Powder soft sand, lush palm trees and oceans as warm as bathwater are most people’s idea of vacation heaven! While the world’s top beach destinations are undeniably great places to switch off and soothe your mind and body, there’s often far more to them than first meets the eye…
Whether you crave a balance between excitement and relaxation or you simply want more out of your travels, why not make your next beach getaway a little different? One of our favorite ways to do just that is to jet off to a coastal idyll that offers amazing cultural experiences beyond the sand.
From tranquil Thai coves near amazing outdoor adventure hubs to African coastlines within a short drive of wonderful wildlife parks, there are so many outstanding options! Here are a few of our travel experts’ top beach destinations for culture to give you some inspiration.
Railay Beach, Thailand
Picture-perfect Railay Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Thailand – and for good reason! Sprawled out along Krabi’s coastline, its lush jungle setting, dramatic limestone cliffs and serene Andaman Sea waters makes it the perfect place for R&R.
As well as providing you with a beautiful base for a beach escape, Railay Beach and the surrounding area are inundated with fantastic cultural activities and exhilarating excursion options. Why not indulge in a Thai massage or savor authentic Thai cuisine with a mouth-watering cooking class?
Railay Beach is ideal for thrill-seekers, too, thanks to a vast range of adventure activities. Go sea kayaking directly off the coast or head inland for action-packed white water rafting or quad biking. Krabi additionally boasts numerous other blissful beaches where you can soak up the sunshine, including Phra Nang Beach that’s a magnet for swimmers and rock climbers.
For the ultimate culture-packed beach holiday in Thailand, split your time between the coast and one of Thailand’s top nature reserves with a stay at Elephant Hills. The luxurious tented campsite is situated in the heart of Khao Sok National Park and offers spectacular jungle walks and canoe safaris to spot elephants and other magnificent creatures in their natural habitats.
Hoi An, Vietnam
Vietnam is another South East Asian country that’s no stranger to beautiful coastlines! Hoi An is hands-down one of the country’s top beach destinations for those craving a little culture and it’s also great for families because one of the best times to go is during the summer school holidays.
The historic port city sits on Vietnam’s central coast and it’s teeming with elegant Japanese tea houses, colonial-era French mansions and traditional Vietnamese tube houses. It’s blissfully traffic-free, too, and features a lovely ancient city center criss-crossed with canals.
In addition to ample attractions and a sandy beach lined with luxury resorts, Hoi An is the ideal jumping off point for trips to the Cham Islands. The idyllic archipelago lies just 30 minutes away by speedboat and has a string of wonderful white sand beaches where you can swim and soak up the sun.
The Cham Islands have their very own fascinating cultural sites. Take some memorable vacation snaps in traditional fishing villages which appear stuck in time or visit the serene Ong Temple where locals worship the remains of a long-buried whale. Adventure-seekers will love snorkeling in the reef off Xep Beach, while food lovers can look forward to tucking into sumptuous regional seafood dishes at rustic, family-run restaurants.
While many venture to Chile to tour its vibrant cities or immerse themselves in the extraordinary landscapes of Patagonia National Park, we know that the country is also blessed with some fantastic beaches.
Valparaiso, a UNESCO World Heritage site, sits on Chile’s Pacific Coast and is even nicknamed the ‘Jewel of the Pacific’ due to its stunning architecture, treasure trove of cultural sites and breathtaking hilltop location. The city is also just a stone’s throw from Vina del Mar, Chile’s most glamorous beach resort and a prime place for a little relaxation.
Divide your cultural beach getaway between the intriguing museums and colorful streets of Valparaiso and the chic beach clubs and golden sands of Vina del Mar. The latter also hosts a delicious gourmet dining scene, world-class art galleries and ample shopping malls.
Alternatively, another top beach destination for culture in Chile is Pucon. Found in Chile’s Lake District and in the shadow of a snow-capped volcano, it’s a major adventure sports hub. When you’re not hiking, rafting or horse riding in the hills, you can relax on the black sand volcano beaches of lovely Lake Villarrica.
It’s no secret that Hawaii boasts some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet! Nevertheless, it’s far from lacking in cultural activities for those who prefer to stay out of the sunshine.
Despite being part of the USA, Hawaii has a very distinct South Pacific culture which is very much alive and well across all of the region’s beautiful islands. Enjoy encounters with locals at charming coastal villages or discover more about Hawaii’s past at museums in the capital, Honolulu. There are also ample opportunities for adventures in nature. Conquer a volcano on Oahu, swim with green turtles off a black sand beach on Big Island or delve into the verdant rainforest on Kauai.
Those who want to sample the local cuisine as part of their cultural journey around Hawaii will find a real melting pot of flavours. Pick out American, European and Japanese influences as you tuck into delicacies like shaved ice and poke. Our travel coordinators can easily help you plan a trip that incorporates Hawaii’s top beach destinations and memorable cultural experiences!
Most associate Kenya with epic safari trips and the incredible Great Migration. While it is home to some of the most amazing wildlife parks on Earth, it’s also blessed with a lovely section of coastline.
After spending a week or so experiencing Kenya’s nature reserves and meeting the fascinating Masai people in places like Laikipia, consider hitting the beach in Mombasa. The country’s second largest city is not only brimming with handsome heritage sites which paint a vivid picture of its past, but also a bevy of white-sand beaches.
Soak up a little history at landmarks like Fort Jesus before taking your pick of several sandy stretches. Nyali beach is a postcard-perfect strip of white sand backed by coconut palms and high-end resorts. Other sublime options include Mombasa Beach and Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach, both of which border the Mombasa Marine Park that’s an oasis for swimming, snorkeling and water sports.
Talk to our experts about creating a trip to these top beach destinations that is culturally immersive and completely attuned to your needs.