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In February 2015, Trip Advisor released its list of the world’s top 25 beaches as voted by their contributors. No list like this is going to keep everyone happy. What makes a great beach for one person could be wildly different to another’s.
But the real question is how safe are these beaches? TID’s travel safety expert, Phil Sylvester explores both the serious and seriously beautiful aspects of the top 25.
Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago of 21 islands, 350km off the coast of Brazil. The islands are actually the tips of undersea volcanoes an only the main island is inhabited. This would have to be one of the safest destinations in the world. Doors are left unlocked, keys in car ignitions – everyone knows everyone, and there’s nowhere to go anyway.
Biggest danger? Because it’s in the middle of the Atlantic, the seas can sometimes be rough and you might take a spill on one of the rocky walking trails.
Baia do Sancho deserves its number one rating – this IS paradise.
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
The tourism board of this tiny nation (it’s actually a British Overseas Territory) admit they have a crime problem. Last year there were ‘5 to 10’ home invasions of tourist villas. Not something you want to happen, so either stick to the resorts or rent a villa that has a security guard.
Mugging of tourists after dark is also noted – about 40 or 50 last year. Sadly, the western end of Grace Bay is one of the hotspots. Tempting as it may be to play Robinson Crusoe on a deserted stretch of beach, make sure you’re back in town by nightfall.
But a little perspective is needed: we’re talking about 60 incidents on an island that gets 1.3 million overseas visitors! The chances are pretty slim.
Lampedusa is a tiny island off Sicily, and is Italy’s southernmost point. Yes, the beach is stunningly beautiful – but it’s not a secret anymore. In high season thousands of people make the trek down the (disabled-unfriendly) path to the beach, and real estate is at a premium for laying out your towel.
So it’s like Bondi-dal-mare. Not as many hipsters, but some visitors report stray dogs are a nuisance.
Cayo Largo, Cuba
Cuba is a very safe destination for tourists, just a little of the usual petty theft, pickpocketing etc. Cayo Largo (big Cay) is a speck of an island off the north-western tip of the mainland. It’s very relaxed and laid-back. In fact, so laid-back that in many parts of the beach clothing is optional! If letting it all hang out (or being with others who do) is not your thing, pick a different Cuban beach.
If you’re planning on stocking up on Cuban cigars, make sure to check export restrictions, and import laws in your home country (they’re illegal in the USA, for instance). And as cigar expert Katrina Barker-Smith from Scandinavian Tobacco tells me, you can get a better – legal – cigar elsewhere. “Cigars from Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic are just as good, if not better in terms of quality, range and consistency.”
Formentera, Balearic Islands
Formentera Island is the quieter neighbour to Ibiza – the sun-drenched party island.
Ses Illetes, on the northern tip of the island, is described as ‘Formentera’s fashion beach’. Ibiza’s well-heeled clubbers board their yachts and slip down to Ses Illetes for an after-party recovery. Sounds like a film clip from a Duran Duran song.
Ses Illetes, and many of Fromentera’s beaches are clothing optional (although how fashion and nudism equate is a mystery).
Praslin island, Seychelles
This beach regularly makes the annual top 10 and it’s a favourite with honeymooning French and British couples. It’s never crowded on the beach, the Indian Ocean water is always warm, and the shark that took two tourists in a two-week period back in 2011 has probably moved on by now.
The eponymous White Beach is the jewel in the crown of Boracay, 300 kms from Manilla. Korean and Taiwanese tourists ‘discovered’ it years ago, but it still sits below the radar for westerners.
Advantages: with its beach bars, relaxed restaurants, thriving nightlife and shopping, it’s a bit like Bali.
Disadvantages: with its beach bars, relaxed restaurants, thriving nightlife and shopping, it’s a bit like Bali.
The beach is beautiful, but expect to be harassed constantly by touts and vendors selling over-priced goods. Don’t leave valuables on the beach and try to avoid drunk backpackers.
Culebra, Puerto Rico
A beautiful deep bay surrounded by lush forest, Flamenco Beach is on the island of Culebra and one of the safest places in Puerto Rico. But if you’re getting there via San Juan, the capital on the mainland, be really careful, especially at night. Crime rates are very high.
Queensland. That is all.
A beautiful, family-friendly stretch of sand and azure ocean in south-western Crete. Elafonissi Islet sits 100 metres from the mainland across a lagoon only a metre deep. Picture perfect except for the tourist buses that invade every day in high season. There are a couple of cafes behind the beach, but otherwise facilities are limited. The beach is also remote, so if you’re not on one of those buses, you’ll probably drive yourself. Be warned, driving in Greece is an acquired skill.
