Best Beaches in Asia
Island hopping in South East Asia is on many a bucket list, and for a good reason. The sheer variety of beautiful places, each within an easy boat or plane ride from one another, makes for a tempting trip. It’s a popular option for spring break, a graduation trip, a honeymoon, or even a multi-generation trip, because between the fantastic hotels, great food, and no lack of activities, there’s something for everyone.
In recent years, the increased airlift has also made it much more easier for Americans to visit. Most opt to fly into Hong Kong or Singapore, and then take smaller, regional planes from there to the many islands in the area. Whether you’re planning a girls’ trip to Thailand or a family getaway to Malaysia, the beach will certainly be the star of the trip. And while you could certainly string several of these beaches into one vacation, if you’d prefer to stay in one place and be pampered, there are great resorts with private beaches on this list as well.
Travelers are also starting to move past the tried-and-true spots in Bali and Phuket, to islands that are more off the beaten track, from the Philippines to Borneo. And in countries that aren’t known for their beaches, like India and Cambodia, lovely sandy resorts have popped up as a great addition to any trip.
And best of all, many of these trips can be done in a completely affordable way. If you can avoid Christmas or Chinese New Year, there are often flight deals to Asia that range between $500 round-trip from the West Coast to $700 round-trip from the East Coast. Hotels, especially the three- and four-star options, are relatively cheap, and of course, you’ll be able to eat like royalty for a fraction of what you’d pay stateside.
There may be plenty of beautiful beaches closer to home, but these spots are a must for any Asia itinerary, and provide a nice escape from the bustling urban areas. Read on for our list of the best beaches that should be on every traveler’s list.
Radhanagar Beach, Havelock Island, Andaman Islands
The Andaman Islands are a bit of a trip for any visitor, but they truly can’t be missed. Radhanager Beach, on Havelock, is gorgeous and has all the necessary amenities: plenty of facilities, including lockers and changing rooms. The sands are clean, and the beach is surrounded by turquoise waters on one side and lush landscape on the other. When there’s no wind, the water is so still that the ocean almost looks like one gigantic infinity pool. You’ll want to spend at least a full day here—and if you’re lucky, you might even spot an elephant roaming around.
Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand
Krabi still ranks among one of Thailand’s less-discovered places, and Railay is one of the most gorgeous, laid-back beaches there. To get there, take a 10-minute long boat ride from Ao Nang (which typically costs 200 baht round trip), and you’ll find yourself among stunning limestone cliffs, powdery soft sand, and many hidden coves. The crowds gather as the day goes on—many people come for a day trip to kayak, snorkel, or climb on the cliffs.
Agonda Beach, Goa
Agonda is less popular than Ashwem Beach, on the other end of Goa, but arguably more beautiful. This lovely beach is fantastic for swimming, and you could easily spend a week here exploring the restaurants and shops, taking a boat trip to watch dolphins, and if you’re there between October and May, watching the Olive-Ridley turtle nesting. And Agonda is incredibly well kept and peaceful—it is cleaned and swept daily, and no hawkers are allowed on the beach.
Koh Song Saa, Cambodia
Cambodia isn’t necessarily known for its beaches, but the pioneers behind an eco-conscious resort hope to change that. Song Saa sits on two islands off of Koh Rong (Cambodia’s second largest island), and is an ideal complement to a week of sightseeing and temples. The sandy resort has both overwater bungalows and jungle villas, many of which have multiple bedrooms for families traveling together. Run by an Australian couple that fell in love with the island and its pristine beaches, the resort is completely devoted to preserving the area and donates a portion of proceeds to education for local children. And yes, the golden sand beaches (as well as the impeccable service the resort provides) are completely unforgettable.
Padang Padang Beach, Bali, Indonesia
This small Bali beach is famous for two reasons: it’s a fantastic surf spot, where people from all over the world gather to catch the waves, and it’s also where Eat, Pray, Love was filmed. Nothing wonderful comes easy—to get to the beach, you’ll have to walk along a steep and rocky path and through a cave. But as soon as you’re there, you’ll see why this picturesque spot was chosen as the location where Julia Roberts’ character meets her love interest in the popular film, and why travelers continue to flock here day after day.
