My 10 Favorite Beaches

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Beach in Benidorm, SpainThis 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

Shipwreck Beach, Lanai, HawaiiTake 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

Flamenco 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, Savai'i, SamoaManase 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

Beach on Rarotonga, Cook IslandsWhat 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

Beach and hammock in Yasawa Islands, FijiIt 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

Beach near Pie de la Cuesta, MexicoLast 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

Black Sand Beach, Big Island, HawaiiAll 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

Beach on Rennell Island, Solomon IslandsAs 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

Red Sand Beach, Hana, MauiI 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

Green Sand Beach, Big Island, HawaiiTo 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.

28 thoughts on “My 10 Favorite Beaches”

  1. These are all amazing places. Shipwreck Beach, Lanai, Hawaii would be one of my top picks. I have traveled to Honolulu a few times but never left the tourist areas. It would be fun to fly back to Hawaii and see the places you listed. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love the beaches in Hawaii. The black sand beach in the Waipio Valley is really nice. I heard the green sand beach was cool but I didn’t have a chance to get out there. Great list.

  3. Hi Gary,
    Some fabulous beaches but Whitehaven Beach in The Whitsundays is the tops. You must have missed it on your trip to Oz.
    Tenerife brought back happy memories with your favourite hotel report.

  4. Have you traveled much around the Central Americas? Costa Rica has some amazing beaches. And the Caribbean has some stunning beach views with the crystal clear waters. Loved Red and Black sand beach in Hawaii as well. Great beach feature. Added a few to the bucket list to visit.

    • Hey, Horizon Pacific, your list of the top 10 Beaches in Guanacaste has some real stunners in it too. – I loooove Tamarindo, Langosta and Avellanas.

  5. The Green Sand Beach in Hawaii is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been! Now I hunger to see the others in person. Thanks!

  6. I haven’t been to any of these beaches, but know i must, as i am definitely a beach person. There are obviously many to be had in Australia with places like Fraser Island and the Whitsundays. I love Perth beach though, as it is so long and very easy to find a spot away from people.

  7. Hi Gary, I live in Townsville, North Qld, Australia. If you have a boat (we do), it is very easy to find an empty beach up here. I have been dropped off on random beaches when I start feeling sea sick. Just myself the course sand, coconut palms, rocks and tiny crabs. After it has rained we sometimes go to a deserted beach on Magnetic Island and sit under a freshwater mini waterfall. I am currently at Coolum Beach on the sunshine coast of Queensland. Not a deserted beach, but it has waves to body surf on (we don’t have them at home because of the reef). Loving it! Jan.

  8. You have obviously never been to Cow Wreck Beach on the island of Anegada in the BVI. Think 10 people and its crowded. I have done a bit of travelling, and this beach is truly awsome. Don’t tell anyone, though. Won’t want it spoiled!

  9. I haven’t been to any of these beaches on your list, but it looks like Hawaii is a good spot for them (cue the “duhhh” comment). Not sure if you’ve been to St. Martin/St. Maarten but those are some of the best beaches I’ve seen. I highly recommend them, especially because they’re a bit more secluded (and there’s sooo many of them!)

  10. Hey, im currently serving in afghanistan with the british army, im a keen traveller myself, im only 21 an have only been travelling for the last 3 years but have already experianced some amazing places such as canoeing down the kootney river in canada, Exploring old Rome, Germany to name a few. I have a request if you have time could you email me some must see places in far east asia..cambodia, thailand, vietnam etc an maybe a travel route to take. Youve been to alot of these places an know the ins an outs of some amazing spots. Any response would be greatly apreciated.

  11. Awesome that you have Savaii Samoa on there! My mother is from Savaii, and you’re right. Not many people travel out that way, but sometimes I prefer that so it remains untouched and remote. Thank you for your great post!

  12. Great call on Rarotonga – although I prefer Aitutaki.
    My Cook Islands license was indeed the greatest souvenier I got (as well as my awesome scooter driving skills!)

  13. You’ve missed the boat– how come no beaches in Australia are mentioned? Whitehaven anyone? Mission or Coolangatta? what about the gold coast, surfers paradise and what happend to Brazil- Queen of all beaches– she reins and has something for everyone, some hard to get to, others wide open and full of beautiful eye candy, take your pick…. BTW The Greek islands have some great beaches too, some with different colored sands I see you like… also not mentioned…

  14. Spain has some of the top beaches in Europe, and one of my favorites is Playa de Rodas on las Islas Ciés, just off the coast of vigo, in the north. Only 2200 allowed in each day and no garbage cans on the island makes for pristine beaches!

    • I haven’t been to any Spanish beaches yet except for Benidorm, which is actually the photo I used at the top of the page. Benidorm was just too crowded and touristy for me to be put on the list.

  15. I’m guessing you like Hawaii. Haha
    There are so many beautiful beaches in the world. I’d like to visit Shipwreck Beach though -it looks bad ass.

  16. My favorite place in the world is on a beach. Great post! Now I can’t wait to be in Miami in 5 days!!!

    • I’ve been to Palawan but didn’t make it to El Nido. I’ve heard great things about it however.

  17. Amazing places and fab pics!

    My favourite beaches are not so remote but stunning anyway:
    Cala Mariolu bay and Masua beach both in Sardinia – Italy.

    The first one is very difficult to reach and normally people get there by boat. The scenery with its mix of mountains and sea, and the pretty pebbles of the beach make it so special.

    The second, Masua, is a little bay with a surreal islet emerging from the cobalt sea (Pan di Zucchero) and the colourful rocks at the back that perfectly frame of the cosy beach.
    A little corner of paradise.


  18. I love how you’ve included some not well known beaches (I haven’t heard of any of these). I’m especially into the black sand beach with the sea turtles. Those turtles know what’s up!

  19. While your beaches are amazing, my favorite is in my backyard in Marquette, Mich. on lake Superior. It’s my favorite because of all the activities it offers- fishing, laying out, beach volleyball, cliff diving and most importantly for the scenic views along the rocky coast. It’s not tropical, but it’s definitely my favorite spot to get a tan.

  20. Beautiful. My favorite is Isla Verde, Puerto Rico and there is also a pool carved into one of the mountains that has a natural river flows through (not a beach but still awesome!).

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