Water so clear that it looks like glass seems like something out of a fairy tale, but nature has an uncanny habit of surpassing our wildest daydreams. Journey to these seven spots to see some of the most translucent (and Instagrammable) waters in the world. Or just take a theoretical journey – this virtual tour spans Borneo, Menorca, New Zealand, and more.
San Blas Islands, Panama
The Caribbean Sea is an enviable shade of blue, no surprises there. But for one of the clearest spots, travel on down to the San Blas Islands of Panama. This archipelago has more than 300 islands and not even half of them are inhabited by people. The Kuna people, native to the islands, safeguard their home. Although the San Blas Islands are known as a premier ecotourism destination, the relatively low-key tourism and careful protection ensure the waters off of these islands remain crystal clear. Swim through translucent waters to your heart’s content or charter a sail boat to live out your high seas fantasies.
Mabul Island, Borneo
Borneo’s waters have the you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it kind of beauty that make people travel from across the world. Borneo is a large island in the Malay Archipelago, while Mabul Island is a smaller spit of land off the coast of Borneo. You can stay at the island’s Sipadan Water Village Resort for a tropical experience like no other: the entire resort rests on stilts above the crystal clear water. Divers will find themselves a true paradise in Mabul Island. If you want to explore the main island of Borneo, you can luxuriate in its beaches and explore the island’s living rainforest. The most rainfall occurs in January, but the temperatures are warm year round. Start planning your escape to clear waters and tropical relaxation now.
Jenny Lake, America
Jenny Lake is a pretty major attraction in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park; probably because the lake has the stunning clarity of glacial waters. The deep, clear waters mirror the lake’s majestic surroundings. The national park is in full operation from the middle of May until late September. The northerly location ensures winter temperatures are pretty severe, so head there late spring or summer trip for a dreamy boat trip across the lake (where you can explore Cascade Canyon and its waterfalls). You can also strike out from one of the four main trail-heads that begin near the lake – everywhere you look you'll be surrounded by soaring mountains and virgin forests.
Grab your flip flops and sunglasses. Boracay, a tiny island in the Philippines, boasts beautiful beaches where pristine sand meets shockingly clear water. White Beach has earned the most fame, but it's hardly the only beach spot. Try Bulabog Beach if you want to try your hand at windsurfing. If you want a more challenging swim (you know you want to channel your inner Michael Phelps), dive into the deeper waters of Ilig Iligan Beach. For a more secluded experience, you can pay an entrance fee to enjoy the private Balinghai Beach. Added bonus: Boracay has a vibrant nightlife, and the Philippines have warm weather year round. If you don’t want any rain to chase you away from the beach, consider going in the dry season that lasts from January to April.
Cala Macarelleta, Menorca
The allure of the Mediterranean Sea is undeniable. Discover turquoise water so clear you can see the rocky floor of the ocean at Cala Macarelleta, an unrivaled beach in Menorca (fyi, Menorca is a Spanish island neighboring Mallorca and Ibiza). Upon arriving, bask in the perfect sands or take a quick swim or walk to the smaller Macarelleta cove. The entire bay is surrounded by cliffs dressed in towering pines. Menorca enjoys a temperate climate, but peak swimming months are July and August when temperatures are at the highest point of the year. If you're ready to swap nature for culture, get exploring the island’s very own castle (Castle of Santa Agueda) and cathedral (Cituadella de Menorca Cathedral).
Five Flower Lake, China
Five Flower Lake, or Wuhua Hai, is located in China’s epic national park, Jiuzhaigou (check out other incredible ones here). So, back to the lake – it looks like an experiment with food coloring on a grand scale, but the different shades of these shallow waters are all the more beautiful for being natural. The minerals and plant life in the water result in a riot of color that varies from effervescent yellow and red to rich turquoise and green, but no matter the hue the water remains crystalline. Beneath the colorful depths you can see the crisscrossing tree trunks and branches that cover the floor of the lake. The national park can be difficult to reach: you’ll need to take a flight then lengthy bus ride (or very, very lengthy bus ride) from any of China's big cities, but it'll pay off. In addition to Fiver Flower Lake, you can hike through the park to see stunning waterfalls and glimpse of wildlife (yeah, we're talking giant pandas). Tourism reaches its zenith during summer and fall when the warm weather and then changing colors of the leaves draw visitors during these seasons, but you can see Five Flower Lake year round. Sweet.
Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
New Zealand is home to some truly otherworldly scenery. On the sparsely populated South Island travelers can find the petite but utterly magical Abel Tasman National Park. Though the country’s smallest national park, Abel Tasman does not want for visitors. The national park’s beaches are known for sparkling clear water and hours of dazzling sunshine. You can swim in the Pacific waters off of these beaches from December to March, the warmest months in the land of the Kiwis. If you’re looking to mix in a little adventure with your beach bumming, you can kayak, hike, sail, or take a cruise in the national park.