Dazzling white sand, bath-warm turquoise waters, swaying palms… You’re smiling already, aren’t you? Head for the sun with our pick of seven top beach destinations on the KQ network
What makes the perfect beach?
You don’t need to be a maths boffin to work it out. Beautifully soft sand will surely be part of the equation; clear, balmy water lapping at the shore, certainly; a good chance of warm sunshine, a welcoming, stylish place to stay, and perhaps a nearby cafe ready to serve you a cool drink and a delicious snack – these things all add up to a fabulous beach. Once you start adding in a spectacular backdrop, a little local culture and activities to keep you entertained – swimming among colourful fish, windsurfing or kayaking, maybe – you’re tipping towards the ideal lie-back-and-chill-out break. To help you plan your next sojourn on the shore, we’ve rounded up a selection of seven of the best beach destinations on the KQ network. Whether you’re happiest snorkelling over coral reefs or simply delving into gently splashing waves in between snoozing under a shady palm, we’ve got a stretch of shoreline that’s perfect for you.
1 Mauritius: Trou d’Eau Douce Bay
Best for: Sheer luxury
Pity the dodo. Going extinct must have been made all the more galling given the beauty of the home the ill-fated bird left behind: Mauritius, a lush paradise that epitomises all that’s wonderful about Indian Ocean islands. There’s the sea, sure, but also plenty of wildlife both inland and offshore, vibrant culture (try dancing to the popular séga music), delicious food and historic relics. Reefs, islets, lagoons and gorgeous white beaches hug the shore, so the choice of destination is vast. Head north, where bars and nightlife are concentrated? West, where calm seas and shelter from winds make perfect conditions for family holidays? South – well-forested and less-visited, with rugged cliffs and secluded beaches? Or east, with cooling breezes and dramatic rocky outcrops? That’s our tip. And specifically, the shore around Trou d’Eau Douce Bay, with its friendly town, string of golden beaches and the lovely Île aux Cerfs just offshore. As truly indulgent tropical idylls go, it’s hard to beat.
Stay: Le Touessrok Resort & Spa at Shangri La, reopening in November after extensive remodelling, is regularly voted the best hotel on Mauritius – indeed, in the Indian Ocean region. (www.shangrila.com/mauritius/shangrila; rooms from UK£267 including breakfast). It has pretty much every luxury and facility you could want, including several excellent restaurants and bars, an ayurvedic spa and a private island, Îlot Mangénie.
Don’t miss: Rhum Arrangé – infused rum with marinated fruits, vanilla or spices.
Fly KQ to Mauritius twice weekly (codeshare).
2 Kenya: Malindi
The factors that make Kenya’s beaches so special aren’t found on the sand alone – though with a near-unbroken ribbon of gold stretching along the coast, there’s plenty of that to go round. No, it’s what lies inland and offshore that adds new dimensions to a beach-break here: fascinating Swahili culture, and the relics of Arab traders, dating back centuries, among the coastal villages and towns; as well as the dazzling underwater life protected in marine reserves.
In the north, the island of Lamu is known as much for the labyrinthine alleys and traditional culture of its old town as for the glorious beaches nearby – a dhow journey to Shela Beach or a longer cruise among the mangroves or to Manda Island is a special experience.
Between Mombasa and the Tanzanian border you’ll find a swathe of lush beaches; Diani is set up for families, with plentiful hotels and activities, while Tiwi is more low-key and quiet. But our pick is the patch around Malindi, where the Watamu and Malindi reserves offshore provide spectacular snorkelling opportunities, while Swahili ruins and forests bustling with wildlife are just inland.
Stay: Che Shale (www.cheshale.com; from Ksh7000 per person per night B&B) is a boutique castaway-chic resort a few kilometres from Malindi town – the kind of place where you’ll forget to check your mobile for days on end because you’re too busy doing nothing among the stylish, palm-thatched bandas. There’s plenty to do here, too: terrific kitesurfing, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding and snorkelling, as well as opportunities for land-based wildlife-watching in nearby Arabuko-Sokoke Forest; Tsavo National Park is just a three-hour drive away for a sand-and-safari combo.
Fly KQ to Malindi at least daily.
3 Vietnam: Bai Tu Long & Lan Ha Bay
Best for Sailing to isolated beaches among karst outcrops
During the emergence of tourism in Vietnam over the past two decades this fascinating Southeast Asian country’s cultural highlights have dominated the headlines. Yet its S-shaped coastline is studded with sandy strands and gorgeous islands. In recent years beach-lovers have begun to explore beyond the traditional haunts of Danang and Nha Trang on the central coast.
