25 Beach Vacation Destinations Americans Have Never Heard Of

No one likes to fight over a beach chair on vacation. Leave the packed hotels and busy resorts of more well-known beaches behind in favor of some more exclusive spots off the beaten path. Few Americans have even heard of these 25 pristine beach destinations, let alone visited them.

Vero Beach, Florida

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Ditch the busy beaches of Miami for a small-town experience that feels like the Florida of decades past. Located about an hour north of West Palm Beach along the state’s Atlantic coast, Vero Beach is an ideal destination for travelers looking for more of an unhurried, unfussy beach break. It’s popular with families and has numerous hotels and resorts to choose from.

Cayo Levantado, Dominican Republic

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Located in the heart of the Samaná Bay in the Dominican Republic, Cayo Levantado is a stunning white sand island considered to boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic. The island is also home to Cayo Levantado Resort, the first dedicated wellness resort in the Dominican Republic. It boasts an array of ways to relax, restore, and revive, whether you’re into yoga, healing, and healthy eating or just looking for a space to unwind in luxury.

Manzanillo, Mexico

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Located on Mexico’s western coast in the state of Jalisco, Manzanillo is far from Mexico’s most famous resort destination. However, Manzanillo enchants with its pristine golden sands for travelers looking for something off the beaten path and thoroughly authentic. Stay at Las Hadas Golf Resort & Marina in Manzanillo, perched on Santiago Bay in Mexico’s Pacific Riviera. There are plenty of ways to enjoy here: an 18-hole championship golf course, a 70-slip marina, four restaurants, and a private beach for water sports and plenty of relaxation.

Cayo Jutias, Cuba

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Cayo Jutias boasts some of the most impressive beaches in Cuba, though it is a largely untouched destination that still feels like a hidden gem. While it is possible to take a day trip from Havana to this beach destination, most visitors enjoy it as a day trip from nearby Viñales, known for its incredible, lush valley scenery.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

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Ditch crowded Bali for the remote Gili Islands in Indonesia. Beach enthusiasts love the laidback shores of these islands for their white sands, crystal-clear waters for swimming and snorkeling, and an atmosphere that feels a world away from the throngs of visitors in nearby Bali.

Ilha Grande, Brazil

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Head west of Rio de Janiero for one of Brazil’s most beautiful beach destinations. The island of Ilha Grande beckons with its unspoiled natural beauty and secluded beaches hugged by lush rainforests, which makes it a favorite destination both for beaches and more adventurous activities like hiking and sailing.

Santa Marta, Colombia

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Cartagena might be the most well-known of Colombia’s coastal cities, but there’s no better place for a beach vacation along the country’s Caribbean coast than in Santa Marta. This beach city captivates with its Caribbean allure and breathtaking coastal vistas, offering picturesque beaches fringed with palm trees, coral reefs teeming with marine biodiversity, and opportunities for cultural immersion with nearby indigenous communities on the famous Ciudad Perdida – Lost City – trek.

Koh Rong, Cambodia

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Cambodia is best known for its delicious food and the stunning complex of Angkor Wat, but the island of Koh Rong makes this Southeast Asian country a bonafide beach destination as well. Koh Rong’s powdery white sands, crystal-clear waters ideal for swimming and snorkeling, and serene ambiance made it one of the filming locations for Survivor several years ago.

Nosara, Costa Rica

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Located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Nosara has some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches, lined with lush jungle landscapes to make it a paradise for surfing, yoga retreats, and wildlife exploration. Experience this coastal gem’s laid-back atmosphere and eco-friendly ethos, popular but still far off the radar of most American travelers.

Rodrigues Island, Mauritius

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In the heart of the Indian Ocean lies the untouched Rodrigues Island, part of the island nation of Mauritius. Though it receives few American visitors due to its remote location, it is a secluded paradise of unspoiled beaches, turquoise lagoons, and vibrant coral reefs, perfect for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts seeking tranquility amidst breathtaking natural beauty.

Lamu Island, Kenya

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Kenya has more than just safari experiences to offer travelers. Visit Lamu Island, Kenya, for a rich encounter with Swahili culture, pristine white sandy beaches, and ancient architecture; it can be a great addition to a safari excursion in the country’s interior or a destination all its own.

Jericoacoara, Brazil

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The northern Brazilian town of Jericoacoara is a memorable spot for a beach vacation far away from the crowds of Rio de Janeiro. Windsurfing and kiteboarding enthusiasts flock here to ride the waves, though tranquil lagoons provide serene spots for relaxation amidst stunning coastal scenery for those looking for a more relaxation-focused getaway.

