The world’s best beaches for action and adventure

Say no to sunbathing and yes to adventure!

Think of a beach holiday, and most of us conjure up images of lounging around on golden sands next to warm turquoise seas, soaking up the sun and doing little else besides.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re not one for simply catching rays all day, the beach can also provide enough thrills and excitement to keep even the most hardcore adrenalin junkies satisfied.

Here are some of the world’s best locations for finding beachside adventure.

North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

The Hawaiian island that invented the sport, Oahu [lead picture] is one of the world’s most famous and popular surf destinations. The North Shore in particular attracts boarders in their droves, all keen to glimpse or ride one legendary tube wave – The Pipeline. If the swell rises to more than 6 metres, then you can watch the pros compete in the world’s best big wave surf competition, the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational. Away from the waves, the North Shore is also a great place to book an unforgettable trip diving with sharks out in the wilds of the Pacific Ocean.

Moreton Island, Queensland, Australia

In a state famous for its surf spots – the Gold Coast lies less than 50 miles to the south – Australia’s Moreton Island offers beach adventures of another kind. Just a 75-minute boat ride away from Brisbane, the island is home to Mount Tempest, the tallest stable sand dune in the world. Sand tobogganing – sliding down the 285 metre sand slopes on a waxed board – is one of the island’s main attractions. And when you have finished sliding down the sand, the island also offers Four Wheel Drive dune bashing, sea fishing and whale watching.

Moreton Island, Queensland, Australia

Phra Nang Beach, Thailand

Don’t mind heights? Then the cliff jumping at this remote Thai beach really is a thrill for the brave and bold. Cut off from the small resort of Ao Nang by the size of the sheer limestone cliffs, Phra Nang can only be reached by boat. For once, the pristine white sands of this beach are not the main attraction, as climbers the world over head here to practice their skills on the craggy rock faces overhanging the sea. The water is deep and rock free all around, and with many simple routes up, even novice climbers can enjoy a gut wrenching plunge from leg shaking heights.

Los Lances Tarifa, Spain

There is one main reason why people flock to this particular beach on Andalucia’s windswept southern coast – kite surfing. The 7 km stretch of the Los Lances Tarifa beach is home to the World Kitesurf Championships, and buzzes year round with the laid back party vibe of a young surf crowd. Beginners wanting a holiday with a difference can book week long courses complete with accommodation.

Apo Island, Philippines

This tiny volcanic rock 7 km to the south east of the island of Negros is as close to paradise island perfection as you can get. But aside from the sheer beauty of the empty beaches and rocky, jungle-covered interior, most people head to Apo for one thing – snorkelling. The shallow reefs just yards from the beach are a marine reserve, and as well as pristine coral formations and dozens of species of colourful tropical fish, Apo is one of the world’s best places to swim with giant turtles.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Not a single beach, but an island-strewn 120 km stretch of coastline which ranks as one of the world’s best sea kayaking destinations. Within easy reach of Hanoi, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is covered with almost 2000 rocky karst islets rising straight from the sea, most of them too small to be inhabited and covered with thick tropical vegetation. Visitors can hire sea kayaks to paddle the calm waters exploring countless channels, caves and patches of mangrove swamp. The more adventurous can even make a holiday of paddling up and down the coast, stopping at local fishing villages to eat and sleep.


This small Caribbean island is best known as a swanky tourist destination for the rich and famous. But away from the glitz and glamour of the island’s southern resorts, Martinique hides a wild and rugged interior ideal for the budding outdoorsman or woman. A popular attraction is canyoning, which involves exploring the deep valleys and steep gorges that line the flanks of the island’s volcanic hillsides. Hack your way through dense rainforest, get soaked as you clamber up fast flowing rocky streams, swim across the deep plunge pools of stunning waterfalls – and if you are confident enough in your climbing, even attempt the ascent up a 200ft waterfall cliff. At least you have the beach to relax on after all that effort.


The pink sand beaches of Bermuda are enough to entice any holidaymaker, but if you want something really adventurous thrown into the bargain, how about diving amongst shipwrecks? Over the centuries, the coral reefs around Bermuda have scuppered many a vessel (the first Europeans to settle in 1609 were shipwrecked), making the island chain the world’s premier destination for wreck diving. With more than 400 wrecks to choose from, you won’t be short of choice for an unforgettable diving experience.

Diving Bermuda's many shipwrecks

La Palma, Canary Islands

Having largely escaped the tourist developments of its larger and more famous neighbours, La Palma offers a Canary Islands experience to suit the the more adventurous traveller. Like its neighbours, La Palma’s rugged landscape has been shaped by the ancient volcanoes that litter its interior. A favourite way to explore the otherworldly moonscapes of jagged peaks and blasted lava field is mountain bike trekking. La Caldera de Taburiente is one of the world’s largest volcanic craters – at almost 2000m deep and six miles wide, it is a favourite place for visitors to scramble around on two wheels. And when you are done in the hills, why not try freewheeling all the way down to the black lava sands of the beach on one of the islands challenging downhill trails.

So who said beaches were boring?

Need any more convincing? There you have nine very good reasons why heading in a beach holiday can be full of action and adventure. From riding waves and sand dunes and trying out new sports to exploring the amazing sites on offer on land and sea around the world’s coastlines, now you have no excuses to stay glued to your sun lounger for a fortnight. Just remember to pack your suncream – just because you won’t be sitting in it doesn’t mean the sun won’t burn.

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Paul Newham

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