This is our favorite fantasy, and we bet you’ve had it a time or two as well: You’re walking through a forest, ducking under vines and minding the tree roots, when suddenly you emerge out into the sunlight on the edge of a perfect beach with soft, fine sand that gently descends into clear waters. You look left and right, and there’s not a soul in sight. Sigh. Places like this do exist, and we’ve found them for you: Some require a bit of a trek, others are like natural swimming pools, and at one the sand is likely mixed with Minoan archaeological ruins. So get out there, have a local draw you a map, and be one of the few whose daydreams are fulfilled.
Mahe Island, Seychelles
Across an archipelago of 115 islands, you’d better believe there are some beautiful beaches. Anse Takamaka, on the southwest coast of Mahe, the largest and most populated island of the Seychelles, is a beach backed by dense foliage. It slopes gently into the Indian Ocean, so you can walk out many yards and be no more than waist deep.
Easter Island, Chile
This island in the South Pacific is known for its moai, large stone statues carved in the shape of human heads, but we love it for Ovahe Beach, a pink-sand oasis on the north shore about 15 minutes from the village of Hanga Roa.
Rodrigues Island, Mauritius
To reach the edge of exotic, first consider the Indian Ocean. Now envision Mauritius (of dodo-bird notoriety), and then push it one step further to Rodrigues Island. Rodrigues has many beaches, but when you come across Trou d’Argent, a narrow strip wedged between two rocky cliffs on the east coast, you’ll know you’ve arrived. Be prepared: It’s about an hour’s walk from the bay of St. Francois.
Harminder Bay Beach
Once you’ve secured your 30-day permit to visit the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, head straight for Harminder Bay on Little Andaman’s southeastern coast, right below Hut Bay. If you walk its smooth, sandy length, you might find blue coral washed ashore.
Ilha Grande, Brazil
Most people think, “Rio!” when they imagine Brazilian beaches. That’s why Lopes Mendes, a magnificent 1.8-mile arc, has flown under the radar. Ilha Grande is about a two-hour drive and then a one-hour boat ride from Rio, and Lopes Mendes, with its blindingly-white sands and extremely clear waters, makes it well worth the trip.
Foul Bay Beach
Somebody got it right: If you want a beach all to yourself, give it an ugly name. A few picnicking locals and some small fishing boats, which add to the ambience, are about all you’ll find on Foul Bay Beach, a long, wide swath just south of media-darling Crane Beach on the island’s southeastern coast.
Grass Cay and Mingo Cay
U.S. Virgin Islands
Ten minutes by boat off the east coast of St. Thomas, Grass Cay and Mingo Cay come together head-to-tail, creating a gauntlet of beach. Slide into the bath-warm water to dive or snorkel the surrounding reed, which has huge coral heads and large sea fans.
The biggest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Middle Caicos has a north coast that is largely dominated by limestone cliffs and caves, one section of which cocoons Mudjin Harbor and its gorgeous beach. During low tide, walk the 100 yards from Mudjin across a sand spit to Dragon Cay, which has its own little beach.
Luis Pena Beach
Cayo de Luis Pena, Puerto Rico
Between Puerto Rico and Culebra, to its east, is Cayo de Luis Pena, a two-mile-long, uninhabited nature reserve you can access for day trips, though not for overnighters. This isla’s beach is on its north coast and is quite private due to the effort (mild, by water taxi) it takes to get there.
Leave the crowds at Grand Anse and drive five minutes south to Magazine Beach. Even though the popular open-air Aquarium Restaurant is nearby with great Carribean-fusion food, the beach is relatively uncrowded (except during Aquarium’s Sunday barbecue).
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The island itself, one of the Bay Islands (others include Roatan and Utila), has been called the Venice of the Caribbean because its main town, Bonacca, is laid out around canals. Guanaja’s north coast is decorated by its best beach, near The End of the World Resort, which only accommodates 12 guests.
From Mochlos, a fishing village in northeastern Crete, you can almost throw a stone to tiny Mochlos island just offshore (many people swim to it for fun). Mochlos the village has a small, quiet beach, as does Mochlos the island — and even better, the island is literally a mound of ruins, including Minoan, Hellenistic and Byzantine remains.
When visiting Bonifacio, on Corsica’s most southerly point, consider taking a day trip to the Lavezzi Isles, part of the Corsica Regional Nature Park. Boat tours are offered from the city’s marina. The marine park designation has kept these rocky islands and their many beaches undeveloped. Explore when you get there to choose the one that best suits your mood.
Ouvea, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia
A 20-mile stretch of palm-tree-studded sand can be found on the southeast coast of Ouvea island, 60 miles northeast of New Caledonia (which is east of Australia). A favorite of locals, the beach shares its name with the island’s main village.
Maupiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Maupiti, in the western Society Islands, could be a mini Bora-Bora, complete with serene lagoon and the towering peak of Mt. Hotu Paraoa, whose steep slopes drop straight down to the sea. Sitting on white-sand Tereia, located on the west coast, you’ll be sandwiched between these natural assets.
