Hit the World's Best Beaches With These 360-Degree Virtual Experiences

Now every day can be beach day.

Taking a quick weekend getaway to one of the world’s best beach destinations may be easier than you think. But hitting chalk-white sands and crystal waters on your lunch break? Unless you won the remote work lottery, you’re probably out of luck this winter. Luckily, we live in the future, and we can—at the very least—trick our minds into thinking it’s a beach day any damn time we want.

Thanks to huge leaps in VR and 3D technology, you can now take an immersive, interactive, 360-degree tour of some of the greatest beaches in the world whenever the desire arises. Most of these spots don’t even require you to use your own VR head gear. And if you want to go fully immersive, you can drop into these sandy oases from the comfort of your bathtub while sipping a mai tai and blasting “The Girl from Ipanema.” Your call, because this year, the beach is coming to you.

French Polynesia
This short-but-sweet VR experience from the World Surf League begins with a surface view of a pristine French Polynesian beach surrounded by lush mountains. Move the camera around and you’ll find yourself surrounded by stingrays and friendly sharks as the POV pans up to a panoramic view to take it all in. For a while there, you almost feel like you’re in the water (especially if you spilled your drink in your lap).

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This long-form on-rails tour or Rio’s most vibrantly chaotic beach feels like somebody grabbed your hand and guided you through the crowd. You’ll see speedos, distant islands, volleyball games, speedos, food vendors, sunshine, speedos, and beachside showers. Every now and again, somebody will even wave at you, all while narration fills you in on what to expect when you finally make it down here. (Hint, it also involves speedos.)

Choosing the right Thai beach can be daunting, if only because you can’t rightfully go to them all. This 6k tour goes beach-hopping among some of the most sparklingly beautiful patches of sand in Southeast Asia, among them Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan. The travelogue-style tour will put you at resort tables towering above the jungle, at beachside bars, and next to roaring waterfalls, culminating in a stunning sunset. Follow your viewing with a re-watch of the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio thriller The Beach for the perfect double feature!

Kefalonia, Greece
Greece’s coastline is full of brilliant beaches, and Myrtos is one of the absolute best. In this virtual reality video, you can alter your view to gaze at the horizonless waters and practically feel the sun warming your skin. Located in the northwest area of Kefalonia Island, Myrtos sits between mountains Kalon Oros and Agia Dynati, both of which are in plain view. The only way to make it feel more real would be to grab an octopus from the grocery store and smack it against your keyboard while tossing back shots of ouzo.

South Asia
The Maldives is basically vacation goals personified. But visiting the resort-packed and endlessly opulent paradise is also prohibitively expensive. With this virtual experience, you can get a taste of all the luxury without selling a kidney. You’ll be taken on a scenic tour around the Amilla Fushi resort in the Baa Atoll of the Maldives. With emerald waters so clear you can literally see the sea sponges and aquatic life beneath you, you may forget that you’re not actually sipping on cocktails in front of the villas. The best part? Aside from a few stragglers here and there, you’ll have the resort mostly to yourself.

Mallorca, Spain
Dust off your swimsuits and turn on the widescreen for an immersive virtual experience on Cala Millor Beach in Mallorca, the largest island in the Mediterranean Balearic Islands. Whether you’re buried in a good book or looking for new relaxation techniques, being accompanied by the sound of gentle waves crashing against the fine sandy shores of Cala Millor will certainly become your favorite pastime.

St. John, US Virgin Islands
Trunk Bay, St. John’s most famous beach and photographed beach, is the beach of all beaches. It’s a part of the Virgin Islands National Park, which also includes Francis Bay, Cinnamon Bay, and Maho Bay. The soft white sand and fluorescent blue water make it the perfect place to escape—even if it’s only in your imagination. Prop your feet up on your coffee table and envision yourself lounging on the sandy rocks doting the shoreline in this 360-degree video.

The Great Barrier Reef is home to many Australian islands and beaches, such as Lizard Island, Lady Elliot Island, and Heron Island. It’s also home to Fitzroy Island, a smaller island packed with picturesque views, restaurants, and a resort that if you were to visit, you probably wouldn’t want to leave. It’s quite literally surrounded by coral reefs, so snorkeling is the thing to do here. But if you don’t want to risk coral-related lacerations, you can always dive in via virtual reality. Stand on top of the world—or at the peak of the island, called the Summit—and get a full scope of Nudey Beach (it’s more SFW than it sounds), the historic lighthouse, and, of course, that Great Barrier Reef.

Still on the fence about Tulum? You won’t be after taking this dreamy video tour of the popular Mexican destination’s Hotel Zone, which makes a strong case that reports of overcrowding are vastly overrated. For more than 30 blissful minutes, you’ll get a great look at nearly 10 miles of fluffy sands as you take the POV of a couple on a relaxing stroll along the water. Bonus? You can also scope out your next hotel stay along the way.

Sometimes you want to gaze at the beauty of azure waters gently lapping at white sands. And sometimes you want to look upon an unforgivingly cold sea crashing into jet-black shores and feel like you’ve wandered onto the cover of a particularly epic black-metal album. This striking black-sand beach in Vík, Iceland, is an absolute stunner, and this 360-degree tour (complete with authentically deafening wind sounds) will get you up close and personal with the otherworldly hexagonal basalt columns that tower over what looks like a photo negative come to life. And hey, doing it over VR means you have zero chance of getting swept out to sea by one of Reynisdrangar’s infamous sneaker waves.

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Kristen Adaway is a former writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter
Former editor Andy Kryza contributed to this story.