From far-flung destinations to sneaky alternatives—sometimes just a few miles away from touristy hotspots—we have composed a list of some of the world’s best and truly secret (..shh!) beaches.
Whether you’re after the majestic or the understated, there are some stunning secret beaches that mass tourism has yet to conquer. Take a look through our top 8, complete with travel guides, to help you hunt out your own private stretch of paradise.
Credit: Diego Delso
If you’re after a twist on a traditional beach retreat, then a trip to the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, offers that and so much more. Truly unique, if you visit the Galapagos, you’ll have to also revisit all that you imagine a beach can be. Forget the clichés, there are beaches with green sand, red sand, and where friendly animals—from pelicans to penguins—roam freely. Find deserted white sand beaches, calm and quiet, as well as black lava coves, wild and rugged.
There are so many incredible beaches to choose from, but at the top of our list would be Puerto Ayora: two miles of white sand beach, lined by mangroves and Manzanillo trees. You won’t be completely alone, however, as some of the Galapagos' best known residents also like to find a good spot on the sand, including marine iguanas, ghost crabs and turtles.
Part of the Galapagos National Park, this beach is free of any kind of any development or construction, although there is a convenient ecological toilet and park ranger hut. Safe, calm, and clean, enjoy a picnic and spend time snorkeling in the crystal clear water. Right behind the beach is a large lagoon, home to nesting seabirds and pink flamingos. From Puerto Ayora you can also head off and explore some of the island’s other hidden beaches.
The only way to get to the Galapagos Islands is to fly in from Ecuador, from one of the two cities with airports that fly to the islands: Quito and Guayaquil. All flights are with either Avianca, TAME, or LATAM, and land on either Baltra Island, just north of Santa Cruz, or on San Cristóbal Island.
Top Tip: Despite what might be suggested when you research a trip to the Galapagos, you do not need to join cruise ship or tour group to explore the enchanting islands, especially if your aim is to escape the crowds. Let us introduce you to Emetebe Airlines, a small airline that revolutionised island travel by offering affordable short-haul transfer between the Galapagos Isles. You can book your Emetebe flights easily through Alternative Airlines and experience the islands from above...just remember your camera!
For our next beach, there’s no need to bring your towel, it’s unlikely you’ll be tempted to stretch out on the shingle, but if you prefer seclusion to sand, this is the beach for you. If it’s real solitude you’re after, then here are some facts that might appeal: Alaska’s coastline covers 6,640 miles—that’s longer than the combined total of the USA’s other 49 states—and when you include Alaska’s beautiful islands, that figure increases to a whopping 33,904 miles of coastline.
There is no need to travel far from Alaska’s capital, Juneau, to get a taste of all that the magnificent State has to offer. Just a 30 minute drive from the capital, Eagle Beach—often more eagle than beach—is aptly named. The long stretch of sand and shingle is part of the Juneau State recreation area, and boasts incredibly scenic views of glaciers, the Lynn Fjord, and Juneau Area Mountains.
The gently sloping shore was caused by glacial runoff and it’s the result of this formation that makes Eagle Beach is one of the best places to see bald eagles. The majestic birds-of-prey perch in the low-hanging branches of trees and on rocks, patiently waiting to hunt the washed up salmon during low tide. It’s not just the eagles that you can hope to glimpse: there are also seals in mouth of Eagle River, which has carved its way through the beach to sea, and whales are also frequently seen in the nearby ocean.
Best of all, this beach contributes to such a vast stretch of coast that it never gets busy, even if you visit during peak periods. Bring your camera, take a hike along the spectacular shoreline, and absorb the imposing landscape.
Top tip: Visit during the summer, when the salmon are returning to their spawning grounds and the bald eagles are plentiful.
Eagle Beach is only accessible by private or rental car, by driving north of Juneau along the Glacier Highway.
You can travel to Juneau easily, as numerous airlines fly from all over the world to Juneau International Airport, including some of the biggest names in aviation: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.
Travelling to Alaska from another State within the United State? Check out our guide to domestic air travel within the USA.
Encircled by the island paradise of Thailand and coast-heavy Vietnam, when it comes to beaches in South East Asia, Cambodia is often overlooked. When landing in Cambodia, tourists tend to beeline towards Siem Reap—because how can watching the sun slowly rise over Angkor Wat not be on your bucket list—and after a few days exploring Phnom Penh, a week has slipped by without time to even consider heading to the sea. But, if time is on your side, venture on and discover another side to Cambodia.
The island of Koh Rong, just off the coast of Sihanoukville, has a big reputation as a party island, but if it’s seclusion you’re after then navigate yourself to the island’s quieter west side. Lazy Beach sits alone in a small bay, completely surrounded by jungle. You’ll find the beach completely lives up to all that its name suggests: relax on soft golden sand, enjoy magnificent sunsets and take some time to lose yourself in tropical island life.
The island is also known for its abundance of healthy coral reefs, teaming with underwater wildlife. Spend hours snorkelling, straight off the beach. If that isn't enough, pick up a boat tour to each end of the bay and discover two of Cambodia’s best diving sites!
