Want to avoid resort areas that are crowded, expensive, and overly manicured? Get back to nature by visiting the world’s most beautiful, off-the-beaten path beaches.
Picture this: You're on a beach vacation, trying to find the perfect spot on the sand to lay your towel, but sweaty bodies and umbrellas take up every available inch of space. On top of that, each frozen margarita at the snack bar sets you back $15 and the boardwalk area has been taken over by loud, carnival-style games. Beach resorts like these can leave you feeling overwhelmed, rather than relaxed—they can also empty your wallet!
If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, heading to a wild, secret beach may be more your speed. There, you can practically have the sand all to yourself and experience nature at its finest. Boom boxes won't interrupt the gentle roll of the tide, imported white sand won't cover up the beach's gorgeous array of shells and rocks and you won't get sucked into buying a silly t-shirt or ice cream cone you didn’t really want.
Pack your beach tote or duffle bag and check out these three international beach destinations that'll completely renew your love of the outdoors.
1. Muriwai Beach, New Zealand
When traveling to the Auckland area on New Zealand’s North Island, most tourists flock to the popular Piha Beach. Skip it and drive an hour north to the more isolated Muriwai Beach where you’ll encounter beautiful black sand (caused by iron from now-dormant volcanoes) and a rugged seashore. Here, you can paraglide or hang glide, hike trails, bike, ride horses, and harvest green lip mussels. Into bird watching? Of all the beaches in New Zealand, this one has the largest colony of gannets (sea birds). The best time to see them is between October and February, which are also the warmest months.
2. Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
You'll feel like a true insider after visiting this secret beach area on the coast of Uruguay, because it's located over a series of dunes and can be accessed only by four-wheel drive trucks, by horse, or by walking 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers). Since it's so hard to get to, you'll want to stay in a bungalow for at least a night or two. Just be prepared to rough it, because you're so far off the beaten track that you're unlikely to have running water or electricity (a good excuse to unplug!).
For grub: There are a few restaurants and a small grocery store. In terms of activities, windsurfing is particularly popular on this remote, undeveloped beach. Go between September and January when the temperatures are warmer and you'll be able to spot sea lions and seals. If your smartphone has any remaining battery life, take a selfie in front of the stunning lighthouse.
3. Phu Quoc Island: Vietnam
This quiet island, which is perfect for scuba diving or snorkeling, is 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the mainland of Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand's turquoise water. You can visit by air or by sea any time of year, though peak season is from November to March. Don't miss the pristine Bai Sao beach on the southeastern coast and make sure you try a bowl of pho (noodle soup) from a street vendor for about $1.
Due to its hilly geography, Phu Quoc is sometimes called "the island of 99 mountains," so don’t forget to pack comfy shoes. While exploring the island, you'll find six small villages selling fruit and fresh seafood. It's common to see (and smell!) racks of drying anchovies, because that's the key ingredient that's used to make fish sauce, a product that Phu Quoc is famous for producing. You can also go on a wine tour and taste the local Rose Myrtle Fruit Wine, a sweet, violet-colored wine that has a blackcurrant flavor.
Keep in mind that this island may not be secluded for long—the Vietnamese government plans to make it more of a resort-style tourist destination by 2020.
Packing tip for all beaches: When you're done in the surf, toss your damp bathing suit into a Pack-It Clean Dirty Cube so it doesn't make your other items wet or smelly.
What's your favorite wild or secret beach? Tell us in the comments section, below!
Jane Bianchi is a freelance writer who has worked for a variety of national magazines, including Seventeen, Family Circle, and Good Housekeeping. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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