Capetown, South Africa
This is a beach for looking at, not swimming. Make sure you can recognise the signs of hypothermia because even in summer the water is a chilly 14 degrees! This is Capetown’s trendiest beach with plenty of restaurants and up-market bars between the million dollar penthouses.
Crime is a big problem in South Africa, driven largely by poverty. Not many poor people in Camps Bay so it’s pretty safe.
Havelock Island, Andaman and Nicobar Islands
This is the antithesis of a busy tourist resort area. Visitors need a permit to go to the islands (from the Indian government), and facilities are adequate but basic.
Many of the world’s beaches have warnings not to walk them at night – which applies here. But not for fear of being mugged, but because of wild animals that come down from the forest! This is getting-away-from-it-all territory!
5 kms of white sands, rolling surf (yes, surf) and beautiful sunsets over a nearby island. This Devon beach is really gorgeous.
Your main danger is hypothermia (pack a wet suit if you intend on swimming) and cholesterol (too many Devonshire teas).
Wide, flat, white sand beach with lifeguard towers – just add The Hoff’ for a Baywatch feel. This is a big city beach, so don’t take valuables with you – amazingly, thieves have worked out that your wallet is in your shoe!
Nearby Sarasota makes it to number 12 on the list of worst Florida cities for crime, so take care you don’t wander into the wrong part of town.
Honduras has the world’s highest homicide rate. Although West Bay is on the island of Roatan where overall crime figures are significantly lower, there are still plenty of reasons to be careful.
Leave the flashy jewellery at home, get a second credit card with a low daily balance and don’t leave your common sense at the airport.
Los Roques NP, Venezuela
This is one beautiful coral atoll in the Caribbean Sea. It’s also a national park so there are no high-rise or large resorts, just posada (guest houses).
Major drawback – you’ll probably have to go through Caracas to get there. This is probably the most dangerous city in the world. You’d have to be crackers to go to Caracas.
There’s a bit of a walk through the national park to get to this beach, but worth it once you’re there.
If you’re sitting at the back of the beach under the shade of the trees, watch out for white-faced monkeys which will get into your bags looking for food #firstworldproblem.
At the southern tip of Phuket, this is a favourite with ex-pats and locals. It’s Thailand, so there are beach touts and vendors, but it’s much less frenetic than the tourist spots further up the west coast.
The Marsa Alam region of Egypt was pretty much untroubled by the Arab spring and the ongoing violence in Egypt. The region is OFF most government travel warnings. Even visiting Cairo is relatively safe – if you stick to the popular tourist areas such as the Pyramids.
You’ll probably get a good deal on a hotel with occupancy rates through the floor in the past few years.
Check government travel warnings carefully before deciding to go.
Row upon row of beach chairs and umbrellas for hire on a sand raked shore each morning – this is a typical Mediterranean beach. It’s also a major breeding ground for loggerhead turtles, so join the throngs of other tourists boarding a flotilla of boats to go and look at the turtles.
Advantage – the conflict in Syria is right at the other end of the country.
Mexico gets a bad rap. The Yucutan peninsula, where Cancun and Tulum are located, is not one of the handful of Mexican states where drug gang crime is a problem.
However, if hipster beards and supermodels put you off, don’t go to Tulum.
Kenya has problems. There’s the war with insurgents from Somalia who occasionally raid the beach resorts of the Lamau region. There are grenade attacks and explosions in Mombasa. Nairobi is ‘affectionately’ known as nai-robbery. But as with most places, the crime and violence is not everywhere. Pick and choose carefully.
The hotels in Diani are keen to point out most of them have gated entrances, and lots of security patrols. Somehow, I don’t find this re-assuring.
Situated 30kms off the Venezuela coast, Aruba is part of The Netherlands. The south west coast has sandy white beaches, the north east is exposed to the Atlantic and is pretty wild. But the whole place is only 32 kms long!
Local drovers have a propensity to stop without warning to have a chat with a friend they spot. Watch out for that (and the subsequent goats on the road).
I think everyone should have Myanmar on their bucket list, and do it soon while it’s still ‘undiscovered’. Take insect repellent to avoid dengue fever.
This is a great surf beach in the Bay of Plenty area of the north island. The town recently installed an artificial reef 250 meters offshore, so now you get perfect left and right handers. Now that’s a beach.