The great stretch of beach is not completely devoid of human inhabitants and you’ll find an unemposing yet perfectly established resort, bar, and tropical bungalows, built in a traditional style with straw roofs and hammocks. What better location for a quiet retreat.
Top Tip: Cambodia features in our blog as one the cheapest countries in Southeast Asia
To get to Koh Rong island, catch a ferry over from Sihanoukville, which takes about 45 minutes. Airlines that fly direct to Sihanoukville International Airport include China Southern, Emirates, and China Eastern. Or, catch a domestic flight from Cambodia’s capital, departing from Phnom Penh Airport, to Sihanoukville with Lanmei Airlines.
Scotland has over 800 glorious islands, each with its own character, so it can be hard to choose which ones to visit. We have chosen Scotland’s seventh largest island, Arran, which can be accurately hailed as ‘Scotland in miniature’. This island really does have it all: three historic castles, each dating back to the 13th century, ancient stone circles and dramatic cliffside caves. Arran is also home to a spectacular array of beaches.
Head to Kildonan, which could easily rank as one of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches. Kildonan is actually the name of the small village on Arran’s south coast; Silver Sands is the local name for the beach, which runs the stretch of the village. Silver Sands is a quiet local’s beach that overlooks the small island of Pladda and offers clean blue water as well as large colonies of grey seal, which like to bask on the rocks. With local pubs nearby, Kildonan is an ideal location for camping.
If you’re up for a little more adventure, Arran hides many sleepy coastal nooks. Head to the village of Lagg, to the south of the island, and pick up a trail that takes you to the ancient burial cairn of Torrylin. Venture on, over gently sweeping green fields, to the secret sands of Torrylin Beach. Despite the picturesque views, it’s likely you’ll not come across another soul.
Next, call in at Sannox, to the Northeast of the island, a quaint village which gets its name from the one the Vikings gave to the area: ‘Sandvik’, which means ‘the Sandy Bay’. From the village, you’ll need to take a short walk through woodland, hop across stepping stones and push on over gentle sandy dunes to reach the beach, which is extra special due to its unique pink sand and striking mountainous backdrop.
The island of Arran is only accessible by ferry, from two ports: Ardrossan and Claonaig/Tarbert. Sailing from Ardrossan to Brodick, on Scotland’s mainland, takes approximately 55 minutes and is the most popular option as the transfer can be pre-booked.
The Nearest Airport is Glasgow International Airport and Glasgow Prestwick Airport. Many airlines fly direct to Glasgow from all over the world, including American Airlines, Emirates, KLM, Etihad Airways, and United Airlines.
Credit: Paula Salgado
For travellers seeking an exotic beach experience, Brazil is the destination for you. Boasting some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a trip to Brazil means you can also enjoy the county’s vibrant music, dance culture and excellent cuisine.
In 2010, Vogue magazine ranked Lopes Mendes beach as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Situated on Ilha Grande, a majestic and beautiful island just off Brazil's Costa Verde, Lopes Mendes can accurately be described as paradise. Lined with palm trees, imagine almost 2 miles (3km) of the finest sand, stretching out to calm and crystalline blue water — locals say that the sand is so soft and fine that you'd think you were walking on pure white flour.
Facing the Pacific ocean, and seemingly unending, the beach is also wild, untouched and isolated, surrounded by hilly terrain: to the left is Morro dos Castelhanos, 350m high, and to the right, Morro do Ferreira, with 760m of altitude. There isn’t a hotel, restaurant or even kiosk in sight. Access is difficult enough that the beach tends to remain deserted; with soft shade offered by the palm trees, the beach promises some serious seclusion. The perfect place to unwind.
The only way to access the beach is by hiking, along Ilha Grande’s most popular walking trail. Starting at the eastern end of Abraão town’s beach, the trek is 6km and should take a couple of hours each way. Most of the island is state park and the hiking trail is clearly marked. You’ll traverse through rainforested jungle and over hilly inclines. On the way to Lopes Mendes, you’ll also pass two other spectacular beaches, which could also easily be included on the list of top beaches in the world: the first beach is Praia Das Palmas, followed by Praia dos Mangues.
Alternatively, you can actually skip a big portion of the hike and catch a water taxi between Praia das Mangues beach and Abraão; from Praia das Mangues the walk to Lopes Mendes is only 15 minutes. The water taxis aren’t able to go to Lopes Mendes beach, because the open ocean makes it too difficult for passengers to board—in many ways this is lucky as it helps to keep the beach quiet.
Top Tip: Brazil is a popular destination for solo travellers, and Lopes Mendes beach is ideal—local hostels have a great reputation for keeping an eye out for solo adventurers. For more advice about travelling solo, check out our blog.
The island of Ilha Grande is roughly 90 miles off the coast from the city of Rio de Janeiro. The cheapest option to get to the island from the city to take a local bus and public ferry. Otherwise, boat transfers from Rio operate daily.
