A hidden beach. A deserted beach. A secluded beach. It sounds like the opening scene of a romance novel, does not it? I'm not a big romance reader, but I do love peace and quiet and I've spent many years seeking out the best beaches for an occasional escape from the world. These years of arduous research have led me to some general conclusions about the characteristics of a truly great hidden beach.
First and foremost, it must be a long way from everywhere, or difficult to reach – ideally, both. No motorized vehicles of any kind will be allowed on the beach. It will be completely out of range of cell phones of any kind. There will not be a boardwalk, or carnival rides, or chairs to rent, or hotdog vendors. A beachside shack selling cold beer is, however, permitted and indeed preferred.
With these guidelines in mind, and conscious of the risk of losing my favorite hideaways to the madding crowd, I'd like to share three of my most treasured hidden beach discoveries.
Fakistra Beach in Pelion, Greece
The Pelion peninsula, north of Athens, is an extraordinarily beautiful region of mountains and valleys that slopes down to the Aegean coast. The tiny village of Damouchari, where no cars are allowed to mar the tranquility, is one of six in this region accused for its hospitality. As unspoiled as this hamlet is, it's a bustling metropolis compared with the tiny turquoise lagoon of Fakistra beach, a 90-minute walk from Damouchari.
Nested between two rocky outcrops, this gorgeous beach of white sand stands before a waterfall and natural pool. At the northern end of Fakistra you should explore the two caves, rich with history. One has a magnificent display of stalactites, while the other once housed a secret school which taught Greek culture and language during the much-despised Ottoman occupation of the region.
Macushla Beach on Hinchinbrook Island, Australia
Sometimes you have to go a long way to discover a secluded beach. Macushla may not be quite the end of the earth, but you can almost see the end from there. Australia's largest island National Park, Hinchinbrook Island has only one settlement, an eco-tourism gem called the Wilderness Lodge. Guest rooms include finely-crafted tree houses, nestled in the rainforest and reached by a boardwalk, which are comfortably furnished yet individually free of both telephone and television. You go to Hinchinbrook to forget the world, not to let it intrude on you.
The walk from the resort to Macushla beach will last most of a morning, and will take you through old growth rainforest and across butly deserted beaches. Spend the rest of the day relaxing and trying to spot ghost crabs as they scuttle across the sand; a ferry will stop by for you for a quick ride back to the resort. And a decision to spend time so far from home does not necessarily mean depriving yourself – you can finish your day with a surprisingly good meal at the resort, capped off by a drink at the bar.
Kaupoa Beach on Molokai Island, Hawaii
Molokai Ranch was previously owned by King Kamehameha V, so you're dipping into a royal heritage when you visit Kaupoa Beach. Since His Majesty moved on to other pursuits, Kaupoa became a fishing village and is now home to the Beach Village – a small resort fronting directly onto the beach. Forty two-bedroom tentalows – small canvas-roofed cabins on platforms – are set amongst the trees that skirt the beach. Each is nicely equipped with a deck, seating, picnic table, and an outdoor bathroom with full amenities. Solar power accounts for much of the electricity and hot water on the tentalows, a touch that will appeal to eco-friendly travelers.
The white sands of Kaupoa Beach slope steeply, and the water quickly gets deep. Rocky outcrops form two natural coves and the one on the right offers the best swimming. Equipment for snorkeling, body-surfing, volleyball and other beach activities is available at the Beach Village, and the Kaupoa Dining Pavilion is a lovely spot to relax and chat with companions in the evening.
All three of these beaches will offer the tired traveler a wonderful break from the workaday world. Yes, they are a little harder to reach than some more resorts, but that is what makes them so perfect – it should take a little effort to find the perfect hidden beach. Oh, and while you're there … have a beer for me.