25 Secret Seaside Getaways
Windsurfers have long known about this fishing village on the Cesme Peninsula. And thanks to the addition of the Port Alaçati marina (lined with boutiques, galleries, and restaurants), its reputation is fanning out beyond adventure aficionados. Stay at the 17-room Port Hotel Alaçati. 90-232/716-0385; portalacati.com.tr; doubles from $152.
Eco-conscious travelers are flocking here for the region’s extraordinary biodiversity, found in the 130 million-year-old prehistoric forest. The just-opened Gayana Eco Resort in Sabah has 44 overwater bungalows. Doubles from $200.
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, this island gem is stealing the spotlight from its Caribbean neighbors, thanks to dune-studded beaches and blue-green waters. Stay in one of the 12 villas at Club Seabourne, on Fulladoza Bay. Doubles from $195.
Known to insiders as one of the world’s great diving spots, the nearly four-square-mile island is poised to enter the international spotlight with the opening of the Shangri-La Boracay Resort & Spa this December. For now, check in to Boracay Beach Club. Many of the 30 rooms overlook the sea. Doubles from $110.
European expats are converting groups of Andalusian-style villas in this quiet coastal town into boutique hotels, including the Spanish-Moroccan La Maison Haute, near the bustling souk. Doubles from $78.
Big Corn Island, Nicaragua
A laid-back tropical spit dotted with thatched-roof hotels, known for its lush forests and a smooth shoreline. At Casa Canada, 20 cabanas overlook an infinity pool. Doubles from $85.
Porta Vila, Vanuatu
Tucked between Australia and Fiji, this island has the best of both worlds: traditional Polynesian tribal culture and a modern hotel called the Breakas Beach Resort and Villas. Fronted by a palm-studded private beach, the 36 bungalows are decorated with dark-wood furniture and neutral tones. Doubles from $220.
The Black Sea’s answer to St.-Tropez (with the yachts to back it up) is attracting celebrity visitors like Brangelina. Hotel Logatero’s 11 rooms are outfitted with sleek natural-wood furnishings. Doubles from $140.
Isabela Island, Galápagos
Tranquil beaches, five volcanoes, and diverse fauna make up the seahorse-shaped island. Wildlife viewing is unparalleled from the private seaview balconies at La Casa de Marita. Doubles from $70.
Sumbawa Island, Indonesia
An alternative to overtouristed Bali, the laid-back pace of this surfer’s mecca is now drawing international crowds. With only one hotel on the island—the beachside Aman Gati Hotel (not part of Amanresorts)—you’re guaranteed a stretch of sand to yourself. Doubles from $38.
Waiheke Island, New Zealand
The white-sand beaches and olive groves on this windswept isle off the North Island are a welcome respite from the bustling pace of Auckland—just a 40-minute ferry ride across the Hauraki Gulf. Check in at the Onetangi Beach Apartments for private patios with views of the Coromandel Peninsula. Doubles from $120.
Caye Caulker, Belize
Just a half-hour boat ride from the mainland, the five-mile coral strip has stunning barrier reefs and two nature preserves. The huts at the oceanfront Seaside Cabanas have a cheery orange-and-red palette. 011-501/226-0498; seasidecabanas.com; doubles from $105.
Con Dao, Vietnam
This pristine chain of volcanic islands is only 140 miles southeast of Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon Con Dao Resort offers simple, light-filled rooms set in a tropical garden. Doubles from $100.
Musandam Peninsula, Oman
This sandy spit is known for its arid landscape and secluded, mountain-backed beaches, just a two- to three-hour bus ride from Dubai. Book a room at the 60-room Golden Tulip Resort, Khasab for mesmerizing Persian Gulf views. It has an on-site dive center. Doubles from $209.
With cobblestoned streets and stylish new restaurants and boutiques, the classic colonial city on the western coast of the Yucatán Peninsula is slated to become the next Mérida. Our favorite place to stay: the 19th-century Castelmar Hotel, in the city’s historic center. 52-981/811-1204; castelmarhotel.com; doubles from $85.
Port Willunga, South Australia
A recent influx of farm-to-table restaurants and small-scale wineries has turned this Fleurieu Peninsula town 30 miles south of Adelaide into a choice summer retreat. Willunga House is a 160-year-old Georgian mansion with five simple, light-filled guest rooms. Doubles from $215.
The main island’s hilly little sister, just four miles north on the Mediterranean, was proposed as the site for the Malta International Fashion Show. There are 13 terraced rooms at the family-run San Antonio Guesthouse in Xlendi, a small fishing town. Doubles from $44.
