Life

Visit These Hidden Beaches For A Late Summer Escape


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Comedy legend and professional curmudgeon Bill Hicks once said, “What’s the f*ckin’ deal with the beach? It’s where dirt meets water, alright!” He’s not wrong. Yet, for some reason, we’re drawn to the beach summer after summer like moths to the proverbial flame. The allure conjured by soft sand, crashing waters, and swaying palms is undeniable. But that ends up meaning that some beaches get straight up packed. And an over-crowded beach just isn’t fun.

If you really want to bear witness to where the dirt meets the water, you need a hidden beach. A secret stretch of sand. A tiny cove, or abandoned isle. You need the beaches on this list. And though Life editor Steve Bramucci are I are hesitant to give away too many secrets, it’s hot as all hell right now and we feel like you deserve a little seclusion to cool down and chill out.

Warning: The beaches on this list are wonderfully remote. It’ll take some effort to reach them. And don’t expect to find a kiosk selling coconuts or a food truck slinging burgers once you arrive.

— Zach Johnston, Senior Life writer

CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK, CALIFORNIA, USA

Orange County, California calls its coastline the “Blue 42.” That’s 42 miles of sand, surf, and sun. But it’s also the fourth most populous county in the nation, meaning that finding a little elbow room is tough.

Here’s the key, if you want privacy: Be willing to walk. Not miles, mind you, I’m talking about a few hundred feet. Because the crowds and their coolers all seem to stick as close to their parking spots as humanly possible.

Crystal Cove State Park, between Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, is the best example of this phenomenon. There are two places to enter the park — one to the north and one to the south. If you’re willing to walk 400 feet away from the masses, you will undoubtedly discover a long stretch of sand that is all your own. I’m talking about a solid 500 square foot radius that is just you, even on a summer Saturday. There are even a few bends in the rock cliffs so the crowds — nearly a quarter mile distant — will be out of your sightline.

While there, be sure to eat at The Shake Shack. It’s not a branch of the east coast chain, it’s an outpost of Ruby’s Diner, perched high on the cliff. The classic malts and hot dogs are second to none. -SB

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Real life moments. ✌

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OZETTE, WASHINGTON, USA

Washington state has 3,026 miles of coastline. So it should come as no surprise that there are a few great hidden beaches around the state. Our favorite is a blend of drastic geography, intense Pacific breaks, and harrowing history known as Ozette.

Ozette is part of Olympic National Park and you’ll need a special permit to gain access to the area. The beach is reached after a ten-ish mile hike through an old-growth forest of swaying firs and cedars that give way to a spot where the earth literally crashed into the sea, thanks to a massive earthquake. That quake buried an entire 2,000-year-old Indigenous town and preserved much of it under mud. To this day you can see rock art from the Makah who used to call this stretch of beach home before calamity struck.

The beach is like walking straight into the mystic. When the fog lifts, you’ll be in a spot where huge rock outcrops spread out into the wild Pacific with fir trees pointing skyward like the spikes on Bart Simpson’s head. The grey-sand, the motley rocks, and the crash of the sea make this place feel a little otherworldly and 100 percent worth the 20-mile roundtrip hike. – ZJ

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THE HIDDEN SANDBAR, IBO ISLAND, MOZAMBIQUE

If you go to Ibo, in Mozambique (itself well off the tourist radar) you’ll surely hear about “the sandbar.” Or maybe you’ll hear it called “the vanishing island” — which is much more alluring and mythic feeling. Regardless, this phenomenon is fascinating. As the tides shift, they expose a stretch of sand, 200 feet by 50 feet at its largest. Then, for a few hours each day, this perfect white sand beach can be all yours (the chances of having to share it with even one other person are extremely low).

Bask in the sun’s rays (there’s no sade, obviously), swim in the pale blue water, and marvel and the tides, which continuously shrink and expand this little spit of sand. If you’ve ever wanted an entire island to yourself, here’s your chance. Just know that you’ll have to give it back again when the tides rise. – SB

LUMAHA’I, HAWAI’I, USA

We know. A beach in Hawai’i can’t be that “hidden.” But, Hawai’i has beaches which get seriously over-taxed by beach lovers and others that just don’t. Lumaha’i — on the northern end of Kauai — is in the latter category. You’ll need to endure about a 2.5-mile walk through a hibiscus and breadfruit forest to get into the beach. But when you finally arrive at nearly a mile of untouched natural beauty you’ll know the effort was well worth it.

Huge volcanic walls rise up behind the beach, offering stunning vistas and keeping the fainter of heart at bay. The beach also isn’t the safest. It’s highly recommended you don’t swim — as there’s no coral reef to protect the beach from the ferocity of the Pacific’s currents. You can surf near the eastern end where the Lumahai’r river empties into the ocean, but even that’s recommended for pros only.

