Take an expedition cruise to Antarctica’s Deception Island // © 2017 Shutterstock
Feature image (above): Palau’s Rock Islands will lure adventurers. // © 2017 iStock
You don't have to be a beach bum to enjoy some of the world's most fantastic shorelines. In fact, we think there's a coast out there for every traveler. And we’re sure you have your own favorite beaches, too. Send them to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Beaches,” and we’ll post them online. But, in the meantime, use this guide to find the perfect stretch of sand for your clients.
For the Adventurous Spirit: Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, Palau, Micronesia
From above, Palau’s Rock Islands may seem like nothing more than a smattering of green mushroom-shaped dots in an otherwise vast expanse of cerulean. But this grouping of nearly 450 volcanic islands is much more than a few dots on a map — it’s an adventure lover’s playground.
Bordered by the Philippines to the west and Papua New Guinea to the south, these jungle-covered atolls and their complex reef systems — designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012 — have caught the attention of several adventure travel tour operators.
Wilderness Travel has been offering its Palau itinerary — which has been “perpetually popular” with clients — for almost 20 years, says Barbara Banks, director of marketing and new trip development for the company.
“It’s certainly in our top 20 itineraries, one of our top two snorkeling adventures and one of our top three trips in the Pacific,” she said.
Onshore activities abound, where operators’ itineraries may include jungle hikes that explore the area’s waterfalls, rock pools, ancient villages and the famed Jellyfish Lake, a marine lake teeming with a rare species of stingless jellies.
But the real adventure takes place farther out to sea, where the reef systems have four times the marine diversity of the Caribbean. Clients can paddleboard or kayak through sea caves or saltwater lagoons. They can also opt to snorkel through what has been called an “underwater Serengeti” and float among World War II shipwrecks, 385 species of coral and 1,500 species of fish.
“Most Pacific islands have beautiful beaches, but most also have large and expensive beach resorts made for tanning, not adventure,” said Kristen Bernarsky, a Palau destination manager for Boundless Journeys. “Palau’s Rock Islands are uninhabited, so you’ll rarely see anyone else on your explorations. It truly feels like you’re living the life of Robinson Crusoe.”
For the Cold-Weather Client: Deception Island, Antarctica
Beaches aren’t just for sunbathers. In fact, just north of the Antarctic peninsula, in the South Shetland Islands, lies the ring-shaped Deception Island. As its name implies, this frigid “island” — the former home to a Norwegian-Chilean whaling station — can be quite misleading; it’s actually a 5-mile-wide caldera atop an active volcano.
Get to Deception Island by booking an expedition cruise. Some small-ship operators offer itineraries that include a stop here; ships gain access to the caldera via a narrow channel called Neptune’s Bellows.
“Fortunately, Neptune’s Bellows is just large enough to fit most of the ships we sail,” said Chad Carey, co-founder of small-ship cruise operator Chimu Adventures. “Once inside, there are a number of beaches coming down from the inner walls of the volcano — we get clients onboard our Zodiacs and take them onshore.”
Once on land, Carey says his clients often dig holes in the sand to create small pools of water — heated from the volcano’s geothermal energy — to create their own natural hot tubs of sorts. (Though, he warns, the water will still be colder than the average Jacuzzi.)
“Antarctic beaches are memorable for all the ways they’re different than traditional beaches,” said Matt Cutts, senior content writer for cruise line Oceanwide Expeditions, which also offers its own Deception Island voyages. “Sunbaked Caribbean-esque coasts are more for sunbathing, swimming and lounging with pina coladas; cold-weather beaches are geared toward indulging the exploratory spirit. We get people who are into doing and seeing rather than sunbathing.”
For the Romantic: Anse Source d'Argent, La Digue, the Seychelles
Anse Source d’Argent on La Digue island in the Seychelles is #perfection — just ask the thousands of Instagrammers who’ve helped make this beach one of the most photographed in the world, according to National Geographic.
And through a photograph, it’s easy to see why Anse Source d’Argent is the perfect place for vacationing couples. The idyllic stretch of coast on La Digue, the smallest of the three main inhabited islands in the Seychelles, is “literally one of the most stunning beaches in the world,” according to Connie Riker, owner of Create The Moment Travel, a Travel Leaders affiliate agency.
But although La Digue offers enough turquoise-blue water and sparkling pink sand to be the object of everyone’s social media envy, it may not be the best choice for every couple. While the island’s activities — including biking and snorkeling — and its local cuisine receive high marks from Riker, she warns that lovebirds should expect to encounter a fair amount of families thanks to the beach’s protected swimming area.
And, she notes, qualifying all clients heading to the Seychelles is important.
“Realize that all of La Digue’s hotels are smaller and boutique style, and set your expectations right from the start,” she said. “Transfers will likely be via an oxcart. I tell couples to be prepared for an old-fashioned honeymoon; to enjoy each other; and to be open to peace and quiet with gorgeous views.”
Top accommodations that lure lovers on La Digue include Domaine de L’Orangeraie Resort and Spa and La Digue Island Lodge.
