Catalina Island, CA

The Dreamiest Beaches to Hit Up This Fall

You’ve retired the sunscreen and packed away your swimsuit, and you won’t even be looking at those white pants until next Memorial Day. Yep, summer’s almost over. But all is not lost. There are plenty of coastal destinations that only get better in autumn. Here, the best beaches worth falling for.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart and Emma Sloley


Descanso Beach: Catalina Island, CA

Harried A-listers and regular families converge on picturesque Catalina in the summer to decompress and experience small-town island life. The fall season on this island, 22 miles off L.A., is just as lively. September sees a slew of festivals, from blues to airplanes to art, film, and wine. But if you’d rather channel that silver screen beachside glamour, hole up at the Descanso Beach Club in the town of Avalon. You can rent a cabana for the day, have lunch on the breezy sea-facing patio, or have a picnic delivered straight to your beach towel. At the end of the day head back to Santa Monica, just an hour away by boat, where you can continue your sea worship at the Oceana Beach Club, a boutique oceanfront hideaway where the outdoor heated pool and fireplace feel custom-made for autumn escapes.

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Myrtos Beach: Kefalonia, Greece

When the party-hard summer crowd has departed, the Greek Isles really come into their own, and none more so than stunning Kefalonia, the dreamy setting for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Myrtos Beach lies between two mountains, Agia Dynati and Kalon Oros, and is famed for its dazzling white limestone pebbles and pinch-yourself turquoise water, as well as its superlative sunsets over the Ionian Sea. Four miles up the coast, in the sleepy fishing village of Assos, you can tuck into regional dishes such as Kefalonian meat pie and local wine on the plane tree-shaded terrace at the convivial taverna Platanos.

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Playa Xcalacoco (Punta Bete): Riviera Maya, Mexico

While the fall months technically coincide with hurricane season in this region, the considerable upsides are that hotels and resorts offer great deals, the beaches are less crowded, and the weather is generally still perfect for swimming. Chances are when you fantasize about a classic Caribbean beach it looks a lot like this stretch south of Cancun: calm, crystal-clear water; pure white sand; and palm trees beneath a flawless blue sky. Playa Xcalacoco (Punta Bete) also happens to service three of Mexico’s most over-the-top resorts: Rosewood, Fairmont and Banyan Tree Mayakoba. In case a day beachside isn’t soothing enough, book time at the Southeast Asian-inspired Banyan Tree Spa, where the Thai-style massages in overwater villas are utterly transporting.

RELATED: Mexico’s Best All-Inclusive Resorts

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Coral Bay: Cyprus

Thanks to its location in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus stays warm and sunny all fall long (expect daytime temps in the 70s through November), and this horseshoe-shaped cove on the island’s west coast is the perfect spot to enjoy your endless summer. There are beach umbrellas, a curve of soft sand, and calm water suitable for the whole family. Afterward, head a little way's south, to the town of Paphos, and look for the adorable hand-painted sign that marks 7 St. George’s, a charming taverna where you can sample top-notch Greek meze: think goat salami, wild asparagus, and fresh seafood. At night bed down at Almyra, a whitewashed oceanfront resort in Paphos where the hip suites have rooftop terraces.

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Plage des Salins: St.-Tropez

While this tony French resort town is packed to the gills with Euro aristos all summer, by late September they’ve abandoned the glitzy hotels and big ticket boutiques so we regular folk can move in. Soak up the chill vibe on Plage des Salins (next to the famed Pampelonne but far more sedate); it's backed by grass and pine tree-covered dunes. Settle in at the fine beachside restaurant of the same name, where you can dine on simple Provençal fish dishes while wiggling your toes in the sand. The most scenic way to reach the beach from the center of St.-Tropez is to take Le Sentier du Littoral, a seven-mile track that follows the headlands from the old port area of the village to the Pampelonne beaches. If you’d prefer to rub shoulders with the jetset, time your visit between September 28 and October 6, when the annual regatta, Les Voiles de St.-Tropez, gets underway. The race includes 300 yachts from all over the world and a week of festivities.

