Life’s a beach for Mariam Ahmadi, 19, a Los Angeles resident of Venice Beach, who enjoys nothing more than easy access to the ocean. "I love living here! I’m a surfer. I can wake up, go surfing, work, and then surf again. It’s heaven."
Hers is the mantra of the beach-loving urbanite, from Los Angeles to Cape Town and Barcelona to Hong Kong. Easy access. Go often. And when it gets dark, head back to the bright lights of the big city. For travelers, it also means the best of both worlds, and—depending on where you book your trip—not having to decide between seaside resort or city sophistication. There are places around the world where you can have your beach and your city too.
Take Miami, a town that grew up around its famous coastal asset. With its nine miles of golden sands, 85-degree water, wild nightlife, and cutting-edge arts scene, it’s hardly a wonder why Miami is one of the country’s fastest growing cities, and why tourists arrive every day by the planeload. Or Rio, where bossa nova joints are just a block from some of the world’s sexiest people on Ipanema Beach. Repulse Bay Beach, on the other hand, is more of a peaceful oasis from bustling high-tech Hong Kong, yet elegant colonial-style teahouses are within a minute’s walk from the shore. Even in city beaches where the water is cold, like the four gorgeous white-sand Clifton Beaches of Cape Town, South Africa, proximity to the sea helps keep the city temperatures more moderate—cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter—making it a terrific year-round destination.
Across the globe, the central business district of Sydney is just 10 minutes from Bondi Beach, Australia’s world-class surfing destination. "Bondi’s a real urban melting pot," says Craig Wachholz, a local surfer and general manager of a surfing school. "It’s a buzzy but laid-back beach that makes you feel like you’re a million miles from the city."
Not surprisingly, people of all walks of life love it. Australia’s richest man, Jamie Packer, lives in a penthouse overlooking Bondi, and so does Australia’s self-proclaimed poorest man, Jhyimy "Two Hats" Mhiyles, who lives in the cliffs at the south end of the beach. "On Bondi, when we all strip down to our cossies (swimsuits), everyone is equal," says Wachholz. "It’s very egalitarian."
Of course, some city beaches—especially tropical ones with knockout settings and soothingly warm water—are tourist destinations in themselves. But they are also urban beaches. Honolulu has 400,000 residents near Waikiki Beach, and Ipanema Beach is part of Rio de Janeiro, with almost 12 million people.
On some days it may seem like all those people are on the sand at once; but, even so, Mariam Ahmadi of Venice Beach speaks for those who love the city-beach life: "I can’t imagine living anywhere else."