Best Secret Beaches on Earth ( part 2 )

Cayucos, California

Locals call this tiny surf town 210 miles north of Los Angeles Cayucos-by-the-Sea. It’s a refreshingly underdeveloped beach retreat dotted with 19th-century western buildings, vintage shops selling Americana and folk art, and a pier that stretches nearly 1,000 feet into the ocean. Check in to the restored 1867 Cass House Inn & Restaurant , with views of the Pacific and a stellar farm-to-table restaurant serving four-course dinners. For something humbler, there’s the fish fry at no-frills Sea Shanty , just a short walk away. Antiques lovers can stroll Ocean Avenue, chockablock with treasure-filled boutiques such as Rich Man Poor Man and Remember When, then grab a bourbon shortbread cookie at Brown Butter Cookie Company . Cayucos is the perfect jumping-off point for those looking to explore the Central Coast, including the nearby wine region of Paso Robles, Hearst Castle, and the artsy village of Cambria, a 20-minute car trip up the shore.

—David A. Keeps



Alona Beach at Panglao Bohol island,Philippines

Panglao Island, Philippines

An hour-long flight from Manila to Bohol Island followed by a 25-minute drive across a 19th-century causeway brings you to this secluded Central Visayas isle, where the petite Ananyana Beach Resort & Spa occupies a prime spot on a mile-long stretch of sand. The 12 luxe thatched-roof huts have bamboo-framed king-size beds; the alfresco restaurant turns out Filipino-Mediterranean dishes such as penne with pork adobo; and the lounge is outfitted with regionally made rattan and abaca furniture. Hop a resort boat for dolphin watching, diving amid the drop-offs of Balicasag Island, or, for the ultimate castaway fantasy, a sunset dinner on deserted Puntod Island. Another option is to visit the Bohol Bee Farm , which serves dishes with organic ingredients grown on site. The treat of choice: house-made ube (purple yam) ice cream. You can also head back to Bohol Island to check out the Chocolate Hills—a surreal natural wonder of 1,776 dome-shaped hills formed from limestone covered in grass.

—Lara Day



Alagoas, Brazil

Brazil may be blessed with more than 4,600 miles of coastline—but finding untouched sands is harder than it seems. Yet a few rustic beach towns in the northeastern state of Alagoas remain relatively unknown. Once considered a backwater and long overshadowed by Bahia to the south, this small, laid-back region is finally on the map. In Barra de São Miguel, Kenoa—Exclusive Beach Spa & Resort is a high-design retreat that blends seamlessly into the landscape. Portuguese owner Pedro Marques brought his eco-conscious vision to life by enlisting the help of local architect Osvaldo Tenório. Rooms are adorned with contemporary art; faucets are refashioned from old iron pipes; and recycled railway trestles are used as coffee tables. You may just want to gaze at the turquoise sea from your villa’s floor-to-ceiling windows, but there’s plenty to keep you busy, from sampling Portuguese cataplanas (rich seafood stews served in traditional copper pots) at the hotel’s restaurant to visiting the nearby oyster-farming community of Vila Palateia, where you can try bivalves plucked straight from the mangrove lagoon. Seventy miles to the north, the white-sand beaches around São Miguel dos Milagres are just as secluded and are dotted with crystalline tide pools. A handful of forward-thinking pousada owners invested here over the past decade—and sophisticated travelers are finally taking notice. At the stylish Pousada do Toque , imbuia-wood chairs from Brazilian Modernist Sergio Rodrigues and daybeds by Carlos Motta help set the scene in the spacious lounge, while the 17 bungalows have bathrooms with Japanese-style tubs looking out onto private gardens. In nearby Porto de Pedras, the light-filled Pousada Patacho has five intimate, white-washed rooms surrounded by towering coconut palms and vine-draped terraces.

—Kevin Raub



Salt Creek Recreation Area, Washington

Twilight fans know Clallam County for the town of Forks, where Bella and Edward met. The northern edge of the region, however, has its own claims to fame. Tide pools at Tongue Point draw beachcombers and oceanography students; history buffs explore the remnants of World War II military base Camp Hayden; and everyone can appreciate views of Victoria, B.C., across the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. Visitors can stay at lodges on Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park or in Port Angeles, which offers charming B&Bs like the George Washington Inn, a re-creation of the first president’s mansion on a lavender farm.

—David A. Keeps



Tropical beach of Agonda, Goa, IndiaAgonda Beach, Goa, India

Rave music put Goa on the map as a party paradise in the 1990s, but this palm-lined beach on the Arabian Sea is known for its laid-back village feeling. Touristy, it is not. Surfers enjoy the wild waves but swimmers are warned that the currents can be dangerous. While other Goa beaches offer five-star resorts and chain hotels, nightlife, and gourmet Indian food, Agonda remains largely a simple and authentic destination where beach huts, which can run as low as $20, are decidedly rustic.

