South-East Asia's 5 most stunning beaches

From powdery white sands in the Philippines to hidden coves in Thailand, these little-known beaches have everything you want from a tropical paradise...

3 mins

Nemberala Beach, Rote Island, Indonesia (Rebecca Mayoli)

1. Nemberala Beach, Rote Island, Indonesia

Lingering on the western tip of West Timor is a tiny stretch of sand where you’ll encounter piglets snuffling along the beach, a community of sea weed farmers and one of the world’s best sunsets, all to yourself. 

Right now, there is only a scattering of accommodation, from seriously budget to high end resort, and the chance to explore the area by bicycle or moped without seeing another soul. On the southern tip of Nemberala is a protrusive knobbly headland overlooking a chalk-white beach. Barrelling surf hurls against the boulders before simmering into the half moon bay; an idyllic place for a private stroll.

Memories Beach, Khao Lak, Thailand (Rebecca Mayoli)

2. Memories Beach, Khao Lak, Thailand

The low-key ‘Memories Bar’ in near Khuekkhak sits atop a wide stretch of golden sand that is rarely visited by tourists but is adored by locals and expats. 

Surf the beginner waves that cruise into this wide beach, sip cocktails or join the Thai boys for a game of volleyball at sunset. The bar and beach is called 'Memories' in respect to the loss this area sustained in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.

Boracay (

Boracay, Phillipines (Shutterstock)

3. Beaches at Station 1-4, Boracay, Philippines

OK, this flashy island is hardly 'little known', but you can't argue with the quality. Boracay arguably has South East Asia’s best stretches of sand.

Between Stations 1 and 4 is a slim stretch of pearly sand rimmed by neon blue water that eventually drops off to form part of the deep indigo ocean. Expect colourful sails on the horizon, and breathtaking sunsets almost everyday.

Watu Karung Beach, Pacitan, Java, Indonesia (Rebecca Mayoli)

4. Watu Karung Beach, Pacitan, Java, Indonesia

Watu Karung is a little-known Indonesian beach, nestled away in the south coast of Java. But it won't stay that way for long. Here, you'll find an arc of pristine sand, a sheltered swimming area, rock pools, food shacks and a heavy left hander surf break which has hosted the likes of Kelly Slater and Bruce Irons. 

Surprisingly, Watu Karung beach is only a short day trip from Yogyakarta, Java’s second biggest city, but it feels like you are a world away. With numerous craggy rocks to the west you have an unlimited amount of inlets to explore and the ability to seek out your own paradise cove.

El Nido Beach (

El Nido Beach at sunset (Shutterstock)

5. El Nido Beach, Palawan, Philippines

With spectacular limestone cliffs sheltering its sandy cove and warm turquoise waters, El Nido is easy to succumb to. 

By day, the beach is at your beck and call, be it a base to start a kayak tour of nearby islands or a stretch of solitude to relax upon. At night, this little beach explodes into a vibrant scene with fire twirlers, salsa dancers and live music.

Rebecca Mayoll is a ‘just turned 30’ freelance writer and photographer from England. She is the co-founder and author of

Main image: El Nido beach at sunset (Shutterstock)

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