12 beaches in 12 months: where to travel for the world's best beach holidays

With summer finally here we are already starting to worry about its end. With that in mind, we have come up with 12 of the world's best beaches to extend the summer year round. Here’s our 12-month guide showcasing where to travel and when
Mirissa beach. Photo: Fotolia
Mirissa beach. Photo: Fotolia

Whether you want stretches of golden sand or the best waves to surf, the weather and time of year can make or break (sorry for the pun) a beach holiday. Here’s where to travel and when for the ultimate seaside escape

January: Clifton Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Running from December to February, the city’s summer is the perfect time to visit and brings warm, dry weather with a calendar packed full of lively events. The Cape Peninsula offers two striking but very different coastlines too.

Clifton Bay, home to four rugged, yet wildly beautiful beaches, offers plenty of respite. Each cove is laced with soft white sand and attracts a slightly different crowd, from partygoers to serious volley-ball competitors. Clifton 4th is a classic Cape Town beach, perfect for sun-seekers and families. Add a day or two of relaxation here to Insight Guides' Cape Amazing: Cape Town Explored holiday

February: Pichilingue, La Paz, Mexico

December to April are the driest months in most of Mexico, meaning travellers from colder climes flock to the coast. If you can embrace the busier months, visiting in February opens up the chance to see migrating blue whales off of the Baja Peninsula; a sight Insight Guides' Baja: Pacific Coast Paradise holiday will help you with.

Mexico is home to a wealth of stunning beaches and it can be difficult to track down the best. Around 30 minutes’ drive from La Paz is Pichilingue beach, one of the area’s most breathtaking. Guarded by rocky outcrops, the sea here is serene, with barely a ripple to be seen, making it perfect for bathing. The beach itself is a glorious stretch of pure white sand with a scattering of palm-covered bars, shacks and umbrellas. 

March: La Playita, Dominican Republic

Venture to this cool, Caribbean island in March and you’ll skip the high season, high prices and high density of tourists too. Officially the shoulder season during March, the days tend to be dry (although, you may experience a downpour or two), long and warm. Talk to one of Insight Guides' local experts today to plan your trip just right. 

Lined with picturesque palms and lapped by cool, clear waters, La Playita on the Samaná peninsula feels like a slice of paradise. Turn left down a dusty track just before you get to Las Galeras and keep going until you reach the beach at the end. Things are peaceful and basic here, with a few vendors selling coconut water, a cute beach bar and little else. 

April: Ao Kantiang, Koh Lanta, Thailand

April marks the start of the shoulder season in Thailand but don’t let that put you off. At the coast, you’ll find dry, hot weather peppered with cool sea breezes. Make the most of fewer people with cheaper hotel rates and solitude on the sands. Travelling at this time of year means you can participate in the Songkran (Thai New Year; officially 13th-15th April, although celebrations can last up to a week) festivities too. You’ll find residents and tourists chucking water on each other, symbolising the washing away of sins and bad luck. Prepare to get wet! 

To escape the festivities, head for Ao Kantiang on Koh Lanta. Super-blue waters, powdery white sand and backed by jungle-covered hills, this place is secluded, private and pretty close to paradise. This sandy arch has a few resorts scattered along the seafront but nothing too substantial; prepare for a quiet day. 

Add a stop at Koh Lanta to any of Insight Guides' Thailand holidays; browse suggested itineraries online now.

May: Punta Cahuita, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is often booked solid throughout the peak season (running from December to April), and it can be harder to get off-the-beaten-track. Instead, travel at the beginning of the quieter season. While you’ll experience more rain (usually a heavy shower in the afternoon), you’ll be greeted with sunny mornings and fewer people. 

Backed by Cahuita National Park and fringed by the Caribbean coast’s only substantial coral reef, Punta Cahuita is quite the catch. Located in southern Costa Rica, the golden beach is hugged by wild jungle, home to the country’s most exotic creatures. In the waters, you can spot a staggering 240 species, from nurse sharks to tropical fish. Don’t forget your snorkel!

Visit the southern Caribbean Coast on any of Insight Guides' Costa Rica holidays; simply add an extra stay to one of these suggested itineraries.

A fishing boat passes by the beach of Nosy Iranja, Madagascar; the best place to take a beach holiday in June. Photo: Shutterstock

June: Nosy Iranja, Madagascar

Warm temperatures, fewer visitors and the tail-end of the rainy season make this the perfect time to travel around Madagascar. The island boasts over 3,000 miles of coastline so tracking down the best beaches to spend your holiday on can be a challenge. 

Nosy Iranja, tucked away on the island’s north coast, is a tiny spot of land connected by a sand bar, making your arrival and departure times more thrilling. The thin line of sand etches its way around the island in a brilliant-white slither, while the waters are cool, calm and clear. There is little shade here, don’t forget to take a sunhat.

