Dreaming of your own place in the sun? In this excerpt from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Experiences, we take you to some of the world's sweetest, most sublime beaches...all you need to do is pack the sunscreen!
Dahab means ‘gold’ in Arabic – a name given to the area because of its golden sands. With a unique location on the edge of the Sinai desert, Dahab certainly remains an untapped treasure; budget accommodation almost on the beach means you can virtually roll out of your sleeping bag and into the water. Backed by mountain ranges, Dahab’s Bedouin settlement, Assalah, is a favoured beach-bum haunt, with unspoilt charm and chilled beachside cafes, while up the coast are famous diving spots.
Curonian Spit, Lithuania
This 98km lick of sand is a wondrous mixture of dunes (some as high as 200m) and forest – the smell of pine will impart an otherworldly quality to your hammock time. Wilhelm von Humboldt believed that a trip to the Curonian Spit was essential nourishment for the soul, and Thomas Mann was also a fan. It’s said that around 14 villages are buried under the endless, shifting dunes, making the Spit a kind of Baltic Sahara.
This the Beach that Time Forgot, where men in fishing dhows set sail at sunset for the reefs, women gather seaweed daily, and people like you are constantly boiling to a crisp under the baking sun. There’s not much to do here (certainly not swimming; tides are low) except loll about and crack open a few coconuts. Remember: you’re in Zanzibar, Mythical Africa, so just kick back and drink it (or your coconut milk) in.
Kerala Coast, India
Beachy types generally don’t jump with joy when India is mentioned, but those in the know are enraptured. Tucked in along India’s 600km-long Kerala coast is a string of coconut-palm-fringed beaches adjoining lulling surf and bluest-of-blue waters. There are the larger resorts, such as Kovalam, but also many more unspoilt delights where your hammock will be overworked as you gaze at jaw-dropping semicircular bays, or expanses of sand so long you’ll think they’re a mirage. Thrillingly, there’ll be no one else around to pinch you and tell you you’re dreaming.
Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia
The palm-fringed beaches of the Perhentian Islands, covered in tropical rainforest, are about as natural as they come: calm, hassle free and with virtually no signs of commercialisation. Except for snorkelling, diving, frolicking, swimming, sunning your body or pretending you’re either Brooke Shields or Christopher Atkins in The Blue Lagoon (1980), there’s nothing to do.
Kai Islands, Indonesia
There’s a growing chorus that says these remote white-sand beaches are the finest the world has to offer. Development has been slow around the Kai archipelago, so the beaches remain unspoilt and as nature intended. If you’re not big on pristine powdery sands, azure seas, rare and technicoloured birds, arresting fish and wondrous coral reefs, then stay away. Everyone else: enjoy.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Just 7km long and barely 1km wide, this unpretentious island off shore from Cancún is light years away from the glitzy mainland scene. Its tropical beaches make it a cult fave, with those on the south side known for calm turquoise waters. For get-on-down Caribbean fun, visit Playa Norte, a popular beach with waiters who’ll bring drinks to your spot on the sand. More secluded options include Playa Paraiso and Playa Indios.
North Stradbroke Island, Australia
Straddie is among the world’s largest sand islands – and ‘sand’ equals ‘beach’, right? The Queensland island’s 30km white-sand Main Beach is backed by an expanse of dunes, making it popular with 4WDs. There are a number of more secluded spots around Point Lookout. Take your pick from surfing, sunning yourself, paddling in rock pools teeming with marine life, or watching whales or some of the local Aussie animals.
Ko Pha-Ngan, Thailand
A lovely island, with mostly deserted beaches that are perfect for solitude lovers and infatuated couples… except for Hat Rin, which holds its famous full-moon parties every month, perfect for hedonists and pleasure seekers. Surrounded by coconut trees and mountains, the twin beaches of Thong Nai Pan are a favourite of the Thai royals, which probably explains why development has been kept at bay. The bliss is so overwhelming as to be almost (almost) unbearable.
Hawai’i’s black-sand wonderland has won a few ‘best beach’ awards in recent times, and it’s truly an astonishing sight: Punalu’u’s startling blue waters lap up against the jet-black beach, which is backed by rows of deep-green coconut palms. This is one place where your hammock will really come in handy – it’s scenery that demands your constant, supine contemplation – and you might even spot a hawksbill turtle wandering onto the sand to lay its eggs. Don’t touch them, though – they’re an endangered species, vulnerable to bacteria, and who knows where your filthy hands have been…