It’s deeply satisfying to walk along a deserted beach. There isn’t a soul in sight, and you feel as though you discovered it yourself. You don’t need to snake through outstretched towels and propped up umbrellas as you find a spot to sit and relax. In Southeast Asia, the region’s tens of thousands of miles of coastline make it easy to stumble upon a beach that you can call your own. But if solitude isn’t on your trip itinerary, there are all sorts of sand-and-surf options waiting to woo you. These five bucket-list-worthy destinations are the best to visit not only for their beautiful beaches but also for the many activities on offer that will round out your Southeast Asian vacation.
1. Koh Rong, Cambodia
Even though ferries drop off tourists from Sihanoukville every day, Cambodia’s second-largest island still doesn’t feel crowded. When you venture around the island, it’s not uncommon to come upon one of its white-sand beaches and be the only person there. Aside from soaking up the sun, you can also trek through the central jungle or go kayaking, snorkeling, diving, or fishing.
How to get there: Ferry ride from Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
2. Krabi, Thailand
This picturesque area is a photographer’s dream, with colorful sunrises and sunsets, craggy shrub-covered karsts jutting out of the water, and spiraled designs left on the shore by sand bubbler crabs. Base yourself out of this coastal town to take advantage of all the area has to offer, like cave temples, water activities, island hopping tours, rock climbing, elephant rides, cooking classes, and so much more.
How to get there: Plane, bus, or ferry.
3. Siargao Island, Phillippines
This island paradise is known for its world-class waves. Advanced surfers will be in heaven, but beginners can also take lessons. If you don’t want to ride waves or be a beach bum, you can do some big game fishing, island hop to several nearby paradises, explore Sohoton Cove, and enjoy the Magpupungko Rock Pools.
How to get there: Take a flight on Cebu Pacific Air from Cebu City, Phillippines.
4. Gili Islands, Indonesia
This archipelago is made up of three small islands: Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan (known as Gili T). Your goal in going to the Gilis should be to relax, disconnect, hang out, and relax some more. Try to lose track of what day it is. If you really want to do something, you can snorkel, go kayaking, cycle around the island, or check out a turtle hatchery.
How to get there: Take a fast boat from Bali, Indonesia.
5. Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Do you want to get a massage, drink a cocktail, and then spend some time in the sun? We thought so. After you get pampered on Long Beach, you can explore the island’s other beaches by motorbike. Phu Quoc is also famous for its fish sauce distilleries, which you can visit and tour (fish sauce is to Vietnam what ketchup is to the USA, so this is a must!).
How to get there: Hop on a flight or ferry.
Southeast Asia isn’t a short trip from the United States. To maximize your flight and dollars, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’ll be cheaper to fly into a major international airport, plus you’ll have more secondary flight options to get to your next destination. For example, if you want to go to both Krabi and Koh Rong in the same trip, fly in and out of Bangkok (BKK) and then use a budget carrier to fly into a smaller airport. Next, consider frequent flyer status when choosing which airline you’ll use since you’ll rack up a lot of miles. This may also be a good opportunity for you to try an airline that you don’t normally fly with. Airlines like ANA, Qatar, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Turkish Airlines offer perks that many U.S. carriers don’t, from amenity kits to happy hour snacks and three-course meals. Treat yourself and make this a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway you’ll never forget!