Asia is often relegated to a supporting role when it comes to choosing a tropical holiday. The Caribbean and southern Europe often jump to mind for those desperately in need of a beach, but that's just because most North Americans don't know where to look. Let us educate you on Asia's best undiscovered shores and islands.
Sihanoukville - Cambodia
With the exception of a few intrepid backpackers in the late 90’s willing to look beyond the country's tumultuous history, this former harbor has remained relatively unknown to the outside world. Recently revitalized and ready to welcome tourists, little slice of Cambodian paradise is ripe for a resurgence. Ideal for travelers looking for a more off the beaten path, rustic adventure, you'll likely have the area all to yourself to sun or snorkel.
Go / Do / Stay: October to November is the perfect shoulder season. Crowds aren’t bad and the weather is mild despite an occasional storm or two. Cambodia is still a very rugged and “raw” country making a motorcycle the perfect way to explore. The Independence Hotel Resort and Spa is an oasis in the city.
Juara Beach - Tioman Island, Malaysia
Don’t be surprised to find a giant Goanna (Komodo Dragon) roaming the sands here, as they're more common than people. The area is also home to one of Asia’s most important Sea Turtle preservation centers, Juara Turtle Project. Juara and the Tioman Islands, in general, have never been overwhelmed with tourists like some of their more well-known neighbors, which has allowed the coral and marine life to to thrive. With only a few guests, the area offers an unparalleled sense of serenity.Go / Do / Stay: June and July are the perfect time to visit Tioman. The warm water gets the marine life active for divers. The Tioman Island Golf Course is also a must-play. Free diving is popular with the naturalists there, which is more challenging than SCUBA diving but quite rewarding once you master it. Stay at boutique the Japamala Resort, which wows with complimentary breakfast, cocktails and treats.
Thong Nai Pan - Koh Phangan, Thailand
When most people hear Koh Phangan, they usually think Full Moon Party. But there is so much more to the island than a celebration of debauchery and youth. Thong Nai Pan, located on the island's northeastern tip, consists of just two beach resorts ensuring you privacy in the most pristine of settings.Go / Do / Stay: November is the shoulder month between the wet and dry seasons, but even during the rainy season Koh Phangan is relatively pleasant. Thailand is teeming with beautiful protected national parks. Trek up to the nearby waterfalls or take a diving course. Thailand is not only an excellent value when it comes to dive certification, but their open water is hard to beat. Stay at the beautiful Panviman Resort Koh Phangan.
An Hai Beach - Con Dao, Vietnam
Once the reserve of political prisoners, the Con Dao Islands have seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to their mystery and intrigue. A long stretch of white sand surrounded by brilliant blue water and gentle pines, An Hai Beach is a great place to fall off the grid for awhile.
Go / Do / Stay: From May to October, turtles nest on beaches so don't miss their hatching. February through July, the waters around Con Dao have the best visibility. Con Dao offers the best diving and snorkeling in Vietnam and arguably Southeast Asia. We recommend the Six Senses Con Dao for their excellent concierge services and five-star location in a protected marine park.
Tokashiki/Aka Island - Okinawa, Japan
While Okinawa may not have the skyscrapers and bright lights that Japan is typically known for, what it does have are stunning beaches, delicious food, and some of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. It also happens to have the largest population of centenarians in the world, meaning the people who live here simply love it.
Go / Do / Stay: January through March is prime whale watching season (but keep in mind whales don't exactly follow a human timetable). March through early May still boast perfect weather and slightly smaller crowds. For the truly adventurous, you can dive or snorkel with the gentle giants, which can be arranged through the Hanamuro Inn.
San Jose - Carabao Island, Philippines
Located near hotspot Boracay, Carabao Island is billed as the next big island destination. San Jose sports the same white sand and stunning waters, but without the massive crowds and high price tags. Often considered a day trip, San Jose is more than worthy of a few days to exploration.
Go / Do / Stay: December is peak season so consider the shoulder months of November or May for great deals on accommodation and lighter crowds. San Jose is sparsely developed, which means there are still several areas ripe for getting off the beaten path, including underground caves. If you’re less adventurous, there's nothing wrong with relaxing at The Beach House with a frosty umbrella drink.