Fai Fai Beach
Channel you inner Crusoe and escape to Fai Fai Beach on Guam’s northwest coast. To get there, start at the slightly more popular Gun Beach and then walk across a cliff-side wooden walkway overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Once there, find shade under coconut trees or snorkel to see starfish and sea cucumbers.
Upolu, Samoa Islands
Just beyond Saanapu Village, on the south coast of Upolu, there’s a hidden cove where the rainforest meets the shore. Spend your days at the beach and your nights there, as well, at the Virgin Cove Resort, a collection of simple, open-air beach-side fales (traditional Samoan huts).
Between mile markers 88 and 89 on Highway 19 on the Big Island’s west coast, there lies an access road that will lead you to Makalawena, an often-deserted trio of crescent-shaped bays separated by black lava and white coral rocks. The salt-and-pepper-speckled sand comes from black and white coral bits, and the ocean here is calm.
We’re spilling the secret about this beach just past Kilauea on Kauai’s North Shore. Take the Kahili Road half a mile west of Kilauea and turn right on the first dirt road which ends at a parking area. A 10-minute hike down a rocky, brush-lined trail deposits you on its golden sand. Skip swimming (the surf is rough) and opt instead for a picnic lunch in view of the Kilauea Lighthouse, the northernmost point of the main Hawaiian Islands.
It’s not hard to find a secluded beach on Lanai, but Polihua, on the island’s northwest coast, is one of the most stunning. Once an abundant nesting site for honu (green sea turtles), Polihua is reachable only by 4WD through an ironwood forest and is not recommended for swimming, but you’ll want to walk the beach and look for the decorative Japanese glass fishing-net floats that sometimes wash ashore.
Hawaii’s largest white-sand beach, Papohaku stretches for three uninterrupted miles down Molokai’s west coast. It’s not uncommon early in the day to have an entire section all to yourself. Its beauty creates a fitting place for Molokai Ka Hula Piko, the island’s largest cultural festival, which celebrates the art of hula.
Bahia Honda Key, Florida
Surprisingly, the Florida Keys don’t have many beaches, but Bahia Honda is an exception. Within the Bahia Honda State Park, Sandspur Beach is long (about two miles), clean (other than some seaweed) and in close proximity to two other beaches (Calusa and Loggerhead), so spend the day beach hopping.
San Miguel, Channel Islands, California
Kayaking is a choice way to explore the Channel Islands, experiencing their dramatic natural beauty up close. The westernmost island, San Miguel — with two 800-foot hills covered in lupine, coastal sagebrush and poppies — is a four-hour ferry ride from Ventura. Cuyler Harbor, San Miguel’s 1.5-mile-long beach, is the perfect place to rest your paddle-weary arms.
Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts
Hitch a ride on a golf cart to the Cuttyhunk Yacht Club and then follow the sand road (pick a few wildflowers along the way) to Church’s beach. This west-facing strand is great for late-day rays and sunsets. Gentle waves make for good swimming. Build a castle from the golden sand and embellish the turrets with wildflowers.
Loh Samah Bay
Phi Phi Le, Thailand
Off the Malay Peninsula’s west coast, in the Andaman Sea, you’ll find the island chain of Ko Phi Phi. Best known is the inhabited island of Phi Phi Don, but we recommend uninhabited Phi Phi Le, which has bays dotted by limestone karsts. Loh Samah Bay, ticked into the south coast, is often overlooked.
At the northernmost point of Luzon island in the northern Philippines is Mayraira Point, where you’ll find a small, secluded cove of the same name. It’s also known as the Blue Lagoon for its stunningly blue pools of water.
This quarter-mile crescent of white sand on Bali’s east coast (near the town of Candidasa) is a peaceful respite from the tourist-packed and vendor-frequented sands of Kuta. There are only a couple of small shacks run by locals who sell fresh drinks and nasi goreng (fried rice).
Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Malaysian Boreo
A couple miles off Sarawak’s north coast is the five-island marine park of Tunku Abdul Rahman, chock-full of deserted beaches and patches of coral reef. The smallest of the five islands is Pulau Sulug, nothing more than a 20-acre mass of hilly land, rocky shoreline and a spit of white sand that juts east. Get to the park by a 20-minute boat ride from the Central Market Harbour jetty in north-coast Kota Kinabalu.
Magnetic Islands, Australia
Magnetic Island, off northern Queensland’s east coast, has 15 miles of walking tracks that lead through forests of hoop pine or eucalyptus (the island is two-thirds national park) to secluded bays. Walk along one of these or rent a Mini-Moke (beach buggy) to get to Balding Bay, a crescent-shaped beach surrounded by pines on Magnetic’s east coast.
Te Werahi Beach
North Island, New Zealand
According to Maori legend, the demo-god Maui pulled a giant fish out of the sea, and that fish became New Zealand’s North Island. If this is true, Cape Reinga, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the island’s northern tip, would be the fish’s tail. The cape is edged by the dunes of Te Werahi. Get to the beach by following the Te Werahi Gate/Twilight hiking trail down from Cape Reinga Road.
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