6 Places Where You Don't Have to Choose Between the Beach and Mountains

To recline on fine golden sand or explore scenic pine-scented forests? To discover colorful coral reefs or hike through lush tropical peaks? Sometimes it's hard to choose between the beach and the mountains for a vacation, but there is another way. We searched high and low for destinations that offer the best of both worlds. Below, check out our list of spots where you can swim in the ocean and hike a mountain in the same day.

1. Majorca, Spain

James Honeyball/Flickr

James Honeyball/Flickr

Set in the Spanish Mediterranean, Majorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, is well known for its abundance of gorgeous beaches -- a total of 262 lining the picturesque coastline. However, Majorca is also blessed with the Serra de Tramuntana, a majestic mountain range that spans the length of the northern side of the island. A mecca for hikers and cyclists, this mountain range features mile upon mile of pine forests, trails, and winding mountain roads, which are particularly popular with professional bikers training for the Tour de France. It has also been awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO, and is littered with charming villages where you can stop, refuel, and enjoy the spectacular views.

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2. St. Lucia

Jade Mountain Resort/Oyster

Jade Mountain Resort/Oyster

With its volcanic twin peaks -- Petit Piton and Gros Piton -- the Caribbean island of St. Lucia is one of the best places to combine a beach and mountain vacation. Walkers can navigate the elevated interior via numerous hiking trails that cut through thick forests teeming with tropical flora and fauna, as well as the occasional dramatic waterfall. Golden in the north and mostly silvery in the more volcanic south, the beaches here are typically fringed with palm trees and boast a jungle backdrop. That's to say nothing of the crystal clear Caribbean water, which is perfect for exploring the island's coral reefs.

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3. Oahu, Hawaii

View from at The Kahala Hotel and Resort/Oyster

View from at The Kahala Hotel and Resort/Oyster

While visiting the Hawaiian island of Oahu, you won't find yourself short on beaches for sunbathing, snorkeling, and surfing. The latter can be enjoyed in a number of spots, from Honolulu's world famous Waikiki Beach to the more rugged, almost deserted stretches of sand on the west coast, where the turtles still outnumber the tourists. Travelers who prefer peaks to the Pacific are also in luck. A popular trek to higher ground is up the Koko Crater Trail -- there over a thousand steps, but the views are worth the effort. Also worth a visit is the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve, which is part of the island's Koolau mountain range, with hiking trails that lead to the legendary 150-foot Manoa Falls.

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4. Makarska, Croatia

Makarska Beach; Tony Hisgett/Flickr

Makarska Beach; Tony Hisgett/Flickr

The port town of Makarska is located on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast -- roughly halfway between the busier tourist hubs of Split and Dubrovnik. The town sits along what has been dubbed the Makarska Riviera, thanks to its many lovely pebble beaches that stretch for 38 miles along the Adriatic coastline. But it's the dramatic rocky backdrop of Mount Biokovo that really steals the show. The mountain range provides a wealth of well-marked hiking and biking trails across its sea-facing slopes, and acts as a buffer from the harsher inland climate, making for more beach-friendly weather. This is especially useful given than many of the beaches are clothing-optional.

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5. Sabah, Borneo

Mount Kinabalu; HK.Colin/Flickr

Mount Kinabalu; HK.Colin/Flickr

Not only is Borneo the third-largest island in the world, but the state of Sabah is home to Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia's highest peak, at over 13,000 feet. Sabah is one of only two Malaysian states on the island, and although it's relatively small, it packs a lot in, including incredible beaches, coral reefs, ancient rainforests, and of course, Mount Kinabalu. Spend time lounging on remote and unspoiled beaches on the northern tip, diving off tiny uninhabited islands, taking boat trips down the river to witness native proboscis monkeys, trekking through the jungle to see orangutans, or climbing the peak of the mystical mountain. 

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6. Harris, Scotland

Luskentyre Beach, Harris; Ross Crae/Flickr

Luskentyre Beach, Harris; Ross Crae/Flickr

Scotland is known for its mountainous Highlands, but believe it or not, it's also home to some spectacular beaches -- often with white sand, turquoise water, and even a palm tree here and there. It goes without saying that decent weather is far from guaranteed, even in the height of summer, but beaches are not just for sunbathing. This small country also has nearly 300 Munros -- mountains over 3,000 feet. Some hikers aim to tick off the whole list, including Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the U.K. 

Backed by dunes and wild flowers, the Isle of Harris is home to breathtaking beaches and the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides. Plus, if you catch the ferry to Harris from the Isle of Skye, you can mark off a dozen of the island's aforementioned Munros.

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