Pure white sand, backed by thick, lush forest, characterizes a string of gorgeous beaches running along a 370-km stretch of coast between Vasai and Vengurla. Hedvi, Velneshvar, Takarli, Harihareshwar and Ganpatipule, with its wonderful, red wooden 400-year-old temple, are among the delightful beaches awaiting the traveler ready to go the extra mile to find them. You can get to the coast from Mumbai by train or by air from Goa.
Reef snorkelling, horseriding, jungle trekking and viewing the forest canopy from a zip-wire, along with the usual beach activities such as surfing, are treats on offer in this fairly remote, far northern region of Costa Rica. The wildlife is extraordinary: half a million turtles lay their eggs on the sand at Ostional beach, every two or three weeks from August to November, and the forests are full of howler monkeys, anteaters, coatis, armadillos and an array of spectacular birds, including the Resplendent Quetzal, with its shimmering green plumage, scarlet belly, white tail feathers and green tail, the rare and rapacious Harpy Eagle and over 50 species of hummingbirds and 75 different flycatchers.
3. Koh Mak, Thailand
Palm trees and the clearest of waters along a stretch of shore 25km long, as well as peace and quiet away from the crowds, are what you can expect on Thailand’s so-called ‘family island’. Set in the Gulf of Thailand, a little less than 50 km from the Cambodian coast, it’s reachable by boat from Trat on the mainland. You can stay here in a bamboo hut, a guesthouse, a thatch and rattan cottage or a good, but budget-priced hotel, and with luck you’ll see no one on the bit of beach you choose.
4. Obzor, Bulgaria
The Black Sea coast of Bulgaria has taken off lately as a destination for beach tourists, and nice and clean the beaches are too. Crowded during high season, however, they may not appeal to those who want something more secluded, who may instead look to Obzor, roughly halfway between Bourgas and Varna, where the E87 highway emerges from forested hills into a brief, open coastal stretch. Despite its convenient location and 6-km-long sandy beach (the largest between Golden Sands and Sunny Beach), this remarkably pleasant spot can be almost yours for the taking, even during peak season.
Not a place for sunlovers, the remarkable, 10-km-long, black-sand beach at Vik was named one of the ten most beautiful beaches on Earth by Islands magazine in 1991. It is no less beautiful now, with its setting on the crisp-coloured south coast of Iceland, its bird visitors from a nearby colony and the Reynisdrangar, black lava columns sculpted by the sea, nicknamed The Three Trolls. The sea off this coast is rather wild and stormy: even in summer, it feels cold, it looks cold, it even sounds cold! But it is a marvel and a place of glorious seclusion.
6. Ile Sainte Marie, Madagascar
Ile Sainte Marie is a granite island 57 km long and lies 8 km off the eastern coast of mainland Madagascar. Frequented by pirates between the 17th and 18th centuries, it is now a tourist destination, with enchanting beaches, bordered by coconut palms and backed by rainforest. A long, white beach at Pointe des Cocotiers features a marvelous tropical garden and a 20-bungalow hotel. On the eastern coast’s peninsula of Amphanihy are more beautiful beaches. Between July and September, the island is a fabulous place for viewing humpback whales, which pass through the channel that separates the island from the mainland between July and September. Go later in the year, October to December, and you can enjoy scuba diving near two wrecks. This tropical paradise has one significant drawback: it rains a lot, even in the ‘dry’ season.
7. Wild Coast, South Africa
Relatively untouched, the Wild Coast of Eastern Cape is a well-named wild and rocky, typically African haven, where waterfalls tumble into the sea along a stretch of nearly 100km. Its beaches, open spaces and pristine forest areas provide an opportunity for the adventure traveller to discover a variety of leisure options, including fishing, abseiling, snorkelling, diving and trekking in the hinterland. Tourist accommodation is sparse but intimate, which helps to guarantee a memorable holiday there.
Tourism is highly developed here, but then with a mainland coastline and 365 islands to choose from, you are always bound to find a wonderful beach to yourself, with pristine waters perfect for swimming – among rainbow-coloured fish, if you like – or scuba diving. The town is 151 km from Rio de Janeiro, from where you can take a coach day tour. Better still, stay in the town and do your own exploring of the 2000 beaches. If you can’t find one to suit you, you’re not looking.
9. Hilton Dahab Resort Beach, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt
OK, you won’t be the first to discover it, but if you want nothing more than a beautiful beach at a comfortable resort with a quiet, remote, end-of-the-world atmosphere, this beach may be the place for you. The mountains of Arabia face you across the water, and the beach itself offers good opportunities for swimming and snorkelling.
10. Cote de Massa, Morocco
A 90-km strip of golden beaches between Agadir and Tiznit, this coast is still almost untouched, with just one recently opened hotel, sited on the dunes that rise away from the sea. To the far right of the beach at Sidi Moussa d’Aglou, there are three prehistoric fishermen’s cave dwellings, but you need to be pretty hardy to visit them. Beware: strong currents make swimming hazardous. The wetland reserves of Souss-Massa National are within near reach.