They are not overcrowded with backpacking tourists, nor will you find them mentioned in packaged tours. Visit these quiet, lesser-known beaches just a few hours flying time from your home and come back with your batteries recharged.
China Beach, VietnamWhere: China Beach, on Vietnam’s central coast near Da Nang, is 30-km long and has numerous resorts and restaurants, especially around Bai Non Nuoc.
What to do: The most famous part of China Beach is known locally as Bai Tam My Khe. Here, you can see fishermen paddle out through its breaking waves in flimsy wicker coracles and then, after fishing, surf right back in again. China Beach is one of the most pristine beaches in Vietnam. The endless white sand of China Beach, where US troops landed during the ‘70s, are also a must-see for those interested in history.
The main beach is around the famous Non Nuoc Resort hotel but some locals argue that the real China Beach is at My Khe Beach about 5 km north of the hotel. Both, in any case, are very close to the tourist attraction of Marble Mountains.
How to get there: Fly to Danang International Airport, just a 25-minute drive from the beach. Several daily flights arrive here from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, as well as from Bangkok and Singapore.
Thai and Singapore Airlines will be the best bet for Indians.
Where to stay: Furama Resort Danang
Cost: Rs 10,000 per night for a couple (approx.)
Bentota, Sri LankaWhere: Located barely 60 km south of Colombo, Bentota boasts pristine clear beaches. The Indian Ocean caresses this coast of granite headlands that surfers have always loved. It’s not quite unknown and it offers a choice of four and five-star resorts to stay in.
What to do: If you want to arrive here in style, take the sea plane to Bentota River from the Colombo airport. The wide and sandy beach has calm, warm waters and swimming in most parts is pretty safe. One can also go in for deep sea fishing and diving. On the Bentota River you may try water skiing, wind surfing or take a lazy boat ride up stream and through the mangroves. Watch out for the water monitors, crocodiles and the kingfishers. But don’t worry, water sports operate at the salt water mouth of the river and the crocs reside upstream in the fresh water. The beaches are also home to the giant sea turtles. Visit the hatchery at Kosgoda which has prepared, protected beds of sand for the eggs, laid annually, and large tanks to view the young before they are returned to the sea. If you are a party animal and like disco, bongos or live reggae, then this is also the place for you.
How to get there: A host of international airlines flies from all the metros to Colombo. Bentota is just 60 km away.
Where to stay: Taj Exotica
Cost: Rs 10,000 for a couple per night (approx.)
Riau Archipelago, IndonesiaWhere: The archipelago located just south of Singapore has more than 3,000 islands. Choose where you want to go.
What to do: If underwater history is what you’re seeking, then pick diving sites closer to the Singapore coast and you will find Bugis skiffs, Dutch East Indies galleons and WW-II crafts sunk by the Japanese. The wrecks are usually in shallow waters and you can rent a boat and mark your own itinerary. For a lush landscape of corals, stick nearer to Bintan, which is also more traveller-savvy with its beach life.
How to get there: High-speed ferry services exist to the archipelago from Singapore. Singapore Airlines flies out of all Indian metros.
Where to stay: Bintan Lagoon Resorts
Cost: Rs 15,000 upwards
Yalong Bay, ChinaWhere: Located just 20 km away from Sanya, this is a pristine beach destination that few Indians have explored on their visits to China.
What to do: Hainan is where even mainland Chinese come to chill out, without really feeling they are away from home. Yalong Bay’s broad white beaches are better than many in Hawaii. This place is definitely worth a visit. Diving, paragliding, going on fishing trips and enjoying the stillness of the place in the evenings are some experiences you will not forget in a hurry here.
Yalong Bay is not full of virgin beaches nor is it an “undiscovered” place so to speak, but given that this is potentially Sanya's economic future, it seems that many of the lessons of other tourist resort failures have been learnt here. Staying here is not a problem at all. All Yalong Bay hotels are some distance from Sanya and the tourist attractions to the west of the city but a lot nearer the eastern attractions, including the Lingshui and Xinglong areas.
How to get there: Fly to Beijing or Shanghai and take a domestic flight to Sanya.
Where to stay: Yalong Bay Mangrove Tree Resort
Cost: Rs 10,000 per night for a couple
Surin islands, ThailandWhere: This remote, wild chain of five islands is located about 160 km north of Phuket near the Burmese border on the Andaman Sea.
What to do: The Surins are best known for their abundance of large marine life, including leopard sharks and manta rays, usually explored on dive trips. The most famous site is Richelieu Rock for near-guaranteed sightings of whale sharks. Blanketed with jungle vegetation, the islands' interiors are also great for hiking. There are five islands in all, but the two most popular are—Ko Surin Neua (north island) and Ko Surin Tai (south island). Surin islands are a series of jungle-covered granite outcrops that are ringed with coral reefs to a depth of 25-30 metres. These islands were designated as a national park in 1981, and are famous for excellent diving and sport fishing. Diving cruises to the Surin Islands usually include diving at the Richelieu Rock. If you are on a cruise, stop at Ko Bon and Ko Tachai, both of which offer good opportunities to see leopard sharks and manta rays.
How to get there: Thai Airways flies from all Indian metros to Bangkok. You can fly from Bangkok to Phuket and then take a luxury cab, which takes about three hours to reach the Surin Islands.
Where to stay: Bor Saen Villa & Spa in Phang Nga, 60 km from Surin Islands and 40 minutes drive from Phuket.
Cost: Rs 15,000 upwards
Dungun, MalaysiaWhere: Situated on the East Coast of Malaysia on the South China Sea, Dungun has been a well-guarded secret. Not too many tourists know about these beaches surrounded by forests.
What to do: Here Macaque monkeys swing through a tree canopy that borders the South China Sea. Beyond the trees, Dungun is an empty swoop of beach —one of Malaysia's least-exploited shores. Offshore is Tenggol Island, part of Terengganu Marine Park, where you can snorkel and scuba dive amid clear waters alive with turtles, grouper, wrasse and jacks.
How to get there: Dungun is a sixhour drive from both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Luxury taxi services operate to and from Dungun.
Where to stay: Tanjong Jara Resort
Cost: Rs 10,000 upwards