For Architectural Digest, by Nick Mafi.
Few experiences rival the joy of traveling to a beautiful seaside location. With the ample sun, open waters, and good-natured locals, nothing can get in the way of a relaxing vacation. Nothing, that is, but busy crowds jostling for the same thing you are: the best hotels, dining options, and spots on the beach to enjoy. But don’t let that get in your way of enjoying some breathtaking seaside escapes. From tiny islands off the coats of Thailand to seemingly forgotten towns along Oregon’s Pacific coast, AD survey’s the eleven best small beach towns around the globe you’ll be sure to enjoy — without the hassle of large crowds. In fact, these locations are so beautifully quaint, you’ll likely daydream of leaving your desk job to move to one of these spots for good.
St. George's, Bermuda
Not only is the town of St. George's in Bermuda a UNESCO World Heritage Site (for the fact that it was the third successful English settlement behind St. John's, Newfoundland, and Jamestown, Virginia), but it's also a wonderful place to relax in paradise without the crowds. Indeed, with crystal-clear waters and buildings that feature white limestone roofs and exteriors painted in vibrant pastels, St. George's is a must-visit.
Located on the very southern tip of France (and roughly six miles from the Spanish border), Collioure is not the stereotypical town along the Mediterranean. Visitors will not find the million-dollar yachts or celebrity sightings. Instead, they will see working class men and women walking the beautiful streets and along the shoreline. The locale is so breathtaking that Henri Matisse used to visit, inspired as he was by the perfect natural light.
Aquinnah, Martha's Vineyard
Martha's Vineyard, which is an island roughly four miles off of the coast of Massachusetts, is the perfect sanctuary for the traveler who wants a bit of everything. For those looking for a little more energy by the water, head to Joseph Sylvia Beach (where the opening scene of Jaws took place). Yet, for travelers looking to truly relax, the beaches closer to Aquinnah and the southern section of Chilmark will afford them just that opportunity.
Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
Tunisia's small town of Sidi Bou Said is perfect for those looking for a quiet get away, be it for a day or longer. Located about 9 miles northeast of the capital city, Tunis, Sidi Bou Said is just the place for locals and visitors alike to enjoy the beauty of Tunisia, without the crowds. The town is on the Mediterranean, which makes the whitewashed buildings stand out even more against the blue water.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
With a population of roughly 2,000 residents, Oregon's Cannon Beach is the perfect setting to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, without the crowds. For those who do visit, witnessing Haystack Rock is a must. The 235-foot tall rock (pictured) is right along the coastline.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
Bocas Del Toro is a series of islands off of the coast of Panama. Since the chain of islands are a bit tougher to get to, the clear blue water from the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect setting for those looking to soak up the sun and enjoy the spectacular views, while avoiding too many other tourists.
Of all the towns on the list, Montenegro’s Kotor is the oldest. At more than 2,000 years old, this historic setting has kept its old-world charm (as well as a spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites). Indeed, visitors will strolled down narrow streets, past centuries-old buildings, and toward the majestic Bay of Kotor, a body of water along the Adriatic Coast.
Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
Located on the eastern most edge of Uruguay is the beach village of Cabo Polonio. The first thing visitors will notice about this gem of a getaway is that there are literally no roads leading there. To get there involves a 4 mile hike through dunes or using a small vehicle (such as a 4x4 off roading vehicle). If that isn't the definition of going off of the beaten path, then what is?
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Many Americans first saw the supreme natural beauty of Thailand's Koh Phi Phi island in the thriller The Beach (2000), starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Visitors to the island will generally take a 90 minute ferry ride from Phuket, where they will disembark to an island that doesn't contain a single car. White-sand beaches coupled with turquoise water make this tiny beach island a must-visit.
Artist Salvador Dalí loved the small beach town of Cadaques, Spain. So much so that he owned a home there, which has since been turned into a museum. Yet, even though the Spanish-born artist put Cadaques on the map, it still remains a charming little village that doesn't receive the large crowds it most certainly deserves.
Paia, which is located on the northern tip of the Hawaiian island of Maui, was once a 19th century sugar plantation. Yet over a century later, and the area still contains much of its original culture. While many visitors head for beaches on Maui's western coast or Hawaii's Big Island, tourists should keep Paia in mind if they're looking for a quiet (and scenic) getaway.
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