Nikoi Island, Indonesia
There’s not much to do on the private island of Nikoi, but that’s much of its appeal. A 30-minute boat ride from the busy city of Singapore, this resort (on a previously uninhabited island) is for those who want to spend their days lazing on the sand with a cocktail in hand. There are only 15 villas here, and they’re always booked well in advance. It’s the ultimate island paradise: the beaches are so beautiful that you’d be hard pressed to tear yourself away until after sunset.
This island resort in Malaysia has something for everyone. There are incredible high-end resorts, from the Datai to the Four Seasons, that pair five-star service with five-star views. Even if you’re not staying at these hotels, head to the public Rhu beach, which has souvenir shops and vendors offering boat trips to the nearby mangroves. The sand here is incredibly white and uncrowded, and the ocean view is simply unbeatable.
Gili Islands, Indonesia
The Gili Islands still remain somewhat of a secret, but they are a fantastic option for those who want to avoid the resort-like feel of places like Bali and Phuket. All three islands are equally beautiful, but completely different in personality. Gili Trawagan is the liveliest, with a big nightlife scene and plenty of water activities. Gili Meno, the romantic one, is isolated and remote—you’ll see a lot of honeymooners here. And Gili Air is the most peaceful one, where you can look out at views of the Lombok mountains or go diving. No matter which island you end up at, the sea life is fantastic—snorkelers will see plenty of clown fish and turtles.
Sunset Beach, Koh Lipe, Thailand
It’s not an exaggeration to say this is one of the most romantic beaches you’ll ever come across. True to its name, the sunsets here are spectacular, and all of the beachfront restaurants take full advantage of this with plenty of outdoor seating. And best of all, there are minimal crowds here, especially compared to the popular Pataya beach nearby. Make sure to take in the sunsets over a fresh seafood dinner or cold local beer.
White Beach, Boracay, Philippines
The star of this tiny island in the Philippines is White Beach, which has lovely sand, warm waters, and tons of shops, restaurants, and dive places lining the shore. The beach itself can get crowded, so head here early to stake out a prime spot on the beach. At night, the area plays host to many parties—live music and even fire dancers are not an uncommon sight on this island. And the best place to stay on the island is the Shangri-La, which has suites that look out over the ocean and daybeds on the cliffs where you can take in the sunset.
Non Nuoc Beach, Da Nang, Vietnam
This beach, on the eastern coast of Vietnam, is one of Asia’s most popular surf spots. The waters are beautifully clear, but they can be slightly too rough for swimming, so non-surfers will want to stay closer to the shore. You’ll be able to rent beach chairs, shop for swimwear, and buy food and drinks from vendors. Go hungry, as the shore is lined with restaurants that serve fantastic Vietnamese food.
Mamutik Island, Kota Kinabalu, Boreno
This pristine island, a 15-minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu, is fantastic for swimming, snorkeling, and zoning out. It’s a great option for a day trip as it’s close to the city and has a wonderful view of the surrounding islands, but doesn’t have the crowds that the other beaches do. Walk toward the east side to get to Coral Beach, which is covered in large pieces of coral and shells—just don’t bring anything home, as it’s prohibited.
Long Beach, Koror, Palau
The postcard-pretty beach here looks as if it stretches out for miles. It’s a hidden secret as you can only go when the tide is low. Walk along the sandbar, or take a dive to see the variety of sea life, from mushroom corals to hermit crabs. This is a popular option for honeymooners, as it can almost feel like a private island.
Jimbaran Bay, Bali, Indonesia
It’s no surprise that resorts like the Four Seasons and Intercontinental have decided to open hotels here. This beautiful Bali beach is a wonderful place to spend the day, and there’s no lack of wonderful food options, from tiny shacks to fine dining. If you decide to splurge, make a reservation at one of the hotel restaurants for sunset—and ask for a table with a view.
Yalong Bay, Sanya, China
This mile-long beach, in the popular Chinese retreat of Sanya, has yet to be truly discovered by foreign visitors. To avoid crowds, skip the Christmas holidays and February, where families come for some warm-weather respite during Chinese New Year. You’ll find incredible views, water activities from kayaking to jet skis, and fresh food, fruit, and juices from local vendors. The St. Regis here is an ideal home base, with its stark architecture, private beach, and multiple outdoor pools.