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Gouverneur Beach: St. Barts

Much like St.-Tropez, its soul sister across the Atlantic, this ultra-glamorous Caribbean hotspot sees nonstop action during the high season—think Maserati and Ferrari gridlock and endless parties full of vacationing supermodels—but it offers a surprisingly low-key vibe during the fall. While pretty much every beach on the island is a winner, Gouverneur is charmant to the extreme. Imagine a sensual curve of golden sand between two fetching rocky headlands and some of the clearest water you’ll ever see. There are no beach chairs or crowds, no restaurants or beach clubs, just pure, wild nature. When it’s time to rejoin society, lay your head down in a Christian Liaigre–designed suite at Le Sereno, with its prime location on Grand Cul-de-Sac Beach, right near the buzzy bar and restaurant scene in Gustavia.

RELATED: The 8 Best Beaches to Visit in October

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Playa Grande: Costa Rica

Not every beach calls for bikinis and sunscreen. Some, like those within Las Baulas National Marine Park, are worth visiting for their highly Instagrammable flora and fauna. Lovely Playa Grande, set on the country’s Pacific Coast, is surfer heaven, but it’s also an important nesting ground for Kemp's Ridley and leatherback turtles. Visit in the fall to catch the turtles’ nesting season and you may witness up to 800 female leatherbacks laying their eggs in the sand. During the season, travelers can visit only with a park guide on bilingual guided tours (visits are limited to minimize disruption to the turtles). Bunk down at Casa Chameleon, also on the Nicoya Peninsula, where you’ll do the opposite of roughing it in romantic suites with four-poster canopy beds, private infinity pools, and views of the jungle with the Pacific sparkling beyond.

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Huntington Beach: South Carolina

If anything, this three-mile-long beach and the state park of which it’s a part only get better once summer is in the rearview mirror. That’s because with the warm weather crowds gone, visitors have a better chance of spotting the many varieties of bird that make this area their home. There’s also a 2,500-square-foot education center nearby that features a saltwater touch tank and a live alligator, and for architecture buffs, the wonderfully wacky Atalaya Castle, the Moorish-style winter home that prominent local couple Anna Hyatt and Archer Huntington built on the oceanfront in the 1930s. Check in at Wild Dunes Resort in nearby Isle of Palms; it's got a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, four pools, and miles of beachfront.

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North Fork: Long Island, NY

If the Hamptons aren't your scene but you dig the area’s wild coastal landscapes, head to the North Fork, where autumn brings cooler nights, smaller crowds, and harvest season. Embark on a pilgrimage to some of the state’s best wineries, from the Normandy-style chateau of Duck Walk Vineyards, which offers seasonal wine and cheese pairings, to the artisanal whole bunch-pressed winery of Channing Daughters, where the owners experiment with unusual varieties like Malvasia and Blaufrankisch. For an unusual twist on vineyard hopping, join a "Pour and Pedal," leisurely daylong bicycle tours that go from winery to winery. Finish the day with a long sunset walk along one of the North Fork’s public beaches, where you’ll encounter miles of fine white sand, secluded dunes, and lighthouses.

RELATED: 8 Romantic Weekend Getaways from New York City

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Sachuest Beach: Newport, RI

While all those leaf-peepers are sitting in traffic on New England’s highways, you should make for the coast. Beaches like Newport’s Sachuest (known by locals as Second Beach) become peaceful havens of autumnal atmosphere. Just a mile and a half long, this beach is popular with surfers thanks to its clean, seaweed-free water and good wave action. Norman Bird Sanctuary, a 325-acre wildlife preserve overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is right next door. When you’ve had your fill of birds and beaches, warm up at Forty 1 North, a swell boutique hotel overlooking Narragansett Bay with a restaurant that serves classic New England grub like lobster rolls and clam chowder.

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