Top 10 Beaches of Our Sabbatical

We wrote this list while lounging around on the beach in Zanzibar, just to make you hate us. The criteria are totally subjective and not documented anywhere, but involve some combination of most beautiful setting, best food, best amenities, and best overall vibe.

In order from most to least amazing:

  1. Mandrem, Goa, India – we spent a week on Mandrem being beach bums at the end of our stay in India.
  2. Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand – Nai Yang was so beautiful we had to go twice, first at the beginning of our Southeast Asia jaunt in January, and then for a long weekend trip with Seema and Mark in April.
  3. Galu Beach, Mombasa, Kenya – an extremely laid-back spot to kite surf – or not – and enjoy beautiful water and endless soft sand.
  4. Long Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam – we spent four nights on Long Beach in February, before we started our volunteer assignments in Thailand, and we ate chili lemongrass shrimp every day.
  5. Khlong Nin, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we spent four nights at Khlong Nin beach on Ko Lanta in January, directly after our stay in Phuket. It was a beautiful setting, but not quite as amazing an overall package as Nai Yang.
  6. Kendwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania – it wasn’t easy to get there on foot from Nungwi, but it was worth the trek, as it offered a beautiful stretch of relatively-secluded beach.
  7. Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania – we spent four nights on Nungwi, in a hotel room with an incredible ocean view. Unfortunately there isn’t much beach to speak of at low tide, but Kendwa and East Nungwi, nearby, offer good swimming opportunities.
  8. Khlong Dao, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we finished up our January visit to Ko Lanta with two nights at Khlong Dao, which was nice but not as secluded or as pretty as Khlong Nin. We did find one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the world at Khlong Dao – Thai Is-San.
  9. Nha Trang, Vietnam – the beach was not as nice as we remembered it from our first visit in 2007, but the tropical fruits are still the best I’ve ever tasted.
  10. Matemwe, Zanzibar, Tanzania – fascinating tidal flat landscape at low tide, pretty (but skinny) stretch of beach at high tide. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a place to stay, but it’s certainly worth a day trip.

If it makes you hate us any less, our tans will most certainly have faded by the time we arrive back in Seattle on September 22, and we do not have any more beach time scheduled between now and then.

Khlong Nin

We left our beach paradise at Nai Yang, and took a long boat ride over to Ko Lanta, via Railay. Here’s a photo of Railay’s famous karst formations, taken from the boat:

Railay

It was quite a journey, and there was a snafu with our pre-arranged ferry pickup on arrival, but after a long day we eventually arrived at Sri Lanta, on Khlong Nin beach. Sri Lanta even offered us free massages to compensate for the ferry pickup mishap!

Khlong Nin is a quiet beach, with beautiful jewel-blue water. Sri Lanta is located south of most of the hotels and beach bungalows, on a particularly secluded, scenic stretch. We haven’t seen a tout or heard a jet ski for days. Rocks in the water make the swimming slightly less than ideal, but they are avoidable during high tide or if you step carefully. The water itself is warm and the waves are calm. 

The dining options here are not as incredible as they were at Nai Yang, but there’s a very good Thai seafood spot called Roi Thai, a 15-minute walk up the beach, and we had a good meal at Cook Kai, out on the main road.

Overall, there are many worse places to be a beach bum, work on your tan, and hone your Scrabble skills.

Kenny
Kenny on Khlong Nin

Khlong Nin
It gets a bit rocky at the southern end of Khlong Nin

Roi Thai
Lounging in a hammock while waiting for our lunch order at Roi Thai

Sunset
Sunset at Sri Lanta

Sri Lanta beach
The beach in front of Sri Lanta