There’s a reason we all dream of waterside getaways. In fact, it’s a reason baked into our very being.
According to study after study, merely being around the color blue — via a lakeside retreat, seaside getaway, or a good tropical paradise — helps humans calm their nerves and reconnect with our primordial beings.
In 2013, researchers asked more than 20,000 participants to record their sense of well-being in a smartphone app. The team found that both marine and coastal destinations helped people feel the happiest. As the researchers noted, the difference between being in a city and being near the water was the same as “the difference between attending an exhibition and doing housework.”
“Part of blue mind is what it gives us. A lot of it is what it removes: You can’t bring your desktop. Probably not going to bring your laptop. It’s questionable whether you should bring your smartphone,” Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist and author of “Blue Mind,” shared with The Cleveland Clinic. “All day long, the world is demanding that bandwidth, with screens and traffic, email and people talking to you. That act of logging out, stepping away from the screens, starts you down the path of relaxing. It removes many kinds of stimulation.”
Ready to feel its power? Here are seven places where you can see and swim in some of the bluest water in the world.
Exuma isn’t just one tiny place but rather a chain of more than 360 islands dotting the Caribbean sea. The islands have been largely left untouched with purposeful conservation, allowing visitors to swim in its gin-clear waters in peace and solitude. Unless, of course, they’d like to swim alongside the island chain’s most famous residents, the pigs of Big Major Cay. Guests can book tours to visit the pigs (who are the sole inhabitants of the island) for a swim and to feed the friendly creatures by hand. For accommodations, look to the biggest island in the archipelago, Great Exuma. There are plenty of luxury hotels, villas, and cottage accommodations to choose from, so you can find your perfect fit.
The Maldives, located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is made up of more than 1,000 coral islands, each surrounded by waters so blue we’re not sure there’s an appropriate descriptor for it. The islands have become the “it” destination for honeymooners and those looking to go all out on a splurge-worthy getaway, which always comes complete with a boating, snorkeling, or diving excursion, so visitors can make the most of the crystalline waters. Make the most of a vacation here by booking an overwater bungalow at spots like Joali. The high-end villas have water access and private (equally blue) plunge pools for good measure.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Heat things up on your search for the bluest waters in the world with a visit to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. The lagoon is naturally heated to between 98-104 degrees, thanks to the geothermal hot spring below the surface. Guests can soak away their cares in the mineral-rich water for as long as they wish for a day visit, or can even choose to spend the night at the Retreat Hotel. The hotel comes with gorgeous, minimally designed rooms to let the outside world remain the star of the show. And, if you’re really on the hunt for something special, book the lagoon room, which comes with a private hot spring just outside.
Portugal is having a moment. Its wines are finally being appreciated for just how delicious they are, its food is gaining recognition the world over for its fresh takes on seafood, and its beaches are gaining major notoriety on social media for their absolutely drop-dead gorgeous views. None more than the beaches in Lagos, one of the nation’s southernmost towns. Here visitors will find craggy cliffs that drop vertiginously into the sea below. Those willing to make the hike down the edge will be rewarded with soft sands lapped by inviting blue waters that reflect the soft blue sky above. In Lagos, book a stay at Soul and Surf Portugal, a hotel located just a few minutes from the beach that doubles as a surf and yoga retreat too.
Zanzibar is one of those places that feels more like a fantasy than reality. Located off the coast of Tanzania, the island is known for its famed Stone Town, where travelers can learn about the island’s history, shop in the local boutiques, and get a taste of its delicious street foods. And, of course, it’s known for its surrounding ultra-blue waters too. Come here to go on an ocean safari and spot sea turtles, rays, dolphins, and more fish than you can count. Take it up a notch by booking a stay with andBeyond on its private island, Mnemba. Here, guests can swim off the private beach, go out for diving adventures, and even sail on a private boat to watch the sun sink into the sea.
Who says you have to be in a warm-weather destination to spot the bluest waters on earth? Pack a few layers and a warm coat, and head to Alberta to see what we mean. Specifically, take a journey to Peyto Lake, which boasts a milky blue-green color that almost looks neon because it’s so bright. The lake gets its color from the glacial rock flour flowing through it, which means it’s an icy cold attraction too, and the color is only magnified by the deep green pine forest surrounding the lake. Hotels are few and far between here, but vacation rental accommodations are plentiful. Book a stay at a high-design home like this modern escape nearby to make the stay a little more spectacular.
Lefkada Island, Greece
While all of the Greek Islands come with otherworldly beaches exhibiting sparkling blue shores, none may be as dazzling as those around Lefkada. Located in the Ionian Sea, the island is easily accessible thanks to a bridge that connects it to the mainland. It’s an aquatic sports lover’s paradise thanks to its ideal conditions for windsurfing and kite surfing conditions, and even a few spots with hidden swell for surfers willing to look a little deeper. Though all the water around the island is gorgeous, you’d be hard-pressed to find bluer water in the world than on the western side of this Greecian island. Take in the views by booking a stay at Okeanos Luxury Villas, which sits high on a cliff to provide panoramic views you need to see to believe.