Image: Sri Lanka's Amanwella beach
Amanwella beach in Sri Lanka is secluded and offers enough waves during the summer months to satiate most surfers.
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updated 6/18/2007 12:43:02 PM ET 2007-06-18T16:43:02

"The beach was crowded/people tossed like ripe corn/buttering themselves as they went."

The poet Anne Sexton (1928-1974) wrote those words. But they could easily fill the back of a postcard sent by the millions who spend their summer vacations at the shore. Let's not forget the fun of getting there: the kickboxing matches in the back seat, and your car's awesome contribution to global warming in the crawl of traffic.

There are alternatives — stretches of sand where you may not see anyone else for miles; where you can swim with green turtles; or where you can pick a mango from a tree and wash yourself off in the purest of waterfalls. A little piece of nirvana can be had in Florida and California, or in Fiji and Sri Lanka.

"Even with something as sublime as a beach vacation, people today want a flavor of culture. They want to know that they're in a foreign country," says Terry McCabe, an islands specialist at Altour International in Fair Lawn, N.J. "It's the antithesis of what it used to be say five or 10 years ago."

Why? According to McCabe, travelers today are more sophisticated and are willing to spend more time and money.

Secluded spots
For a melange of exotic culture and undiscovered coastline, McCabe suggests heading to Quilalea Island off the coast of Mozambique in east Africa. The calm waters and coral reefs are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving in an underwater jungle of ribbon eels, nudibranches and pipefish.

Stay in one of the nine villas at the Quilalea Resort right on the island. Sit in furniture crafted from indigenous teak and mahogany and gawk at panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. Some of the best sightseeing can be found on Mozambique Island just off the mainland. This was once the capital of Portugal's East African colony, and offers an array of mosques and churches.

For swimsuit model Cristiane Cavalcante, there's no better getaway than the beaches of Paraty in her native Brazil, some 125 miles southeast of Rio.

"A lot of beaches are pretty but there is not much around them," she says. Paraty is surrounded by the rainforest and the mountains of Serra do Mar. The rich marine life includes sea cucumbers and colorful, striped Sergeant Major.

Image: Hanalei Bay Beach
Hanalei Bay Beach on the North Shore of Kauai is a great spot for swimming and snorkeling, and offers nearby trails along the Na Pali coast for hiking.
Cavalcante suggests booking accommodations at the Pousada do Ouro, a 26-room property in the town of Paraty that has played host to Mick Jagger and Tom Cruise.

Or, head off in a different direction to Fiji and live it up on one of the 11 beaches on Yasawa Island. Natalie Golonka, designer of Junglegurl Swimwear, a line sold at high-end boutiques like Fred Segal in Los Angeles and Atrium in New York City, lived near this island while growing up. There are great places to walk, swim, surf, take horseback rides, go spelunking.

Luckily, the only place to stay on this island is also a nice one. The Yasawa Island Resort consists of individual beach huts with thatched roofs, traditional art, open air showers and a hammock strung between two palm trees. The Baravi spa here has exotic treatments like the warm banana leaf body pack.

Better yet, find a secluded spot with no footprints in the sand. "There is literally nothing here," she says. "Except for you, the beach, endless soft sand and the water."

Who can argue with that?

© 2012 Forbes.com

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