Three beaches with soul
Not all beaches are alike – some are worth making an extra effort to search out, says Chris Carter.
Beautiful beaches are like the famous Tolstoy quote about happy families: they're all alike. A far harder thing to find on a tropical island is a beach that makes you think," says Maura Judkis in The Washington Post. That's not a problem on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.
Take the "striking" Plage des Raisins Clairs (the beach of light grapes), for example. On the other side of the road from the beach stand the black-and-white-tiled mausoleums of a beautiful old Catholic cemetery, where a sign prohibits visitors from collecting or extracting the bones. "Bones?" We looked at each other, and then down, says Judkis. A few feet away, there was a bone lying in the sand. Nearby, people were sunbathing and drinking "ti punch". "Sleep well, " an older French man joked. Maybe it was a memento mori "a poignant reminder that vacation doesn't last forever", says Judkis. "But I'm not the type of person who can casually sunbathe near ghosts."
The nearby La Cocoteraie hotel is on a beautiful lagoon and just two steps from the Saint-Franois golf course. (From €199 Cocoteraie.Popinns.com).
The (other) beach
"Even in a country as beach-blessed as Thailand, the bays and coves of Ko Kut stand out for special mention," says Oliver Berry in Lonely Planet. As the fishermen return to the shore after dawn with their catch, the outline of an island gradually hoves into view "high and rugged, its craggy silhouette covered in forest, rising from a turquoise sea".
Ko Kut (also known as Koh Kood) is the southernmost and second-largest island of a small archipelago that is a 75-minute boat-ride from Trat, a town in eastern Thailand. The coastline is still mostly undeveloped. But behind the golden sands of Ao Tapao sits Paradise Beach Resort. It is accessed via a wooden boardwalk, and makes for a great base from which to explore Ko Kut. (Lodges from £117 KohKoodParadiseBeach.com.)
Nicaragua's Emerald Coast
Nicaragua is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world, says Laura Barcella on GQ.com. But you wouldn't know it from the Emerald Coast, a stretch of shoreline between Tola and El Astillero that feels quiet and untouched, "save for the smattering of boutique hotels along the water". The coastline is popular with surfers, but this is no party spot. If you're looking "to chill on an ultra-mellow beach" or catch "some of Central America's best waves", you won't find any better.
The 1,670-acre resort of Mukul pulls in a luxury crowd without feeling "stuffy". Besides great surfing, there is a golf course, a dozen kilometres of natural trails and a spa. Accommodation ranges from treehouse-style "bohios" to beach villas, all with ocean views and private plunge pools. Be sure to ask for a rum tasting too: the family that owns the resort also runs a distillery. (From $400 in early May Mukul.AubergeResorts.com.)
Surfing near the Arctic Circle
"You come up from the ocean and you're just freaking cold," Unn Holgersen tells Agence France-Presse photographer Olivier Morin. "You have to put your feet in a bowl of hot water and you have to change really quickly," the 32-year-old surf fanatic adds. Almost every day, she surfs the icy waves off the Norwegian Lofoten islands, where she lives above the Arctic Circle, against the backdrop of the Northern Lights shimmering green on the horizon. The water is just 4C, but Holgersen has chosen to embrace the cold for the thrill of winter surfing. On the snow-covered beaches, the air is a decidedly chilly -15C. But for Holgersen and her fellow hardy surfers, it beats the warmer surf spots of southern Europe and Bali. There are not too many people and the scenery is beautiful, she says. "It's the whole package."