In the far southwest, peaceful Phu Quoc is a jungle-clad, mountainous island fringed by lovely white-sand beaches lapped by the balmy waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The Con Dao islands off Vietnam’s southern coast are remote and little-visited, while on the stretch east of Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne is known for watersports and Ho Coc is a beautiful and quiet stretch northeast of Vung Tau.
Our tip, though, is to head north. Halong Bay is best known for the karst outcrops among which junks thread their courses, but among the emerald pinnacles you’ll find caves, floating villages and isolated beaches. For more peaceful spots, take a three-day cruise around Halong Bay and into the neighbouring waters of Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha Bay. These two stretches boast the limestone rock formations and caves for which Halong Bay is renowned, plus fishing villages and sand – Lan Ha Bay has no fewer than 139 small, secluded beaches – but fewer tourist boats.
Stay: Au Co – Board the stylish vessel Au Co on a luxurious cruise (www.aucocruises.com; three-day cruises from US$400 per person) to explore these bays in style, with plenty of opportunities for swimming, rowing and exploring local communities.
Don’t miss: Halong squid cake – the famous cake, the finest local delicacy. You can even try your hand at catching your own squid – best in May and June.
Fly KQ to Hanoi three times weekly.
4 Mazambique: Bazaruto Archipelago
Best for Romantic Indian Ocean idyll
Mozambique’s Indian Ocean coastline stretches for 2500km. And there are not too many millimetres of that vast shore that aren’t powdered with luscious, soft sand – and that’s not including the beaches on the edge of Lake Niassa (Lake Malawi), where there are more opportunities for lolling and splashing among the fishing villages.
The question is: where to start? At Tofo, where scuba-diving within view of magnificent whale sharks is the order of the day? Spotting dolphins off the long, surf-pounded beach at Ponta D’Ouro? Island-hopping by dhow among the beautiful islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago?
Our pick is the Bazaruto Archipelago, a chain of idyllic offshore islands fringed by pristine white beaches and azure water – much of it protected by a national park providing sanctuary for sea turtles, dugongs grazing the sea-grass, a dizzying array of corals and the equally dazzling fish that flit among them. It’s also a wonderful place for stargazing, with clear night skies free from light pollution.
Stay: Azura Benguerra Island (from US$625 per person per night, including all meals, most drinks and some activities) makes the most of the empty beaches on the west coast of Benguerra Island, with beautifully designed villas and top eco-credentials, as well as a host of activities.
Don’t miss: Azura crab casquinia – the spicy speciality of the house – followed by a cocktail on the beach.
Fly KQ to Maputo daily.
5 Seychelles: La Digue
Best for Living out fantasies of tropical island bliss
Indecisive travellers, beware: there are 115 islands to choose from in the Seychelles, all of them spectacular. If you like blissfully warm, clear-as-glass water, powder-sand beaches shaded by swaying palms, interesting rock formations, plentiful wildlife above and below the waves, you’ll find picking your destination almost impossible.
Mahé scores with ample accommodation, restaurants and nightlife – it’s the biggest island, with plenty to see and do inland: the lushly forested Morne Seychellois National Park, topped off with the territory’s highest peak (905m), offers wonderful hiking and birdwatching. Praslin has Anse Lazio, the white-sand beach that’s adorned a thousand postcards and holiday brochures, as well as the Vallée de Mai, the World-Heritage-listed reserve that’s home to the rare coco de mer palms, with their sensuous-shaped fruits. The Aldabra Atoll hosts more than 100,000 giant tortoises, while Bird Island is, unsurprisingly, bustling with birdlife.
But La Digue has captured our imagination. It’s tiny – covering just 10 sq km – but near-perfect, with Anse Source d’Argent on its west coast vying for the title of most beautiful Indian Ocean beach. It’s also impossibly relaxing, with life crawling at such a slow pace you’ll soon lose track of the days. If you can work up the energy, join a boat trip to an even more peaceful speck in the surrounding ocean – Île Cocos, perhaps, just 3km away – and let the sun, soft sand and gently lapping waves soothe all cares away.
Stay: Le Domaine De L’Orangeraie (www.orangeraie.sc; from €2520 for 7 nights) is a stylish collection of luxurious villas scattered across the wooded hillside overlooking lovely Anse Sévère.
