10. Black Sand Beach Reynisfyara, Iceland
When I talked about a top ten beach list I bet you weren’t thinking this beach would be on the list huh? Yes! You'll get my review of the best beaches I've been to so far. But there is just something magical about this beach adjacent to the village of Vic that I had to include it. I came across this beach in January, 2016. The roaring waves crashing of the black sand juxtaposed against the basalt columns forming a pseudo-pyramid and the view of Reynisdrangar just off of the water is so magical. Legend has it that the jutting rocks were two trolls pulling a three masted ship towards the shore. They were turned to stone when they got caught by the sun rising. On the east side of the beach there are more jutting rock formations in the ocean and a cave made out of the same basalt columns that gave me that eerie feeling. It’s exactly like watching the Lord of the Rings Return of the King. Be careful! The water is very strong on this side of the island. My tour guide forewarned our bus of tourists not to get too close. This Japanese girl, who didn’t understand much English from a conversation I had with her didn’t heed his warning. She went straight for the shore with her boyfriend immediately behind to take a picture. Consequently, the waves came in and pushed her to her hands and knees while her boyfriend ran away. Before I could even understand what was going on, my tour guide was already at full speed to grab a hold of her and take her to safety. One, I would dump that boyfriend if I was you gurl! Two, I was impressed. There are not a lot of people in this world that has that kind of a reaction time. If he acted a second later, another wave would have taken her down to Poseidon.
9.The beaches of Jimbaran Bay, Bali
This beach was a nice cap to my two month backpacking trip through Asia. A fine white sand beach that caters to the bougiest of the bougie. I was obviously a match made in Heaven for it. Just steps away from the Four Seasons Resort, Le Meridien hotel and other luxury accommodations, the beach is lined up with a plethora of restaurants catering to the utmost discerning of palates. But for cheap doh! Daddy didn't feel stretched shelling out money; not one bit. Seafood connoisseurs will be happy to discover that they serve an array of fresh fish daily and grilled to order. They grill so much fish, the whole row looks like it's going up in flames. Be careful with the dipping sauces. I tried to ask for everything not spicy, but I don't think mild is in the Balinese vocabulary.
The beach was very calm, not overcrowded. My hunch was that it was off season. But I don't think it ever gets crowded. If you are more down to party than relax, go more north. Cuz you're not gonna find anybody to rage with down here.
On my last day, I found the courage to take surfing lessons. Thankfully, there were instructors on the beach that gave out hour lessons all day. What's perfect with the waters of Jimbaran was that it's shallow for a good amount off of the shore and there is enough of a wind to make waves for beginner boarders to learn how to surf. So if you are worried about sharks, don't worry your pretty little head. Chances are, they are somewhere else.
8. Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy
The vertical city of Positano was a sight to see. I have never seen a city built on a cliff. So when our boat ride from the island of Capri arrived on its shores. I fell in love. Bring your jelly slip-ons though. I learned first hand how integral they were. Large stones line the shore.There aren't a lot of beaches on the Amalfi coast that have fine powdery sand. If you find one, let me know. Nevertheless, I still felt like I was on vacation. The restaurants have the freshest and most decadent southern Italian cuisine. I don't think I've had a better Carbonara pasta or fresher sardines anywhere else. The homemade limoncello is much stronger than the liqueur they sell in the states. And if your preferred drink wasn't an Aperol spritz, were you really there for an Italian vacation?
The "beaches" are lined up with color coordinated lounge chairs matching their designated restaurants. They come with a swivel top to block your face from the sun just in case it gets to hot but you still want the rest of your body to tan. There are several beaches in Positano. The ones I had access to within the few days I was there were Spiaggia Grande and Fornillo. My travel buddy, Lexi, and I had our Airbnb much nearer to Fornillo which was perfect for us. It was more quiet and relaxing. If you go, try and patronize the restaurant farthest from Spiaggia Grande called Puppetto. They owners of this establishment will make you feel at home!
7. Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Lee, Thailand
The beauty of the beach at Maya Bay is famous. It was the setting for the movie appropriately called "The Beach" starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It has fine white sands and crystal clear emerald waters as calm as my therapist. (If I had one.) The beach is surrounded by 50 foot cliffs on three sides. The reason I ranked it at #7 is that it is overcrowded. When my boat came around the bend to enter the bay, there were at least 20 tourist boats anchored near the shore and the beach was covered with people, I couldn't even see the sand. When we got off the boat, I could see debris floating on the water. I don't think it was trash. It looked mostly like tree bark or leaves. Everybody that I saw was excited to see this paradise. But some of my boat mates and I just couldn't take it all in. Luckily, we found a less crowded area near the end of the beach where the water had less tree speckles on it where we partook in a little swimming. If you do decide to visit, come early in the morning and enjoy it with less of a crowd. Traveling and talking about traveling to others is a double edged sword. I want to share the beauty of a place. But with flights becoming more affordable and as more people decide to explore the world, it's harder to enjoy the beauty of a "secluded" island if I feel like I'm at a theme park in the middle of the summer. I don't know if Thailand has regulations on how many people they can let in at once but I think it's time to enforce some kind of rules. Other countries are starting to do it. And protecting Thailand's beauty should be one of their top priorities.
6. An Bang Beach, Hoi An, Vietnam
I was originally going to put the beaches of Monkey Island in Halong Bay on this position. But seeing all the trash wash up ashore was very eye opening and disheartening. Close your ears An Bang Beach. You're not a second choice. LOL!
I came across this beach after the Lantern Festival in Hoi An. My hostel mates whom I became friends with uber fast invited me to go the day after. Hungover and all, I rallied. I was so glad I came. It's one of the most calming and peaceful beaches I have come across. When we arrived, I saw a plethora of reclining lounge chairs with accompanying beach umbrellas. For a small fee, we rented 5 of them and nursed our hangovers the whole afternoon. There are some good restaurants in the vicinity that bring the food to you. Awesome right? The calm water was not the clearest I've seen, but it was warm and refreshing. The whole afternoon was so relaxing, it's great for resetting after having had a busy travel schedule. The company of newly made friends I had was the icing on the cake.
5. Castara Beach, Castara Bay, Tobago
This is one of my favorite places in the world! I visited Castara Bay March of 2015. The water was perfect. It takes about 40 minutes from the airport to drive to Castara Bay. Once we made a right and the uphill travel starts going downhill, we were treated to a priceless view of the somewhat isolated neighborhood. There are accommodations everywhere ranging from really cheap to semi-pricey. My travel buddy Lexi and I decided to stay at Castara Retreats. It is set on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The living area and kitchen in each room is open air and gives everyone a great view of the sunset over the water. French doors lead into the bedroom and bathroom. There is a restaurant and bar on the premises. The food was excellent and fresh. Hummingbirds come late in the afternoon to feed on sweetened water containers hanging from the dining room ceiling. Fishermen would come at 4pm to sell their catch to the locals and tourists. Locals get priority of course.
Be forewarned. If you want luxury, you might be better of at St Bart's. But there is something so unique about undeveloped tropical beach towns. They retain a sense of identity and culture. If I wanted to go to an all inclusive resort, I would stay in the states.
We bought tuna for dinner one night from the fishermen, seared it and served it with vegetables with a lemon butter white wine sauce. We also went to some local restaurants. The food in Tobago has influences of Indian and Caribbean spices.
We met some of the nicest people ever. Island life is so relaxed it's contagious. The locals call it "limin.' It means hanging out and relaxin in a public area with friends.
We layed out all day on the beach. There is a big beach and a smaller beach. Needless to say we tried both ends. And if we weren't laying out, we were lying on our hammock in our room. I tell ya. Nothing beats lying on a hammock watching the sun set over the Caribbean Sea! There are also boat tours of the surrounding area where we went snorkeling and fishing. Most of these tours provide lunch at a secluded beach. It was great. We got to eat the food we caught. But be careful with the rum punches. They are so smooth, they will sneak up on you if you are not careful! Hahahahaha!
