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9 Secret Beaches Worth Making the Trip For

A day at the beach always seems like a good idea—until someone with the voice of a horseracing commentator plants his umbrella practically in your lap. But there are still some swaths of sand and surf that remain blissfully untouched. Sure, they may be a little out of the way, but that’s what makes them so alluring. Here are nine beaches worth making the trip for.

Jen has been a staff editor at Architectural Digest, Travel + Leisure, and Martha Stewart Weddings, and her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Afar, and Elle Decor. When she's not snowmobiling in the French Alps or tasting scotch straight from the barrel in Scotland, she's at home in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.

See recent posts by Jennifer Fernandez

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Smuggler's Cove, Greece

On the Ionian island of Zakynthos, Smuggler's Cove (or Navagio beach) was named after the shipwrecked vessel that lies on its golden sands. One visit to the northwestern shore and you’ll wish you could be marooned here for eternity, too. Accessible by boat, the postcard-worthy waterfront and aquamarine waves are sheltered by imposing limestone cliffs that make it feel like the last place on earth—so long as you beat the tourists and arrive in the early morning. But the beach appeals to more than just sunbathers: BASE jumpers are known to plunge some 650 feet from the rock surface into the crystal-clear surf.

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Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Yes, Thailand is full of European and Australian backpackers, but head over to Phu Quoc, in Vietnam, and you'll find plenty of unspoiled stretches to explore (more than half of the island is protected national parkland). For an equal mix of pleasure and relaxation, head to the eastern shore’s Bai Truong (Long Beach), a 12-mile strand known as much for its picture-perfect leaning palms and azure waters as its private resorts and cafés serving fresh-caught squid.

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Lord Howe Island, Australia

It’s no wonder Australia’s Lord Howe Island remains blissfully remote. The two-hour flight from Sydney to this UNESCO World Heritage Site deters many tourists, especially those who have already seen airtimes in the double digits; plus, travelers who do make the journey are capped at 400 at any given time. Once there, active types can snorkel a colorful reef teeming with aquatic life in the scenic lagoon below Mount Gower or join the turtles that idle on the cornmeal sand at Old Settlement Beach.

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Bowman's Beach, Florida

Looking for the perfect shell to add to your collection? Bowman’s Beach, on Florida’s sleepy Sanibel Island, is where to find pristine whelks, cockles, and conches in every size and hue. But there’s something here for everyone. Sun worshippers can pull up their towels on powdery swaths of sand, while sailors can make use of the gentle waves and tailwinds. More of an angler? Charter a boat or rent a rod to catch tarpon, grouper, and the photogenic crevalle jack, for your mantel or for dinner.

RELATED: 10 Best Beach Resorts in Florida

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Holbox Island, Mexico

Skip the party scene in Cancun—instead, take a short drive and hop the ferry to Isla Holbox, an untouched island at the point where the Caribbean Sea joins the Gulf of Mexico. No need to pack anything fancier than flip-flops: A hammock on the island’s coral sands is likely your most ambitious destination, and most of the roads are covered in sand anyway. But if you’re looking to challenge yourself—and we use that term very loosely—you can swim with whale sharks just off the shore or hike the Yum Balam ecological reserve to see flamingos and white pelicans.

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Anse Source d'Argent, Seychelles

Chances are you’ve already taken a virtual trip to the prototypical paradise that is Anse Source d’Argent, on La Digue, and not even realized it. Set against a cobalt sky, its dramatic granite boulders, gently lapping waves, and swaying stooped palms make the Seychelles’ most famous beach a frequent backdrop for fashion and film shoots, but it’s still far flung enough to remain off the tourist radar—for now. An offshore reef creates a sheltered inlet that’s perfect for swimming, but if you’re craving some culture, you can explore L’Union Estate, a 19th-century coconut plantation that also houses a giant tortoise sanctuary.

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Paternoster, South Africa

When it comes to beaches, Africa isn’t usually the first place most people call to mind. But just 90 miles north of Cape Town, Paternoster is an old west coast fishing village with powdery sands and whitewashed cottages that look like they might be at home in the Greek Cyclades. Like those islands in Greece, this shoreline produces an embarrassment of culinary riches, mainly fresh Atlantic lobster, expertly prepared in unassuming restaurants that happen to be home to some of the South Africa’s most inventive chefs. Nearby, the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve is a draw for campers, hikers, and birdwatchers.

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Hampstead Beach, Dominica

Few people have even heard of the tiny tropical island of Dominica, let alone its most hidden beach, despite its use as a filming location for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But Hampstead defies Antilles expectations: Instead of white-sand shores and pastel-hued hotel behemoths, there are black sands, primordial rainforests, and a freshwater river that meets the sea. The best way to reach its remote shoreline on Batibou Bay is aboard a 4x4, but you can also hike the short distance from the main road to have the turquoise waves all to yourself.

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Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii
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Lumahai Beach, Hawaii

If Kauai’s Lumahai Beach looks straight out of a movie set, that’s because it is. Mitzi Gaynor “wash[ed] that man right out of [her] hair” here in the 1958 musical South Pacific. Although the north shore’s glistening white sands beckon tourists in search of a secluded swimming hole, the waters remain empty: strong currents make the waves more dangerous than most. Better to stick to sunbathing or a sunset stroll—the picturesque lookout from the main road above the beach has postcard-worthy views. If you must go for a dip, head around the corner to Hanalei Bay, a two-mile half-moon beach that’s just as scenic and often calmer.

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What to Pack for a Beach Vacation

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