You should take every guide to the best beaches in Ireland with a pinch of salt.
There’s endless Irish beaches and trying to lump them all into one guide would be an impossible task.
So, in this guide, we’re going to take you to what we think are the nicest beaches in Ireland, from tourist favourites to hidden gems.
The best beaches in Ireland
This Ireland beaches guide has caused a fair bit of chatter, as you’ll see in the comments section. If we’ve missed one that you think is the best beach in Ireland, shout below!
Water safety warning: Understanding water safety is absolutely crucial when visiting beaches in Ireland. Please take a minute to read these water safety tips. Cheers!
1. Dog’s Bay (Galway)
Dogs Bay is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland. You’ll find it in Connemara where its spectacular white sand and crystal-clear azure water makes it look like something from Thailand.
The impressive horseshoe-shaped bay is tucked inside a sheltered part of a peninsula and it has a stretch of white sand that extends for nearly 2km.
It also backs onto another impressive beach – the brilliant Gurteen Bay. There’s a little car park in front, but note that it fills up fast on fine days.
Related read: Check out our guide to 14 of the best beaches in Galway.
2. Keem Bay (Mayo)
You get a sense of what to expect from Keem Bay on Achill Island from the moment it first comes into view as you spin along the scenic Atlantic Drive.
Out of Achill Island’s Blue Flag beaches, Keem Bay is a secluded paradise. It’s tucked inside the western end of the island, not far from Dooagh.
One of the more photographed Irish beaches thanks to its turquoise water, the grassy cliffs that surround it and the little building that sits just off the sand, this beach really is a beaut.
There’s an often-wedged car park right in front of it along with some public toilets a little further back. You’ll also often seen basking sharks and dolphins in the clear waters around Keem.
Related read: Check out our guide to 13 of the most breath-taking beaches in Mayo.
3. Silver Strand (Donegal)
Some of the best beaches in Ireland go by the name ‘Silver Strand’ (Mayo, Wicklow, Galway, etc) but we’re off to Donegal for this one.
Also known as Malin Beg, this is a quiet little cove with cliffs surrounding it, fine golden sand and tropical looking water.
Now, while this is one of the nicest beaches in Ireland, it’s not suitable for those with limited mobility – there’s around 174 steps leading up and down to it.
It gets busy during the warmer summer months but, like many of Ireland’s off-the-beaten-path beaches, it’s relatively deserted during the off-season.
Related read: Check out our guide to 22 of the most beautiful beaches in Donegal.
4. Coumeenoole Strand (Kerry)
Coumeenoole Beach is a popular slice of coastline at the western end of the Dingle Peninsula. The golden strip of sand lies beneath towering jagged cliffs and green fields with beautiful views across the Atlantic to the Blasket Islands.
The beach changes in size depending on the tide level, but there’s a road that winds down to the edge of the western side which is accessible at all times.
There’s parking at the top of the cliffs above and a few nearby cafes in Coumeenoole Village. Please note, although this is one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland, there are unpredictable currents, so stay clear of the water.
Related read: Check out our guide to 11 of the most magnificent beaches in Kerry.
5. Curracloe Beach (Wexford)
Irish beaches don’t come much more iconic than the stunning Curracloe Beach in County Wexford. Yep, it was here that scenes from Saving Private Ryan were filmed (the scene on Omaha Beach).
There’s three entrances to Curracloe – via Ballinesker Beach, via Colloton’s Gap and via the main Curracloe Car Park.
This beach boasts soft sand, great surfing opportunities (drop into the Surf Shack) and heaps of walks (you can ramble along the beach or nip into Curracloe Forest right next to it).
This is regarded by many as of the top beaches in Ireland for good reason.
Related read: Check out our guide to 15 of the best beaches in Wexford.
6. Barleycove Beach (Cork)
Barleycove Beach is another glorious spot regardless of the time of year and you’ll find it on the remote Mizen Peninsula in West Cork.
Nestled in between rising green hills, Barleycove Beach is a gently curving golden beach that’s backed by an extensive landscape of sand dunes.
How Barleycove was formed makes it one of the more unique Irish beaches – its sand dunes are the result of an earthquake in Lisbon in 1755!
Related read: Check out our guide to 13 of the most impressive beaches in Cork.
7. Portsalon Beach (Donegal)
Portsalon Beach on the western side of Lough Swilly is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland (and yes, this was the beach Taylor Swift was apparently sauntering along last year).
You’ll find it tucked away on the Fanad Peninsula where it boasts a Blue Flag, outstanding scenery and a lovely scenic drive down to it.
