I like to work for my beach breaks. Beaches that are easy to get to are just the more likely to be overrun by fellow tourists and are easy targets for litterers. And obviously, being forced to walk that extra mile means that I could compensate in extra food later. Here are my top 4 picks of gorgeous beaches that make you sweat getting there, but are totally worth the walk (or cycle).
Tai Long Wan, Hong Kong
Where: Sai Kung, Hong Kong
How: Hiking, 4 hours from end to end of the trail starting at Sai Wan Pavilion
Facilities: Restaurant and toilets at the beach
This is the ultimate “walk-for-me” beach, smack bang in the middle of the Hong Kong countryside. Tai Long Wan literally means “big wave bay”. Make sure you don’t mix it up with the Big Wave Beach down south on Hong Kong Island – that one you can take a minibus from Quarry Bay to. But this Tai Long Wan, you have to walk for it.
How do I mean by walking for it? Oh, just a casual 4-hour hike. It was the most gruelling hike my delicate constitution has ever endured. To make it slightly easier for yourself, take a taxi from Sai Kung centre to Sai Wan Pavilion, which takes. From there, you start your hike, and there’s no turning back.
It took us about 2 hours to get to the actual Tai Long Wan beach (there are a couple of crappy, dirty ones before the main event). The good news is that Tai Long Wan actually has a small village population, so there is a full-blown restaurant right on the beach which serves up simply and delicious food Hong Kong style. And beer, you might need it.
Tai Long Wan is unquestionably the most beautiful beach in Hong Kong. It stretches on pristine and soft sand, and the water is very clean by our city’s standards. The catch is, of course, that to get out of there, you either retrace your steps (up some VERY steep slopes) back to the Pavilion, or you follow the rest of the trail, another 2 hours through dense woodland which doesn’t offer as many views as the first leg. And bear in mind that you can’t stay for the sunset because the trail would be too dark. Not to mention walking pass that abandoned village near the end of the hiking trail would be really freaking creepy.
If you really want to cheat, especially in the height of summer when you could actually die from heat stroke, you could also rent a boat out to Tai Long Wan.
Cala Macarelleta, Menorca, Spain
Where: Menorca, Spain
How: Hiking, 2 hours from Cala Galdana
Facilities: No facilities at Cala Macarelleta, but there is a small stall selling food at Macarella (it was not open the day I went)
I love Menorca. I went there alone to escape a miserable May just before the final project for my Master’s programme was due – I had to go just to preserve my sanity. Southern Menorca has the best beaches the island has to offer, sandy and crystal blue waters compared to the rocky shores of their northern counterparts. The great thing about the beaches? There is no way of getting there other than on foot.
Many of the trails to the south’s lovely beaches start at Cala Galdana, the slightly soulless resort town with a beautiful, gigantic shallow beach. Facing the sea, you could go to Cala Mitjana to your left, which is a much more relaxing 20-minute walk through the woods, but you don’t want to take the easy way out. Turn right, and start the hike to Cala Macarelleta.
I made the hike in sandals, which nearly ended in tears and a sprained ankle at more than one point, so make sure you wear decent shoes. The hike isn’t difficult, but it is long, and the views improve massively once you reach the first beach, Macarella. It’s a lot of stairs down this way, so yes, it will be a lot of stairs back up on the return leg. Don’t stop here, but walk straight across Macarella and start the ascent up towards Macarelleta (which means “little Macarella”).
Up here, the views are absolutely breathtaking. It’s also a lot of fun clambering over boulders. It’s only about another 20 minutes on the trail before Macarelleta appears, all turquoise waters and golden sands, to your left. It’s a steep descent to the beach, so be careful and take it slow. It’s such a beautiful place, I’ll let the photos do the talking. Be aware that it is a nudist beach, so try not to stare when middle-aged hikers strip straight down to their birthday suits and make for the water.
The Marina, Corniglia, Italy
Where: Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy
How: Hiking down the stairs next to the main piazza
Facilities: No facilities at the Marina, but restaurants very close in the main piazza
It’s slightly embarrassing that I’ve been to Cinque Terre twice, but I’ve never spent any time outside of Corniglia, the smallest out of the five picturesque towns. The first time round I had just finished my A-Levels, on my first trip to Italy, and I was absolutely besotted with Corniglia. The second time round, I was no less besotted and abandoned plans to go to the other four towns.
The main event really, is the Marina. It’s a punishing walk (mainly on the way up) to the rocky shores, but it is quiet and the perfect getaway from the daytrippers that swarm Corniglia during the daylight hours. Climb over the big boulders (be careful, they’re slippery) and lie on the flat rocks that carve out a little lagoon by the cliffs, and you can easily spend the day there. The waters are crazily clear and clean, but be careful walking into the waters as the rocks are slippery and some are sharp. If you don’t want to walk back up for food, make sure you bring a picnic – there are no facilities at the Marina. The walk back up is always hell, but it’s definitely worth the legwork.
Cala Rossa, Favignana, Italy
Where: Favignana, Aegadian Islands, Sicily
How: Cycling, 30-45 minutes from the port
Facilities: No facilities at the beach
I love, love, love Sicily. It is so vividly different from the rest of Italy, in food, in its people and beauty, and so affordable compared to other parts of the country. We stayed in Trapani, a major port with convenient ferry routes to the many charming Sicilian islands. We chose to go to Favignana, one of the three Aegadian Islands close to mainland Sicily that was easily manageable as a day trip with many fast boats during the day.
Favignana’s main square is nothing to write home about. So I’d recommend renting a bike as soon as you get off the boat, and cycle to the most beautiful beach on the island – Cala Rossa. Legend has it that Cala Rossa (“red cove”) is named as such because a battle between Carthaginians and Romans turned the water red with blood. Okay, so it’s not true, but it’s a good story.
Cycling on Favignana is not difficult, though I did fall off my bike (it hit a big rock wedged in the sandy ground). Get a map from the rental store and have them mark out the route to Cala Rossa for you. It took me around 45 minutes (including a detour at the island’s beautifully peaceful cemetery) to get there. After you put your bike away, you have to walk pass the abandoned quarries that frame the shores, and then it’s another rocky and at times, steep descent to the actual shores where sunseekers set up camp. It’s manageable in flip flops, but try not to run towards the amazing water.
The waters are probably the clearest I have ever seen, anywhere. It was the height of summer and it was crowded, but nothing can take away the beauty of this place. As with rocky beaches, beware of slippery rocks and sharp shells when you get into the water. But seriously, just get in there. It’s quite shallow for a while and you can see straight to the white sand at the bottom, with fishes and shells all around.