—David A. Keeps



Happy Bay beach in St MartinHappy Bay, St. Martin

North of Friar’s Bay Beach on the French side of St. Martin, Happy Bay is a happily underpopulated stretch of vanilla sand. It’s a hike to get there: 10–15 minutes on a well-marked footpath through the underbrush, which requires just enough effort to ensure the kind of privacy that has made it popular for those who prefer to sunbathe au naturel. (Nudity is tolerated, although this is not officially a clothing-optional beach.) Snorkelers are rewarded with tropical fish in the crystal waters, some of the best on the island. Services are virtually nonexistent, so stock up on supplies at one of the bars in Friar’s Bay.

—David A. Keeps



PolihalePolihale Beach, Kauai

With sand dunes rising up to 100 feet and a commanding view of the Na Pali cliffs, this seven-mile stretch of white sand on the westernmost end of Kauai is the island’s hottest, sunniest spot. One of the most magnificent beaches in Hawaii, Polihale is also one of the most remote, accessible only by a dirt road off the scenic coast drive from resort towns like Princeville and Koloa. Currents are strong, so surfing and snorkeling are not advisable, but there is a 300-foot swimming beach called Queen’s Pond at Polihale State Park.

—David A. Keeps



Lameshur Bay Beach, St. John

On the secluded southeast coast of St. John, Lameshur Bay is a short but bumpy Jeep drive from the luxuries of Caneel Bay. For those who enjoy mixing it up with the locals, there are nearby rental villas and eco-tents. At the end of the cobblestoned beach at Lameshur is a more isolated, sandier strip known as Donkey Bight. Snorkelers love this beach, which leads to Beehive Cove, a warren of caves and tunnels filled with coral, sea sponges, and reef fish. Landlubbers and hiking enthusiasts can soak up local history touring the ruins of an 18th-century slave plantation and climbing 1.2 miles to the 1,000-foot peak of Bordeaux Mountain, which overlooks the bay below.

—David A. Keeps



Matagorda Beach, Texas

Matagorda County counts more than 50 miles of gulf shoreline, including a 20-mile stretch of sand open to vehicle traffic. Beachcombers may find sand dollars and old Spanish coins amid the driftwood, while kayakers can paddle down the Colorado to the bay. The biggest draw for this tiny town with motels, campsites, and vacation rentals is the fishing. Anglers flock to the Matagorda bays for trout and flounder, and boaters enjoy the hunt for saltwater trophies while offshore fishing in the Gulf.

—David A. Keeps



La Pedrera beach and bay on a sunny summer day, UruguayLa Pedrera, Uruguay

Not long ago, T+L crowned Uruguay as South America’s Latest Hot Spot. While the high-end resort towns of Punta del Este and José Ignacio have been jet-set getaways for decades, the seaside villages of La Pedrera and Oceanía del Polonio have emerged as laid-back, low-cost, eco-focused alternatives attracting a whole new crowd. There are more than 100 miles of rugged Atlantic shoreline with massive rock outcroppings in the Rocha area. Now, La Pedrera, a town that boasts no high-rise condos or beachfront businesses, has a boutique hotel, Brisas , which is determinedly unplugged: rooms have no phones or TVs.

—David A. Keeps



Playa Carrillo, Costa Rica

Just south of the popular surfer’s paradise of Samara Beach, Playa Carrillo is one of the least developed spots on the Nicoya Peninsula. Framed by mountains, the laid-back fishing village has a white-sand beach just off a palm-lined boulevard (there are no unsightly beachfront buildings). Known among divers for its excellent coral reef teeming with marine life, the beach is protected by rocky headlands, providing calm, warm water for swimmers. Accommodations such as El Sueno are off the beach, but quite reasonably priced. Don’t miss the La Selva Zoo and Bromeliad Gardens at the southern end of the bay.

—David A. Keeps



Anse Source d'Argent beach, La Digue, SeyshellesAnse Source d’Argent, Seychelles

Although La Digue is the third largest inhabited island in the archipelago, it is an unspoiled natural environment where most folks travel on bicycles. The closest thing to a resort is La Digue Island Lodge, with thatched-roof bungalows and a 19th-century colonial house (doubles from $155). Though fashion photographers and film directors love it, the pink-sand beach of Anse Source d’Argent is a bit of a schlep, which means it is rarely occupied. Enormous granite boulders are part of the craggy shoreline, and an offshore reef provides protection from ocean waves, making it an ideal spot for swimming. Keep an eye out for endangered birds and giant tortoises.

—David A. Keeps



Capo Sant’Andrea, Elba

The emperor Napoleon escaped from exile on this Mediterranean island after less than a year, but left behind his Villa dei Mulini. Plot your own escape to Capo Sant’Andrea, known locally as the piccola isola nell’isola (little island within the island). The beach makes a big impression with its granite magma cliffs and nearly cobalt-blue water that is so clear you can see the floor—where ancient Roman shipwrecks yielded archaeological treasures now housed in the town of Marciana. Visitors can stay in style at Hotel Ilio from mid April to mid October, when the mountain footpaths are ablaze with violets, lavender, lilies, and rosemary.

—David A. Keeps



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