Heading to Myanmar? With beaches open from mid October until late April, this is the ideal time to check out its underrated coast.
In a region where so many travel destinations have succumbed to over-development, excessive tourist numbers and eye-watering plastic waste, Myanmar’s sparkling coastline remains largely as nature intended it: turquoise seas and white beaches, lined only with coconut trees and reefs. Following Myanmar’s past isolation, tourism has only recently begun emerging. As a result, its most spectacular natural sights are still largely untouched. The waters remain busy hives of life – with fish and corals in every colour. While its beaches, by contrast, remain quiet with an innocence long gone in much of Southeast Asia.
When to go:
It’s worth keeping in mind that the beaches are only open in winter, from mid October until late April. The beaches all close through the monsoon season.
This long, seductive stretch of golden sand and translucent blue sea facing the Bay of Bengal is possibly one of the most gorgeous places on earth. Popular with the country’s slowly rising middle class, this sleepy beach resort is still quiet, drawing mainly local families. Giant tubes await its visitors along the beach to ride its generous waves, frothing tantalisingly like champagne.
Multiple domestic airlines (Myanmar National Airlines, KBZ and others) fly to Thandwe (Ngapali), though many have one stopover via Heho (Inle Lake). The journey takes between one to two hours depending on the route – but cake is always served.
Where To Stay: The Bayview Beach Resort
The Bayview is a blissful boutique resort on the sleepy side of Ngapali Beach, five to ten minutes stroll from nearby seafood restaurants along the beach. One of the best things about the Bayview is its ocean view bar and restaurant, serving up fresh local seafood and western comforts, like oven-baked pizza. As well as a prime beach-front location, it also has a lovely pool, where a delicious buffet breakfast is served daily. Its spa provides a range of treatments including mani-pedis. The hotel also offers bicycle hires, tours and a gym. Rooms are quiet and those with a garden offer added privacy.
What To Do
Small clusters of delicious, family-run restaurants sit in the sand, where you can enjoy tantalising local treats such as grilled tiger prawns, tea leaf salads, coconut fish curries and fresh avocado smoothies for several dollars. Enjoy happy hour cocktails in deck chairs in the sand, watching mesmerising west-facing sunsets. There are few bars to be found and most restaurants close at 10pm – this is a place to unwind, rather than party.
By day, there’s no shortage of things to see and do. Hiring a fishing boat and going snorkelling or fishing is a wonderful way to explore several nearby coves (and the vibrant world within them) in crystal clear waters.
Back on land, bikes are available to hire, should you wish to explore the coast on wheels. Remarkably affordable facials in mini open-air spas facing the the sea are also on offer, as well as local knick knacks like beaded bracelets and coconut crockery.
While a long weekend is perfectly do-able here, the trouble with Ngapali is, however idle you are and however long you stay, no length of time is ever enough – it simply has a way of bewitching you into never wanting to leave.
The Mergui Archipelago
For more adventurous travellers or those seeking pure isolation, Myanmar’s beguiling Mergui Archipelago in the Andaman sea awaits. This area of more than 800 largely uninhabited islands is home to some of Asia’s most untouched beaches and thriving reefs, sharing these waters only with the Moken (sea gypsies).
Fly on Myanmar National Airlines from Yangon to Kawthaung, Myanmar, before getting a boat to this island. The eco-friendly 6-hour boat is most commonly used, but a faster 2-hour speed boat is available on request.
Where To Stay: Boulder Bay Eco Resort
Boulder Bay Eco Resort offers a private island beach and picturesque beach bungalows, while supporting the conservation of this area’s unique habitat. It offers a set price including three hearty meals a day, boat trips, diving, snorkelling, sea kayaking, a bar, beach yoga, sunset treks, eco discovery walks and more. While getting here is harder, the raw natural beauty and solitude is well worth it.
What To Do
It’s recommended you wake up in time for high tide in the mornings – it offers exciting diving and snorkelling opportunities, as well as kayaking through the expansive clear waters. For those who prefer to sleep in or laze in a hammock until the afternoon, many of the corals are also gently revealed later in the day at low tide, with the beaches visibly widening, as clusters of vivid colour emerge.
The island jungles also offer fantastic afternoon walks and hikes during low-tide, with plenty of shade beneath the lush canopy and the chance to run into all kinds of seldom-seen creatures, including giant reptiles. It is best to bring a guide!
If you’re travelling through the rest of Myanmar, make sure to check out our guide on what to do in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan.
All photos credited to Sassy Media Group.