Credit: Christian Frausto Bernal
The true name for The Hidden Beach, also referred to as the Beach of Love, is Playa del Amor. The beach can be found on one of the islands that make up the Marietas Islands National Park, a small archipelago of islands located offshore from Banderas Bay, Mexico.
The beach is a natural wonder and really must be seen to be believed. Picture a pristine sandy beach, slipping gently into the brilliant crystal-blue waters of the Pacific ocean. Now, imagine that beach within a cave, enclosed on all sides except for the roof, and only accessible during low-tide, through a low water tunnel that must be swum or kayaked. Stretch out on the sand and let the sun stream in through the vegetation-lined cave roof. The hidden beach is a private oasis of calm, tucked, literally, inside a luscious tropical island; an absolute paradise for dreamers and lovers alike.
The violent volcanic history of the area wasn't the only contributor to the incredibly unusual rock formations within the island archipelago: having had no permanent inhabitants, the islands were used for bomb testing in the first half of the 20th century. It was likely one of these bombs which ripped through the roof of the once-cave, opening Playa del Amor up to the sky.
In the 1960s, scientist Jacques Cousteau started protesting against the destruction of the island’s precious ecosystem, but it wasn't until 2005 that the islands were designated a protected national park. Since then, flora and fauna have begun to flourish once again. And so has the reputation of the islands, which have become a popular destination for whale watching and snorkelling. Today, The Hidden Beach might not be the secret it once—at one point hundreds of tourists were causing daily traffic jams through the small entrance. Today, only 120 people are allowed to visit the beach each day, and only with a proper permit, which is how you can ensure you’ll have your moment of peace.
Travellers must get from Puerto Vallarta, a resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, to the Marieta Islands via an organised boat tour. The journey takes approximately an hour and includes stopping at other popular locations amongst the island archipelago.
The closest airports are Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport, about 19 miles away, and Tepic airport, about 60 miles away. Fly into these airports on international airlines including Aeroméxico, Air Canada, American Airlines, TUI Airways, Interjet, and Calafia.
The stunning Greek Islands are well noted. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find peace in Greece during the warm summer months. So, if you’re looking for an alternative to the touristy hotspots, we propose staying on mainland Greece...let us introduce you to the Mani Peninsula, a little known gem along Greece’s east coast.
Mаni—also known by its medieval name Main—has roots back to the Spartans and is like nowhere else in Grеесе: geographically and culturally rich, you’ll be enchanted by the unique Mаniοt style and imposing stone towers of the region’s medieval strongholds. Head to Skoutara and discover a quiet coastal village that hides a local’s secret.
Skoutari is home to three little beaches and coves, which might not offer the biggest stretch of sand, but totally make up in beauty and sheer character. Agia Vаrvara is the first beach, which takes its name from the classic little domed Greek church, calmly settled on the sand and overlooking the sea. With a traditional whitewashed taverna, this charming beach is picture postcard perfect.
Deeply set within the curved bay of Sloutari, Agia Vаrvara is perfectly sheltered, and the blue flag beach is an ideal location for families: the water is shallow, clear and clean. Sit at one of the taverna’s brilliant blue tables; lie back and relax in a sunbed; or float with a book in the warm emerald water and take in the stunning mountainous landscape of the mainland. Best of all, this little stretch of heaven is remote enough that it remains quiet and serene.
Top tip: The coastline feels natural and unspoilt, but accommodation options are plentiful and there are numerous hotels and tavernas nearby.
Fly direct to Athens on airlines including Aegean, British Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Ryanair, Emirates, JetBlue, and Air France. To reach Skoutari, you’ll need to hire a car and head south, a journey that will take up to four hours from Athens.
The East African country of Tanzania is known for its vast Serengeti plains, the great peak of Kilimanjaro, and its ‘big five’ safari game. For our last beach, you’ll need to head to Unguja, commonly referred to as Zanzibar island, just off the coast of Tanzania.
Zanzibar is rich in Arabian and Indian influence, with a trading history dating back 2,000 years. You could easily get lost wandering the narrow alleys of Stone Town, the oldest quarter of Zanzibar City and a World Heritage Site, and admiring the intricately carved doorways. But you’ll need to head out of town, out through spice plantations growing cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, and along the east coast of the island.
You’ll be heading for Pwani Mchangani, on the north-eastern edge of the island. Zanzibar is an absolute paradise and a mecca for honeymooners, but Pwani Mchangani, named after a nearby fishing village, has managed to avoid most of this paraphernalia.
The true secret of the beach is revealed when the tide begins to recede: miles and miles of soft white sand, stretching out into turquoise waters. The constant sea breeze means the sky remains clear, making the beach the perfect spot to absorb the beautiful colours of the sunset, as traditional dhows set sail into the distance. This stretch of coast is also abundant with healthy offshore reefs systems, another ideal spot for snorkeling.
Top Tip: Zanzibar offers excellent value for money, and is ideal to combine with time appreciating Africa's wildlife on safari. If you do plan on heading off on a Safari, check out our guide to Safari Flights.
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