April 2003: Top ten beaches


Olu Deniz aerialThe beach might not quite live up to the images conjured up by the films and the television shows and the songs. We still have to go. Travel Extra contributors picked their top ten:

1. Olu Deniz. What no sand? But the lagoon of Olu Deniz has survived a reputation as paradise which started among the German tourists and spread here by the late 1980s. There are those who will tell you it isn’t anything like it used to be, but sit out there in the evening and you can still hear the birds above the multilingual chatter.

2Kuta, Bali, Indonesia. Right on the neck of Bali’s southernmost peninsula, a long, fairly straight beach facing the Bandung Strait and the Indian Ocean beyond. Ignore the Club 18-30 style rampaging Aussies, the atmosphere is always relaxed and easygoing. Lie back, wait for a massage, and think of the banana pancakes you are going to have for lunch. Brilliant sunsets.

3St-Tropez, Côte d’Azur, South of France. The only north-facing shrine on the Riviera (easily the most stylish sunsets); a fishing port flanked by curvy blond beaches. The headquarters of that French topless chic look. Spoil yourself. Coffee at Sennequier, lunch at the Mas du Langoustier (it is on an island, you need a yacht) and evening tapas. St-Trop has retained both its sunny charm and its sophistication, like Paris in a topless bikini.

4Clifton, Cape Town, South Africa. Four beaches in one (imaginatively named First, Second, etc), 15 minutes’ drive west of Old Cape Town, on the Atlantic, rather than Indian Ocean side. First is raunchy bikinis and grown-ups, Second is laid-back, Third is teens and Fourth is families. In the evening make sure to bring your picnic suppers and chilled Stellenbosch Chardonnays. Toplessness is no longer an arrestable offence

5Inch, Dingle Peninsula, Kerry. Eamonn Casey or the makers of Playboy of the Western World can’t have been wrong. There are four miles of glorious sand, and this and the two opposite on the Iveragh peninsula Rossbeigh and Cromane can still be found relatively empty in summer in these days of 7m tourists. Eye up the birds, not those, the ringed plovers and turnstones, distinctively small black and white birds with white legs, non breeding visitors to the beach.

6 Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An immense, honey-coloured strip of sand pounded by Atlantic rollers on Guanabara Bay where you  find the very young, the very beautiful, the very aware of it. The unstylish should remove themselves to next-door Copacabana. And don’t go near the beach at night, dangling your camera and your wallet. Rio may be safer than it was, but it is still not Bundoran.

7Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii. A collection of smaller beaches stretching from Honolulu Harbour to the extinct volcano called Diamond Head, facing south-west into the Pacific Ocean, reminiscent of those sentimental old Elvis films and swamped with tourists from the mainland US and Japan.

8Venice, California, United States. Just south of Santa Monica beach and before you get to Marina del Rey. View over Santa Monica Bay and the wide blue Pacific. Watch the dudes and babes on skates, boards and designer narcotics. European teeth and real breasts will be conspicuous. Do not, on any account, venture on to the sacred Boardwalk unless you are truly cool.


9Kovalam, Kerala, India. A short, rather crowded strip of sand on the south-western tip of India, with crashing Indian Ocean surf. Lighthouse Beach is the most popular section. The morning must be spent bargaining for a beach mat (£1 maximum) and appointing your own personal fruit-seller, henna tattoo artist and souvenir supplier. You can then have all the things that make life worth living (fresh mango, massage, drinks, food, jewellery) delivered to your mat at the merest twitch of a muscle.

10 Bondi, Sydney, Australia. Crescent-shaped bay with a wide stretch of golden sand, just south of the mouth of Sydney Harbour and facing the sharky Tasman Sea.  Check out the powerful men in ladies’ swimsuits. They are surf lifesavers (don’t ask) Frying in Factor 2 is totally passé these days, but getting drunk is still fine. Graze in the increasingly hip cafes and bars on the Promenade. You can have your high-factor sun protection topped up by a sexy sun patrol with spray canisters on their backs. But can’t do anything about the smell of fast food floating down from the Promenade?

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