Don’t miss: Grilled pwason (fish) – flapping fresh bourgeois, capitaine or parrotfish.
Fly KQ to Mahé four times weekly.
6 Comoros: Mohéli
Best for Swimming with turtles, dolphins and marine life
Madagascar is remote, adrift in the wide Indian Ocean. The Comoros are even more remote, hundreds of kilometres northwest of Madagascar. And Mohéli… Mohéli is the island where the clock stopped – and that’s the best thing about it. The smallest of the Comoros islands is untamed and undeveloped, its culture intact and its beaches empty and peaceful. Its waters are equally enchanting, protected by the Parc Marin de Mohéli, and home to sea turtles, various dolphin species, manta rays and humpback whales. The shore is shielded by coral reefs alive with fish of all hues, making snorkelling a simple delight. And if you ever tire of splashing about – unlikely, given the soothing temperature of the ocean – you can pick up a paddle and kayak, hike in the rainforest, spot endemic wildlife including Mohéli scops owl and Comorian lemur, or head to the village of Nioumachoua to buy cloves, vanilla and pepper. Wait quietly on the beach at night and you might even be lucky enough to witness a green sea turtle haul herself onto the sand to dig a hole and lay her eggs.
Stay: Mohéli Laka Lodge (www.lakalodge.com/eng; from €60 per person full board) is a small, eco-friendly place just steps from the beach, with cool, simple rooms and plenty of activities on offer.
Don’t miss: exceptional seafood especially mangrove crab and camaron – shrimp dishes.
Fly KQ to Moroni daily.
7 India: Goa
Best for Lively markets and peaceful village life
Since the hippies, backpackers and package tourists first descended on its palm-fringed beaches in the 1960s, India’s southwestern Portuguese enclave has changed beyond recognition. At least, parts have – but not all. In chunks of the state, strongly traditional lifestyles survive, with vibrant markets – catering to locals, not just tourists – colonial houses and churches, and Hindu temples. There’s wildlife inland among the cool valleys and hills, and a cuisine very different from the spicy vegetarian food that’s the norm in South India, but it’s the sand, festooning the coast in broad swathes, that still attracts most visitors.
The northern coast has bustling Calangute, beautiful Chapora and Vagator, the famously thronged Friday market at Anjuna and peaceful Arambol; south of Panaji there’s built-up Colva, Benaulim and the end-of-the-road vibe at Palolem.
We like Majorda, a little north of Colva, where the creation of a few five-star resorts has kept smaller developments at bay, despite the beauty of the sandy shore.
Stay: Vivenda Dos Palhacos (www.vivendagoa.com; from Rs4400/Rs7650 in low/high season) is a funky restored Hindu house fronted by the remains of a Portuguese manor, with a handful of individually styled rooms – high on boutique chic and great value.
Don’t miss: prawn balchãoi, a spicy, pickly curry.
Fly KQ to Mumbai twice daily.
5 More to try
There are endless possibilities for beach breaks on the KQ network – here are five more unique options to consider:
1 Matemwe, Zanzibar
Come to the Spice Island’s northeastern shores and you’ll enjoy sweeps of soft sand and aquamarine water – but also a backdrop of drying seaweed. The women of villages along the coast harvest this crop and hang it to dry along the beach.
Fly KQ to Zanzibar at least four times daily
2 Paris Plages, France
Beaches? In the centre of the French capital? Well, yes – each July and August, stretches of sand complete with palm trees and deckchairs spring up along the River Seine.
Fly KQ to Paris daily
3 Woolacombe, UK
You might not think of beach breaks when you think of Great Britain – but there are, of course, some gorgeous spots in this island nation, from the wild strands of the Scottish Islands to the coves and peninsulas of Wales. The wide white beach at Woolacombe in Devon, in England’s southwest, is a favourite with families and surfers alike.
Fly KQ to London daily
4 Phra Nang, Thailand
This secluded beach near Krabi, accessible only by longboat, is backed by the cavernous Tham Phra Nang Nok – the ‘Princess Cave’, where fisherman traditionally make offerings to a mythical sea princess who lives here.
Fly KQ to Bangkok daily
5 Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay, Australia
Australia isn’t short of beautiful beaches, but this one, on the New South Wales coast 180km south of Sydney, is recognised by Guinness World Records as having the whitest sand in the world.
Fly with KQ SkyTeam partner to Sydney.