Today's undiscovered beaches are tomorrow's ultimate destinations. If you crave the solitude and serenity of an untouched paradise, here are 10 spots to match your wanderlust dreams. But get there quick, secrets like these can only last so long, and once the secret's out, the race is on to find next year's silent stretch of sand.
Anse Georgette -- Praslin, Seychelles
Framed by towering boulders and known for its powder-soft sand, Anse Georgette is easily the Seychelles’ best kept secret. Located on Praslin, the island chain’s second-largest hunk of granite, the beach is affiliated with a nearby hotel and crowd-controlled to ensure ultimate privacy. The hilly (but photo-ready) walk to the beach also keeps numbers at bay, though well-heeled tourists simply boat over or make it a stop on their catamaran cruises. A 30-minute walk inland puts visitors on the grounds of the Constance Lemuria Resort, a five-time World Travel Awards winner for Leading Golf Resort in the Indian Ocean. If luxury and privacy are your two prerogatives, this is your spot.
Where to stay: Constance Lemuria Resort (Rates start at $795 per night).
Playa Los Cerritos (Todos Santos) -- Baja California Sur, Mexico
If you haven’t heard of Todos Santos yet, you’re about to. This dusty little town adjacent to dazzling beaches like Playa Los Cerritos is on the up and up as an invasion of artists and New Age types from north of the border lay claim on Baja California’s next big thing. Founded in 1723, the city was nearly destroyed a decade later and finally abandoned by the 1840s before a sugar boom put it back on the map at the end of the century. A town of booms and busts, prosperity has never been Todos Santos’ strong suit, so it’ll be interesting to see how it manages its latest reincarnation as a rustic-chic resort. This up-and-coming beach town fashions itself as a trendier and quieter alternative to Cabo San Lucas, located an hour to the south. It’s a place where artists, craftsmen and surfers rub shoulders on streets that are known more for their history and tradition and less for their clubs and conga lines.
Where to stay: Guaycura Boutique Hotel & Spa (Rates start at $140 per night).
Batu Kembar Beach -- Aur Island, Malaysia
Some 67 kilometers off peninsular Malaysia's remote east coast, Pulau Aur (Aur Island) is a diver's heaven. With some of the clearest water in the world, this tropical aquarium contains immense coral gardens, walls and pinnacles, hulking shipwrecks and a thriving colony of whale sharks (to amuse the divers, not to scare the beachgoers). On land, there are no roads or vehicles, just a small local population of fishermen and a sprinkling of predominantly Singaporean-owned dive resorts. The interior is blanketed in jungle-clad slopes and small, low-level coconut plantations, while the coast boasts bone-white sand and translucent blue-green waters. The best beach to de-prune your waterlogged fingers after a morning dive is Batu Kembar, right in front of the Divers Lodge.
Where to stay: Divers Lodge (Most trips to Aur Island are all-inclusive diving excursions, and rates vary depending on the trip).
Agonda Beach -- Goa, India
Back in the 1960's, Goa burst onto the scene as a premier destination for secret stretches of sun-kissed sand. Yet over the years, the beach bungalows of the hippies morphed into megaresorts for Russian snowbirds, and the covert beaches of Goa became package-tour destinations. But all is not lost. There are still a few stretches of this Portuguese-flavored Indian oasis where development has yet to develop. Agonda Beach, 8 kilometers north of popular Palolem, remains a bungalow bum's dream. With an amiable Catholic community, affordable eco-accommodation and a quiet, palm-lined perimeter, Agonda is the place to unwind in southern India.
Where to stay: H2O Agonda (Rates start at $70 per night).
Playa Rincon -- Dominican Republic
Also called "Fisherman's Beach," Playa Rincon sits right between the pinchers of the lobster-claw-shaped Samana Peninsula. It's widely regarded as the most beautiful beach in the Dominican Republic. Some say it's the most beautiful in the Caribbean. Others say it's the most beautiful stretch of sand in the world. You can be the judge, but you better have a Jeep or an SUV and a sense of adventure to attempt the craggy, half-there road that leads down to this remote stretch of sand. A more scenic way to approach the sun-drenched strip is by boat from Las Galeras (where you can stock up on food, drinks, sunscreen and other essentials). You may be in the middle of nowhere, but the locals who run the two makeshift restaurants at Playa Rincon will cook you the best meal of your life. Choose from lobster, octopus, shrimp or fish plucked from the sea, cooked over a small fire and served with coconut rice and fried plantains. It doesn't get much better than that.