Portsalon is around 1.5km long and, although it’s one of many Irish beaches that gets mobbed during summer, it’s relatively quiet during the year.
8. Trá Bán (Kerry)
You’ll find Tra Ban beach on the Great Blasket Island in Kerry, the largest island off the westernmost point of Europe. The beach here, as you can see above, is just something else.
It’s made all the more special by the fact that it’s well and truly off-the-beaten-path (you’ll need to hop on a ferry from Dun Chaoin Pier to reach the island). You can spend time relaxing on the sand or paddling in the clear calm waters.
Combine it’s glorious appearance with the fact that it’s on a remote island that offers incredible views of the Dingle Peninsula and you’ve a sense of why this place is regarded as one of the nicest beaches in Ireland.
9. Burrow Beach (Dublin)
Boasting views of Ireland’s Eye and fine, golden sand, Burrow Beach stretches for around 1.2km in total. It’s a very busy beach on fine days and, unfortunately, it has been in the news a lot lately as idiots have left it covered in litter after the July heatwave.
There’s no dedicated parking nearby and your best bet is to either park in the DART station or to get the DART and then walk.
10. Silver Strand (Mayo)
The coastline around Louisburgh in Mayo is home to some of the best beaches in Ireland (Old Head, Cross Beach, Carrowmore Beach and Carrowniskey).
However, our favourite of the bunch is the stunning Silver Strand – a little slice of secluded paradise. As you saunter along the sand, keep an eye out for Inishturk and Clare Island.
Please note that, while this is arguably one of the nicest beaches in Ireland, it’s remote and there are no lifeguards, so extreme caution is needed if entering the water.
11. Enniscrone Beach (Sligo)
Enniscrone Beach is right near the border of North Mayo in County Sligo. It’s one of the more off-the-beaten-path Irish beaches in this guide, but it’s well worth travelling to.
Park in the town and then aim for the entrance near the caravan park. You’ll pass the surf schools (you’ll catch some good waves here) and some coffee trucks, if you fancy a pick-me-up.
If you walk to the right you’ll eventually reach the old baths and then the pier. You can then loop back into the town and grab a bite to eat.
Related read: Check out our guide to 9 of the best beaches in Sligo.
12. St. Helens Bay (Wexford)
Another spot you’ll often see described as one of the best beaches in Ireland is the hidden gem that is St. Helen’s Bay Beach.
It’s a short drive from Rosslare Strand and an awful lot less packed on fine days (although it still gets busy!).
You’ll get a good eyeful of St. Helen’s from the minute you pull into the car park. The sand is soft and there’s a nice trail to head off on (St. Helen’s Trail and Ballytrent Trail).
13. Fanore Beach (Clare)
Fanore Beach in the Burren is a popular Blue Flag beach between the buzzy towns of Ballyvaughan and Doolin. It has a decent-sized car park but it fills up quick during the summer months on good days.
There’s lifeguards on duty during the summer and the folks at Aloha Surf School can take you out on the waves.
If you’re driving through the Burren during the off-season, this is a lovely spot to hop out and stretch the legs. You’ll find this corner of Clare very quiet during winter.
14. Banna Strand (Kerry)
Banna Strand is a short spin from Tralee and it’s one of the more popular Irish beaches for surfing (keep an eye out for Kingdomwaves Surf School).
Banna runs for around 10km in length and boasts towering sand dunes, some of which are 12 meters in height!
When you rock up here, grab something tasty from Salty Souls Cafe in the car park and then head for a stroll – you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the Dingle Peninsula.
15. Glassilaun Beach (Galway)
Remote and unspoilt, the white sandy Glassilaun Beach in Galway sits at the mouth of the Killary Fjord around a 30-minute spin from Clifden.
Glassilaun is nestled right below Mweelrea (there’s a tough hike here if you’ve a good level of fitness) and it has lovely soft white sand that’s perfect for barefooted-walk.
If you fancy a unique experience, you can get up-close-and-personal with sea life with the folks at Scubadive Weat.
16. Silver Strand (Wicklow)
Silver Strand in Wicklow is easily one of the best beaches in Ireland, but it’s a bit of a nightmare to plan a trip to.
The parking here is the real issue – there used to be paid parking in the caravan park nearby, but we’ve heard recently that this parking is no longer available to non-residents
There’s also no real trail down to the beach other than the one at the campsite (that we know of), which is a shame. However, despite all of this, it really is a gorgeous beach. It’s just a pity access is so restricted.
Related read: Check out our guide to 8 of the finest beaches in Wicklow.
