Travels with V

Beaches

Spending time abroad just lying in a deckchair by a beach is never a priority when we’re planning a new journey. But ever so often we spend a few days by the seaside mostly just relaxing from travel fatigue. So far we’ve had sand from Latin America, Africa and Asia between our toes, and of course also from Europe. And we have a couple of favourite beaches that we’d like to reveal to you, dear reader!

Cuba has famous beaches east of Havana, in Varadero. But if you’re looking for sand and blue waves, there are plenty of good beaches further east. Well, all around really. But we’d like to promote a rather remote and secluded place called Cayo Saetia. An odd choice however you look at it, but with surprises.

You can get here by taxi from Hologuín, on a lousy and potholed road. Or you can make a deal with a catamaran captain taking tourists on a ”paradise trip” to Cayo Saetia from Guardalavaca, a seaside resort northwest of Hologuín. And this is definitely a kind of paradise. 

You can stay in a lodge here, in your own bungalow in a park type of a garden. It’s quite some distance away from the beaches, but you’re transported there and back by a jeep driver, you’re paying a small sum for it.

Cayo Saetia was once a restricted area where wild animals sent from friendly rulers in Africa were placed. Sometimes distinguished guests would be brought here for game hunting, but Raoul Castro stopped all that, and today zebras, antelopes, ostriches and giraffes can be seen roaming the lands. A jeep safari is recommended!

The beaches (there’s one wide and a number of smaller ones) are exactly what you’re after. You can easily find your own stretch of golden sand. There’s a restaurant where the visiting catamarans moor, and the beaches around it have some ok deckchairs. We had four perfect days there, then made that deal with a catamaran captain and went with the boat to Guardalavaca. But that’s another story.

Read about it here.

If for some reason you happen to find yourself on the island of Flores in the easter part of the immense Indonesian archipelago, chances are that a visit to Paga is not on your itinerary. Paga is a small fishing village on the south-east coast of Flores, almost as much east as you can get. The only reason really for coming here is if you’ve read your Lonely Planet guide thoroughly, there Paga is mentioned for a special restaurant.

In Paga itself there is a long beach, but you can’t swim there, there’s deadly undercurrents and high waves. You have to go a couple of kilometers west of Paga to Coca Beach, and if you do you won’t regret it. Coca Beach is a gem with two crescent beach and crystal clear waters. When we were there there was lots of space for everyone.

The problem is to get there. If you drive a car, no problems, but there are no taxis in Paga, not even a tuk-tuk. It’s ”mototaxi” here, you just stand by the road and sooner or later someone will offer to drive you on their motorbike or scooter, for a fee.

Coca Beach is really gorgeous, but it has probably seen better times. There are some ramshackle houses that probably once were lodgings. A beer shack is still open. Before we leave we hear that there are plans for a big hotel enterprise to buy the beach. We hope that doesn’t happen.

Read more about our adventures on Flores here.

The city of Labuan Bajo sits at the western tip of the lovely Indonesian island of Flores. It’s a hotspot for divers, but also for expeditions to Komodo National Park  where the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon is found.

Between Komodo and Labuan Bajo there’s a stunningly beautiful archipelago, and one of the smallest islands is ”Angel Island”, where we’re staying in an eco resort. It’s actually the only business on the island, that’s how small it is..

Yes, it’s an old klichĂ©, but Angel Island is definitely as close to paradise as you can get. The beach is a perfect 100 m crescent of fine golden sand, and behind it a forest lets you cool down in the shade if you need to. 

The sea here is as clear as a new day. Every morning a small shark patrols the shoreline looking for breakfast. Swims a couple of rounds and then disappears. And one day a school of dolphins pass the island. 

Snorkling here is a dream, there’s lots of brightly coloured coral fish of all forms and sizes. The occasional little stingray flutters by. And then there are the amazing corals themselves. Like bushes or discs or brains laid bare. 

Read more about Angel Island here.

This magnificent beach in southern Goa is probably as close as you can get to the ideal western vacation dream, a looooong and wide curve of sand, dotted with beach taverns and drink joints, each with it’s own set of deckchairs, wavering palms and a lukewarm sea. A multitude of swimmers, merchants, acrobats and footballers. Hot, low-priced indian food and ice cold beer not further than the length of your arm. And sun, always.

You can rent a kayak or go on a dolphin safari. Och walk the entire length of the beach and check the dogs sleeping wherever there is some shadow. It’s always packed, the music is loud and if you want some peace and quiet seek it out at the far edges, with taverns hiding behind big rocks.

Or you can take a tub-tub to nearby Agonda Beach, just a few kilometers north of Palolem. That’s a whole different scene, it’s quiet, the taverns are fewer and further apart. No music and hardly any sales people at all!

Goa has lots of beaches, and manu that are probably just as good. But we really liked both Agonda and Palolem. Combined they have the best of two opposite atmospheres.

Read more about our journey to Goa and Mumbai here.

LIVADI BEACH, IKARIA, GREECE

Greek beaches are usually not so appreciated by those who like sand between the toes. They are most often pebble beaches with various stone sizes. But on the island of Ikaria, which is different in many aspects, even the beaches are exceptions. Here you’ll find a couple of the best sandy strips in the entire aegean archipelago. Most of them are on the north coast, the more to the west the better. That’s also where the island’s tiny tourist life is concentrated.

At neighbouring Livadi and Mesaki the beaches are splendidly organised with deck chairs, sun roofs, toilets, showers and beach tavernas. Waves are ok for learning the art of surfing and there’s actually a surf school operating here.

Surf waves at these beaches doesn’t normally mean that swimming is dangerous, because the form of the sea bottom prevents undercurrents to grab you even when waves are relatively high.

Ikaria has a quite a lot of beaches, both sandy, pebble or a mixture of both. Almost every coastal village has a beach at the centre. We try a couple of them, but most often we return to Livadi for the comfort of having everything in place. And a perfect beach.

Read more about Ikaria here.

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