When you think of the beach, you automatically think of palm trees, golden sand, and crashing waves. But, have you ever imagined a red beach or lying in the sand and having hot water from hot springs come rushing up beneath you? Or how about a beach where you can see the sun rise and set from the very same place? Beaches and islands are my favorite travel destinations, and I’ve been to some pretty interesting ones. Here is a list of my experiences on thirteen of the most unique beaches!
The locals call this “The Fisherman’s Beach”, and I would have to say it is the most beautiful beach that I’ve ever been on. It’s on the Samana Peninsula of the Dominican Republic. While you can get there by road, the roads are very rutted, so I took a boat to get there. This is the perfect paradise beach that you fantasize about. Everything is technicolor, no one seems to be around, and the biggest dangers seem to be either getting hit in the head with a coconut or running out of rum. Which I did, and so I hired a motorcycle driver to go buy me some more! I rarely saw anyone all day. Besides the guy with the motorcycle, a woman appeared seemingly out of nowhere to sell me some coconut bread which was absolutely delicious. Really, what more could you need?
Just getting to Koh Lipe is an accomplishment in itself. I took a six-hour minibus ride to catch a ferry. The ferry dropped me off at a pontoon on Sunrise Beach, where I then got on a longboat which dropped me off on the beach. I loved waking up to the sound of the longboats going out to sea each morning, sitting and taking in the idyllic views, enjoying the calmness of the water. I have never seen prettier sunrises in my life, and I loved the fact that I could go snorkeling right off the beach. I stayed in a hotel that had cabanas right on the beach and the best part was watching the sun come up while I was still in bed. It’s remote location made me feel like I had truly gotten away from it all.
Railay Beach is just stunning, as it’s surrounded by towering limestone cliffs on both sides. But, what I found the most magical was the Hidden Lagoon. It’s a hike to get to the lagoon part but definitely worth it. I have never seen such emerald-green waters before. The sand at Railay Beach was fine and soft. The most fun part was watching all the rock climbers scaling the cliffs hovering over the beach. There’s a cave you can also hike to, although I didn’t. This beach is on the Andaman Sea, so the water is warm and with its kayaking ,snorkeling, hiking and rock climbing, it’s the perfect beach for adventurers.
Well, The Split definitely isn’t your typical beach. The split is more of a waterway that bisects the island, and the locals and tourists have turned it into a beach. It is a lively area with a beach bar where people congregate, swim, and lie out on the fishing docks or the little bit of sand. The best part of this beach is its laid back rasta vibe. Not only that, the water is stunningly clear, and if you walk over to the mangroves, you will find seahorses. For me, seeing a seahorse for the first time was the equivalent of seeing a unicorn. I had thought of them as mystical creatures, and to actually see a real one just took my breath away! Caye Caulker’s motto is “go slow”. They believe in this motto so much, that one restaurant owner was even building a speed bump out of dirt in front of his restaurant for the bicycles that were going by. One thing’s for sure, on this beach you will forget that time even exists.
Imagine getting to lie in the sun on a deserted beach, while monkeys play in the treetops of the jungle behind you, butterflies and dragonflies land on your brown skin, and scarlet macaws fly overhead. That is exactly what I got to do on this beach on the Osa Peninsula. There was a freshwater lagoon for swimming. The jungle was right behind me and was full of monkeys, coati, big blue butterflies, and poison dart frogs. The sunsets at this beach were stunning. It also happened to be one of those magical beaches where you could see the sunrise and set on the same beach. While staying on this beach I met butterfly researchers, bird watchers, hikers, and artists. The wide variety of people who come here are worth the journey itself.
Puerto Viejo is one of those relaxing beach towns with a Caribbean feel. However, you will notice a few differences. There are sloths in the trees surrounding the beach. The waves are huge!! Surfers come from all over the world to ride these waves. You can get lost just watching them all day. Or you can take surfing lessons and ride them yourself. At night, fire dancers come and perform on the beach and the crowd gets lively. But during the day, you feel almost like you have discovered a small fishing village. This is a beach for people watching, relaxing, and tasting the wares of the local vendors. Kick back, have some coconut water, or eat a homemade popsicle and let your worries fade away!
