March 08, 2016 5 min read
Are you a fan of gorgeous beaches, but hate when you have to share them with hundreds of people, or worse, pay a few Euros simply to rent a beach chair on the packed shoreline? If you’re aching for gorgeous but lesser-known beaches for some great alternatives to the usual favorites, you’ve come to the right place.
While most of these beaches are lesser known because they’re either a bit tougher to get to than their more popular counterparts, or simply don’t offer up luxury digs, they are mostly pristine, still retain a nice local culture, and best of all, you can get them all to yourself.
So pull up a beach blanket and sun hat, and prepare to kick back somewhere new while everyone else goes to the same old places:
Tip of Borneo, Sabah, MalaysiaClose to the town of Kudat, the Tip of Borneo in the Malaysian state of Sabah is a white sand-lover’s dream. The water is crystal clear, the waves are small, the temperature is that of bath water and even better, it’s more or less deserted on a typical day. Purple flowers and small pine trees line the beach and it’s so peaceful, you can just soak in the sun and relax all day.
The beach only has a few modest guesthouses run by incredibly friendly staff. The accommodation options are basic, the Wi-Fi doesn’t work, and neither does the A/C, but that’s part of the beauty of it and a partial reason why the crowds have more or less failed to discover it.
Getting there: Fly to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, and you can either hire a motorbike or take a bus to Kudat where it’s possible to hire a taxi, usually by motorbike, to the beach.
Vilanculos, MozambiqueIf you love warm water and SCUBA diving, then you’re going to love Vilanculos. Sitting north of the more famous beach spot in Mozambique, Tofo. Vilanculos has a unique beauty thanks to the varying colors of the water and the sand bars that pop up everywhere when the tide goes out. It’s a bit harder to get to than Tofo, and that’s why it has fewer tourists, but truth be told, it’s much more beautiful.
The town is pretty sleepy, the beaches are quiet and more or less devoid of tourists, and everything moves a bit slowly. A private bungalow is as cheap as $20 per night, and the seafood is top-notch. For those who love some spice, order the piri piri prawns!
Getting there: Vilanculos has an airport that is accessible via direct flight from Johannesburg in South Africa or Maputo, the capitol of Mozambique, via South African Airways or the local LAM airline. It’s also possible to drive to Vilanculos, or take a mini bus, but that will take days from Maputo and will be very overcrowded.
Kande Beach, Lake MalawiThough Lake Malawi isn’t the typical salty body of water one expects from a ‘beach’ place, the sheer size of it means some serious waves, a strong current, and the feeling of standing at the ocean even though there’s another shore far, far away on the other side somewhere.
Part of what makes Malawi so wonderful is the locals, and Kande Beach is not only peaceful, but it’s got a great little bar and backpackers where you can camp or rent out a dorm bed or single room. Ask the locals to cook up some fresh fish for dinner and visit the local village for a peek into daily life of the locals there, who are sure to ask you to take their photo.
Getting there: The best method is to take a car, though one can also take a series of crowded minibuses from the nearest big town, Lilongwe.
Tonsai, ThailandWhile Tonsai might be the most known beach on this list, it’s still flying below the major tourism radar as compared to the rest of Thailand. Tonsai is loved by rock climbers and slack-line walkers and retains a chill vibe, with plenty of open-air bars and coffee shacks as well as reggae tunes playing at any given time.
Most of the accommodation is in pretty basic, one-room bamboo huts, but if you like something fancier, the beach recently became home to a resort with air-conditioned rooms and Railay beach to its left has plenty of more up-scale accommodation, and is only a little climb through the jungle away.
Getting there: Take a long-tail boat taxi from Krabi. They depart when full all throughout the day. Krabi is easy to access via bus from Phuket.
Mad River Beach, CaliforniaHumboldt County is located in the way north of California in an area known as the ‘Lost Coast.’ It’s so-named because as compared to the rest of California, it’s sparsely populated and much less known. As a result, the area receives fewer tourists though it is located on California’s Pacific Coast Highway and is a great addition to the road trip itinerary. Most of the beaches are absolutely gorgeous but almost nobody but the locals know about them.
Mad River Beach in particular enjoys some epic sunsets and has fewer visitors than nearby Moonstone Beach, which is also spectacular. Though the water is a bit too cold to swim in, the beach is great for bonfires and star-gazing.
Getting There: The only way is to take a car or bicycle from the nearby town of Arcata. Find it here on Google Maps.
Mdumbi, South AfricaThough close to a backpacker favorite, Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast in South Africa, Mdumbi is a surfer’s paradise with fewer visitors but equally lovely rolling hills all along the seashore. Walk for about 9km and you can get to Coffee Bay, or another nine and you’ll find yourself at the famous hole in the wall in the ocean.
Located close to where Nelson Mandela was born, Mdumbi is quite different to the more popular Garden Route, which has a more European feel. The Wild Coast, on the other hand, is still rugged, more natural, and more local.
Getting there: Take your feet from Coffee Bay, a rental car, or the Baz Bus directly to the doors of Mdumbi’s Backpackers.
Though they may require a bit more effort to reach and be farther from home than the beaches of Mexico or Portugal, the above spots are all unique and offer their own special beauty. Visit them now, before the word gets out!
Kristin Addis is the solo female traveler behind BeMyTravelMuse.com, a website for off the beaten path adventures! She is also the author of solo female traveler guidebook, Conquering Mountains and How to Solo Travel the World Fearlessly.
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