There’s nothing like an idyllic beach screensaver to ignite your wanderlust. The water is so blue it’s hard to imagine somewhere that beautiful actually exists outside the confines of it. But, trust us it does, and you can turn your fantasies into a reality. So, ditch the winter blues for the impossibly blue waters of one of these magical destinations.
Big Major Cay, Bahamas
For one insanely blissful experience, head 30 miles southeast of Nassau (the capital of the Bahamas) to the Exumas archipelago. This string of islands is surrounded by water so clear and blue you’ll hardly believe your eyes. The Caribbean’s legendary water achieves this picture-perfect look in part because of plankton and sediment. The smaller amount of these microscopic organisms and heavier sediment give the water an unusual clarity. Unimpeded by cloudy water, sunlight reflects off the sand at the bottom of the ocean helping create that enviable turquoise hue. As if the translucent water wasn’t enough to get you packing your bags, the uninhabited island of Big Major Cay is home to a population of wild but friendly (not to mention absolutely adorable) swimming pigs. Grab your swimsuit and prepare your #pigsofinstagram hashtags.
Whitehaven Beach, Australia
Whitehaven Beach is on Whitsunday Island, just off the coast of the Australian state Queensland. You’ll have to take a helicopter or a boat ride from Shute Harbour to make it to these remote sandy shores, but the journey is well worth it. Sediment once again takes a good chunk of credit for the azure waters of the Coral Sea. Sunlight bounces off these tiny particles suspended in the ocean water and creates that shockingly blue shade. The water looks even bluer when contrasted with the beach’s sand – some of the whitest in the world. When you've had your fill of swimming in the idyllic waters of Whitehaven Beach, you can book a spa day or a boat tour in Shute Harbour.
Moraine Lake, Canada
If you want to visit the bright blue waters of this lake, located in Alberta's Banff National Park, you’ll have to plan your trip for the summer months. The glacial body of water remains basically frozen until June. After the thaw, you'll be able to see the lake’s stunningly blue waters and the reflection of the surrounding Valley of Ten Peaks. The glacial erosion in the area creates small particles of rock known as glacial flour, which end up in Moraine Lake. Sunlight refracts off of the glacial flour, accounting for the water’s dazzling color. But, more importantly, back to the activities. You can’t swim in this natural wonder, but you can canoe in the lake and hike around it (whilst taking a gazillion pics). The Moraine Lake Lakeshore trail takes you close to the water and offers spectacular views of the area’s glaciers. The park itself, Canada’s first national park, has a number of different lodges and resorts that can serve as your home base.
Navagio Beach, Greece
Navagio Beach is tucked away on Zakynthos, one of Greece’s Ionian Islands, and is the definition of divine (oh, and #nofilter). It's also quite the throwback for fans of Pirates of the Caribbean – the beach's nicknames include Shipwreck Beach and Smugglers Cove. But the beach actually earns its name from the shipwrecked Panagiotis, a vessel rumored to be carrying contraband, and the wreck still rests on the beach today. The Mediterranean waters of this beach are so blue because they lack the nutrients that would otherwise support the growth of organisms like plankton and algae, which give water a greenish color. And the exquisite color doesn’t stop at the water – Zakynthos is also known for the Blue Caves. Just a short distance away from Navagio Beach, these arched, waterfront caves take on a blue shade thanks to the color of the sea and sunlight. Both the beach and the caves are only accessible by boat – exclusive stuff.
Blue Lake Cave, Brazil
Blue Lake Cave (AKA Gruta do Lago Azul) is in the small southern Brazilian town of Bonito. Descend into the cave through a downward sloping entrance and you'll arrive at the lake that has astonishing depths of more than 200 feet. The deep blue of the lake itself is from a high magnesium content and the rays of sunlight that manage to reach the water through an opening in the rock above. Blue Lake Cave is all the more amazing for its relatively recent discovery – a person of the indigenous Terena tribe happened upon it in 1924. The lake is also pretty eerie because of the discovery made during a 1992 cave diving exploration: the bottom of it is littered with the bones of hundreds of prehistoric creatures. While you can’t dive into these blue waters, you can explore more of Bonito’s ecotourism options. For starters, snorkel in the crystal clear waters of Rio da Prata, or chase the area’s beautiful waterfalls.
Crater Lake, America
Crater Lake is the namesake for one of Oregon’s most awe-inspiring national parks. This sapphire blue body of water is the deepest lake in the country at nearly 2,000 feet. It is this depth along with the remarkable clarity of the water that gives Crater Lake its rich, blue color. Bonus: you can see the unbelievably blue waters even in the winter – thanks to the oceanic climate of western Oregon, Crater Lake has only completely frozen once. You can even swim in those blue depths at the end of the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which usually opens in June. During the summer months, you can also take a boat tour to Wizard Island, a volcanic cone that rests on the western edge of the lake. If you want to fit in a little urban hipster flavor on your trip, Portland is about a five-hour drive from Crater Lake.
Great Blue Hole, Belize
The Great Blue Hole is a massive, beautiful sinkhole that forms part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. It is located approximately 60 miles off the coast of Belize, kinda near Belize City. And it was formed originally when sea levels were much lower, but as the waters of the ocean rose it became an underwater cave. The circular sinkhole is more than 300 feet deep, nearly 1,000 feet in width, and can even be seen from space. The stark contrast in depth between the sinkhole and the surrounding shallow reefs, as well as the clarity of the water, gives the Great Blue Hole its hypnotizing dark blue color. Scuba divers from across the world flock there to explore its natural wonders. Plus, you can swim in the cobalt blue waters, and marvel at the diverse marine wildlife that includes nurse sharks, hammerheads, reef sharks, tropical fish, and more.