6 Destinations To Enjoy the Bluest Waters in the World

Ask any beach lover and they’re bound to agree: there’s nothing quite like a blissfully blue body of water to help you feel refreshed and rejuvenated. From ancient baths to soothing seas to healing freshwater pools, cultures around the world have recognized the healing powers of water since at least our earliest recorded history. And when it comes to truly tranquil waters, the bluer, the better. 

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of beaches, lakes, rivers and pools around the world in vibrant shades ranging from crystal-clear arctic blue to rich shades of indigo, and even ultramarine with hints of violet. Whatever your favorite hue, here are six of our favorite destinations where you can experience the bluest waters in the world. 

The Maldives

Whether you’ve visited this alluring Indian Ocean archipelago in person, or you’ve only seen pictures, it’s instantly obvious why this dreamy destination tops our list. Composed of roughly 1,190 islands and natural sandbars, the Maldives are a staggering 99 percent water. A protective reef structure encircles the cluster of tiny isles, creating a natural lagoon of glittering turquoise waters so clear it seems you’re gazing into a man-made pool stocked with colorful marine life. With its collection of luxury resorts and prime snorkeling spots, the Maldives are a favorite spot for honeymooners—and a must for any blue-water bucket list. 

Crater Lake, Oregon

For unbelievably blue waters of a different type, visit this famed volcanic caldera at Mount Mazama in the Cascade Mountains. It spans 20.6 square miles, or roughly the size of Bermuda. Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in America, Crater Lake is also the deepest lake in the continental United States, with depths measured at nearly 2,000 feet. Despite its deep-water capacity, this lake is anything but murky or opaque, instead featuring stunning shades of cobalt and teal with incredible visibility. With sunlight able to penetrate to depths of around 400 feet, this lake is also a favorite among divers. 

The Exumas, Bahamas

Composed of 365 islands and cays, the Exumas are part of the Out Islands of the Bahamas, and are widely considered to have some of the most beautiful waters in the world. In fact, the island chain is not only visible from beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, but retired astronaut and former International Space Station commander Scott Kelly has called it “the most beautiful place from space.” High praise from someone who, from that vantage, can quite literally observe all the waters in the world. And it’s easy to see why. On stretches of shoreline like Tropic of Cancer Beach, the longest on Little Exuma, visitors can experience cerulean and sapphire waters with incredible clarity and transparency unlike anywhere else in the world. 

Ambergris Caye and The Blue Hole, Belize

Ambergris Caye may be best known among scuba divers, thanks to having the world’s second-largest coral reef system just beyond its shores. But there’s something special here for snorkelers and sunbathers as well, with incredibly clear turquoise waters that fringe the small, low-lying isle. Just a 2-hour boat ride farther out, visitors can also behold the stunning Blue Hole—a naturally occurring phenomenon that is essentially a giant marine sinkhole. Part of the Lighthouse Reef system, it spans roughly 300 feet across and reaches depths inside of 480 feet. The deep admiral blue of the Blue Hole rests in stark contrast to the otherwise transparent teal waters around it. 

Oahu, Hawaii

Surfers have long known that Oahu has some of the most beautiful blue waters in the world. And with ample rocky beaches around the island inviting you to toss down a towel and stay a while, those on land can experience the wonder as well. On Lanikai Beach near Kailua, the name “lani kai” literally translates to “heavenly ocean,” and with its sparkling teal waters, it’s easy to see why. Whether kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling or simply swimming, the dazzling lapis waters that surround Oahu welcome visitors nearly year-round. Closer to Honolulu, visitors can also experience the spectacular sky-blue seas off Hanauma Bay, credited with having some of the clearest waters in all of the United States. And thanks to Hawaii’s dedication to marine conservation, the waters are pristine, with unmatched visibility to spot a variety of marine life. 

Peyto Lake, Alberta, Canada

Set in Banff National Park, this dramatic glacial lake features shimmering sapphire and teal waters that seem to shift from one gemstone hue to another depending on the season and the sun. Formed thanks to meltwater from an ancient glacier, this lake is a favorite hiking destination in this region, with a short 3.8-mile round trip route paying off in some of the most stunning water views you’ll find anywhere in the world. In the summer months, the lake turns a jaw-dropping shade of turquoise that radiates like nowhere else. Whether you’re planning a hike along its rim or prefer to take a swim—just be prepared for the cold. As a glacial lake set in the Canadian Rockies, Peyto Lake packs a chill all year long.

How You Can Protect the Blue

The world is filled with spectacularly blue bodies of water, and this list is only the beginning. But to ensure these waters stay blissfully blue for generations still to come, remember the conservation principle to leave no trace. This means packing out everything you bring with you into a park, beach or lakeshore.