15 Best Secret Beaches (Part I)
Head for the beach in Chile and the water’s too cold. In Rio there’s sewage in the water, and if you go to the wrong beach in the Virgin Islands, you’ve got to contend with those infernal steel drums. But in every case, there is a less-frequented alternative worth checking out.
Visiting Thailand is an exercise in avoiding places overrun with tourists. Koh Chang, or Elephant Island, is 18 miles long and has only nine villages, a few of them accessible only by boat. Unfortunately, this little paradise has been the focus of rapid development, with more on the way—construction sites abound, with all the accompanying noise. A better option is Sairee, a crescent of sand on Koh Tao island with palm trees arcing over the aquamarine water as if they are yearning to drink from the sea, according to Fodor’s. Along the thin sliver of golden sand sit rustic, traditional beach huts, a scene that’s perfect for lounging in hammocks. It’s west-facing and therefore great for watching the sunset.
An ever-more-popular travel destination, India has thousands of miles of coastline. Its most popular beaches, unfortunately, draw swarms of travelers. Juhu Beach is perhaps the best known and benefits from being very close to Mumbai, but it’s covered with locals and tourists. Venture a few hundred miles south on India’s west coast. Goa, while filled with resorts, has plenty of lesser-known spots to enjoy the sun. Palolem Beach was until recently one of the few virgin beaches left in Goa. Now it’s growing crowded during the peak months, so try the smaller, quieter Patnem Beach next door. Travelers say it’s as paradisaical as India gets, and has clean huts and cheap food.
AP Photo, Flickr
With hotels built right up to the water, the jam-packed beaches of Cancun can be anything but relaxing. And with all the kitsch and over-the-top tourist traps, you may feel like you’re still in the U.S. Much nicer is the spectacular coastline at Tulum. Its powdered-sugar sand, jade-green water, balmy breezes, and bright sun make it one of the top beaches in Mexico. Where else can you get all that and a dramatically situated Mayan ruin? There’s excellent diving and snorkeling, and a variety of lodgings and restaurants to fit every budget. A big plus: the beach is much wider than that of Cancun, so even on its more crowded days you have a lot more space. “Tulum’s beaches are still free of the party scene that dominates Cancun, despite its increasing popularity over the last decade,” Jason Clampet, a senior editor at Frommer’s, tells The Daily Beast.
4. South America
Chile, with its hotspot capital, Santiago, is tempting, but don’t let its sprawling coastline give you the wrong idea: the southern countries on the continent stretch toward the Antarctic Circle, meaning the beaches are beautiful but the water is often frigid. Instead, try farther north, like Lima or Rio de Janeiro. Avoid Rio’s world-famous Copacabana Beach, however, as it’s packed with tourists and the water is often filled with trash and sewage. A better bet is to head to Prainha Beach, a favorite with surfers that is virtually abandoned on weekdays. Part of the reason for this is its location way outside the city. Hop a cheap taxi and you won’t have any trouble finding it. “Prainha is the first in a line of excellent beaches stretching out of Itacare,” says Clampet. “Since the only way in is by boat or foot, each one promises to stay relatively unpsoiled.”
5. St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
AP Photo, Getty Images
Trunk Bay remains one of the world’s most picturesque beaches, with soft, warm sand and clear, blue water. But the reefs and the celebrated snorkeling trail are dying, the beach is crowded with day-trippers, and it doesn’t offer much shade. Plus, there’s an entry fee. Instead, visit Hawksnest Beach, lined with sea-grape and waving palms. A patchy reef just offshore means snorkeling is an easy swim away. It’s still a bit crowded, but there’s no entry fee because it’s in a national park.
Sydney’s Bondi Beach is almost more famous for its lifeguards than its swell. It may lord over every other beach in the city, but it’s not the best one for a swim, surf, or sunbathe. Instead, a trio of Sydney beaches may be more enticing options. More like a giant ocean pool, the crystal-clear waters of Clovelly are heaven for snorkelers. Keep an eye out for Bluey, the resident blue grouper. Split in two by an impossibly picturesque rocky outcrop, Balmoral is another popular North Sydney haunt for swimming, kayaking, and windsurfing. There are also some fabulous fish-and-chip shops. And Norfolk Island pines and sandstone headlands hug the bowl-shaped park behind Bronte, a small, family-oriented beach that has a playground, rock pool, and sandy cafes.
Getty Images (2)
The sand on Ka’anapali Beach in West Maui is soft and inviting, and there are some magical spots for prime snorkeling. But beachgoers who want some privacy and seclusion won’t find it here—tall high-rises scrape the sky directly behind you. More intimate is Makena Beach in South Maui. Turn around, and you’re looking up at lush green mountains of tropical forest. You can also grab a fish taco from a truck and chat with the vendor, says Fodor’s.