South Beach, Bondi, Myrtle, Copacabana: World-famous beaches that have become a household name are revered for good reason—but they’re sure to pack in the crowds, too.
The Best Secret Beaches You’ve Never Heard Of
If you want a jaw-dropping shoreline without the sunburned tourists and splashing masses, head for one of these lesser-known gems that are just as dazzling—even if you’ve never heard of them.
Playa Negra: Vieques, Puerto Rico
The idyllic beaches of San Juan are enough of a getaway for most people, but the more remote beaches on the smaller islands off Puerto Rico are well worth the trip. Vieques, known for calm snorkeling coves and the enchanting wild horses that roam the island, is also home to a hidden black sand beach, Playa Negra. The soft, dark sand makes this beach as nice a spot for horseback riding as it is for lounging in the sun.
Where to Stay: El Blok Hotel is one of Vieques’ few waterfront hotels, and just a five-minute taxi ride from Playa Negra.
Navagio Beach: Zakynthos, Greece
You’ve probably seen this little-known but much-photographed beach before, but might not know its name. With its turquoise water, sweeping white cliffs, and a rusted-over shipwreck plopped on the sand, Navagio (meaning shipwreck) Beach is a popular spot for visitors to the Greek Isles. But, it’s difficult to reach: A lookout point above it is more accessible than the cove itself, which you’ll need to sail into if you want to swim or peer into the shipwreck.
Where to Stay: Since you’ll need to sail there in order to reach it, Navagio Beach is isolated from most Zakynthos hotels. But Zakynthos Town, where most visitors arrive, has plenty to choose from, including the affordable Hotel Strada Marina, for waterfront views and a central location.
Shell Beach: Denham, Western Australia
Sandy beaches sound ideal until you’ve seen one that’s covered entirely in tiny white shells. Bring your flip flops to Denham, Australia’s famed Shell Beach, for a unique beach walk on the western coast’s Shark Bay. The sparkling cockles that cover this area can be as much as 29 feet deep in some places, and at low tide the flat beach is a vast expanse of white shoreline and shallow tide pools.
Where to Stay: The RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort offers comfortable digs on sprawling surroundings where you can spot wildlife like dolphins and emus.
Cox Bay Beach: Vancouver Island, Canada
Flanked by the wild natural scenery of Pacific Rim National Park, Cox Bay Beach’s position on the west coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island makes for ideal surfing conditions year-round (hence its other name, Surf Beach). Take a forest path to one of the beach’s narrow cliff paths for access to the flat, wide Tofino coastline, and keep an eye out for giant drift logs and sand dollars.
Where to Stay: The Meares Vista Inn lives up the name with sweeping mountain and water views.
Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka
For a tropical beach getaway that’s as scenic as Thailand without the overwhelming crowds, Sri Lanka’s beaches will make you feel like you dove into a postcard. Mirissa Beach on the tear-drop-shaped island’s south coast faces the expansive Indian Ocean for surf-worthy waves and uninterrupted sunset views. Post up with an umbrella or in a palm-tree hammock by day for warm sun and sand. At night, head to the beach’s many open-air, tiki-style bars to watch the tide roll in.
Where to Stay: The boutique Triple O Six Hotel’s rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows, and you can go luxe for less thanks to Sri Lanka’s favorable exchange rate.
Camilo Beach: Lagos, Portugal
Some of Europe’s best beaches are in Portugal’s Algarve Region, where white-sand beaches, rocky cliffs, and brightly colored fishing towns echo Italy’s Amalfi Coast. In the beach town of Lagos, descend the wooden steps to Camilo Beach (or Praia Camilo) for a day of lounging on soft sand and exploring stone arches in the sea cliffs. Switch into adventure mode by booking a boat tour of the bay that can bring you into the nearby grottoes and sea caves that drain at low tide.
Where to Stay: The Carvi Beach Hotel Algarve is a short walk from Praia Camilo and overlooks Praia Dona Ana, a rocky cove worth exploring by boat.
Nungwi Beach: Zanzibar, Tanzania
Beach getaways don’t get much more exotic than Zanzibar, the archipelago of Tanzania, home to famously idyllic beaches and the cultural trading hub of Stone Town. Spend an afternoon at Nungwi Beach on Zanzibar Island’s northern point for tidepool starfish, fisherman watching, waterfront dining options, and to spot the occasional farm cow wandering by. Most importantly, don’t miss the pink-hued beach sunset.
Where to Stay: The DoubleTree by Hilton Resort Zanzibar is situated on Nungwi Beach, so you’ll never have to part with the view of this idyllic secret beach.
Dry Tortugas National Park: Florida
A bucket list spot you’ll want to see before it disappears, Dry Tortugas National Park sits 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, and is a piece of military history floating in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico’s rising sea waters—but 19th-century Fort Jefferson’s brick interior can still be toured today. The white sand beaches of Dry Tortugas are a popular spot for snorkeling, camping, and scuba diving. You can also walk the seawalls of the fort, which will put you right over the shallow turquoise waters.
Where to Stay: Dry Tortugas is remote, but a good choice among Key West hotels is the stylish Havana Cuba at Key West for its massive pools, outdoor hammocks, and colorful decor.
Tulum National Park: Quintana Roo, Mexico
Don’t want to settle for views from a cabana? Head to this national park on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Outside of tourist-addled Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo’s Tulum National Park boasts beachfront fun, protected sea turtles, and Mayan ruins at an archaeological site you can explore. That is if the sea cliffs and white sand aren’t enough.
Where to Stay: One of the closest hotels to Tulum’s archaeological site is the beach-nestled Diamante K, which has open-air villas, authentic Mexican food, and luxe amenities, all on a private stretch of shoreline.
Anse Source d’Argent: La Digue, Seychelles
On one of the world’s most remote island chains lies one of the world’s most photographed beaches. Anse Source d’Argent’s smooth rock formations, turquoise waters, and colorful fish make it feel a world away—which, at the center of the Indian Ocean, it is for many travelers.
Where to Stay: Closest to Anse Source d’Argent is Le Repaire Boutique Hotel’s central, cozy beachfront digs–complete with free breakfast.
More from SmarterTravel:
- The World’s Best Beach Destinations
- The Best Caribbean Beaches for a Relaxing Escape
- 7 Tropical Vacations Under $500, Including Airfare and Hotel
SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel and is always looking for a new secret beach to visit. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.