Why Go Now: The pine tree–lined stretch of southeastern coastline known as Pranburi—a three-hour drive south of Bangkok and 30 minutes south of the popular resort town of Hua Hin—is blessedly free of the wandering masseurs, banana-boat operators, and other interlopers who crowd many of the country’s beaches. Visitors are likely to encounter only the occasional couple strolling along the sand, enjoying uninterrupted views of fishing boats plying the Gulf of Thailand. A few miles inland, pineapple plantations, mangrove forests, and rice fields attract travelers in search of the Thailand of 20 years ago.
The Details: Change is slowly creeping into Pranburi and surrounding areas, announced by charmingly idiosyncratic boutique hotels; the area’s alluring mix of seclusion, authenticity, and character is driving many travelers to choose it over Hua Hin. “Hua Hin is becoming a big city with traffic,” notes Yingluck Chareonying, a clothing designer who was one of the first Bangkok settlers to open a hotel in the area 11 years ago. Her whimsical 12-room Brassiere Beach (210 Moo 5, Tambon Samroiyod; 66-32/630-5555; brassierebeach.com; doubles from $117) was inspired by two domelike islands that sit just offshore, and is set in a lush garden on a secluded beach. Other properties, including the just-opened X2 Kui Buri (Moo 13, Ao Noi, Muang; 66-26/968-239; x2resorts.com; doubles from $135), a compound of 23 low-slung stone-and-wood bungalows designed by Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag, are raising the region’s international profile.
Pranburi has plenty of authentic flavor, with countless seaside shacks dishing up tasty street food, like som tam (spicy green papaya salad), accompanied by honey-basted grilled chicken. The best meals can be foun
Why Go Now: During the late 19th century, the Pacific Coast town of Mazatlán was a playground for vacationing members of the German, French, and Mexican aristocracy, who took up residence in the Centro Histórico, or Old Town. Its reputation as an elite hot spot continued through the early 20th century. But in the 60’s, the city—just a three-hour flight from L.A.—became a popular port for cruise ships. Soon after, southern California–style strip malls and Señor Frog’s restaurants sprouted up along the Zona Dorada, a 12-mile stretch of beach 15 minutes north of the Centro Histórico. And the Neoclassical mansions with 16-foot ceilings and wrought-iron balconies—remnants of Mazatlán’s heyday—were abandoned and all but forgotten. Until now, that is.
The Details: The 282 acres that make up the Old Town are experiencing a renaissance, with stylish cafés, boutiques, and hotels opening on seemingly every corner. Local Alfredo Gómez Rubio jump-started the revitalization in 1997 with Pedro y Lola (Dinner for two $40), a Nuevo Mexicano restaurant named after Mexican actor Pedro Infante and ranchera singer Lola Beltrán. Housed in a 130-year-old Neoclassical building, the former social club, which hosted prominent dance performances in the 1800’s, serves regional dishes such as molcajete (chunks of arrachera beef with grilled nopales, onions, and fresh panela cheese) in a wood-beamed dining room.
Soon after, artists Miguel Ruíz and his Belgian wife, Helene van der Heiden, opened Casa Etnika, an art gallery and crafts shop. Inside, Michoacán silver necklaces hang alongside colorful paintings by local residents. More galleries followed, as did a complete overhaul of the nearby 1874 Teatro Ángela Peralta , a
Wealthy Chileans spend summer weekends at this elite resort town two hours from Santiago. The affordable option? Hotel Isla Seca-Zapallar, set high on a bluff above the Pacific. Doubles from $155.
South Pacific, Marquesas
Why Go Now: This archipelago, an outpost of French Polynesia, has the geographic distinction of being the farthest group of islands from any continental landmass, and yet it is just a three-hour flight from Papeete, Tahiti’s capital, on Air Tahiti (airtahiti.pf). The island Hiva Oa (population 1,991) lacks the blue lagoons and overwater bungalows of Moorea or Bora-Bora, but travelers in search of peace and quiet will find it here in the primeval landscape of cliffs, waterfalls, and ironwood forests. Hiva Oa is also where French artist Paul Gauguin spent the final years of his career, and the island draws plenty of pilgrims who are traveling in his footsteps.
The Details: The main island’s only hotel, Hiva Oa Hanakee Pearl Lodge (Doubles from $267), has 14 bungalows, some of which face the lush Tehueto valley and Tahauku Beach. Each bamboo-lattice bungalow is outfitted with woven-palm wall coverings, carved tiki poles, and traditional bark-paper paintings.