For the Wildlife Enthusiast: Gardner Bay, Espanola Island, the Galapagos Islands
According to Eric Andrews, a sales and promotions manager for Quasar Expeditions, the term “beach” should be redefined when it comes to the sandy shores of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.
Home to more than 5,000 species — including the iconic giant tortoises and mockingbird variations observed by 19th-century explorer Charles Darwin — these beaches aren’t the typical “lay on your tummy, close your eyes and forget the world” kind of places, he says.
“What may be a beautiful, unusual beach for us has much more importance and significance to the ‘locals,’” Andrews said. “This is home — or at least part of home — to a vast majority of the archipelago’s unique species.”
Animal lovers of all ages can get up close and personal with many of the Galapagos’ endemic critters, whether it be swimming with green sea turtles, sunbathing with sea lions or birding for the critically endangered waved albatross on the mile-long Gardner Bay on Espanola Island, says Monika Weinsoft, business development manager for the Western U.S. and Canada at International Expeditions, which has Galapagos cruises that include hiking, snorkeling, kayaking and Zodiac excursions.
An added selling point? The archipelago’s beaches are almost as diverse as the wildlife.
“You have black sand, powder-white sand, bright-red sand, brown sand and even beaches with green crystals,” Andrews said. “You have soft-sand beaches, rocky areas with tide pools and beaches surrounded by mangroves — or a combination of all of those things.”
For the Kiddos: Anaehoomalu Bay, Hawaii Island
Calm waters, activities for kids and convenient amenities give Hawaii Island’s Anaehoomalu Bay — located on the Kohala coast and nicknamed “A Bay” — an A+ rating for families.
Set back and protected from the elements, A Bay’s waters are safe for younger children to enjoy watersports, swimming, snorkeling and more, according to Christie Soper, founder and CEO of Suncierge, Inc., an independent affiliate of Travel Experts, Inc.
“It’s perfect for whale and dolphin spotting, swimming with honu (turtles), snorkeling with brightly colored fish, kayaking, catamaran sailing and paddleboarding,” Soper said. “Families should also walk along the beach through lava fields for interesting hiking and views of the area’s fishponds.”
Additionally, Soper recommends the dolphin-immersion program at Hilton Waikoloa Village, which sits near the bay. Or, she says, book the entire crew’s accommodations at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, a family-friendly property that’s just a 15-minute drive away.
A Bay’s central location also comes with an added bonus: ample parking, the use of public restrooms and access to showers. And, once the tots’ tummies start grumbling, the Queens’ MarketPlace center is located just steps from the beach.
For the Trendsetter: Stiniva Beach, Vis Island, Croatia
Greece has long held the crown as a top beach destination in Europe, but it may soon relinquish its throne to a hidden sliver of sand off the coast of Split, Croatia’s second-largest city. Partly due to its remote and secluded location on Vis — the farthest inhabited island from mainland Croatia — Stiniva Beach has stayed under the radar.
That’s rapidly changing, however, thanks in part to its “Top Beach in Europe” distinction last year from Brussels-based tourism company European Best Destinations. The beach itself is tucked into a cove that sits at the base of two towering cliffs; there’s only a 15-foot-wide opening out to the ocean, which keeps this beach almost completely hidden from the passing boats of the Adriatic Sea.
According to representatives for the Croatian National Tourist Board in New York, Stiniva is a hidden gem that’s perfect for beachgoers looking to avoid crowds — especially those that frequent some of Croatia’s more notable party beaches, including on the islands of Pag, Hvar and Korcula.
However, getting here is no easy task. Cars don’t have direct access, and few ships can maneuver through the cliff’s narrow opening into the shallow cove. Instead, clients must either hike down a steep and rocky path down to the shore, hire a boat taxi or kayak through the cove’s entry point.
The tourist board assures that although the rocky path to the beach may seem daunting, people of all ages and abilities frequent the trail both to and from the beach. And once they make it down, they won’t be disappointed.
For the Lake Lover: Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
Freshwater fiends, rejoice: There’s a beach for you, too.
Although Nevada and California’s Lake Tahoe — the largest alpine lake in the U.S. — and its surrounding areas are famous for attracting winter sports enthusiasts during the chilly months, a summer spent here will most likely take place on the lake’s 70 miles of beachy coastline, which provides clients several opportunities to soak up the Sierra Nevada sunshine (minus the saltwater-in-the-eyes part).
The high-altitude lake is split into “Tahoe South” and “Tahoe North,” and both areas boast several beaches for clients to enjoy.
Tahoe North has Sand Harbor, which is home to the annual Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival as well as a dedicated cove for scuba divers. Meanwhile, pups will enjoy the dog-friendly atmosphere of Kiva Beach in Tahoe South. And another (more unusual) option is Tahoe South’s Secret Cove Beach — a sandy spot on the southeastern shore that attracts droves of local naturalists, as well as those who prefer to go au naturel. Not a fan of the sand? Head to Tahoe North’s kid-friendly Commons Beach, a grassy area on the lake that hosts summer weekend concerts.