7 Beaches for Your Bucket List
Searching out that perfect strand of sand around Asia depends as much upon your mood as what it is you want to do on the coastline. Here's a small selection of some of the shores we're most sweet on, whether you want to simply take in nature, eat your way through the day, while away a night or just see and be seen.
Published on Oct 10, 2016
1. FAVORITE BEACH TO FROLIC WITH NEW FRIENDS
Sunrise swims are one of the great pleasures of travel in the tropics. On my first morning at Kandolhu Island, an opulent micro resort in the Maldives' North Ari Atoll, I tiptoed out of my overwater bungalow at dawn and sunk silently into the lukewarm lagoon. Then I felt something move behind me. Afraid it could be a shark, I was happy to come face-to-face with a mature green turtle, accompanied by a smaller juvenile, who'd spent the night under my bungalow and had come to say hello. Moments later another turtle floated by—a rare hawksbill with its distinctive curved beak. I felt like I was in the middle of a David Attenborough documentary. When the reptiles moved on I paddled around the bungalow and over the Technicolor reef to the powdery white beach that rings the island. It was there I saw a shark. Actually, an entire school of them: baby whitetip reef sharks that scattered like cockroaches as I made landfall. From then on, morning swims were ruined for me forever. kandolhu.com; overwater villas from US$600 per night.
–IAN LLOYD NEUBAUER
Kandolhu Island, Maldives. Walter G Schmit.
2. FAVORITE BEACH TO EAT YOUR HEART OUT
Twenty minutes north of Colombo's international airport, the beach town of Negombo offers new arrivals a chance to ease into Sri Lanka instead of crashing head-on. Negombo's restaurateurs have risen to the occasion, drawing on the town's status as one of the Sri Lanka's oldest fishing ports to create seafood menus writ large. A riot of giant freshwater prawns, lobster and snapper—the platter at Aria, the poolside restaurant at the St. Lachlan hotel— sets the benchmark. However, the garlic prawns at Scandic (4/1/A Eththukala Rd.), an Indian-fusion joint on Browns Corner, are unputdownable, while Tusker (83 Ethukala Rd.) next door serves a mean cashew nut and chili crab. For Mediterranean flavors with Indian Ocean views, try the cheese straws at Dolce Vita café (27 Poruthota Rd.) or the whitefish pepper stew at Black Coral, at Jetwing Beach resort. Come sunset, make your way to Negombo's hectic swimming area, where food carts dish out deep-fried seafood and vegetarian snacks drizzled with spicy sauces for a price that far undervalues their succulence and setting.
Black Coral at Negombo Beach, Sri Lanka. Nick Hart.
3. FAVORITE BEACH TO CATCH A WAVE
Before it was home to a world-famous, luxury eco resort, Sumba Island had the break. God's Left—or, Occy's Left, for the world champion Aussie, Mark Occilupo—is one of the world's most perfect waves. You have to understand the geography to understand the greatness here. Sumba is 400 kilometers east of Bali, and on a little western protrusion sits Nihiwatu, poking out into the Indian Ocean where swells that have traveled thousands of kilometers uninterrupted from the Southern Ocean roll up to its door. From the deep waters, the tide breaks dramatically on a shallow reef, creating long continuous left-hand barrels. The one- to four-meter break is super fast—it can take just 10 seconds to travel its 250-meter channel. I love waking up at Nihiwatu in the morning and seeing the waves peeling perfectly right out in front. It's just me and nine other surfers out there all day. But my favorite time on the water is just before sunrise or sunset, enjoying every moment with friends. nihiwatu.com; from US$900 per night including all meals and the option to reserve one of 10 surf slots daily on God's Left.
Sumba Island, Indonesia. Shinsuke Matsukawa.
4. FAVORITE BEACH TO SEE AND BE SEEN
Tanjong Beach Club
On any given weekend in Singapore, you'll find crowds of beautiful people gravitating to the party at Tanjong Beach Club. Located on the small island of Sentosa, TBC, as it is affectionately known by locals, has become a go-to-destination to escape the urban oppression. The nostalgic-chic vibe reflects a kind of Miami modernism mixed with nautical blues, yellow-and-white-striped umbrellas dotted on the sand covering lazy sun loungers. Gather a group of friends and feast on the TBC seafood platter with piles of oysters and lobster, paired with a magnum of Aix rosé. Though it doesn't matter much what you order; all the food here is fantastic. Come sunset, the tempo picks up, and beats bound off the swaying palm trees. Cool off with cocktails such as the Watermelon & Cucumber Smash and dance to that night's DJ. Who knows how high the fabulous level will go? The likes of Alexa Chung and Fat Boy Slim have graced the decks here in the past.
Tanjong Beach Club, Singapore. Courtesy of Tanjong Beach Club
5. FAVORITE BEACH FOR AN IMPROMPTU PARTY
Sydney Harbour is sprinkled with secret beaches—short strips of sand that meander along forested inlets and can be accessed only on foot or by boat. Take Milk Beach for example, which is hidden in plain sight under the steep parklands of Strickland House, a 19th-century mansion in the blue-blood suburb of Vaucluse where the average price of a house nudges A$4 million. On most days, Milk Beach lies empty and solemn. But on New Year's Day and Australia Day, Milk Beach is descended upon by a loose-knit community of hipsters bearing decks, speakers, coolers filled with beer, and inflatable toys for impromptu beach raves. There's no door list, no cover charge, no attitude, no dress code and no guarantee the party will actually take place. But if it does and you happen to be there, prepare to bear witness to what becomes Sydney's coolest underground day-club with front-row harbor and city skyline views.
Milk Beach, Sydney. Tull Kidron.
6. FAVORITE BEACH TO LIGHT UP THE NIGHT
A short 40-minute ferry hop from mainland Cambodia resides a cluster of under-the-radar islands headlined by idyllic Koh Rong. After walking along the rickety wooden pier above piercing turquoise waters to sink your toes into the softest white sand, you can't help but be overcome with the feeling that you have arrived at that secret sweet spot we all crave on our travels. You'll find a sprinkling of simple stilted beach huts with intermittent electricity, and this low level of light pollution pays off in something quite magical at night. Book yourself in at the rustic but cozy Paradise Bungalows, and after it gets dark, venture out into the sea in front of the resort: swarms of phosphorescent plankton can be seen lighting up the ocean. Wade in and join them. As you swirl and twirl in the sea, watch the sparkles of light glisten between your fingertips like stars that have fallen from the sky. paradise-bungalows.com; doubles from US$35.
Koh Rong, Cambodia. Māris Vabils.
7. FAVORITE BEACH TO FIND AT LOW-TIDE
Even in a country with countless postcard coastlines, it is increasingly tough to find one to yourself. Pansukian Island in Surigao del Norte, about 800 kilometers southeast of Manila, however, is unfindable at all half of the time. Which is its saving grace. It's just a narrow sandbar—a tiny 200-meter sliver of white powder that emerges from the sea at low tide—with nary a resort, or even a palm tree in sight (hence the nickname, Naked Island). A 20-minute outrigger boat-ride from Siargao whisks you to the islet of emptiness. Throw off your sandals and wade through the crystal clear to shore. You'll find yourself standing in the center of the ocean. Bring your own drinks, snacks and sunscreen. Bathing suits are optional.
–Scott A. Woodward
Naked Island, Philippines. Scott A. Woodward.