Think beach holidays and some destinations spring instantly to mind – but why stick to the obvious when there are plenty more surprising places just as capable of delivering the coastal dream? We’ve unearthed seven seaside treasures that might surprise you…
1. Japan – fly from £648
Looking at pictures of the Yaeyama Islands – all pristine white sand, clear turquoise seas and fringing coral reefs – you’d be forgiven for thinking they must be somewhere in the Caribbean. But no – these little specks of subtropical loveliness are right down at the southern tip of the Japanese archipelago, in Okinawa Prefecture. For years this part of the country somehow sailed under the radar of international travellers, but now the word is out and tourism is beginning to boom – on Okinawa’s main island, the international airport is expanding and the big hotel groups are moving in to snap up prime beachfront plots. If you want to go, go now…
Stay: on beach-ringed Taketomi Island, Taketomijima Guesthouse and je Taime offers simple, friendly backpacker accommodation from £67 a night.
2. Denmark – fly from £20
All around Denmark’s 7,000 km-long coastline you can find glorious (and often deserted) beaches. On the west coast of Jutland they stretch for km upon km, the white sands backed by grassy dunes. Across the peninsula, near Frederikshavn, there’s a surprise in store at Palmestranden. Every summer the beach is planted with dozens of palm trees, creating an unexpectedly tropical feel. Or head to Grenen, at the northernmost tip of the country, where two seas meet and you can stand with one foot in the Skagerak and the other in the Kattegat. Even the capital city does seaside as well as more urban attractions – jump on the metro in the centre of Copenhagen and 20-25 minutes later you can be strolling along the man-made beach at Amager Strandpark or diving into the water at the beautiful Kastrup Sea Baths.
Stay: in Copenhagen. The Park Inn by Radisson is just 10 minutes’ walk for the beach and has rooms for around £134. In Skagen (a pretty little village close to Grenen) the historic Brøndums Hotel has a good restaurant and charming rooms from around £98.
3. Peru – fly from £734
Imagine Peru and you generally think mountains and Machu Picchu. But the country also has a 2,400 km-long Pacific coastline stretching all the way from Ecuador in the north to Chile in the south. For the most attractive scenery and the best weather, head to the northern shores, where highlights include Máncora (the kind of place backpackers end up spending longer than expected) and, a little further south, Las Pocitas, more peaceful and prettier with palm trees backing the beach. Carry on down to Trujillo/Huanchaco and you can combine coast and culture – stay on the beach, then head into the city centre to admire handsome old colonial architecture or visit the nearby ruins of Chan Chan, a pre-Columbian city and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stay: Probably the coolest place in Las Pocitas is DCO Suites, Lounge & Spa, where super-chic rooms, all with an ocean view, start at around £146 a night.
4. Canada – fly from £738
The popular image of Canada is more snow-capped mountains and glacial lakes than sun, sand and sea – yet the country has some belting beaches on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. If you like yours wild and unspoiled, you’ll find some of the loveliest stretches on Vancouver Island. The thick green forests of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve come right down to the shore, with little cabins tucked in amongst the trees and surfers scattered across the waves. In summer, the aptly-named Long Beach is made for gentle pleasures – birdwatching, playing frisbee, exploring tidal pools. While in winter the visitor centre on Wickaninnish Beach is a prime spot for storm watching.
Stay: A short drive from Long Beach, on Clayoquot Sound, is Tofino, a popular base for whale watching trips. The waterfront Tofino Resort + Marina has recently refurbished rooms for around £99.
5. Madagascar – fly from £581
It’s not just the Maldives and Seychelles with idyllic Indian Ocean beaches – Madagascar, too, has beautiful stretches of white powder sand where you can chill out on days when you’re not out scouting for lemurs or wondering at the island’s otherworldly baobab trees. Many are so far off the beaten track they can be difficult (or expensive) to reach, but luckily others are altogether more accessible. Regular flights from Antananarivo link the capital to the island of Nosy Be, off the northern coast. There’s a wide choice of beachfront resorts and hotels plus ferries to neighbouring Nosy Komba, smaller, quieter and car free.
Stay: on Nosy Komba. Floraly Komba (for around £23 a night) has simple rooms and bungalows set on the beach, with sea and island views and a restaurant serving contemporary Malagasy food.
6. South Korea – fly from £368
K-pop, kimchi, cutting-edge technology – there are plenty of things we associate with South Korea, but beach life isn’t generally one of them. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll find an abundance of sandy shores. Some of the most famous are in Busan, a southern city where the deep sandy stretches are backed by skyscrapers. But for something a little less urban, check out the long succession of beaches running along the north-eastern coast of the country, where the view behind you is more likely to be mountain peaks. Or, in the case of Jeongdongjin Beach, the unlikely sight of a massive cruise ship perched on top of the cliffs, just crying out to be photographed.
Stay: That clifftop ship is actually a hotel, Sun Cruise Resort and Yacht, where double rooms start at £89 per night and have wonderful views through floor-to-ceiling picture windows.
7. Germany – fly from £34
The fact that Germany has beaches at all comes as a major surprise to many UK travellers – and eyes widen even more on discovering that not only do they exist but they’re also rather lovely. Vast expanses of white sand swoop along the Baltic coastline and lure holidaymakers to the lovely islands of Rügen and Hiddensee. While over on the North Sea side is the chic and exclusive Sylt (largest of the North Frisian Islands), which has uninterrupted sand stretching all the way along its western shore. You can easily combine seaside and city, too. Base yourself in Hamburg (where, as well as the usual city sights, there are beach bars on the River Elbe) and take a day trip to the coast – Timmendorfer, say, on the Bay of Lübeck, where the long sandy beach is lined with rows of Strandkörbe, photogenic wicker beach chairs.
Stay: close to the Hamburg waterfront. The David Chipperfield-designed Empire Riverside Hotel has a sky bar with a view and smart rooms for around £123.
Inspired to head to one of these lesser-known beach spots? Start by browsing flights.
All flights and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 6 August 2019.