Greece and Spain might be home to some glorious coastlines but if it’s powder-soft beaches, outstanding wildlife and unrivalled views (not to mention island bliss) that you’re after, you’ll want to head to the long-haul destinations of the Caribbean, Asia and the Indian Ocean. We’ve searched high and low for the best spots for beach lovers who like to go off the beaten path and experience utter relaxation, amazing culture and, above all, fewer crowds. Take a look at some of our favourite beach towns in the likes of Mauritius, Costa Rica and Sri Lanka.
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The unspoilt fishing village of Treasure Beach oozes a rustic and laid-back ambience, making the area ideal for relaxing boat rides or lazy days on the sand. Located on the south coast of Jamaica, it attracts locals and visitors who like to share a drink at the corner bar or break bread at a farm-to-table dinner. This old-fashioned part of the island is the perfect place to walk along the deserted Frenchman's Beach, watch fishermen as they pull in their boats at Calabash Bay and immerse yourself in a vibrant, local culture.
An eight-mile barrier island on the Gulf Coast, Anna Maria Island offers quiet avenues lined with pastel-coloured beach homes in old-style Florida. The best way to get around is by bike or golf cart and visitors can dine with their toes in the sand at The Sandbar on the beachfront, spot manatees and dolphins on a kayak tour, or visit the greenest little main street in America, Pine Avenue, for boutique shopping.
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Dreaming of super-fine white sand on a paradise island? Cayo Santa Maria, off the north coast of Cuba, ticks all the right boxes for an idyllic castaway-style escape. This truly secluded island is just 1.2 miles wide and 10 miles long, with a heavenly eight-mile stretch of sand as its highlight. Connected by a 30-mile causeway from mainland Cuba, this hidden gem is perfect for travellers who want to get away from it all and experience world-class snorkelling, diving and sunset boat trips.
Located on the calmer west coast of Barbados, Speightstown is the second largest town on the island yet little-known most visitors. The stunning Heywoods Beach boasts calm waters and attracts fewer crowds compared to the developed beaches further south. Speightstown is home to one of Barbados' oldest churches St. Peter's Parish Church, as well as Arlington House Museum which movingly tells the story of the island’s sugar cane history. While in town, you can stroll around the shops and market stalls, have a great meal at one of the restaurants and visit the local art gallery.
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The peaceful village of Yelapa, in Jalisco, offers tranquillity to those looking for an entirely laid-back holiday in Mexico. The beach is covered in a blanket of golden sand and is a superb place to swim, snorkel or parasail. Arrival to Yelapa is mostly by boat and visitors disembark at the ‘playita’ pier, the hotel pier or directly on the beach. Once there, have your picture taken with an iguana, enjoy a meal at one of the beachside or village restaurants and enjoy a horseback ride from the beach to the village. Don't miss a hike to the breathtaking 150-foot waterfall, where you might spot parrots, land crabs and iguanas.
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Visitors to the picturesque coastal town of Ahungalla fall in love with its wide palm-fringed beach, one of the best in the country, coupled with its relaxed, island vibe. Life in this Galle District spot is simple and rustic, with little to do but embrace the unspoilt, natural beauty and take relaxation to the max. While there, you can hire a bike to explore the local area, embark on a boat safari on Madu Ganga, the second largest wetland in the country, and visit the nearby village of Ambalangoda, which is a centre for antiques and colourful masks.
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Go off the beaten track and discover the 'real' St Lucia in the sleepy fishing village of Anse la Raye, where you will find French and English colonial architecture, traditional food such as Creole bread and coconut turnovers, and pretty cascade Anse La Raye Falls. Swimming at the nearby cove of Anse Cochon is a treat, while the adults-only Ti Kaye Resort & Spa is ideal for getting away from it all in one of 33 charming gingerbread cottages that line the sloping hill. Friday nights sees Anse la Raye come alive with the Fryday Night Fish Fiesta, a great alternative celebration to the well-known Gros Islet Jump Up street party in the north.
Lux Grand Gaube
The antithesis of its neighbours Pereybere, Trou aux Biches and Mont Choisy, all located in the north of the island, Grand Gaube is more rustic, with a rocky landscape and little development adding to its blissful atmosphere. Home to just one hotel LUX Grand Gaube, the town that is just a few kilometres from Cap Malheureux remains a small fishing village where you can get a true glimpse of traditional Mauritian life. Around Grand Gaube, there are public beaches, such as Butte à l'herbe and Anse La Raie, which are terrific alternatives for swimming and kitesurfing.
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Peaceful, spectacular and a hidden paradise, Khanom is a marvellous beach resort for romantic couples and families in Thailand. The long, magnificent beaches make it a haven for seaside lovers, while boat trips to spot rare pink dolphins, hikes to little-known waterfalls and days out at the mesmerising Khao Sok National Park should not be missed. Thanks to its superb location, those who seek lively nightlife, shopping and a taste of island life can easily travel to the likes of Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan.
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Incredible sunsets, luxurious boutique hotels and a myriad of activities make the isolated town of Santa Teresa a romantic getaway destination for lovebirds. Located on the tip of the western peninsula, Santa Teresa is an oasis of calm and tranquillity surrounded by gleaming sands and crystal-clear waters. The secluded beaches were made for kicking back and unwinding. As a surfer's paradise it also provides consistent and outstanding swells year-round as well as a cool, beach vibe.