Playa Zipolite is also known as “beach of the dead”. There can be a lot of dangerous currents and it was incredible sight to watch the ocean waves intersect and bisect each other in a way that I had never seen before. There were, however, safe areas for swimming. I loved body surfing in this beach. The water here was a beautiful blueish green, but what I remember the most about this beach was the light. The light of Oaxaca is an amazing golden color which attracts many painters and photographers. My favorite time to wake up each day was at sunrise when everything was bathed in its beautiful bronzy hue. There are many hotels to stay here that are steps from the water, and I loved having the waves crash into my dreams each night.
What is so unusual about this beach is the freshwater lagoon that runs into it. It draws an amazing number of birds. Herons, egrets, gulls, frigates, ibis, ducks, cormorants, pelicans and sandpipers are just a few of the birds that I saw on my visit. The beach itself is almost deserted. The waves are very strong and this was one place that I stayed out of the water. At certain times of year, whales are known to come very close to the shore. If you are a birdwatcher who also loves the beach, do not miss this spot!
Playa Balandra has some of the clearest waters I’ve ever seen on a beach. Many people overlook La Paz in favor of Cabo, but they are missing out! This beach is off of a shallow bay. I walked out halfway and the water was only at my knees. The sand is white and powdery. You are surrounded by sand dunes and cactus and it seems like a beach that time forgot. It is definitely the prettiest beach in all of Baja.
Yes, that is red sand that you see! On an island that is already way too beautiful for words, the red sand on this beach really leaves you speechless. The color comes from the red lava rock of the cliffs nearby. This beach is in its own protected cove. It is a bit of a hike to get there, but the brilliant blue of the Aegean Sea contrasting with the vibrant red of the towering cliffs, will leave you feeling like it was more than worth your while.
Super Paradise Beach definitely has two sides to her. Go in the morning, and you will find a quiet, beautiful place to swim. But as the afternoon lingers on, the music gets turned up. The music starts around two in the afternoon usually with chill music, but after about an hour, the dance party begins. There are about three bars that are part of the beach, one of them with its own swimming pool on the cliff side above the whole scene. As the afternoon progresses, the music gets louder, and no one can resist dancing. I find it very decadent to dance during the day, especially when I’m on a beach. My favorite part of the beach was getting here. I came by boat. Just don’t do what I did. I got so caught up in dancing that I missed the last one and had to hitchhike back!
Just a hop, skip, and a boat ride over from Bali is the beautiful island of Gili Trawangan. I felt like I had entered a dreamy paradise when I first caught sight of it’s clear blue waters. I didn’t even need a snorkel mask to see the fish. The best part is that no cars or scooters are allowed on this island. The air is clean, the diving is beautiful, and the people are friendly. This is another one of those beaches where the sun sets and rises in the same spot and it’s really quite enchanting.
And for the most unusual beach of all, Hot Water Beach is very much the unforgettable experience. During low tide, hot water filters up from beneath the sand. The bed and breakfast that I stayed at gave me a bucket to mix in cold water from the ocean to get the temperature just right. I always thought lying in a hammock was relaxing, but lying in the hot water on the edge of the ocean was just about the most tranquil experience I’ve ever had. I’ve heard it gets crowded, but I went during the week and practically had the place to myself.
I hope these beaches inspire you to go someplace new, someplace different and to discover some unusual places on your own!
Val is convinced that she is half mermaid and is always looking for the next great beach. She writes the travel blog, This Way To Paradise, which is a guide to some of the best islands and beaches in the world. She is getting ready to leave for extended travel to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
Have you been to a unique beach somewhere around the world? What are some of your recommendations?
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