Part two of our search for the world’s most beautiful beaches visits the continents of Asia and North/Central America – digging out some absolute stunners.
The largest continent in the world offers a cracking beach or two, often shaped by the unique cultures of the enigmatic host countries.
Ngapali Beach – Myanmar
A 15-mile-long stretch of golden sand hugging crystal clear water; Ngapali Beach is Myanmar’s premier beach resort. Ngapali has been carefully preserved to ensure it retains a charming fishing village vibe, despite the huge construction boom in the region.
A wonderfully laid-back part of the world, life in Ngapali chiefly revolves around doing as little as possible in the day, then going to bed nice and early at night.
Phra Nang Beach – Rai Leh, Thailand
Perched next to the calm lapping tides and golden sands of Phra Nang Beach sits Princess Cave. Fisherman legend has it that a mythical sea princess resides in this cave, bestowing good maritime fortune to those who make offerings of the symbolic Phallus of Shiva (they’re basically big carved willies). Aside from legend, the beach is wonderfully secluded, thanks to the imposed restriction on new developments.
Hamdeok Beach – Jeju, South Korea
Famed for its shallow, clear blue waters; Hamdeok Beach is widely regarded as South Korea’s finest beach. Paired with the wonderful red lighthouse and carved sculptures, Hamdeok Beach is the perfect family retreat when visiting Jeju city.
Sihanoukville – Cambodia
Wonderfully quiet, simplistically beautiful and unashamedly tropical; Sihanoukville in Cambodia is the quintessential paradise retreat. Complete with waters so clear you’ll see your shadow mirroring your breaststroke in the sea and sands so warm and soft, you’ll never want to stop running your fingers through the beach’s surface. And the enigmatic local late night market with wonderful food and live music is a great retreat when the sun sets.
Cua Can Beach – Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Protected from the inland of Vietnam by a dense jungle backdrop, Cua Can is an isolated and endlessly beautiful stretch of beach. The tropical palm tree-dotted beach opens up below a seemingly omnipresent blue sky, whilst the gentle aquamarine water laps at the shore.
Monkey Bay – Tioman Island, Malaysia
Accessible via speedboat or jungle trek; Monkey Bay possesses an air of exclusivity. The small sandy bay on Tioman Island is well worth the effort though, possessing a beautiful beach complemented by calm waters. And as the name suggests, from time-to-time monkeys will make their way to the beach to catch a few rays.
White Beach – Boracay, Philippines
Two miles of sparkling white sand give this wonderful beach its name and an appearance of Caribbean paradise. With hotels and apartments appearing out of the palm tree overgrowth, overlooking the sands, the beach possesses an other-worldly quality. And couples rejoice, the most romantic of all pastimes can be enjoyed on White Beach – horse riding through the surf.
Balangan Beach – Bukit, Bali
Well off the beaten track, Bukit is a true hidden gem of Bali – consisting entirely of a limestone peninsula. But it possesses one of Asia’s most stunning natural features – Balangan Beach, perfect for relaxing in the sand or water.
Akajima – Okinawa, Japan
Surrounded by stunning coral reefs, Akajima has proven itself to be a hugely popular draw for divers looking to explore the amazing offerings of the sea floor. The colourful subtropical fish and humpback whales (who appear between late December and April for mating season) make Akajima a great beach location for those looking to spot interesting wildlife.
Mandrem Beach – Goa
Peaceful and secluded; Mandrem Beach is the pick of the bunch in Goa, the Indian state boasting one of the world’s most stunning coastlines. There isn’t a great deal to do in Mandrem – perfect for those who just want to escape the breakneck speed of daily life and truly relax. Especially popular amongst honeymooners.
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North & Central America
Don’t be put off by the massively packed beaches of North America’s tourist traps, the nation boasts some unspoiled stunners.
Siesta Beach – Florida, USA
The perfectly named Siesta Beach in Florida has plenty of competition in the Sunshine State for the title of best beach, but with miles of superfine white sand this is the place to top off your tan if you’ve pulled into Miami or Port Everglades. There’s no shortage of things to do in Florida, but a visit to this charming seaside location should be well up the list.
Tobacco Beach – Bermuda
Named for the now-defunct practice of drying tobacco on the sand, Tobacco Beach is a wonderful spot for relaxing and snorkelling. Thanks to the jagged limestone rocks separating the ocean from the bay, the sea is wonderfully shallow, perfect for a little underwater exploration. The nearby Blackbeard Beach House is one of the best spots in the Americas to watch the sun set with a cocktail in hand.
Zihuatanejo Beach – Mexico
Best known as the paradise beach location where Andy wishes to live upon escaping prison in Shawshank Redemption, Zihuatanejo is a delightful retreat escaping the trappings of some of Mexico’s more popular beaches. The long stretch of sand is often underpopulated, meaning you can pitch down your towel, spread out and relax.
Placencia Peninsula – Belize
Stretching unspoiled across three sleepy villages, Placencia Peninsula offers jaw-dropping views for miles on end. The popular beach location benefits from a selection of wonderful restaurant offerings, accommodation and trendy bars – great if you’ve got a couple of days to spend in beautiful Belize.
Playa Avellino – Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Paradise for surfers, the waves off the shore of Playa Avellino can reach an impressive 18 feet. Experienced wave riders the world over regard this beach in high regard, testing their mettle in the waters. The year round sun and golden beach provide the perfect setting for sitting back, catching a few rays and watching the surfers hang ten and wipe out.
Monterrico Beach – Guatemala
One of the more unique entries on this list, Monterrico Beach is a dramatic bay personified by startlingly powerful waves crashing into the black volcanic sand. Whilst it may not be the best beach for sunbathing and swimming, it’s truly a breath-taking spectacle – like much of the Guatemalan landscape dominated by volcanoes, swamps and tropical plant life.
Los Cobanos – El Salvador
Traditionally a small fishing village, Los Cobanos has evolved into a popular spot for snorkelers and beach bums. Complete with shipwrecks, coral reefs and an impressive marine life selection; Los Cobanos’ beach now somewhat resembles the bottom of a fish tank.
West Bay Beach – Roatan, Honduras
Home to the world’s second largest coral reef, West Bay Beach on the Honduran island of Roatan has rightly earned accolades for its outstanding beauty. Popular with swimmers, snorkelers and those who wish to do as little as possible, West Bay Beach boasts a long expanse of sand set against a natural backdrop which has escaped the ravages of over-development.
Azuero Sunset Coast – Panama
With basic infrastructure and minimal interruption, the Azuero Sunset Coast is the perfect beach location for those looking to escape the crowds. Rolling hills, rugged cliffs and inviting coves surround the charming sandy beaches which punctuate the coastline. There’s a decent chance you’ll get a stretch of beach to yourself as you dip your toes in the warm waters.
San Juan Del Sur – Nicaragua
With a selection of very affordable bars (serving very delicious cocktails) and the world’s second largest statue of Jesus in the world providing the backdrop; San Juan Del Sur is unlike any other beach destination in the world. The crescent of beach is lapped by pleasing warm waters – great for a quick dip or beginner surfing lessons.
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Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Stefan Fussan, Mark Fischer, Damien @ Flickr, Peter Gronemann, Nate Robert, Simon Alexander Jacob, Garden State Hiker, Glen Murphy, Walter Rodriguez, SNORKELINGDIVES.COM, Bruce Thomson