When you’re born a beach-lover, you don’t have to think about it. It’s just instinct; an innate response that lures you to powdery sands and palm-fringed coves. The planet’s best beaches are also a beacon for solo travellers, providing infinite space for headspace and a cocktail or two in the most sublime of settings.
So, whether you’re flying fully alone or travelling with like-minded souls (à la Flash Pack), come join us as we boat around 12 of the world’s best beaches. Ice-cold mojitos coming right up…
Hidden beach, the Philippines
Best for: 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 experience is part Robinson Crusoe, part James Bond, with wild vegetation and crystal clear waters creating a remote, adventurous feel. Whether you want to paddle amid shoals of tropical fish or simply lounge in the turquoise shallows – beer in hand – this is one beach that can’t fail to delight. Better still, it’s on the cusp Bacuit Archipelago: a playground of remote sandy caves and lagoons that call to the wandering nomad.
Insider tip: 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. You’re welcome.
Arrecife beach, Colombia
Best for: rugged adventure
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 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.
Insider tip: 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 system, including sea turtles, reef sharks and over 100 types of coral.
Ipanema beach, Brazil
Best for: party time central
You don’t really know the meaning of a beach party until you’ve hit Ipanema beach on Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Atlantic coastline. The iconic coastline is a microcosm of Brazil’s exuberant and fun-loving spirit. From the moment you hit the sands, you can’t fail to be swept up by the palpable sense of joie de vivre – whether you’re playing volleyball, skimming through the surf or people-watching at the bar shacks in true Cariocan style (these are beaches you go to be seen on).
Insider tip: Look out for beach vendors selling fried cheese on a stick, or “queijo coalho” as it’s known. Served hot and salty, it’s a bit like halloumi and firmly ranks as the best beach snack ever.
Golden Horn beach, Croatia
Best for: watersports
Croatia’s unique peninsula beach can be found on Brač island, in front of the small harbour town of Bol. It juts out for 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.
Insider tip: If you’re going to Brač, you should also put the neighbouring island of Hvar on your radar. Hailed as “the new St Tropez”, it’s reached by catamaran from the city of Split. Hvar Town is filled with great little boutiques, restaurants and tranquil cypress gardens.
Gili Air, Indonesia
Best for: headspace galore
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, and islanders get around on horses and carts. Mobile signal and wi-fi are both sort of patchy here, so you have every excuse to unplug and unwind. Embrace the vaguely 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.
Insider tip: A fast boat back to Bali will take you to Amed, a series of relaxed coastal fishing villages. Nearby, you’ll find the SS USAT Liberty, a World War II shipwreck that has since become a haven for marine life. It’s a fascinating spot for snorkelling.
Boulders Beach, South Africa
Best for: wildlife wonder
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, and 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 amid the sand dunes and rock pools, you can also take advantage of beautiful clean sands and an uncrowded swimming area.
Insider tip: The Cape Peninsula is brimming with amazing wildlife opportunities. Along with penguin spotting, time it right to see humpback whales at Hermanus; or you can even swim with seals further along the coast at Plettenberg Bay.
Marari Beach, India
Best for: yoga and reading by the sea
Marari beach in the village of Mararikulam, India, is textbook chillout territory. Kerala, India’s green and serene coastal state, is a mellow place to be anyway: and the laid-back vibes hit their peak here. 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.
Insider tip: Half an hour down the coast, you’ll 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.
San Lorenzo Beach, Italy
Best for: an easy beach day out
As if the golden UNESCO town of Noto in Sicily weren’t charming enough, you have San Lorenzo beach a mere hop-skip away along the coast. This long beach runs along the southern coast of the island, with fine sand and warm, translucent shallows. You have to time your visit right here because it’s a popular spot (get in early at the weekends). But it benefits from great facilities, including several bars, restaurants, boat rental shacks and the ever-popular Italian parasol pitches for hire. A top option for all-in-one beach brilliance.
Insider tip: After a long day at the beach, an aperitif back in Noto is practically mandatory. Grab an aperol spritz and soak in the town’s incredible architecture, from striking Baroque facades to honey-coloured alleyways and more.
Ngapali beach, Myanmar
Best for: off-radar beauty
South-East Asia does a fine line in beautiful beaches, but Ngapali is a more remote option than most. Nestled on Myanmar’s western coastline, beyond a mountain range, it sits in a quiet valley slightly apart from the rest of the country. Although it’s grown in popularity in recent years, this is still an incredibly peaceful place to be: you join can local families in strolling along the beach, watch cockle pickers out on the bay or load up on incredible (and cheap) seafood in the one-time sleepy fishing village. Fresh coconut juice under a palapa-thatched beach hut is practically a rite of passage here.
Insider tip: There are some beautiful offshore islands around Ngapali, so it may be worth hiring a local boat for a mosey about. On Flash Pack’s trip, you can get to know the rest of the country in more detail, including hiking, elephant bathing and boating on Inle Lake.
Isla del Sol beach, Bolivia
Best for: spectacular sunrises
Nestled by Bolivia’s mesmerising Lake Titicaca, Isla del Sol is etched with ancient Incan wonders, including 80 ruins from a pre-Columbian age. The sandy beach by Cha’lla, on the eastern coast, is accessed via a rambling network of rocky paths. It’s a beautiful place, full of solitude and with a rich sense of history lingering all around. As the name suggests, Isla del Sol is said to be the birthplace of the mighty Inca Sun God; and the sunrises and sunsets here are worth the trip alone. Facilities on the island are pretty basic, but the experience more than makes up for it.
Insider tip: While you’re in Bolivia, don’t miss a trip to Uyuni, home to the world’s largest salt plain. A jeep safari across the vast flats at sunset will stay with you forever.
Whitehaven beach, Australia
Best for: A bucket list hit
Anywhere that’s accessed by boat, seaplane or helicopter only is bound to be good, and this gem on the Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Queensland in Australia does not disappoint. Whitehaven Beach appears straight out a holiday catalogue, with over seven kilometres of pure white silica sand spooling out onto the horizon. This pristine stretch of beach in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef is often voted the best in the world, and a short walk to the lookout point at Hill Inlet will give you jaw-dropping views of the swirling colours of sand and water – a sight so idyllic, you won’t even believe it’s real until you go.
Insider tip: Explore the hidden nooks of the Whitsunday Islands on a day-long yacht trip (hello #lifegoals), then hop on a catamaran for world-class snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
Paraiso beach, Cuba
Best for: Caribbean dreaming
The aptly named Paradise Beach lies on Cuba’s Cayo Largo, 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 in. 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 you may even spot a turtle (Cayo Largo’s turtle conservation programme is well-respected, making it a haven for sea turtles).
Insider tip: Once you’ve had your fill of the barefoot lifestyle, head for party time in Havana. With Flash Pack for company, you can learn how to salsa, rustle up flavour-packed cocktails and cruise the picturesque Old Town in a classic convertible car.
Images: Flash Pack, Shutterstock, Unsplash