap bungalow inns and boutique hotels, while still remaining somewhat close to the action of nearby “party” beaches.

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    About Linda Zhu