4. The beach of Entalula Island, El Nino, Palawan, Philippines
Palawan is paradise. The town itself lends visitors access to the neighboring archipelago. Travel and Leisure magazine has rated Palawan the number one island in the world a few times. With all this publicity, the island has yet to be bombarded by tourists. I'm more than okay with it. Let the Thailand and Vietnam beaches take the top spot for tourism. If you haven't figured it out, I prefer secluded beaches over the human infested ones. Entalula island was the third on our island hopping tour and I couldn't have been more enamored! This little gem will be a precious little space that I will try to visit whenever I go home. The majesty of the jutting rock formations surrounding this small beach is one of the most intimate places I've ever been in the world. There is nothing here but white sands, clear pastel green waters, tall coconut trees and the rocks that were aforementioned; one of them even looked like a giant clam. No joke, you could take pics like the birth of Aphrodite and look like you came out of an oyster. #brofail.
3. Varadero Beach, Cuba
After years of being amazed by photographs of this beach on Instagram, I finally got to experience the beauty for myself. Just a two hour ride from Havana, this 12 mile stretch of white sand is met by some of the bluest waters I have ever seen. My roommate Kwame and I visited Varadero this past March after another New York winter. God! Did we need this tropical vacation badly. We stayed at an Airbnb just minutes away from the beach. We spent most of our stint there laying out and swimming. And apparently, we can bring beer to the beach. That's all we need; getting dehydrated by the sun and alcohol. In all seriousness, this beach brings out the relaxed version out of anyone. The sand was soft and fine and the water was refreshing. I could even make out the lines that define each shade of blue from light to dark as you look out to the horizon. The best part was that there was hardly anyone on the beach. It's like I had the power to shut down the beach for my own purposes. Oh wait. Governor Christy of New Jersey already did that. Silly me! Like anything in Cuba, luxury still has to make it's way to the different branches of hospitality. I can understand. How could the country compete with restaurants and hotels with 5 star status in other countries when they don't have access to the information their competitors have? So, if you are going to Cuba anytime soon, set your standards to mid range. After all, that's not what you are going to the country for anyway.
2. The beaches of Icacos Island, Puerto Rico
I will always remember this trip to be one of the funnest vacations I've ever had. I went with my sister Azzel, her girlfriend Liz, their friend Pat and my friend Timere. No, we weren't going to a female empowerment retreat. But nice try. We were set on doing a catamaran day trip which included snorkeling, lunch more snorkeling and a cocktail hour. Our first stop, Icacos Island, was a 15 minute boat ride from the mainland. The minute I get on board Bob Marley was playing through the speakers. Immediately, I knew I was on vacation. We hung out in front watching the waves go by. Everybody was just bobbing their heads to the music and enjoying the sunny day which couldn't have been more perfect. As we approached the island, I was shocked at the beauty of the water surrounding it. No joke, the water went from Marine Corps blue to Tiffany box teal green. I have never seen anything like it. Just three months before that, I was experiencing traveling for the first time. And now the world was showing me more of its beauty that I didn't know how to comprehend. I was so thankful. I was so happy. We anchored the boat by the beach and explored the uninhabited island. We also had a good chunk of time to go snorkeling in the surrounding area. It was really nice to take a load off and lay on the beach and let the waves just wash over me.
1. White Beach, Boracay Island, Philippines
Duh! The best sunsets in the world are here. I've been to Boracay a couple of times. It is hands down my favorite beach to date. My uncle in the Philippines once said that algae in the water that washes off onto the sand keep the whitest of white sands on earth (there in Boracay) cool on a hot day. There is something for everyone here in Boracay. Shangri-La Resort and Discovery Shores, among others, would satisfy the bougiest of the bougie for the finer things in life. On the other side of the spectrum, there are hostels for backpackers. And of course, there is a plethora of accommodations for everyone else in between. There are clubs and bars perfectly splattered within the 2.5 mile length of the beach to get your drink on without the feeling of being on Spring Break. The food knocked it out of the park as well. I found in Boracay some of the best high end dishes as well as cheap eats that were tasty nonetheless. There is a fish market called D*talipapa a 5 minute walk inland where you can buy the freshest catch of the day and take it across the walk way to any little restaurant of your choosing and the cooks will prepare the dish the way you like it.
There's plenty of activities as well. I went paddle boarding on my last trip. The trip before that, I went helmet diving. They also have snorkeling trips, scuba diving, riding banana boats, sunset cruises and if my eyes weren't deceiving me, I think I saw mermaid lessons while I was paddle boarding. You can even get a massage on the beach. It's not the best as the ones where you go into the spa, but it's cheap and it does the trick;)
If you are inclined, please feel free to leave a comment below.