Where to stay: There are no accommodations at Playa Rincon, but in nearby Las Galeras, you can stay in all-inclusive style at Grand Paradise Samana (Rates start at $250 per night)
Cane Bay -- St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Sure, there's great diving all around the coral-rimmed Virgin Islands, but the wall in St. Croix is easily the best. Running along St Croix's north shore, the wall drops over 13,000 feet and is one of the most developed reef systems in the tropical Atlantic, home to the most extensive reef on the Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands shelf. Not only is the wall great for both novice and experienced divers alike, it can be reached by a short swim from shore at Cane Bay. That means no dive boat and a cheaper dive. The wall is a great place to see (harmless) sharks, colorful clown fish and the elusive seahorse. Best of all, it's sorely overlooked and never crowded. You're guaranteed to see swimming fish, not swimming humans.
Where to stay: The Waves At Cane Bay (Rates start at $220 per night)
Ibo Island Beach -- Quirimbas Islands, Mozambique
Move over Seychelles and Mauritius, there's a newcomer to the world of high-end Indian Ocean resorts. The pristine stretch of coastline in northern Mozambique has transformed from rustic beach huts to ultra-luxurious lodges in the past decade. The 34 coral-lined islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago are the premier destination, dotted with well-appointed accommodations. Yet, much of the archipelago is protected as part of the Quirimbas National Park, keeping development at bay and the views unadulterated. Ibo Island (among a host of great choices) is the most accessible and most historic beaches, and thus it's the best place to begin your journey.
Where to stay: Ibo Island Lodge (Rates start at $730/night)
Wizard Beach -- Isla Bastimentos, Panama
There may be no more "undiscovered" islands in the Caribbean, but Panama's Bocas del Toro group comes close. The chain of 10 islands has been a favorite for Panamanian tourists for a long time but remains a relatively unknown destination to foreigners, despite the islands' close proximity to tourist-heavy Costa Rica. The virtually abandoned Playa Wizard (Wizard Beach) is one of the most stunning beaches on Isla Bastimentos (one of the most stunning islands) -- and that’s saying a lot. There are oodles more spectacular beaches to choose from on these pristine islands, where you can expect low-impact, low-key accommodations, undeveloped beaches and uninterrupted tranquility.
Where to stay: Eclypse De Mar on Isla Bastimentos (Rates start at $275 per night, including breakfast)
Titikaveka Beach -- Rarotonga, Cook Islands
The largest and most populous of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga offers dense jungles, craggy mountain cliffs and pearly white sand -- all the ingredients for postcard-perfect pictures. On this verdant oasis in the vast Pacific, you can swim through underground caves, hike through "The Needle" and dance the night away with the cheerfully mischievous Polynesian locals -- but don’t move about too fast. Time in Rarotonga crawls at a snail's pace, and you'll want to save time to sit back, kick your feet up and do absolutely nothing. The best place to do that is Titikaveka Beach. Winner of a 2012 Travelers’ Choice award for best beach destination in the South Pacific, don’t be too concerned about the crowds. The remote Cook Islands receive less than 100,000 visitors each year.
Where to stay: Palm Grove in Vaimaanga (Rates start at $190 per night)
Main Beach -- Rabbit Island, Cambodia
Close to the mainland -- but far away in mindset -- Cambodia's Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island) is a 20-minute hop from the dock in Kep. This small, clover-shaped key in the Gulf of Thailand has rustic bungalows and rudimentary beach shack restaurants, but it remains predominantly undeveloped. Its hub of action is concentrated around the main beach, leaving the rest of the island blessedly vacant. There are no air conditioning units, no televisions, no mirrors and no Internet access. Rabbit Island is an emerging destination for those who want to get away from it all, relax, and enjoy a throwback island paradise.
Where to stay: Most bungalows are operated by local families and do not have websites or set rates, but you can expect to pay US$10 or less per night.