After five continents, 13 countries, and hundreds of cervezas, we found the world's 15 best beach towns, places where locals share their secret break, lunch comes straight from the sea, and you fantasize about staying for good. Whether you want an escape from winter's cold gloom or a hot summer break in the northern hemisphere, there's a beach town that's warm in every season.
Isla Holbox, Mexico
In the past decade, the coastal idylls on Mexico's Mayan Riviera have been falling like dominoes under the flag of Señor Frog's. But a small island in the Gulf, 40 miles north of Cancún, remains unconquered. Isla Holbox – which requires a three-hour taxi ride on potholed, chicken-crossed roads through tiny villages, and then a ferry ride packed with grocery-shopping locals – greets you with a misty breeze as you wander its narrow dirt roads.
The island's main mode of transport is a fleet of past-their-prime golf carts, a fitting symbol for this 26-mile-long, two-mile-wide economic anomaly: a Yucatán fishing community living in one-story cinder-block shacks near the main square that coexists harmoniously with longtime expats running tidy thatched-roof pensiones and pizza restaurants along the beach. The hotels and restaurants feel like an archipelago of Swedish, French, and German islands, as palapa-shaded residents, lulled by hammocks and margaritas, drift into a shared discreet congeniality. Your third mezcal will make you feel like you've been dropped onto that floating city from 'The Empire Strikes Back' (minus Stormtroopers, which are strictly mainland), in a vaporous, temporal community of visitors.
You're not here to get wild, drunk, or laid, unless it's by someone you brought along (in which case you will, and frequently). You're here to enjoy the kind of solace a millionaire would travel thousands of miles to find. The bad news: The island has an ATM. The good news: It doesn't work so well.
More information: Fly to Cancún and catch a connector [$650 for five people; Aerosaab], or drive three hours to Chiquilá and take a ferry ($4). Casa Sandra is thatched-hut luxe right on the beach. [From $260; casasandra.com]
Credit: John Coletti / Getty Images