The best beach retreats you’ve (probably) never heard of

Life’s a beach! Or, at least, it can be, if you take your bucket and spade off to one of these lovely, lesser-known beaches. Whether you’re a couple, a daredevil or after complete quiet, we’ve found a relatively untouched stretch of sand for every ilk of beach bum

Best for… sunrise/sunset: Embleton Bay, Northumberland, UK

Best for sunrisesunsetEmbleton Bay Northumberland UK

Britain may not be best known for its beaches, but the north east’s Embleton Bay is blessed with some of the most spectacular dawn and dusk action in the world, painting the sky, sea and sand in ethereal hues of pinks and blues. Overlooked by the ruins of 14th-century Dunstanburgh Castle, the wildly picturesque stretch of sand has even been known to offer sights of the Northern Lights.

Best for… family: Makarska Rivijera, Croatia

Best for familyMakarska Rivijera Croatia

Thanks to dependably good weather, value for money and an easy-going, child-friendly culture, Croatia’s popularity as a family holiday hot spot is on the up. As most visitors flock to the nearby Dalmatian Islands, however, you’ll still find plenty of seaside space along mainland Makarska Riviera (without tackling the high seas with little ones). Comprising 38 miles of pinewood-flanked beaches, pretty bays and fishing villages, the area offers kid-happy activities like pedal-boats, banana rides and jet skis, with plenty of café culture to be had in Makarska town.

Best for… peace and quiet: Polihale Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Best for peace and quietPolihale Beach Kauai Hawaii

Accessible only by ancient sugarcane farm roads, the journey to Hawaii’s Polihale is not for the faint-hearted, but intrepid explorers will be rewarded by, often, exclusive use of Hawaii’s longest and most remote beach. The epitome of untouched coastal paradise, the seven-mile wild beach is flanked by the towering Nohilili sand dunes and steeped in Hawaiian mythology. This isn’t one for swimming, and you won’t find much in the way of facilities; what you will find is complete seaside serenity amidst wild nature and stunning views.

Best for… camping: Dune du Pilat, Pyla-sur-Mer, France

Best for candingDune du Pilat Pyla-sur-Mer France

The chic sands of the Côte d’Azur might be France’s most famous, but for beautiful beaches further from the madding crowds, the country’s west coast is where it’s at. Europe’s highest sand dune, at more than 100m tall, Dune du Pilat is essentially a giant seaside sandpit simply begging to be rolled or body-boarded down. And the fun doesn’t end at the beach; the area boasts a brilliant array of French campsites too. But if you don’t fancy tent-life, there’s also the smart Philippe Starck-designed Coorniche hotel.

Best for… wellbeing: Pangkor Laut Island, Malaysia

Best for wellbeingPangkor Laut Island Malaysia

If chilling out on the beaches of a sun-soaked Southeast Asian Island doesn’t already sound like a sure-fire way to reach total mind, body and soul bliss, check out the rest of Pangkor Laut’s specs… Think sea-front yoga classes, wellness packages covering everything from traditional Ayurveda and Chinese medicine to modern stress reduction tricks, a warm-and-fuzzy focus on sustainability, and very few people. The larger Pangkor Island – a short boat ride away – has more beaches and more accommodation options, but more people (although it’s still hardly Marbella).

Best for… food: Point Reyes and Tomales Bay, California, USA

Best for foodPoint Reyes and Tomales Bay California USA

Food doesn’t get much fresher than a course of oysters pulled from the bay your table overlooks and shucked yourself – nor does it find a better partner than a cold glass of Californian white. Visitors to Point Reyes’ 80 miles of protected white-sand beaches will find the area a bon vivants’ heaven, with an incredible array of seafood restaurants and wine lists straight from world-famous local vineyards.

Best for… action and adventure: Lord Howe Island, Australia

Best for action and adventureLord Howe Island Australia

Ancient volcanic remains flung out to sea between Australia and New Zealand, UNESCO-listed Lord Howe Island Marine Park is as exciting as it is remote. While its golden sands and sparkling waters make it beloved of beach bums and its coral-reef lagoon a hit with snorkelers, the island (which caps visitor numbers) also offers challenging climbs of 2,871ft Mount Gower and, for serious climbers (with nerves of steel and approval from the authorities), a trip out to nearby Ball’s Pyramid – the tallest volcanic stack in the world.

Best for… romance: Ibo Island, Mozambique

Best for romanceIbo Island Mozambique

If you’ve been lucky enough to find someone you’re willing to be stranded on a desert island with, we’ve found just the place: Africa’s Ibo Island, where visitors to its sole hotel may also make use of its private island as part of their stay. Whichever island you’re loved up on, you’ll find private sandbanks, only accessible by boat (basically your own bit of beach paradise); historical forts and crumbling colonial homes; gorgeous views, accommodation and food; and countless couple-centric offerings like private beach dining and sea-born picnics.

Best for… surfing: Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Best for surfingArugam Bay Sri Lanka

Widely thought of as the best surf spot in one of the surfing capitals of the world, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d be board to board with other wave-chasers here. Thankfully, this stunning crescent-shaped bay is incredibly remote and has a population of only a few hundred so – especially in November to April’s low season – you can enjoy its famed point break. You won’t be completely alone, however; there are a couple of long-loved surf schools, making it a good spot for new starters too.

Best for… partying: Cova d’en Xoroi, Menorca, Spain

Best for partyingCova den Xoroi Menorca Spain

Although not strictly speaking a ‘beach’, Cova d’en Xoroi is about the most scenic spot for seaside revelry as they come. A series of interconnecting caves hewn into the cliffs on the southern coast of Menorca – still arguably the least ‘spoilt’ of the larger Balearics – this bar/nightclub has the edge on other party island hotspots a) for its magnificent site, and sights, overlooking the Med, and b) because Ibiza’s DJs regularly pop over to play here – so you get all the big-name sounds without the big crowds or prices.

Best for… something completely different: Playa del Amor, Islas Marietas, Mexico

Best for something completely differentPlaya del Amor Islas Marietas Mexico

Playa del Amor, known commonly as ‘the Hidden Beach’, is widely thought to have been the result of bomb testing – an explosion resulting in a vast hole amidst the lush green landscape of the Marieta Island archipelago. Accessible only through swimming or kayaking, a water tunnel from the Pacific Ocean opens into a magical (infinitely Instagrammable) circular space of clear waters, white sand and sunshine.

Once you’ve found your coastal idyll, make it happen with flights, hotels and car hire, then let the sun-soaked fun begin…

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