Hitting the beach has historically been synonymous with umbrella drinks, paperbacks and a whole lot of relaxation. But thanks to a new wave of fitness-minded beach enthusiasts, that’s an outdated image. By combining the built-in magic of Mother Nature (debris-free sand, good weather and some killer natural playgrounds) with human touches like runner-friendly boardwalks, the beach has become one of the best destinations to work up a sweat. We rounded up the best beaches around the world to get fit in the sand.
1. RAILAY BEACH, KRABI, THAILAND
Still relatively under the radar, the gorgeous Railay Beach in Krabi strikes the perfect balance between working up a sweat and winding down. Railay is a great spot to kayak, swim and snorkel, but what really sets this beach apart is the rock climbing: The stunning limestone cliffs are guaranteed to be less crowded than your local climbing gym and boast a much better view.
2. KALAPAKI BEACH, HAWAII, USA
Hawaii has a natural wealth of rugged coastline and beautiful beaches (Read: amazing swim and surf spots), making it beach royalty for both fitness and relaxation. Kalapaki Beach on Kauai is the crown jewel and a favorite spot for locals, offering a wide range of activities for fitness-minded beachgoers including swimming, canoeing, paddleboarding and pickup volleyball. If you’re not ready to surf with the world champions on Oahu, Kalapaki is the perfect place to learn the sport, since the bay is partially protected from major swells by a large break wall.
3. PARROT CAY, TURKS AND CAICOS
Seaside yoga retreats offer their own brand of beach-friendly workouts, and Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos offers some of the most Instagram-worthy vinyasa vistas. Set away from the world on its own private island, the Como resort has turned the idyllic beaches of Parrot Cay into a yoga hotspot offering regular retreats and daily classes for beach goers to get their om on. Outside the Zen zone, the beach is also a great spot for kayaking in the calm waters. Just beyond the sand, you can find a bucket list-worthy running trail through banana and coconut plantations.
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4. CONEY ISLAND BEACH AND BOARDWALK, NEW YORK, USA
Let’s be honest: The Big Apple wasn’t made famous by its beaches. But there is one notable exception: Coney Island. The iconic beach and boardwalk area is home to a surprising amount of fit-friendly activities, including volleyball, basketball and handball courts. There’s even year-round ice skating. Coney Island’s boardwalk also doubles as the finish line for the largest half marathon in America (the Airbnb Brooklyn Half), and its waters are a hot spot for triathletes logging open water swim workouts.
5. PLAYA DE LA CONCHA, SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN
On the other side of the Atlantic, another urban beach offers year-round swimming and surfside activities. Playa de la Concha’s mile-long stretch of beach is perfect for a brisk run, or you can bike along the picturesque promenade. The sheltered bay is also the perfect spot for water-inclined athletes, and a short boat trip through the jewel-toned waters takes you to Isla Santa Clara, a tiny island just off the shore that features its own natural swimming pool.
6. HOBBIT BEACH, OREGON, USA
The sand is so good at this remote spot in the Pacific Northwest, it has its own sand-inspired sports park. Take advantage of the killer dunes by learning the sport of Sandboarding (Think: snowboarding on the beach). The beach also boasts sand sleds and bikes for options beyond the board. Combined with the wealth of trails in the surrounding state parkland, this spot is a natural playground.
7. CUMBUCO BEACH, BRAZIL
Pro athletes and weekend warriors alike flock to Cumbuco Beach in Brazil for one reason: kitesurfing. Thanks to the strong winds and a shallow, flat lagoon, the uncrowded beach is perfect for the sport. Sign up for kiteschool, or take a four-mile tour down the secluded coastline. If you’re looking for a more low-key activity, the long, unbroken stretch of beach is also a great spot for a walk or run.
8. LAKE CALHOUN, MINNESOTA, USA
Minneapolis isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when you think of the best beach towns. But during the summer months, the Land of Lakes offers a robust water-based fitness scene. Minneapolis’ Lake Calhoun is the largest lake in a chain of lakes running through the city and offers soccer, softball, sailing, volleyball, archery and paddleboarding on and around its waters. For more low-key beach goers, there’s a beautiful walking and biking path around the lake that offers one of the Midwest’s best fall foliage strolls.
9. SAND DOLLAR BEACH, CALIFORNIA, USA
When it comes to awesome beach runs, you just can’t beat the California coast. Cooler temps in Big Sur makes summer runs more bearable, a major bonus considering you have to hike through state parkland just to get to Sand Dollar Beach. This wide expanse of sand is worth the hike — not only will you find plenty of room to run, you’ll score some of the best views in Monterey County. A bluff trail runs parallel to the sand for a moderately easy hike.
10. COTTESLOE BEACH, PERTH, AUSTRALIA
Australia makes its mark as a prime beach spot for good reason. Situated in the Indian Ocean, the country is chock full of coastlines that boast some of the world’s best surfing — Cottesloe Beach in Western Australia is no exception. In addition to the year-round swell that draws surfers and bodyboarders, Cottesloe is known for crystal-clear waters and reefs that make this a solid spot for paddleboarding. Just beyond the beach, you can grab a fresh-pressed juice and turn the miles of shady lawn into an impromptu yoga studio safe from the sun.
Written by Macaela Mackenzie, a writer based in New York City with a passion for all things active. To see Macaela’s latest work, visit macaelamackenzie.com.