All of those dangers aside, this beach is the picturesque Hawai’i of your dreams. – ZJ

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CRESCENT HEAD, NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA

Byron Bay is literally one of the best beach towns on earth. Surf, beautiful hippies, outdoor concerts, good food… The list goes on. It’s a (wonderful) place. An Eden for the young and restless. An Instagrammable oasis. But it’s also squarely on the tourist map.

So it’s no wonder that residents and guests of New South Wales — a state completely chock full of stunning stretches of sand — have been eager to ease the pressure by naming “the next” Byron.

Among the contenders (and there are many because NSW is insanely stunning), Crescent Head shines. It features a long stretch of sand to the north, with a long, curling point break to the south. The nearby village is the perfect place for a slice of buttered banana bread and a cuppa (tea, in the local parlance).

If you want to be where the VanLifers, longboarders, and lovers of uncrowded beach go, head south from Byron and stop at Crescent. You won’t regret it. – SB

ISLA CULEBRITA, PUERTO RICO, USA

Puerto Rico is back, baby! While there are plenty of great beaches to visit on the main island of Puerto Rico, we wanted something a little harder to get to and, thereby, a little more special.

The coral island, Isla Culebrita, is an uninhabited island right next to the very tourist-centric Culebra. If you want to feel like a pirate who’s been marooned on a deserted Caribbean isle, this is your best bet. The tiny isle has none of the tourist infrastructures. That means you’ll need a boat to even get there. Once you arrive, you’ll have postcard-perfect white sand beaches and crystal clear bathwater-warm seas all to yourself.

Fact: This is paradise in America. – ZJ

MANUEL ANTONIO BEACH, PUNTARENAS, COSTA RICA

Costa Rica, as a nation, has embraced tourism in a way that leaves room for very few isolated beaches. You’re not going to suddenly stumble into a lonely surf break unless you have a boat or a 4wd (if you do, head to Witches Rock immediately). But if you’re willing to be intrepid, there are a few lonely gems left to find.

Manuel Antonio Beach, in the south of the country, is just such a beach. It’s inside a National Park, populated more by monkeys than humans, and one of the blissful places on earth where the jungle meets the sand. This is a pack in/ pack out paradise. You’re not going to hear the chime of an ice cream cart or find a lobster shack on the sand, but you will get some time all to yourself in a truly wondrous place where the call of the toucan is more common than the call of a fellow beachgoer.

If you want “jungle-beach-castaway” vibes, this is a winner. Especially, if you’re willing to swim around a rocky outcropping or two to reach a truly lonely section. -SB

SPIAGGIA DI SANSONE, ELBA, ITALY

Italy has a lot of beaches. They all get a fair amount of beach lovers in the summer. Spiaggia di Sansone — or Samson Beach — does get crowded in July and August. Every other month it’s damn near empty. It’s also kind of pain-in-the-ass to get to but 100% worth the trek.

First, you need to get to the Tuscan island of Elba. Your best bet is to get to Piombino on the Italian coast and catch a ferry over. From there, you’ll have to get to the north-central side of the island and hike into the beach. The rewards will be a small Mediterranean beach that’s idyllically set against crashing rock walls and calm and clear azure seas. Swimming, snorkeling, paddling, lounging, or just chilling are the best options here. Grab yourself some nice bread, cheese, and mortadella from a nearby shop in town, maybe a bottle of bubbly Prosecco, and enjoy a hidden corner of Italy that only the locals are keyed into.– ZJ

CALA PULCINO, LAMPEDUSA, ITALY

Deep in the Mediterranean about halfway between Sicily and Tunisia sits the sleepy island of Lampedusa. It takes two ferries to get there from Sicily, which is also an island. So basically, just getting to the island, you’ll already be three islands deep into the Med. Once you’re on Lampedusa, you’ll need to head to the southeastern reaches and hike over fairly rocky terrain for about 45 minutes to reach to stunning Cala Pulcino.

The spot is usually deserted. The beach is a tiny strip of sand surrounded by rocky hills. Then there’s the amazing crystal clear water. There may be a few people peppered around the beach on any given day and maybe a few boats anchored in the small harbor. Otherwise, you’ll largely have this place to yourself in all its glorious beauty.– ZJ

NECANICUM ESTUARY, OREGON, USA

Look, how much freaking beach do you want? When will you be satisfied? Do you need a square mile to yourself? Two? Fine, have it. Take three if you want.

On the Oregon coast, the beach towns of Seaside (shopping, skee-ball, a fair number of tourists) and Gearhart (bakeries, kitschy art, fewer tourists) are separated by a river mouth. The Necanicum river empties into the Pacific Ocean and creates a mega-private inland beach on the Gearhart side. Visit when the tide is low and you can score 100 razor clams in an hour. Go when the tide is high and leap from the dunes into the rushing water.

This is an adventure for those who truly want to be alone. Seriously, you aren’t likely to see more than one person all day. Even in the middle of summer.