17. Dollar Bay Beach (Wexford)
We’re off to the wild Hook Peninsula next to the stunning Dollar Bay Beach. Like many of the Irish beaches mentioned above, as this is off-the-beaten-path, you’ll find it relatively deserted in the off season.
However, during the summer months it and the Hook Peninsula comes alive with visiting tourists looking to explore the glorious Wexford coast.
Another lovely nearby beach is Booley Bay – it faces the same direction as Dollar Bay and offers similar gorgeous coastal views.
18. Portstewart Strand (Derry)
You’ll find the Blue Flag Portstewart Strand along the Causeway Coastal Route in Derry. The beach here is around 3.2km in length and you’ll get a good eyeful of Mussenden Temple on the cliffs above as you walk.
The sand dunes here are over 6,000 years old and, interestingly enough, the beach was used during the filming of Game of Thrones.
Despite the fact that this is one of the nicest beaches in Ireland, you can still drive onto the sand, which is a strange novelty.
19. Belmullet’s beaches (Mayo)
You’ll find some of the best beaches in Ireland on the Mullet Peninsula. Few corners of Ireland are as under-appreciated or as under-explored by both domestic and international tourists.
One of the more popular beaches here is the spectacular Elly Bay. It’s relatively sheltered and popular amongst swimmers and surfers.
Some other lovely beaches to stroll along here are Belderra Strand, Cross Beach and Blacksod Beach.
20. Trá na mBó (Waterford)
You’ll find Trá na mBó hidden away along the Copper Coast in Waterford, not far from Bunmahon.
Park in the town and the aim for the Bunmahon Beach Viewing Point (as it’s labelled on Google Maps). You can get a view of this beach from above if you continue along the cliff path and there’s also a steep path down to it.
Please pay careful attention to the warning signs here as you walk, as part of the cliff is eroding in places.
21. Boyeeghter Strand (Donegal)
Murder Hole Beach is the nickname for this spectacular ‘hidden’ beach at the northern end of Rosguill Peninsula.
A brand new parking area and trail opened up here at the start of the summer and you can now walk straight to it (it’s a steep climb!).
You can’t swim here due to dangerous currents, but you can see it from the hills above and you can ramble along the sand when the tide is out.
This is regarded as one of the best beaches in Ireland by photographers due to the sheer uniqueness of its appearance.
22. Derrynane Beach (Kerry)
There’s a lifeguard service during the summer months but do note that there are dangerous currents here in places, so great care is needed.
Derrynane is a an idyllic beach boasting turquoise water and stunning views. Derrynane House (the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell) and the Skellig Ring are both close by.
23. Five Finger Strand (Donegal)
Towards the very northern tip of Ireland, on the rugged Inishowen Peninsula, sits the golden Five Finger Strand right at the edge of towering sand dunes.
The secluded shore stretches across the northern entrance of Trawbreaga Bay, south of Malin Head. Now, you can walk along the sand here, but the real magic can be found at the viewing point.
If you pop Wild Alpaca Way into Google Maps it’ll bring you to a car park that gives you the view in the photo on the left above.
While Five Finger Strand is one of the nicest beaches in Ireland, you can’t swim here due to dangerous undercurrents.
24. Whiterocks (Antrim)
Whiterocks Beach is located just off the Causeway Coastal Route in the busy town of Portrush.
The stunning coastline here is dominated by limestone cliffs with hidden caves and bright turquoise waters.
The beach is popular for water sports from surfing to kayaking as well as other activities like horse riding and walking.
The sand stretches right around the coastline, so there’s plenty of room to share with the summer crowds.
What Irish beaches have we missed?
As we said in the intro, this guide is packed with what we think are the best beaches in Ireland, and I’ve no doubt we’ve left out some great ones.
Have a go-to beach that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below!
FAQs about the nicest beaches in Ireland
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are the top beaches in Ireland for swimming?’ to ‘Does Ireland have beaches?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What is the nicest beach in Ireland?
In our opinion, the best beaches in Ireland are Dog’s Bay (Galway), Silver Strand (Donegal) and Keem Bay (Mayo).
What county in Ireland has the best beaches?
This topic causes a lot of debate online. In our opinion, it’s Waterford, but Kerry, Cork, Donegal, Mayo and Wexford are home to some fine Irish beaches, too!
Are there any sandy beaches in Ireland?
Yes, there are plenty. Most counties have a mix of sandy and stoney beaches to choose from, with the sandy beaches generally proving to be the more popular.
Are there swimmable beaches in Ireland?
Yes. However, there are also many beaches where you can’t swim. To find the best beaches in Ireland for swimming, do your research and find ones that are cleared to be free of dangerous currents.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.