Confession: I’m not really a beach person. Very rarely do my travels revolve around a beach and I have never really understood those who plan holidays that do. A day spent only on the beach would most likely leave me sunburned, sandy and bored. That said, I have visited some gorgeous ones that I’ve enjoyed exploring for a few hours with all my clothes on. Here’s five of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.
Copacabana Beach, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Before our Brazil trip in October 2014, a number of people had warned us against Rio’s most famous beach, naming it “tacky” and “a bit dodgy”, lowering my expectations. So I was really surprised by how much I loved Copacabana Beach. Not only is it a huge, genuinely pretty beach, it is maybe the best people watching spot I’ve encountered in the world. Someone who grew up in Brazil told me that in Rio beaches the massive disparity between rich and poor that defines every other area of the country is irrelevant – whether you’re from an upmarket neighbourhood or a favela, everyone is the same level when they’re playing football, volleyball, lying on the sand, or jumping the waves on the beach. Copacabana is littered with beach huts serving fresh caipirinhas, and sipping on one while kicking back and watching the goings on is an amazing way to spend the afternoon.
Traigh Eais, Isle of Barra, Scotland
The Outer Hebrides in Scotland are famous for their white sandy beaches with turquoise water and the Isle of Barra, which we visited in September 2014, did not disappoint. Pretty much all the beaches in Barra were gorgeous but the best was Traigh Eais at the north of the island to the west of the airport. It was a huge expanse of smooth white sand framed by lush green hills and sand dunes, wild waves from the Atlantic, and not a soul in sight. The beaches in the nearby Isle of Harris are supposed to be even more beautiful and a visit is on my list.
Picnic Beach, Big Corn Island, Nicaragua
The Corn Islands are fascinating and somewhere I will explore in more detail in a later blog. Although part of Nicaragua, they are 43 miles off the coast and geographically and culturally closer to the Caribbean (the Corn Islands were colonised by the British, the locals speak English in a Caribbean accent, and they have darker skin than Nicaraguans on the mainland). Picnic Beach on the west side of the island had barely any tourists when we visited in March 2009 but there appears to be two hotels there now. The beach was huge, had loads of space, soft white sand and a clear calm sea. We spent a day doing all the things I said in the intro I never usually enjoy; running around on the sand, taking a dip in the water, playing cards, and relaxing with the local Tona beer. Picnic Beach is also a gorgeous sunset spot.
Gili Trawangan (East Coast), Indonesia
When we travelled through Indonesia in May 2008 we continued east past Bali to the three Gili Islands and settled on Gili Trawangan, the most developed one (at the time the other two islands were barely developed). Sinking into the shallow waters on the beach of the east coast of the island, the neighbouring Gili Islands visible nearby, was like floating in a warm peppermint tea – the water was a vivid turquoise. The beach was framed by casual restaurants and elevated straw huts which meant you could lounge on a cushion and sip a Bintang beer with the water lapping underneath. From what I’ve read, Gili Trawangan seems to be a lot more developed now but when we visited it was dusty lanes, a few dive schools, reggae bars and electricity across the island cutting off every so often. Paradise.
Cua Dai beach, Hoi An, Vietnam
We visited the beach in Hoi An Vietnam on a rather overcast and windy day but even then I was entranced by the white sands that seemed to stretch for miles. It’s a wide beach with loads of space between the water and shore. There are rows of sun loungers underneath palms trees (said trees blowing in the wind when we visited in March 2008) and if the weather was right, settling down on one with a cocktail would seem like a very good plan for the day. Also, Hoi An itself is a lovely Vietnamese town to spend time in.
There are my five picks but obviously there are many of the most beautiful beaches in the world I haven’t seen. What would be your picks?