10 of the World's Emptiest Beaches

Escape the crowds this summer and relax at one of these secluded destinations around the world.

By: Rachel Tepper Paley
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Honokalani Beach (Maui, Hawaii)

Tucked away on a deserted stretch of Maui’s lush Waianapanapa State Park, Honokalani Beach commands awe from those lucky enough to chance upon it. With jet-black sand set against shimmering turquoise waters, Honokalani Beach is pure Hawaiian splendor, with small caves to poke inside and nary a soul to disrupt the solitude. One of the last stops on the famous dusty road to Hana, it’s more than worth a visit.

Dueodde Beach (Bornholm, Denmark)

Beaches may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Denmark, but that’s perhaps why the 19-mile stretch of sand that makes up Dueodde Beach lacks the suffocating swarms of sun-worshippers that clog Europe’s more famous beaches. Known for its extraordinarily fine white sand (and occasional nudist guests), on warmer days Dueodde might pass for the tropics if not for the pine trees planted at its edges.

Playa de Rodas (Galicia, Spain)

Abandoned beach spots abound on the Cies Islands, a rocky archipelago off the coast of Pontevedra in Galicia, Spain, but Playa de Rodas might be the best. Set on a quiet, clear-water lagoon, the half-moon beach is packed with soft, pale sand and lined with small dunes. Best of all, the total number of visitors to the entire island is capped at 2,200 people per day, which means never having to protectively stake out your sunbathing spot. The only way in and out is by boat, which sun worshippers can book in advance. Also on offer: Scuba diving, made all the more intoxicating by the resident arroaces — small, native (and endlessly curious) dolphins.

Hatenohama Beach (Kumejima, Japan)

Fifteen minutes off the coast of Kumejima, a subtropical island town in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture, a majestic sandbar rises from the sea. At just over four miles long at low tide, Hatenohama Beach is one of those magical is-this-real-life? places, accessible only by tour boat, jet ski or kayak. Those who make the journey are richly rewarded with blindingly white sand, a breathtaking contrast to the glimmering blue-green water. Bring your snorkel gear: The sandbar is ringed with coral that’s home to innumerable marine residents.

Koh Kradan Beach (Thailand)

Thailand is full of gorgeous beaches, but hordes of screeching tourists tend to undercut some of their allure. Not a problem on Koh Kraden, a speck of an island protected as part of the country’s pristine Hat Chao Ma National Park. Of the many beaches here, Sunset Beach is one of the best: Just about a mile long and lined with fragrant cashew trees, the beach offers views of towering limestone formations that lurk just offshore. At low tide, sandbars rise from the azure waters, creating temporary private islands for its lucky few visitors.

Monsul Beach (Cabo de Gata, Andalusia, Spain)

If Monsul Beach looks familiar, perhaps that’s because scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed here. Set in the craggy Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park in southeastern Spain — the largest protected coastal area in Andalucia — Monsul boasts crystal-clear water and the region’s famous desert climate. The otherworldly beach is hemmed in by massive, long-hardened volcanic formations, which speak to the area’s fascinating and violent geological history. These days, the scene is far more serene; you might walk along the coast for hours without seeing another person.

Spartines Beach (Alonissos, Greece)

On the northern tip of Greece’s Sporades archipelago, the tiny island of Alonnisos encompasses a scant 50 square miles, but its beaches are among Greece’s most beautiful and underrated. Consider Spartines beach, situated just north of the village of Votsi. This sparsely visited, pebbled beach is accessible only by foot or private boat, which is perhaps why — shocker! — it’s popular with nudists. Sheltered by large walls of stone, those who brave the journey luxuriate in privacy scarce enjoyed in tourist-overrun Greece.

Islamorada (Florida, United States)

Just an hour-and-a-half south of bustling Miami, Islamorada feels like an entirely different universe. The so-called “village of islands” is home to countless beaches at the edges of its scant seven square miles, most of them without official names and conspicuously absent of sunscreen-slicked sunbathers. The waters are so shallow, gentle, warm and clear that wading in feels like a dip in the world’s largest bathtub.

Shell Beach (Shark Bay, Western Australia)

Don’t expect to find any sand here. On the banks of the ominously named Shark Bay in Western Australia, Shell Beach is one of the only beaches in the world made up entirely of shells. They’re from the cockle species fragum erugatum, which produce tiny, white and nearly translucent shells. The water has a high salinity inhospitable to most predators, which has allowed the cockles to spawn unchecked, which is why every foot of Shell Beach’s 37 miles is covered in discarded shells. (The beach is a tad uncomfortable to walk on, so bring a sturdy pair of flip flops.) The crowds are few because it’s not a traditional white sand beach, but who needs sandy when you’ve got beachy solitude?

Ned's Beach (Lord Howe Island, Australia)

Lord Howe Island is but a tiny sliver of earth, the remains of a seven-million-year-old volcano adrift on the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. But it’s home to some of the world’s most remote and breathtaking beaches, namely Ned’s Beach, which in addition to glassine blue-green waters and soft white sand, is host to more than 500 species of fish. They swarm just offshore, where guests wading in waist-deep can feed them by hand.