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12 Surprisingly Spectacular City Beaches

By Nicholas DeRenzo
8/13/2013 12:10:03 PM

Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema Beach. Sydney's Bondi Beach. Miami's South Beach. Honolulu's Waikiki Beach. Los Angeles' Venice Beach.

Some major cities are so intrinsically linked with their beaches that a traveler wouldn't dare plan a vacation there without setting aside some major time to hit the sand and soak up some rays. But these aren't the only urban hubs with a scenic stretch of sand to call their own.

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From Chicago to Mumbai, Stockholm to Hong Kong, some of the world's biggest cities are blessed with shockingly accessible beaches, often only a short ride from downtown on public transportation. And we're not talking about some underwhelming patch of sand hidden in a maze of urban sprawl. These are authentic beach hangouts with gorgeous views that feel like they're worlds apart from the hustle and bustle that's often only a few blocks away.

So what makes an urban beach a surprise? Some towns made it onto the list because of their geography. Who but a local would know that a city like Vancouver, that hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, also has a thriving beach scene? Or that Cape Town, which regularly sees penguins in its waters, attracts its fair share of sunbathers? Others, like Montevideo, Uruguay, seem to simply get overshadowed by their bigger, more famous neighbors. And finally, in places like Hong Kong or Mumbai, the beaches can often get lost in the shuffle of everything else the major metropolis has to offer.

With beaches this accessible, there's no excuse not to grab your sunscreen and hit the sand! Find out the best city beaches to visit by clicking here.

Credit: Flickr/Mulia

Juhu Beach-Mumbai, India

With a population of almost 14 million, Mumbai ranks as the most populous city in the world, as well as the financial, cultural and entertainment capital of India. It's a city that's big in every sense of the word. But what most people might not realize is that it's also quite a big beach town. About 11 miles north of downtown, Juhu Beach offers a carnivalesque atmosphere in an affluent suburb that's home to many famous Bollywood celebrities. And they don't have to travel far, considering how popular Juhu is among filming location scouts. The palm-lined beach overlooking the Arabian Sea can get crowded on the weekends, but this isn't the kind of place where you'll want to just lounge on the sand anyway. Instead, this Indian take on Venice Beach or Coney Island is a riot of henna tattoo artists, dancing monkeys, camel rides and cricket matches. Best of all, it's the perfect place to try out some of Mumbai's most popular street food dishes, such as bhel puri (crunchy spiced puffed rice and fried chickpea noodles) and pani puri (deep-fried bread filled with tangy water).

Credit: Flickr/Victor Radziun

Al Mamzar Beach Park-Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Thanks to a traditional Muslim culture, the conservative United Arab Emirates may not scream top beach destination. But if you take a few small steps to respect the local customs here, you'll be welcomed with open arms at Dubai's many gorgeous beaches. Modesty is the name of the game here, so you'll want to leave behind your skimpy bathing suit in favor of a more modest t-shirt and shorts or bring along a shawl for covering bare shoulders. Located on a calm creek separating Dubai from the emirate of Sharjah, Al Mamzar Beach Park is a 262-acre oasis of white sand and palm trees on the Persian Gulf, with five separate beaches, swimming pools, barbecues, green spaces and rentable bikes to get you around between them. Be warned that Wednesdays are reserved for women and children.

Credit: Flickr/Iaihui

Shek O Beach-Hong Kong, China

You might imagine Hong Kong as a chaotic jungle of glass and steel skyscrapers. And while this city of 7 million residents certainly has a hectic side, there's a surprisingly diverse array of natural landscapes-from hidden beach coves to massive peaks-on Hong Kong's mainland peninsula and 263 islands. But you don't have to flee to its farthest reaches to find an amazingly authentic beach. Reachable by public minibus, Shek O Beach is only about 10 miles from the city's downtown business district, right on the southeast corner of Hong Kong Island (their answer to Manhattan). Unlike other island beaches, which have become overrun with tourists and luxury high-rises, Shek O still feels like a village, albeit quite a luxurious one. The crescent-shaped, golden-sand beach is backed by shade trees and rocky headlands that gave this area its name-the odd sounding Shek O is actually Cantonese for "rocky bay."

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