Forget lying on a beach. That’s so last year. Instead, we crave experiences that make our hearts skip a beat. We want to get out on the waves, with the fresh ocean spray on our cheeks. We feel the urge to channel our inner David Attenborough, getting nearer (but not too close) to the extraordinary marine wildlife of planet earth.
As we hit our 30s and beyond – with a little more disposable income than before, and a renewed appetite for adventure – this need for experiential travel grows. And it applies to beaches as much as anywhere else. Why should we sit around getting sandy pants when a vast expanse of sea beckons? Chilling is all good, but it alone no longer cuts it.
With that in mind, here are nine spectacular beach experiences from around the world that promise to challenge and invigorate. Set down that dime-a-dozen beach thriller, and prepare to feel truly alive…
Paddle board the Cape Peninsula
There’s nowhere quite like the Cape Peninsula for a spot of stand-up paddle boarding. This shimmering expanse of ocean stretches out from the southernmost point of the African continent. Pro or no, you’ll feel like a sea-faring monarch as you navigate your very own board out on the waves. Embrace this spectacular workout, as you wobble, topple – and finally, glide seamlessly across the horizon. For paddle-boarding, swimming with seals, penguin-spotting and more, join Flash Pack in South Africa.
Take a speed boat around Rosario Islands
If you’re going to island hop anywhere in the world, make it the Rosario Islands in Colombia. This labyrinth of 27 islands, some uninhibited and others private, forms a Caribbean paradise off the coast of Cartagena. It’s only about an hour’s boat ride from the colourful city, but it may as well be a million miles away. Explore magnificent coral reef in warm turquoise waters, and hidden beaches framed by tropical foliage. A rich ecosystem means you may even spot sea turtles or reef sharks. Hop aboard a speed boat for the trip of a lifetime with Flash Pack in Colombia.
Camp on the beach in the Philippines
Don’t like camping? Think again. Sleeping out under the stars in the Bacuit archipelago, off Palawan in the western Philippines, is no ordinary tent experience. For one, you’ll be on a secret island beach that lies far from the crowds, on a magical peninsula of limestone karsts, caves and hidden lagoons. Secondly, you’ll sleep in a beautiful mesh tent, allowing you to star-gaze late into the night. And thirdly, you’ll have your own private boat transfer and chef, who’ll whip up a beach barbecue of freshly grilled fish and other treats. Who’s in for Flash Pack in the Philippines?
Play volleyball on Copacabana beach
As far as classic beach experiences go, you really can’t beat Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. This glorious Brazilian hot spot is a dream to hang out on. Admire the throngs of beautiful people down in the waves, lounging in the imposing silhouette of the Sugarloaf Mountain. Or watch the roller-bladers as they strut their stuff along the wide boulevard that spans the full length of Rio’s breath-taking coastline. Get involved in an afternoon game of volleyball, however, and you will feel like a true Cariocan (Rio dweller). Don’t miss Flash Pack in Brazil.
Snorkel around a WW2 in Bali
We don’t do ordinary snorkelling here at Flash Pack: only a shipwreck will do. The SS USAT Liberty has been beached off Amed, a series of laid-back fishing villages on Bali’s east coast, ever since it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942. Over the years, its shell has transformed into a diverse marine eco-world. Big-eyed trevally, lizardfish, barracuda, eels and more cluster around the ship’s hulk. Snorkel your way around warm, tropical waters as you admire the rich biodiversity of coral reef and schools of tropical fish. It’s just one in a ream of wow moments that await with Flash Pack in Bali.
Release baby turtles in Sri Lanka
A trip to the sea turtle conservation project in Kosgoda, Sri Lanka, is an experience that will stay with you forever. Marvel at these incredible creatures and learn about their battle for survival against widespread marine pollution and the destruction of nesting areas. Against this backdrop, you can’t fail to be moved as you help release a tiny baby turtle into the sea and on its way to freedom. “Releasing baby turtles on our final evening together was my personal highlight,” says Flashpacker Alison Quinn, who recently joined us in Sri Lanka. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” All aboard for Flash Pack in Sri Lanka.
Meet the seals of Scotland
A sheltered shore on Scotland’s dramatic west coast, Arisaig Bay is picturesque and remote. It definitely counts as one of Flash Pack’s breezier beach destinations. Climb aboard a kayak to discover a wilderness of sandy white coves and craggy outcrops that scatter the beautiful islands stretching out from the head of Loch na Ceall. The best part? You’ll be in the company of a 500-strong colony of local seals. Say hi to these lovely creatures with their distinctive whiskery snouts as you paddle around and indulge your Robinson Crusoe within. Make time for whisky-tasting and bridge-swinging also, with Flash Pack in Scotland.
Kayak around Halong Bay
One kayaking experience is much the same as the next, right? Wrong. A paddle around the UNESCO world heritage site of Vietnam’s Halong Bay will deliver wonderment on a quite unparalleled scale. Navigate your vessel through a mystical sub-universe of islets, tucked-away grottoes and mist-clad lagoons. We challenge even the most cynical of souls not to be stirred by the sight of ancient limestone karsts fringed by lush greenery, with harbours, little villages and a traditional dhow boat here and there. Crank up your paddling skills for Flash Pack in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Float effortlessly in the Dead Sea
The lowest point on earth is a thrilling place indeed. There’s nothing quite like the weightless feeling of floating off Jordan’s Dead Sea coast. The mineral-rich water is too thick to swim in and too salty to go underwater, so just grab a book and settle in to enjoy the extraordinary effect of the sea. The weather here is forever balmy, meaning you can soak in a few rays along the way, too. To make it extra special, you could cover yourself in mineral-riddled mud before you head in. It’s said to have purifying qualities, so it’s basically like a DIY spa treatment. Add this to camel-riding through the desert and ancient city tours, and you have yourself a riotous itinerary for Flash Pack in Jordan.
Photos: Flash Pack and Shutterstock