A major difference in today’s generation, is their desire for experiential wealth over a material one. Our parents might have worked hard to buy the house of their dreams, the car they always desired and the best furniture they could afford, but millennials prefer out-of-the-box experiences, the kind that’s perfect for sharing in an increasingly social-media documented existence.
Travel scores high on this list of experiences, and even though traditional tourist destinations like Paris, New York and Rome still welcome millions every year, destinations that are off-the-beaten-path have been making quite an impact. One particularly sought-after area of the globe is Southeast Asia, with its tens of thousands of pristine islands and crystal-clear, white sandy beaches.
Hoi An — Vietnam
Vietnam might be more synonymous with cross-country motorcycle tours of the beautiful countries’ jungles and rice paddies, but this Southeast Asian country boasts some of region’s best, unspoiled beaches.
One of the best destinations in mainland Vietnam is just a few kilometers from the historic town of Hoi An. A nice hike or bike ride to the ocean will be well worth the effort, diving into the crystal-clear blue waters of An Bang beach. In recent years, the beach has become more than just a beloved location for snorkelers and divers, but also an unexpectedly rich and diverse foodie destination. Enjoy a wide selection of local cuisine under the sun and next to the waves, but make sure to stick around for one of the most unforgettable sunsets you will ever witness!
The Wild East — Cambodia
When compared with some of its neighbors like Thailand and the Philippines, Cambodia might not stand out for its beach-side treasures, but more for its breathtaking temples in Angkor Wat. The world-famous UNESCO World Heritage site includes temples and ruins that would take days and even weeks to explore fully by any curious, awestruck visitors.
This means that after a couple of days exploring the temple complexes, you’d probably want to lounge on some of the fluffiest sand just steps away from the calm blue waters of the gulf of Thailand. Keep in mind that many of Cambodia’s beach destinations are virtually virgin, with some having just one generator that supplies power a few hours a day. So, if you want the closest thing to an actual tropical paradise, far away from humanity’s fingerprint, then Cambodia’s beaches absolutely need to be on your bucket list.
Maungmagan Beach — Myanmar
Myanmar opened up to foreign tourists only a few years ago, welcoming its first visitors as recently as 2012. The tiny nation with a troubled history feels like a living, breathing museum, with many of today’s modern amenities only recently starting to make an appearance.
Maungmagan Beach and Inle Lake are perhaps the most exciting destinations in this newly opened Southeast Asian country, and a special treat at Inle Lake is sleeping above the water on stilts. Maungmagan Beach is special because it’s right next to Yagon, a city worth a visit if you like ancient towns that have remained largely untouched.
One interesting fact about Myanmar’s many beaches, is that often, you’ll probably be the only one or part of a handful of people enjoying the white sand and blue waters. The beaches are definitely some of Southeast Asia’s most remote and isolated, so if it’s peace and quiet you’re looking for, far away from the sounds of jet-skis and parasailers, then Myanmar might be where you want to go this summer.
Phuket and Some Hidden Gems — Thailand
It’s virtually undisputed that Thailand is the region’s, and perhaps the world’s most famous and popular destination for beach-lovers. Thailand includes more than 1400 islands, meaning the country has an extremely wide variety of pristine beach treasures.
Phuket is perhaps the most popular, with “Full Moon” parties attracting revelers from across the world every month for the endless clubs, bars, resorts and restaurants. However, beyond the hot-spot destinations, always full of life and energy, Thailand offers many lesser-known beaches to escape to.
Kata Noi beach is one of the less-crowded options in Phuket, with resorts farther apart from each other. This is a chance to see what the island was like before the massive influx of tourists changed the face of this coveted Thai island.
If you’re looking for something even more secluded, then Koh Rok islands are just what you need. This beloved scuba divers’ paradise features coral reefs that are less than 100 meters from the beach, making it safe for all members of the family to partake in exploring the rich marine wildlife in this archipelago just a 30-minute boat ride from Koh Lanta. Keep in mind that these islands are uninhabited, which means if you do plan on staying overnight, you’ll have to camp. No fancy resorts on these beautiful islands.
Beyond Bali — Indonesia
Bali has become the most-visited beach destination in Southeast Asia, and if you don’t feel like being within crowds, bustling resorts and towns, then don’t worry, Indonesia has around 17,000 islands to choose from.
Pink Beach is a great, lesser-known option if you want to escape the tourist-traps and mix with the locals. It’s called Pink Beach because the sand has a pinkish color, thanks to crushed coral mixed with shells and the white sand on the beach. The hue changes depending on the sun’s position too, so be ready for quite the experience with, of all things, sand color!
The remarkable thing about this off the beaten track destination, is how much its local residents really care for their beaches, making sure over-tourism doesn’t affect the pristine nature they live in. You can take a tour Lombok Island, then head to the beach to cool off and unwind.
If you don’t feel like straying too far away from Bali, then Nusa Lembongan is a quieter option you should definitely consider. It’s not as secluded as some other options in this list, with amenities available, great resorts, a variety of restaurants, and even places to rent gear for snorkeling or other watersports on this quieter, close neighbor of Bali.
Paltion Beach — Philippines
One thing that sets the Philippines apart in the region, is how friendly its people are. If you decide to go island hopping, you’ll be met with wide smiles and helpful Filipinos. In fact, the past few years have seen a surge in beach-loving visitors.
One particularly amazing destination is Paltion Beach just south of Cebu, Bohol and Negros islands. The island has no airport, and barely any infrastructure, making it the perfect place for a secluded getaway and a simple way of life if that’s what you’re yearning for. You’ll have to explore the local markets for food, and the only way to get there is by boat. This lack of infrastructure though, has its positives: the beaches are basically untouched.
Tubod Beach is another out-of-the-way destination that will be particularly interesting for wildlife lovers. The island features a massive marine wildlife sanctuary, and paddling over them, or snorkeling between them, will allow visitors to get up close and personal with an incredibly diverse marine wildlife ecosystem, along with the gorgeous, quiet and well-kept beaches.
With six different countries to choose from, there is no doubt you’ll enjoy your vacation! Immerse yourself and explore the different cultures, traditions, lifestyles, rituals, nature, and beautiful beaches for the most memorable experiences ever. Also, there’s something about Southeast Asia that will call you back after you’ve experienced it.