Tangalle, Sri Lanka

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The island of Sri Lanka, located just off the coast of India, is a unique mix of rich culture and tradition, great cuisine, and an impressive beachfront. The beach resort town of Tangalle, though famous in Sri Lanka, still doesn’t have enough name recognition to overwhelm its beaches, meaning fortunate travelers can enjoy secluded bays, palm-fringed beaches, and a tranquil atmosphere.

Roatan, Honduras

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The island of Roatan belongs to Honduras and sits just off the coast of Central America, though its a true Caribbean island destination, through and through. Roatan boasts a new resort, the Kimpton Grand Roatan Resort + Spa, offering even more reason to head to this Caribbean island, which is soon to be on every traveler’s radar.

Punta del Este, Uruguay

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Few American travelers have heard of the beaches of the tiny South American country of Uruguay, but those in the known understand it’s the place to be. The upscale town of Punta del Este is packed with luxe villas and cool hotels that welcome the region’s elite year after year among some of the most stunning sands in this part of the world.

Mafia Island, Tanzania

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Like Kenya’s Lamu Island, Mafia Island in Tanzania is a hidden gem off the beaten path that constitutes one of the region’s best beach destinations. Secluded shores, pristine coral reefs, and a serene atmosphere ideal for diving, snorkeling, and wildlife encounters offer an authentic and unforgettable island experience just a short distance from mainland Tanzania.

Holbox Island, Mexico

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Holbox Island in Mexico enchants with its natural beauty, boasting powdery white sand beaches that feel a world away from busy Cancun, just a short boat ride away. Its crystal-clear waters teem with marine life, including elusive whale sharks that attract numerous visitors every year hoping to swim with these gentle giants. The island’s tranquil ambiance is perfect for escaping the crowds and reconnecting with nature.

Koh Lanta, Thailand

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Thailand has numerous island destinations rimmed with white sands that enchant winter-weary travelers, though the island of Koh Lanta is a particularly appealing spot. Explore hidden coves, indulge in delicious seafood, and immerse yourself in the laid-back island vibe of this enchanting destination in the Andaman Sea; it’s more affordable than you may think.

Cayo Coco, Cuba

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Cayo Coco is one of the most popular beach destinations in Cuba, though few Americans have ever even heard of its legendary soft white sands. Don’t worry, Americans can travel to Cuba to visit, though current restrictions make staying at any of the island’s resorts a challenging prospect for those with a US passport.

Utila, Honduras

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Roatan isn’t the only Caribbean island in Honduras worth a visit on your next beach vacation. The tiny island of Utila allures with its laid-back vibe, pristine beaches, and world-class diving sites, offering one of the most affordable destinations for travel in the Caribbean.

El Nido, Philippines

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El Nido in the Philippines has long been popular for its incredible limestone cliffs, hidden beaches, and coral reefs, though it is still off the radar of most of the most adventurous travelers from the United States. Come here for spectacular snorkeling, sunsets, and sailing among some of the most impressive landscapes in Southeast Asia.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

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Long a cultural and physical crossroads, the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar boasts both incredible beaches and historic attractions that make for a diverse and unique coastal vacation experience. Make sure to visit historic Stone Town, and experience the vibrant blend of African, Arab, and Indian influences in destinations like spice markets and beyond.

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

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Phu Quoc is a Vietnamese island that puts this Southeast Asian country on the map with beach seekers worldwide. The island is located near the border of Cambodia, and more than half of it is part of Phu Quoc National Park, known for its soaring mountains, lush tropical jungle, unique wildlife, and incredible trekking destinations. Its beaches are unparalleled in the region.

Apo Island, Philippines

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The tiny Apo Island in the Philippines may be little more than a speck on the map, but it is one of the most celebrated beach vacation destinations in the Philippines. Apo Island is a serene retreat for eco-conscious travelers seeking to immerse themselves in nature’s wonders and support ethical tourism efforts; you’d be surprised by how much this small, sandy spot has to offer when it comes to sustainability.

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

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Located off the coast of Brazil, Fernando de Noronha is a gem of an archipelago that makes for the ultimate unplugged beach vacation. Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Fernando de Noronha offers unparalleled opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and wildlife encounters in a protected, preserved environment that feels like its straight from a postcard.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.