Photograph by Greg Matty, Your Shot
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The cliffs at Molokai's Kalaupapa National Historical Park once served as a natural barrier for a leper colony.

Photograph by Greg Matty, Your Shot

Top 10 Ocean Views

The high points where land and sea meet provide dramatic vistas of craggy shorelines and pounding oceans.

From the National Geographic book Secret Journeys of a Lifetime

Mirador Escénico, San Carlos, Mexico

This scenic lookout, four miles from San Carlos, gives a peerless view over the Gulf of California, dramatic Tetakawi—a volcanic hill jutting out of the sea—and the secluded coves of Playa Piedras Pintas. Mirador is also a world-class vantage point for spotting wildlife, including dolphins, pelicans, and whales. Planning: A good way to explore the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) is to rent a kayak or fishing boat in San Carlos. The best sailing and fishing weather occurs from November through May.

Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii

A guided mule train down a near-vertical, three-mile trail in the Kalaupapa National Historical Park is the usual way to reach this hideaway, sheltered by the world’s highest sea cliffs, which plunge 3,315 feet into the Pacific. In the 19th century, the cliffs served as a natural barrier for a leper colony. Although the colony closed in 1969, some residents choose to remain here. Planning: Advance reservations are necessary, as a maximum of 18 mules a day are allowed along the trail. The park is closed on Sundays. Visitors need permits.

Cape Leeuwin, Australia

At Australia’s southwesternmost tip—where the Indian Ocean collides with what Australians call the Southern Ocean—Cape Leeuwin lighthouse safeguards one of the world’s busiest and most treacherous shipping lanes. In summer, you can enjoy views of endless water; in winter, you feel the full force of the oceans crashing against the cape.Planning: Regular tours of the lighthouse precinct run throughout the day. The outlook is most dramatic in winter; whales are visible from May through September.

Sur to Aija, Oman

At the town of Sur, on Oman’s northeast coast, you can soak up the view across the creek to Aija, a village of low, pastel-colored dwellings and ornate merchants’ houses surrounded by rocky beaches. Fishermen’s dhows bob on the water and several small boatyards still build these traditional sailboats. Planning: Sur is about 90 miles along the coast from Muscat. The view is best at high tide.

Látrabjarg, Iceland

Iceland's most remote region, the Westfjords, is home to one of the world's greatest bird cliffs and its largest razorbill colony. The 1,457-foot-high, 8.7-mile-long Látrabjarg cliff also entrances its visitors with misty views over white-sand beaches and Snæfellsjökull glacier in the distance. Planning: Látrabjarg is accessible by car, approximately 37 miles from the village of Patreksfjörður via road 612.

St. John’s Head, Hoy, Orkneys, Scotland

Near the northern tip of the island of Hoy, St. John’s Head is Britain’s highest vertical sea cliff. Thanks to the fierce swell and tide, just reaching its base is a serious undertaking. For less courageous types, the best viewpoint is from the Scrabster-to-Stromness ferry, which leaves up to six times daily. Planning: The best time to view the cliff is on a summer evening when sunset turns it an ardent red. The ferry trip also provides views of the Old Man of Hoy, a 450-foot-high seastack.

Son Marroig, Mallorca, Spain

Tired of Viennese court life and enamored of the scenery around Son Marroig, on Mallorca’s north coast, Austria’s Archduke Ludwig Salvatore (1847–1915) bought a property here with sweeping vistas over the Na Foradada (“pierced rock”) peninsula, which has a gaping 59-foot hole at its center.Planning: For the best views of the peninsula, ask at the museum for permission to walk the two-mile-long path toward Na Foradada.

Sagres Bay, Portugal

For a whiff of historical romance and swashbuckling adventure, few outlooks outclass the one at Sagres, mainland Europe’s most southwesterly community. In the 15th century, Prince Henry the Navigator came here to found his School of Navigation to train sailors and cartographers, in order to fulfill his quest to expand the known world’s frontiers and open a sea route to India. Planning: The best way to explore Sagres Bay and Cape St. Vincent is by car or on foot, as there is no public transportation.

Dun Aengus, Aran Islands, Ireland

One of Europe’s most splendid cliff forts, consisting of stone walls built in three semicircles, Dun Aengus sits atop an unclimbable sea cliff rising 328 feet out of the ocean. The innermost court affords superb views over the island of Inishmore and the distant Connemara coast. Planning: Reachable by ferry from Doolin, County Clare, and Rossaveal, County Galway, Aran’s main settlement is Kilronan.

Coast Road, Western Sahara

One of the Paris–Dakar Rally’s remotest legs, this artery cleaves seemingly endless sands and a rocky Atlantic coast. While the terrain initially appears monotonous, the tarmac road is far from featureless, passing glassy lagoons and palm-fringed oases. Planning: To avoid unexploded mines, drive off-road only with a local guide. Although camel-borne nomads outnumber vacationers, Western Sahara draws intrepid deep-sea anglers and kite- and sand-surfers.