Arrange a tour with Pearl Lodge’s guide Lecortier Tematai, who will point out trellised vanilla orchids and petroglyphs and expertly maneuver dirt-road switchbacks under a canopy of acacia and mango trees. He’ll drive you by Polynesia’s largest stone tiki, then stop for a typical Marquesan lunch (tuna ceviche, goat curry, fried breadfruit) at the house of native chef Pua Poevai.
In the main village, Atuona, the narrow thoroughfare is lined with shops selling Tahitian beer and one-story whitewashed houses with fishing boats lying in the yards. Gauguin’s grave is on a hill at Calvary Cemetery in the village, and the Paul Gauguin Cultural Center showcases 92 reproductions of his works. A stroll on the village’s black-sand beach at the
Brazil, São Miguel Dos Milagres
Why Go Now: Located between the much more famous Brazilian beaches in Recife and Bahia, São Miguel dos Milagres, a two-hour flight from São Paulo in the state of Alogoas, is off most travelers’ radar. The attraction: natural, reef-formed swimming pools, warm emerald waters, and hypnotically tranqüilo beaches.
“In a sense, there’s no tourism—on any given day, maybe a hundred visitors can be found on a beach twenty-five miles long,” says Joaquim Gonçalves, the Portuguese owner of two pousadas in the area. That may change in the coming years: Adrian Zecha’s Amanresorts has been looking at land near Alogoas’s capital, Maceió, and while paulistas (São Paulo residents) make up the majority of the visitors, more than a few French, Italian, and Portuguese travelers are joining the mix. “It’s getting the kind of buzz Trancoso did 15 years ago,” says Eric Sheets, founder of the luxury travel agency Latin Excursions (latinexcursions.com), who has been sending clients to the region for the past seven months.
The Details: Nilo Burgarelli opened the area’s first lodge, the Pousada do Toque (Doubles from $327, including dinner and breakfast) in 2000. When he launched, the road hadn’t been paved and there was no phone service. His 13-cabana garden retreat serves as an escape for the host of Big Brother Brazil as well as many Brazilian families, who book one of the three private pool cabanas. Set in a lush jungle garden (the sunrise bird chorus is impressive), guest rooms have marble and tile-mosaic bathrooms, ofuro tubs, and rough-hewn local woodwork. But the pousada’s restaurant is the real attraction, with dishes like peixe ao molho de camarão—grilled fish topped with a chunky shrimp-and-tomato sauce.
Down a one-mile dirt track five miles north of São Miguel i
Andaman Islands, India
Mumbai’s style set flocks to this archipelago in the Bay of Bengal. The Barefoot at Havelock has 18 thatched-roof cottages that are hidden in a lush rain forest. Doubles from $90.
Cyprus, Paphos + Limassol
Why Go Now: The prime Levantine location and sandy turquoise shores of this tiny island belie its complicated political past. But after decades spent divided between a Turkish-occupied north and Greek-speaking south, Cyprus is unifying, and international attention is now focused on its wildflower-covered hills and crystalline coastline.
Cyprus is changing dramatically around the port town of Paphos, the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite. During the Hellenistic period, Paphos was Cyprus’s capital, renowned for its temples and olive groves. Today, this unesco World Heritage site serves as an entry point to the island’s most exclusive resorts, and to tiny nearby crafts towns, like Omodos and Lefkara.
The Details: The chic Almyra (Doubles from $242) set the tone for Paphos’s resurgence when it debuted in 2004. Designed by one of Karl Lagerfeld’s favorite architects, Joëlle Pléot, and Tristan Auer, the centrally located hotel lures Europeans with its whitewashed bungalows and black-bottom pool. Down the coast at the mod-rustic Thalassa Boutique Hotel & Spa (Doubles from $453), the 58 suites—most with butlers and all named after a Greek god or goddess—are perched on a peninsula just above Coral Bay, overlooking 3,400-year-old Mycenaean ruins.
Although equally historic, Limassol, a harbor town on the southern coast, is more focused on its future than its past. Indeed, the marina of this commercial hub, home to the largest shipping port in the Mediterranean, is in the midst of a $265 million makeover. In the Old Town, cobblestoned Agiou Andreou Street houses many stylish shops: You’ll find Cavelliesque tunics and blouses from Cypriot designer Pantelis Mitsu at Mitsu Mitsu and handmade gold and enamel jewelry at the