6 Perfect Beach Breaks to Take This Year
Drinks served seaside out of a tuk-tuk? The sounds of salsa and surf blending under the stars? Quiet contemplation of the fate of civilization? There's a beach for that. Here are six of the best to hit this year.
Banyan Tree Samui, Thailand
There were already plenty of compelling reasons to visit this hideaway on the Gulf of Thailand, from the private bay that comes with the resort to the private pool that comes with every room. But Banyan Tree Samui has just opened one of the cutest watering holes in history, and fans of the beach bar genre will want to experience this newcomer ASAP. Set on a sandy cove, the Froggy Sea Breeze Beach Bar stars a classic, 1960s Daihatsu Midget. Rarely seen anymore, these so-called "frog-head" tuk-tuks were once a staple of Thailand’s taxi service, but today, a refurbished, emerald-green version—rescued from a southern port town—serves drinks right on the beach, under a canopy of twinkling lights. Try the Botanica, a gin cocktail infused with absinthe in honor—of course—of the froggy setting.
The beaches of Tahiti
Celebrate this year’s 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s arrival in Tahiti by getting here approximately 1000 times faster than he did—and incalculably more cheaply: With French Bee now flying from SFO to Papeete for as little as $309 one way, you almost have to visit. And you don’t have to take off again immediately upon touch-down, as many do en route to Bora Bora, Moorea and the isles beyond. Tahiti proper has its own gorgeous (if underrated) beaches, from the black-sand Venus Point Beach—capped by a lighthouse—to surfer-favorite Papanoo Beach, to snorkeling sweet spot Plage de Toaroto.
The beaches of St. Martin’s, England
See-through aqua waters, golden shores and artisanal winemaking may not be the first things you associate with Old Blighty, but look off the country’s southern coast and you’ll spot all three in one place. A four-hour ferry ride (or 20- to 60-minute flight) from the mainland, the Isles of Scilly are one of the best kept secrets in England—or at least they were until Will and Kate paid a visit a couple years back. Even so, at least for now, you can still have the beaches nearly to yourself (helicopter service starts in 2020). To see what we mean, head to the one-road isle of St. Martin’s (population 120-ish), where options include the eminently SUP-able Par Beach, the rock pool-dotted Lawrence’s Bay—and the piece de resistance: the wide and devastatingly beautiful Great Bay, perfect for strolling, swimming or chilling with a bottle of something local. When you’re not beach-bumming your way around this two-mile island, consider snorkeling with seals, walking to the local daymark or—if you happen to be a bloke in need of a shave or a trim—paying a visit to the Humanist Whiskey Barber. Yes, really.
The Beaches of Normandy
For a more contemplative beach trip, head to northwestern France, where the 75th anniversary of D-Day—one of the most sweeping and consequential campaigns in history—is being commemorated throughout the year. There are numerous sites that make up the memorial and educational experience, including Omaha Beach (home to the American cemetery and Overlord Museum), Utah Beach (site of the Museum of Landings), and Sword Beach (where you’ll find the Atlantic Wall Museum.) The installations and special exhibits are incredibly moving—and the sheer gorgeousness of the Norman coastline does the soul good. To add a festive experience into the mix, arrive in late August so you can catch Dîner sur La Digue in Cabourg (Aug. 24), when a long picnic table is laid out along the seafront, and everyone’s invited to the free feast.
Caribe Hilton Beach, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s tourism scene has been making a steady comeback since Hurricane Maria devastated the island, with many hotels reopening over the past year. But one of the island’s brightest stars has just retaken center stage after a 15-month, $150 million redo. A legend since birth in 1949, the Caribe Hilton was the first Hilton outside the continental U.S. and the height of midcentury glam. Though the hotel’s beach is reason enough to visit, so is surveying it from the gleaming, glass-walled Caribar, piña colada in hand. The cocktail is said to have been invented at this very resort, and though there's of course a rival claim, the Caribe Hilton's version is a requirement of connoisseurship. For the sake of thoroughness, you should also try the hotel's new spinoffs: the Espuma Colada (Don Q Aged Rum, Don Q Coco, pineapple juice, black walnut bitters, coconut lime cream, and nutmeg) and the Sparkling Colada (1800 Coconut, pineapple and rosemary syrup,aromatic bitters and a topping of sparking wine).
The Whitsundays, Australia
Beloved for their beaches—which are very much of the powdery white sand, turquoise water, and castaway vibe variety—the Whitsundays are an icon of the Great Barrier Reef region. One of the best places to experience those gorgeous local seascapes? The Intercontinental Hayman Island resort, which is re-opening this month after a multi-million-dollar renovation. Set on a nearly-1,000-acre private island, the star reborn serves up a mix of lagoon-view rooms, Coral Sea-view suites, pools upon pools, globe-spanning dining options and next-level excursions. If you go off campus only once (because to be fair, you'll have a hard time leaving) take a day trip to Whitehaven Beach (regularly voted one of the best in the world), and from there, head to the other side of Hill Inlet to find Betty’s Beach—a spot that’s just as breathtaking as Whitehaven, but much less crowded. Roll around in the white silica sand, then wash off in the impossibly clear turquoise water before catching a helicopter or seaplane back to your Hayman haven.