If you’re a beach bum like me, you’ve probably explored plenty of sandy shores in your time. What I’ve come to conclude (and what you probably have, too) is that the most famous beaches — while beautiful — are typically overrun by tourists. This not only ruins the relaxing vibe, but it can also be detrimental to the environment. Just take a look at what happened to Maya Bay, Thailand’s biggest claim to fame that’s now closed indefinitely.
The lesson here is to try to bypass those frequented beaches and discover something fresh. To help you on this quest, we’ve composed a list of nine stunning secret beaches that will have you wondering why you ever wasted your time at a Full Moon Party in Thailand.
The Turkish Riviera is no secret to British holiday-goers who flock to Turkey’s southern shores every summer. Places like Bodrum, Fethiye and Antalya are overrun with foreigners looking for affordable fun in the sun. However, Cirali Beach (located about 80 minutes outside of Antalya’s city center) somehow remains undiscovered by the masses. Under the protection of multiple Turkish ministries, the long stretch of sand is largely undeveloped and home to the area’s endangered loggerhead turtles. Framed by breathtaking mountains covered in dense forest and the twinkling turquoise of the Mediterranean, Cirali charms with its unpretentious seaside cafes, wicker beach umbrellas and white sun loungers. The small string of bobbing kayaks tied up just off the low-lying resort is the cherry on top.
Pyla Sur Mer, France
The Atlantic coast of France houses a ridiculously romantic oceanside resort known as Pyla Sur Mer. The coastline boasts pure white, powder soft sand lapped by sapphire-blue waves. The idyllic deserted-island-style scenery of southwestern France stretches toward an added bonus — the towering Dune du Pilat, a mountain of windswept sand that seems oddly out of place, yet awe-strikingly beautiful.
Makua Beach, Hawaii
The island of Oahu is awash with tourists, beachgoers and surfers — especially if you hit the shores of Waikiki Beach. While Hawaii is absolutely paradisal, at times it can also be a bit over the top when it comes to tourism. To balance out all the overexposure, hit the soft sand and clear waters at Makua Beach on the west coast. This is the beach to come to when you want to beat the crowds, swim and snorkel in peace, and explore your own secret sea cave.
Fraser Island, Australia
Any beach considered the largest sand island in the world earns itself a spot on our list. The island sits 218 miles north of Brisbane and offers 76 miles (yes, you read that right) of wild, golden, sandy shores and pristine waters. With this much available coastline, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll find a private spot for swimming. If you look inland, you’ll find an impressive 14 miles of dunes, which are best explored by renting a four-wheeler. Plus, don’t miss taking a dip in one of the freshwater lakes nestled between the rise and fall of the shape-shifting sand. It may not be your typical day at the beach, but it will certainly be unforgettable.
Wizard Beach, Isla Bastimentos, Panama
Located in the renowned nine-island complex known as Bocas del Toro, Isla Bastimentos has somehow managed to avoid the spotlight cast on these stunning Caribbean islands. We’re not sure how it’s been kept relatively secretive considering its calm emerald waters, dense mangroves, and palm tree-lined beach are downright inspirational. While all the beaches are breathtaking, the secluded Wizard Beach takes the cake with its soft-like-suede sand framed by the untamed jungle craning longingly towards the ocean.
Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine
New England’s coastline is famed more for being rough and rugged than for romantic sandy beaches. But that all changes when you glimpse Sand Beach, a mere 290-yard stretch tucked cozily between the granite mountains and dark green forests of Mount Desert Island. The flux in the high and low tide creates a fascinating beachscape that is best viewed from the peak of the surrounding trails such as the Great Head Trail or Ocean Path. It’s a hike, but it’s worth it.
Ibo Island, Mozambique
Often referred to as a “lost world,” Ibo Island off Africa’s east coast was made for those who crave solitude and serenity. The Indian Ocean surrounds the Quirimbas Archipelago — home to 32 islands — which is where you'll find Ibo Island. Graced with ancient forts and magnificent beaches, this old Arab trading port is still an outlying fishing village.
Manzanita Beach, Oregon
The Pacific Northwest is home to hundreds of miles of coastline, but the 7-mile Manzanita Beach is one for the record books. The shallow bay meets the smooth and sprawling shores with gentle breakers harnessed on three sides by pristine forest and beach grass. Lounge on the shore before strolling along one of the most photographed spots in all of Oregon while you wait for the epic sunset.
Khanom Beach, Thailand
Thailand and beaches go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, most of the greatest are now overrun with tourists and spoiled by overdevelopment. One lingering exception is Khanom Beach in the Nakhon Si Thammarat province. Facing the Gulf of Thailand, Khanom is miles of sand divided into sections by rocky outcrops with a spattering of basic bungalows and low-key resorts strung along its coast. There are a few bars — the most popular of which is Reggae Bar — but the beach is otherwise very undeveloped in terms of entertainment. Khanom’s most frequent patrons are locals and expat English teachers who live in the area. Khanom is a must for any traveler looking to escape the madness of debaucherous beach parties infested with intoxicated backpackers.