The planet’s best beaches are a beacon for solo travellers, providing a sublime space to clear the mind, take a dip, and indulge in a fancy cocktail or two. And, who wouldn’t feel revived by a day sinking into powdery sands, surrounded by palm-fringed coves.
So, whether you’re flying fully alone or travelling with like-minded souls on a group trip, we’ve rounded up some of the world’s best beaches to explore. Ice-cold mojitos coming right up…
Hidden Beach, the Philippines
This spot is pure palm-fringed escapism. Towering limestone karsts lend a dramatic edge to this hideaway on the impossibly beautiful island of Palawan in the western Philippines. The wild vegetation and crystal clear waters create a remote, adventurous feel. Whether you want to paddle amid shoals of tropical fish or simply lounge in the turquoise shallows with a beer in hand, this is one beach that won’t fail to delight. Better still, it’s on the cusp of the Bacuit Archipelago, a playground of remote sandy caves and lagoons that call to the wandering nomad. For an off-the-lounger day, hop onboard a private boat for an island-hopping jaunt around Bacuit Archipelago, complete with an overnight stay on a secret beach and dinner cooked by a private chef.
Tayrona National Park on Colombia‘s Caribbean coast is the stuff that dreams are made of. This sacred stretch of rainforest and mangroves was once home to the pre-hispanic Tayrona tribe (descendants still live in the area). The rugged landscape is layered with thick green bush, egg-like boulders and sandy coves, including Arrecife beach. You have to walk around 45 minutes through the park to get here, which means it’s nice and quiet. Although currents make swimming dangerous, it’s still a beautiful place to kick back in a hammock, with a beach picnic for added happiness. And, once you’re done exploring Tayrona National Park, head around the coast to the Rosario Islands, near Cartagena. This labyrinth of 27 islands, some uninhibited and others private, is home to a rich eco system, including sea turtles, reef sharks and over 100 types of coral.
Golden Horn, Croatia
Croatia’s unique peninsula beach can be found on Brač island, in front of the small harbour town of Bol. It juts out five kilometres into the ocean, creating a slither of paradise fringed by mountains, forest and the deep blue Adriatic sea. People rave about the water quality here: it’s turquoise and oh-so clear. Thanks to strong crosswinds, it’s also a great place for windsurfing and kite-surfing – played out in one of the most spectacular settings you can imagine. And, while here, you should also put the neighbouring island of Hvar on your radar. It’s reached by catamaran from the city of Split, and is filled with great little boutiques, restaurants and tranquil cypress gardens.
Gili Air, Indonesia
One of three islands nestled on an archipelago off the northwest coast of Lombok, the tiny coral isle of Gili Air is all about easy living. There’s precisely zero traffic, with islanders getting around by horse and cart. Mobile signal and Wi-Fi are both patchy here, so you have every excuse to unplug and unwind – perfect for a bit of headspace. Embrace the hippy vibe of this laid-back community, as you find your spot on powdery white beaches (head to the north coastline for the best, most remote spots). Grab a fresh mango smoothie at a nearby palapa bar, flip-flops in hand, and worry about… well, nothing at all. A fast boat back to Bali will take you to Amed, a series of relaxed coastal fishing villages, where you’ll find the SS USAT Liberty. It’s a World War II shipwreck that has since become a haven for marine life and is a fascinating spot for snorkelling.
Boulders Beach, South Africa
Cape Town and the surrounding region isn’t short on stunning beaches, but Boulders Beach near the suburb of Simon’s Town has an extra bonus: penguins. This is the only place in the world you can view a colony of thousands of African penguins. It’s worth timing your visit in the morning or late afternoon when the birds are most active. Boulders Beach also forms part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, so, as well as wildlife-spotting, you can also take advantage of beautiful clean sands and an uncrowded swimming area. In fact, the Cape Peninsula is brimming with amazing wildlife opportunities. Along with penguins, time it right to see humpback whales at Hermanus, or swim with seals further along the coast at Plettenberg Bay.
Marari Beach, India
Kerala, India’s green and serene coastal state, is a mellow place to be. And, Marari Beach in the village of Mararikulam is textbook chill out territory. Amble along the secluded Arabian Sea coastline, with endless white sand stretching before you and pretty fishing boats bobbing on the horizon. The shady coconut groves provide a great spot for yoga, or you can grab a mango lassi and settle into a hammock for the afternoon, your favourite books in tow. Half an hour down the coast, you’ll also find the world-famous Keralan backwaters: a vast maze of canals that zig-zag their way through paddy fields and wetland farming villages. This is another great place to unwind, with peaceful rivers and mangroves shadowed by swaying coconut trees.
Paraiso Beach, Cuba
The aptly translated ‘paradise’ beach lies on Cuba‘s Cayo Largo del Sur, off the southwest coast of the island archipelago. This is Cuba at its most captivating, with miles of magnificent, unspoilt shoreline and calm, warm water for bathing. It’s completely remote, with palapa-thatched sunshades that dot the sands, and just the one solo bar shack. Keep your eyes peeled for native pelicans and hummingbirds or a turtle – Cayo Largo’s turtle conservation programme is well-respected, making it a haven for them. And, once you’ve had your fill of the barefoot lifestyle, head for party time in Havana. You can learn how to salsa, rustle up flavour-packed cocktails and cruise the picturesque Old Town in a classic convertible car.
Puerto Escondido, Mexico
The lively beach area of Puerto Escondido, along the southwestern tip of Mexico, is one of the country’s most attractive stretches of coastline. From spectacular surfable waves at Playa Zicatela, a 3.5km golden wisp, to sun-basking heaven at Playa Marinero to the beach clubs of Playa Bacocho, there’s a seductive slither of Pacific shoreline for every type of beachgoer. The town itself is awash with oceanfront bars and restaurants, fanned by gently swaying palms and with stunning views along the shoreline. For those wanting to switch off, the small neighbouring bays of Playa Manzanillo and Puerto Angelito have some of the gentlest and most glorious waters for a swim and a snorkel. But it’s the wildlife that lures, too. At Laguna de Manialtepec, 15kms west, it’s a twitchers paradise, with opportunities to spot the likes of ibises, pelicans and osprey. There’s also lots of conservation work being done along the coast, protecting the native olive ridley turtles, offering visitors the chance to help release the young into the waters.
Lopes Mendes, Brazil
Naturally, it’s hard to pick from the best beaches in Brazil. But there’s something special about the sandy shores of Ilha Grande, a hammock-strung, hummingbird-swooped island – a short boat ride from Rio – all dotted with colourful posadas, draped in bougainvillea and completely car-free. Intrepid hiking trails leads to the likes of Lopes Mendes, the island’s best beach, or you can putter around the coast by boat to reach it. Don’t want to go alone? You can visit the island on Flash Pack’s Brazil Icons: São Paulo to Rio trip, where you’ll have the option to go snorkelling and spot sea turtles and an array of technicoloured fish.
Playa de Papagayo, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s 130km Nicoya Peninsula juts from the northwestern corner, separated from the mainland by the Gulf of Nicoya and lapped by a swish of the Pacific Ocean. Ringed with some of the country’s best beaches, this isolated paradise is a strong draw for anyone looking to relax on secluded toffee-coloured sands or practice yoga to the sounds of the sea. Sizeable waves are also a lure for surfers while beachside restaurants and bars offer delectable food and quenching drinks with postcard-worthy vistas. It’s also one of the worlds ‘Blue Zones’, an area where locals are considered to live longer (consistently reaching 100 years old) and healthier lives.
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