The Best Bohemian Beach Getaways—Beyond Tulum
Despite what Tulum might have you believe, these bohemian beach getaways are just as beautiful and carefree—without the crowds. Updated 2018
Isla Holbox, Mexico
You have to fly to Cancún, drive two hours north to Chiquila, and take a 20-minute ferry to reach Isla Holbox, a lush, untouched island eight miles off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula—but those who do will find the kind of undisturbed sanctuary that’s long since left Tulum. Much of the island is an unspoiled ecological preserve, where shallow lagoons and protected shores remain a refuge for resident flamingoes, white pelicans, and whale sharks. Not that you’d consider the rest of Holbox anything less than peaceful: roads are made of sand, visitors get around by bike (or walk barefoot), beaches are empty, there’s only one ATM (that we know of), and villages are made up of thatched-roof houses occupied by creative entrepreneurs who've fallen under the island’s spell. Such is the case at Casa Las Tortugas, a palapa-style oceanfront hotel owned by an expat couple (she’s Italian, he’s Dutch—they met here) as well as Casa Sandra, a boutique stay next door run by a Cuban artist. Don't miss the island breakfast of banana bread and hibiscus tea.
The pace slows down to a crawl on Menorca, designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its pristine wetlands, rocky shores punctuated by white-sand beaches, and historic sites that date back to the Bronze Age. Many consider it Spain’s most authentic (not to mention least-visited) island, a far cry from the glitz and glamour of nearby Majorca—but with 300 days of sunshine a year, it feels every bit as luxurious, if a little more rustic. And the locals are every bit as beautiful as you’d expect. Mingle among them during sundowners (and dancing after dark) at Cova d’en Xoroi, a terraced bar built into the cliffs. A half hour south, you’ll find Alcaufar Vell, a 14th-century Neoclassical stone mansion turned 21-room hotel whose grounds, littered with pine and oak trees, lead right down to the sea.
Tulum may get all the press, but Sayulita, on Mexico’s opposite coast, is as much a hippie-chic hot spot as ever. The hype lies in its contrasts: mellow surfers and glamorous expats, dirt-cheap street food (we’re talking fish tacos and humble smoothie stands) and splurge-worthy souvenirs (including one-of-a-kind handwoven blouses from Pachamama, run by French entrepreneur Nathalie Mignot), and hotels full of character and color. Petit Hotel Hafa is all of that and more, with its wooden walkways painted with hearts, Moroccan motifs in the form of arched windows and hanging lanterns, and eight rooms done up with local artisan crafts, Mexican textiles, and copper sinks. The rooftop lounge is one of the most stylish oases in town, with a perfect view of the ocean just blocks away.
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It takes a brave soul to drive Maui’s Road to Hana, the coastal highway that connects the island’s major cities to its rugged east side. But after a few endless hours of hairpin turns and one-lane bridges, you’re rewarded with unbridled natural beauty and pastoral towns seemingly untouched by the present day. Backpackers and honeymooners alike venture here for the strong bohemian, carefree lifestyle, where their career field of choice seems to be owners of bungalows-turned-Airbnbs. The more adventurous camp out in Wai’anapanapa State Park, whose verdant cliffs overlook a black-sand beach and the crashing Pacific—but for a taste of the finer Hawaiian life, the place to stay is Travaasa Hana, a sprawling spa retreat (and Maui’s only all-inclusive resort) that lets you schedule your own version of paradise—be it around wellness, food, adventure, or more.
A paved highway was only built in Trancoso in 2000, which might explain why it remained mostly hidden to outsiders—even if they did manage the layover in Rio or São Paulo and the lengthy drive afterwards in order to reach it. But the word is out on this sleepy fishing village in Bahia, Brazil, now firmly on the global map thanks to Anderson Cooper, who built his vacation home here after a stay at the Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa. The former artistic director of Italian fashion brand Diesel refurbished Uxua's 11 cottages, some of them old colonial fisherman’s houses, with artisanal art, Brazilian antiques, and reclaimed wood—though our favorite details might be the fishing boat-turned-bar and green-quartz-lined pool, now a magnet for models looking to improve their Instagram feed. The beach, minutes away, is undeveloped, the water mesmerizingly still, the roads are still primitive, and the Quadrango (its 16th-century main square) is used mostly by local children and grazing horses. Stop by El Gordo, another charming inn, for meals paired with caipirinhas (heavy on cachaça, of which they have 50+ varieties) and clifftop views.
