Ah, Tulum. That beautiful bohemian beach paradise that everyone loves to loathe. So over! Too crowded! Been there before! Yeah, yeah. We all know. But at some point—admit it—you'll probably find yourself heading back there for more. It’s just too lovely a place (and too easy to reach) to ignore.
Unless! Is there a new getaway, a different free-spirited gem out there just waiting to be explored? Somewhere idyllic and somewhat undiscovered, shaded with palms? With a few good restaurants and some breezy bars, one or two aesthetically-pleasing but unfussy hotels? With a vibe that's wild and sweet and speaks to the secret ideals of the nomad you’ve always known you could be?
Here, in no order of preference, are 4 dreamy places to add to your ever-growing “where’s next?” list of halcyon vacation destinations near the sea.
Troncones is not the kind of place to go if you’re looking for all night parties. Unless, of course, you plan on making your own. In fact, it’s entirely possible to wander this three mile stretch of beach and pass just a few other souls—even during the busy season, even though Damien Hirst and Julian Schnabel have homes here, even though the bustling tourist centers of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are just 30 minutes away by car. But that’s the magic of this sleepy little fishing town nestled beneath the Sierra Madre mountains on Mexico’s central Pacific coast—this place where happy chickens wander the sun-soaked village streets and fierce waves toss glowing plankton onto the moonlit shore—and that’s not to say there isn’t plenty here to occupy your time. The main attraction (aside from settling into a hammock and marveling at the rows and rows of palm trees that make up the nearby coconut farms), is the world-class surf; either at Troncones Point on the main beach, at nearby Manzanillo Bay, or at hip La Saladita (known as the “wave machine”) just a short drive away.
Where to Stay: Lo Sereno Casa de Playa
Lo Sereno is, hand’s down, the prettiest place to stay on the beach. Opened just last year by a debonair Mexico City transplant with a thing for modern architecture, the ten-room Design Hotel features a minimalist yet intimate mix of local wood, poured concrete, and thoughtfully-chosen Mexican art. Plus, there’s an airy, beach-front restaurant (serving up elevated takes on Mexican favorites) and a gorgeous, black-tiled infinity pool.
You’ll be forgiven for thinking immediately of the Caribbean when you first lay eyes on the sugar-white sand and cerulean sea that surrounds the tiny island of Formentera. But the Caribbean this is not; not even close. This is Spain, and the laid-back, hedonistic pleasures of that country in all its siesta-loving, sun-drenched glory are palpable in the salty Mediterranean air from the moment you step off the ferry from Ibiza, just thirty minutes away. But this is not Ibiza either: Here, it’s more about lazy daytime revelry under a beach umbrella and languid lunches of olive-oil-drizzled, fresh-caught fish chased with white Sangria than all-night debauchery. Bicycle through the sugar-cube villages that dot the coast, where the effects of free-wheeling past visitors (Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd) linger still; one only needs to spend an afternoon wandering the daily hippie markets to feel that trip.
Where to Stay: Es Ram
Comprised of six individual villas (viviendas) in a secluded forest of pines and bougainvillea on the quiet southern end of the island near the La Mola cliffs, Es Ram is a paradise you won't want to leave. White, canopied day beds overlook the sea, and private terraces with plunge pools are surrounded by trees.
Little Corn, Nicaragua
If the most worthwhile places are the hardest to get to, then Little Corn—an itty-bitty island some 50 miles off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua—might be one of the worthiest places of all. First, you’ve got to make your way down to Managua, then board a tiny prop plan for an hour-long flight to the island of Big Corn. From there, it’s a ten-minute taxi ride to a fishing bay where you’ll catch a panga boat to take you over the open sea to Little Corn, about thirty minutes away. Your reward? Some of the most absurdly tranquil, postcard-perfect, breathtaking white sand beaches you’ll likely ever see. There are no cars—not even so much as a golf cart—but that’s okay; the island is only 1.5 square miles in size, and anyway, where the heck do you have to be? Paddle boarding between the mangroves in a pristine bay? Wandering a dirt road looking for a secret beach? Eating coconut bread and local lobster with your bare hands under a palm tree? There’s no wrong answer—and definitely no reason to rush.
Where to stay: Yemaya
On an island one-twentieth the size of Manhattan, there aren’t a ton of options for lodging, and there are certainly no big resorts. But that’s the whole point. Luckily Yemaya, a 16-room beachfront hotel, offers everything you could want—including ocean-facing suites with their own plunge pools, an open-air yoga pavilion, and an organic restaurant featuring produce grown on the hotel’s own farm.
Ubud may be a magnet a for spiritual seekers, but Canggu, a small surf village surrounded by rice paddies in the southwest corner of Bali, draws a different sort of crowd—one that might regularly jet from Brooklyn to Berlin to Byron Bay and back, but one that also doesn’t mind sleeping in a thatched-roof beach hut without electricity when the mood is right. Not that you’ll have to rough it in Canggu if you don't want to. Sleek new boutiques, organic cafes, and vegetarian restaurants are popping up by the month, and famed wellness-resort group COMO recently opened a sparkling new hotel just down the shore from Batu Balong Beach, the village’s unofficial epicenter and meet-cute HQ. But don’t worry, the gypsy-surfer-biker crowd and gritty, new-age sensibilities that make this destination so intriguing remain well intact—at least for now.
Where to stay: The Slow
Up until pretty recently, those who didn’t want to rent a shared room at a yoga hostel or put up for an entire private villa would be hard-pressed to find a chic lodging option in Canggu. That all changed with the recent opening of The Slow, a very attractive modernist temple of cool dedicated to art, photography, design, and music that also offers 12 gorgeously decorated minimalist hotel suites and an airy—and always busy—restaurant/bar.