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KHALAKTYRSKY BEACH, KAMCHATKA, RUSSIA

Kamchatka is a demanding place to travel around, in general. Even though the peninsula is connected to the Eurasian continent and surrounded by water, you can only get in by air (or private sailboat). It’ll test your mettle at every turn. Still, the remoteness and wild nature of the place are immense and rewarding.

One of the most valuable expeditions you can undertake in this region is a trip to the massive Khalaktyrsky Beach. The volcanic black sand beach stretches along the Pacific coast for miles and it’s almost always virtually empty. The beach has amazing breaks so you might find a suited up surfer or two waiting for their set. Otherwise, this place is deserted.

The crashing Pacific is the perfect counterpoint to the gorgeous mountain ranges that rise up from the peninsula in every direction — three volcanoes sit just behind the beach. You’ll need a 4WD jeep to get here, but it’ll be worth it. You’ll be on one of the most remote and isolated beaches on the planet. This is real bucket list material.– ZJ

KRAKATOA, SUNDA STRAITS, INDONESIA

Keeping with the black sand beach theme, Krakatoa is another bucket list destination that’s rarely seen by tourist’s eyes. The Indonesian island is a very active volcano that you can climb if you get tired of the pristine black sand beach and bathwater-warm waters. Just make sure you know what’s happening on the island seismically before you attempt to climb the volcano.

Krakatoa is famed for a late 19th-century eruption that created the loudest sound ever heard on earth and led to a year without a summer worldwide. Getting to Krakatoa is a bit of an adventure alone. You’ll need to head to the western end of Java and charter a boat — most people do this from Anyer or Carita. The boat will drop you off at the volcano for a little hiking and then take you to Krakatoa Mother — the massive volcano just next door — for some snorkeling through untouched coral reefs and maybe a lunch with local fisherman at a small camp on a tiny beach.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a place that’s the epitome of over the hills and far away.– ZJ

BONETE, SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL

The long hike is a huge draw for Bonete. It takes four to five hours to hike into this place, which filters out all the riffraff. You’ll pass three waterfalls that are idyllic jungle scenes. The last waterfall offers a brilliant overlook of the beach and sea and a few natural rock waterslides pop up as you walk down to the beach to help you cool off.

Once you’re on the beach, you’ll be rewarded by huts selling cold beer and rum alongside snacks. There’s also a very small village here in case you want to crash for the night instead of facing that four-hour uphill hike back home. – ZJ

DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK, FLORIDA, USA

Look, if one famous Instagram influencer finds this place, it’s gonna be burnt. Because it’s truly amazing. Like startlingly so. Imagine a sunken fort, the azure Carribean, and parched white sandbars all crowded together. And now, imagine that stunning collection of scenery with no one but you and a few other daring souls.

Truly, the idea that this massive fort gets flooded with the tides and remains a little-known travel spot (and one of the nation’s least visited national parks) is just absurd. It is stunning. A private islet where you can find pirate coins and see brilliantly colored fish. And all you have to do to get there is put in a little extra effort!

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WATAMU BEACH, KENYAN COAST

Heading north from Mombasa on Highway B8 will take you along the gorgeous white beach coast of the Indian Ocean. There are tons of spots to pull off and enjoy the bucolic scenery. Our pick is a small cove with the striking Watamu Beach, just north of a huge beach (Turtle Bay) where most of the tourist end up.

The natural cove makes for calm seas and lush scenery. The white sands seem to stretch out into blue forever as the placid Indian Ocean laps at the shoreline. The beach isn’t completely isolated. There are plenty of huts in certain parts slinging great plates of seafood pulled directly from the Indian that morning. And, they all have plenty of cold beer ready to go. After you fill up on delicious fresh fish, find a quiet spot to call your own and connect with the natural beauty that is Watamu.– ZJ

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IHAVANDHIPPOLHU ATOLL, MALDIVES

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Saying that the Maldives is remote is a bit of an understatement. Most people get there through commercial airlines with a few people stopping by on their circumnavigation via sailboat. That’s pretty much the only way you’re getting to this place. Flying in has its drawbacks. You’ll be fairly limited to Male (the capital) and the resort you’re staying at. Sailing allows you more autonomy to explore the further reaches of the atoll chain where tourists, generally, are not allowed to tread.

For the most part, that’s the only way to get to the northernmost atolls of Ihavandhippolhu. The atoll group has a huge reef on the western reaches that calm the waters to an almost mirror flatness. There are a few towns on the 25 atolls but, for the most part, most of them are uninhabited. You can go spearfishing in the morning, start a fire on the beach and cook that fish right there like Robinson-freakin’-Crusoe if you that’s what you want.

If roughing it as a sailor who desperately wishes they were a stranded pirate isn’t your jam, there’s a recently opened resort on Manafaru with all the plush amenities that you’ll ever need. But, our recommendation is to do it yourself and live out those pirate fantasies on a deserted atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean for as long as you can.– ZJ

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