San Giorgio Hotel in Mykonos, Greece
Hedonistic Mykonos might not seem so bohemian at first, but this über-chic boutique on a rocky perch above the Aegean has all the atmosphere to convince you otherwise. Inside, it's all about whitewashed walls, driftwood stools, pebble floors, hand-woven rugs, and muslin-draped beds positioned towards the sea. Every surface here was made for lounging—the sea-view verandas in suites, the hammocks strung in quiet corners, the day beds scattered around the turquoise pool and shaded by palm trees—but you're going to want to head out and explore, even if it's just a stroll along the private beach or getting VIP treatment at Paradise Club up the coast, run by the same owners as the hotel.
Hilly Valparaíso, a weathered Chilean port town north of Santiago known for its steep cobblestone streets, colorful townhouses, old mansions, and historic funiculars, has long drawn travelers seeking the gritty, bohemian lifestyle of its aging landscape and staggering ocean views. Afternoons find locals wandering the stalls at El Mercado Cardonal for the week’s groceries, in curbside pubs chowing down on chorrillana, and browsing authentic shops like Feria de Antiguedades y Libros La Merced, a bookstore known for stocking rare titles. A boom has happened in recent years in the form of innovative Chilean cuisine and microbrews, not to mention a handful of bed-and-breakfasts that echo their town’s charm with period antiques, such as the posh Casa Higueras, built in a restored Cerro Alegre mansion. Our sleep of choice, though, is Hotel Palacio Astoreca, a 1923 grand palace that, despite its departure from the city’s boho lean, instantly charms with its funky wallpaper, original tilework, and unbeatable views of Valparaíso Bay. A word to the wise: if you’re looking for a getaway of the quieter kind, avoid traveling in December, when streets pack out for Carnival.
Montezuma, Costa Rica
This chilled-out beach getaway has been a home base for surfers, young explorers, and artistic types for decades. We chalk it up to three essential elements: the village’s natural beauty (mangroves, estuaries, and tropical forests edging the Pacific), the laid-back mentality (locals walk barefoot, and beach BBQs are often open-invite), and its after-hours energy (there’s no end to its hopping clubs and buzzy bars). Here, it’s all about approaching everything at your own speed: low-key lovers laze the hours away on the beach and in the surf, while the more active can pursue canopy tours, kayaking, and horseback riding. A favorite stay among visitors is Amor de Mar, an 11-room sanctuary hidden in the jungle, close to Montezuma falls, that features timbered ceilings, wooden rockers, and lanterns everywhere. For even more immersion, head to Ylang Ylang, a basic beachside hideaway with elevated dome-shaped bungalows overlooking the forest or ocean.
José Ignacio, Uruguay
José Ignacio is no secret—every November, the international throngs descend on the tiny beach town, marking the beginning of Uruguay’s summer season—but it still retains its beachy, boho vibe. Think of it like the Hamptons of South America, complete with low-slung cottages, fishermen sharing the same sand as bikini-clad models, and some seriously incredible design hotels. Bahia Vik, from the same owners as Estancia Vik, is the latest to move in. The intimate sleep of 11 private bungalows and a main guesthouse overlooks Mansa Beach (the sleepier version of more popular Brava), where its sleek, natural structure—black zinc, steel, wood—is punctuated by commissioned art. Don’t leave town without having at least one lunch at Parador La Huella, a sand-floored restaurant known for its fresh seafood and house-made sangria.
Placencia Peninsula, Belize
The little-known beach town of Placencia, on a narrow, tucked-away peninsula in southern Belize, has enjoyed serenity for decades—the kind of serenity that has attracted a healthy dose of backpackers, sun-seekers, and well-heeled expats (Francis Ford Coppola owns an inn here) hoping to find such a laid-back escape. Despite the peninsula's remoteness, a 27-mile road finds its way to land’s end, making this sandy stretch all the more accessible. Pass the long, lazy hours snorkeling beside whale sharks at the nearby Belize Barrier Reef or exploring roadside shanties from your rickety golf cart (the vehicle of choice around these parts). Belize as a whole enjoys high humidity and sub-tropical temperatures year-round, but the time to go is now: big openings including the tranquil Naïa Resort & Spa, with its 35 beach houses, and Itz’ana Resort & Residences (complete with a lauded chef and its own rum room) are already attracting serious crowds.
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