This is the 10th and final installment in my 4th Travelversary Celebration series.
I love beaches, but not for the reason most people do. I loathe beaches that are overly crowded and have a Hard Rock Cafe across the street. Hence, you wont find Waikiki or other overly popular beaches on my list. There is a good chance that most of the beaches here are places you’ve never heard of. That is because many of these are very hard to find, let alone get to. If there is a good chance I’ll be the only person there, that is my kind of beach.
There were also a surprising number of beaches which I visited for the first time in 2011 on the list: four. I’m not sure if it is just my memory or the quality of the beaches I visited. There are also a lot of beaches from Hawaii on the list.
10) Shipwreck Beach, Lanai, Hawaii
Take a hard to reach beach on an island which has few inhabitants and few visitors and you have yourself a winner in my book. Getting to Shipwreck Beach requires a jeep and a fair amount of walking on foot. Once you get there, there is indeed a shipwreck. You can also see three Hawaiian islands from the beach: Lanai, Molokai and Maui. When I was there it was raining (as you can see in the photo) but I also was able to see a whale giving birth not too far from where the shipwreck was.
9) Flamanco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico
The thing which struck me when I visited Flamanco Beach was the sand. It might have been the finest grained sand I have ever seen. If you didn’t know any better you might think it was sugar given its color and consistency. Flamanco is popular with Puerto Ricans but rather unknown to the rest of the world. To get there you first have to visit the island of Culebra which is either a short flight or ferry ride from the main island of Puerto Rico. There are cabins, camping and picnic facilities available near the beach for visitors. There are also some rusted out tanks on the beach from when it was used as a training site by the US military.
8) Manase, Savai’i, Samoa
Manase has been called the most beautiful village in Samoa and I have no reason to doubt it. In addition to having one of the best beaches in Samoa, there are several places that rent out bungalows (called fales in Samoan) right on the beach. If you wanted to find a place to stay on the beach for only $20-30/day, this might be the place for you. Samoans are great people and Samoa is a great, if under appreciated, country.
7) Rarotonga, Cook Islands
What I loved about Rarotonga was the lagoon. The reef is only about 200m away from the beach, which means you have a nice area of calm, shallow water to swim in. The beach, at least on the western side of the island, is long and wide. There is one backpacker place I stayed at that had rooms right on the beach. I saw more people snorkeling and swimming on the southern part of the island, than I did on the west side of the island, even though the beach wasn’t quite as grand. If you do visit the Cook Islands, make sure to get a Cook Island drivers license. It is one of the best souvenirs you can get in the world. (It is a real license!)
6) Yasawa Islands, Fiji
It is hard to pick just one beach. When I first went there in 2007 I found a white sand beach that I had all to myself. I was literally alone on a beach on tropical island. It was an incredible feeling. There are numerous beaches on the islands in the Yasawa chain that have few if any people. Many of the small resorts have hammocks strung between palm trees where you sleep or read a book just a few feet from the ocean. I have found places where I could have spent the entire day sleeping and swimming and never have been bothered by another human being.
5) Playa en Pie de la Cuesta, Mexcio
Last January I went to Acapuclo to get on a cruise ship going to LA. I arrived several days early to experience Acapulco and ended up booking a place online that was “north” of town near the town of Pie de la Cuesta. Well it turned out it was quite a bit north of town and I really wasn’t near anything in Acapulco. (It also was just a spare room at some family’s house) However, the house I was staying at was also on this fantastic beach. It was huge both in terms of width and length and I could hear the huge winter waves of the Pacific hammering the beach every few seconds. If you look at a map of Acapulco, you’ll see a large lagoon just north a of town and a small strip of land between the lagoon and the ocean where the beach is located.
4) Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Big Island, Hawaii
All volcanic islands are made up of an igneous rock called basalt. Black sand is nothing more than this black volcanic rock pulverized into sand sized grains. Black sand beaches are not really rare per se. What makes the beach at Punalu’u special are the sea turtles which come there to bask in the sun. The beach is also very close to the Green Sand Beach (see below).
3) Unknown Name Beach, Rennell Island, Solomon Islands
As you can tell from some of the above entires, I like remote beaches. This beach I visited in the Solomon Islands wins the remote beach award. For starters, the Solomon Islands doesn’t get a lot of tourism. I was told about 10,000 people a year when I was there in 2007. Second, the island of Rennell is outside the main archipelago and they said they only get about dozen tourists a year. I went to the other side of the island where I was told of the old beach where the ships used to land years ago. You have to go down a 300ft cliff to get there (there were old stairs) and no one had been down there in years. They begrudgingly honored my request to see it. Me and my guides were the first people to visit this beach in years. It is amazing how cluttered a beach can be with driftwood and shells when there are no people around to pick things up. My guides brought a machette to cut down some coconuts and we spent two hours napping and drinking coconut milk on this beach surrounded by 300ft sea cliffs that hadn’t seen a human in years. It was a great afternoon.
2) Red Sand Beach, Maui, Hawaii
I had heard about the Red Sand Beach in Maui for years before I finally got a chance to go there my self last month. The beach isn’t on the list because it is red, although that does probably give it a few extra points, but rather because it is a great hidden beach. First, the red sand is caused by the oxidation of the iron in the basalt. Long ago, it was probably a black sand beach. Second, there is no path to the beach and there are no signs pointing to the beach. You have to know how to find it and where it is. Third, as you can see in the photo, the rocks form a natural tiny harbor where the water is calm and you can swim without worrying about the surf. Finally, to even get to Hana you have to drive the Hana Highway which was listed as one of my favorite drives in the world.
1) Papak’lea (Green Sand) Beach, Big Island, Hawaii
To reach the fabled Green Sand Beach, you have to go to the southern most point of the Big Island of Hawaii (which is also the southern most point in the United States). From there you either have to hike or drive off-road for a mile or two to reach the beach. From there you will have to climb down into the bowl to get to the actual green sand. The reason why the sand is green (and it is really a combination of green and amber) is because it a mineral called olivine. If you look at the volcanic rock around the big island you’ll see flecks of green in the rocks. That’s olivine (or in gemstone quality, it is known as Peridot). An ancient cinder cone containing ash and olivine eroded with the ash being washed away and the heavier olivine dropping out to form the beach. Because of the shape of the inlet that has the beach, it is a great spot for body surfing as the waves are big and there are no sharp rocks.