Add a peaceful retreat here to Insight Guides' Dreaming of Madagascar beach holiday itinerary.

July: Watergate Bay, Cornwall, UK 

If you can’t head off to exotic climes this year, the UK’s southern coastline makes for a great alternative. The Cornish coast is beautiful during the summer months (weather permitting); visit in the first half of the month and you’ll miss the school holidays (and barrage of vacationing families). 

The Cornish coastline is great for active travellers. Head for Watergate Bay to learn to surf (the O’Neill academy here is ideal for beginners) alongside a long, glossy stretch of sand. For those with a preference for rocky coves and a thrill or two, this area is perfect for coasteering… Think leaping-off rocks and swirling around in the choppy waves below. 

August: Playa Manzanillo, Providencia, Colombia

Colombia is another country with complicated climates, and optimum times to travel range across its regions. Providencia, its remote island struck in the Caribbean Sea (located closer to Nicaragua than mainland Colombia) is easier to understand. 

Surrounded on all sides by bright-white sands and surreal-blue waters, it’s safe to say Providencia is a textbook tropical island paradise. This is an incredible destination to switch off, relax and restore at. Dotted along the west coast, you’ll find small shacks and hotels in what little tourism infrastructure there is. Playa Manzanillo, a beach a little further south, is one of the island’s stunners. Glorious snowy sands, soft waves and startlingly bright aqua-marine waters create a picture-perfect beach to stretch out on. What are you waiting for? Talk to a local expert today and organise your holiday to this tropical island paradise. 

September: Grumari, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio’s high season runs from December to March in a heady, festive few weeks from Christmas events to the boisterous Carnival. Avoid the crowds and the high prices to match by visiting at the tail-end of the low season in September. Our local experts can bag you the best deal: simply submit a trip request and tell us what you want to do on holiday. 

The beach is more than a place to soak up the sun and swim in Rio. It is Rio. From volleyball to gym kit, nurseries to football pitches, you’ll find a mish-mash of Brazilian everyday life on the city’s sands. After experiencing the world-famous stretches of Copacabana and Ipanema, make for the more relaxed vibe of Grumari. Located in the west of Rio, this is the only neighbourhood in the city without residents, creating a wonderfully isolated and laid-back beach. Make sure you stick around for sunset: the views of the coast make for a beautiful setting. 

Grumari beach on a busy day, Rio de Janeiro; this is the place to travel in September. Photo: Shutterstock

October: Bogatell, Barcelona, Spain 

Home to a 4km-long waterfront, Barcelona makes the best break for travellers needing a city break with a little post-summer sun. Combine your seaside trip with exploring the city’s eccentric architecture, tempting cuisine and fun-loving nightlife. Along with the balmy weather, October is officially the city’s shoulder season, meaning you’ll miss the crowds too. Brave travellers can also opt for a dip in the sea.

Originally created for the Olympic Games in 1992, Bogatel Beach combines chilled vibes with sporting activities. You’ll find beach volleyball, table tennis, gym kit and more available to use here. The closest beach to the city, you’ll be relaxing alongside a backdrop of world-famous architecture and plenty of bars to visit once you’re sunned-out for the day. 

Travel on Insight Guides' Cultural Cities of Spain holiday to explore the beaches of Barcelona, as well as Madrid, Seville, Granada and more.

November: Half-Moon Bay, Antigua

November marks the end of the low season on this beautiful small Caribbean island. Along with sunny temperatures regularly hitting 27.5°, this time of year has a low threat from hurricanes. You’ll also have fewer crowds to battle for beach space. 

Antigua is famously home to 365 beaches making it a puzzle to decide which one to head for first. Travel to the island’s eastern coast for Half Moon Bay, regularly touted as one of the most beautiful curves of sand in the world. A dusty track leads down to a crescent-shaped cove, with few tourists venturing this far and a beach bar serving garlic-fried shrimps and ice-cold beers for those that do. 

December: Mirissa, Sri Lanka 

Sri Lanka’s climate can be quite dramatic for such a small island, with various regions experiencing different weather. While December coincides with the high season, the west- and south-coast beaches are at their best and the weather on this side of the island is generally drier. A word of warning, you'll need to book early to secure the best deals and hotels. 

Backed by coconut-packed palm trees, Mirissa has something for everyone. Active travellers can grab a surfboard and catch a few waves, wildlife watchers can take boat trips to spot whales and dolphins, and easy-going visitors can simply sit back, sun themselves and slope off to one of the beachside bars when refreshment is required. 

Insight Guides' Sri Lanka: Culture and Coast holiday mixes the island's best beaches (including Mirissa) with cultural highlights; review the full itinerary now

This article was originally published on 18 January, 2017

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