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20 stunning cliffside beaches

By Marnie Hunter, CNN
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Fri August 8, 2014
Consider something spectacular for your next beach vacation. Ko Phi Phi in southern Thailand's Krabi province is an archipelago of six islands about an hour's boat ride from Phuket. On Phi Phi Leh, towering limestone cliffs surround Maya Bay's pristine beach. Consider something spectacular for your next beach vacation. Ko Phi Phi in southern Thailand's Krabi province is an archipelago of six islands about an hour's boat ride from Phuket. On Phi Phi Leh, towering limestone cliffs surround Maya Bay's pristine beach.
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Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece
Legzira Beach, Morocco
McWay Cove, Big Sur, California
Tropea, Italy
As Catedrais, Galicia, Spain
Calanque d'En Vau, near Cassis, France
Dias Beach, Cape Point, South Africa
Halona Beach Cove, Oahu, Hawaii
Chiaia di Luna, Ponza, Italy
Baia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Bottom Bay, Barbados
El Nido, Palawan, Philippines
Etretat, France
Porto Katsiki, Lefkada, Greece
Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal
Cape Leveque, the Kimberley, Western Australia
Little Bay Beach, Anguilla
Waianapanapa State Park, Maui, Hawaii
Tulum, Mexico
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Beaches with cliffs towering over them have a powerful allure
  • Erosion has created distinctive arches in Spain, France and beyond
  • You'll have to work harder to get to many of them, but the settings are worth it

(CNN) -- There's nothing like high drama on a beach.

Sandy stretches that meander slowly and serenely into gentle waves are lovely. But that's not the kind of beach that makes your knees buckle and has you reaching for your camera before you've got the sunscreen on your nose.

Instead, head for beaches where cliffs tower over the shore. Finding your way to the sand at these spots is often no easy feat. You'll probably need to hike, climb or boat in, and some of these beaches are not recommended for swimming.

But what you trade in approachability is offset by the wow factor.

Beaches that cozy up to cliffs provide settings that stick with you -- in far more than a sand-in-your-shorts kind of way.

Check out the stunning beaches above and tell us about your favorites below.

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CNN's Katia Hetter contributed to this story.

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