caribbean vacation

Last Updated on March 28, 2021 by Dani

This year will go down in history as the year of the beach for the two of us!

All those days in the office before we started traveling long-term, our thoughts would drift to what it would be like to live on the beach and wake up to the crashing of waves on the shore, the sound of seagulls and being barefoot through the sand. Well in 2012 we certainly got our wish in a year that saw us living over five months on the beach. We spend longer stints in Mexico and Costa Rica, and took trips to the sandy shores of Singapore, Malaysia, India and our number one spot that often gets overlooked by its famous neighbor Thailand.

Read on to find out what the five best beaches were for us in 2012:

5. Varkala, India

While we didn’t see what all the hype was about on the beaches of Goa and Kerala, we did fall for the cliffs of Varkala, about an hour north of Trivandrum in the far south of India. What the laid-back village lacks in culture is easily made up for by walking the paths along the gorgeous cliffs, looking out over the wide beaches below. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants for every traveler’s budget, and the sunsets here were breathtaking.

Varkala Beach India best beaches in the world4. Samara, Costa Rica

Long-time readers will know that Samara has been a favorite beach of ours since we first ended up there on whim back in 2011. This October we were lucky enough to return for a few days and were excited to find that this Costa Rican beach hasn’t lost any of its charm. Although the waves of  Samara are perfect for newbie surfers, the long stretch of sandy beach feels empty even in the high season, with restaurants and hotels well hidden behind the palm trees that line the shore. In a country so popular with international tourists, Samara is one of the few secret spots that combines a great selection of accommodation and relatively few tourists.

Samara Beach Costa Rica

3. Langkawi, Malaysia

We had never even heard of Langkawi, an island off the Malaysian coast in the Andaman Sea, but somehow we found ourselves promising a Canadian expat we would go there when she so passionately insisted we visit the favorite part of her adopted country. We ended up spending a week there, and Cenang Beach was by far our favorite beach on the island. Powdery, soft white sand, clear and shallow water, palm trees and incredible sunsets. This is really the perfect vacation island for travelers from near and far, and we’re not sure why Langkawi hasn’t made it on any of the many “Best Beaches in the world” lists yet.

Langkawi Malaysia best beaches in the world2. Mahahual, Mexico

Odds are, you have never heard of Mahahual, unless maybe you have taken a short Caribbean cruise. A popular cruise port once or twice a week in high season, Mahahual is otherwise a small, relaxed fishing town on the Yucatan peninsula with incredibly warm, turquoise water. This was the closest place from the remote beach house we housesat this past summer, and we found every excuse to make the trip. Making sure not to be there on ‘cruise ship day’ we would lay in the rows of empty sun chairs lined up along the beach, working on our tans and sipping cool Mexican beer. Heaven on Earth!

Mahahual Mexico

1. Otres Beach and Koh Rong, Cambodia

Cambodia takes the crown for our favorite beach in 2012! There are actually TWO beaches here that tie for first: Otres Beach, on the mainland, and Long Beach on the little known island of Koh Rong. Just a quick tuk-tuk ride from the popular beach town of Sihanoukville, a trip to Otres Beach means avoiding the touts selling tourist trinkets, and focusing on what is important: relaxing in your sun chair with a cool coconut, staring out at sea. The few restaurants and bars here are of better quality than in town and somehow it feels like the sunsets are, too!

best beaches in the worldFor those of you who are serious about your deserted beaches, Koh Rong’s Long Beach was an amazing experience. The small island two hours off the coast of Sihanoukville only has a handful of guest houses and not much to offer in the way of diversion, but with the seven mile stretch of crystal clear water on the other side of the island, we could have cared less. We were particularly unimpressed with the side of the island where the port is and even considered leaving a day early, until we were told about a path that leads over to the other side of the island. It is an hour-long hike across an entirely untamed islands, which included much tripping, a bit of falling, profuse sweating, more swearing and a 75m descent straight down by clinging to a rope that mysteriously appears the minute you need it to finish the way down. Walking out into the clearest water we have ever seen, however, made the hike entirely worth it. Of course, we found out later you can rent a boat, round-trip, for $25 to take you and ten of your closest friends from the port on a 15-minute ride around to the otherwise deserted Long Beach. But we preferred working hard to reach our absolute favorite beach of 2012!

Koh Rong Cambodia best beaches in the world

Now we want to know from you – what are the best beaches in the world for you?

Opt In Image
Beyond the Blog: Get updates straight to your inbox!

Keep up with me! Get updates, additional stories that don't make it on the blog, future travel plans, and travel tips. I also answer reader questions and have some pretty sweet travel giveaways exclusive to newsletter subscribers!

Tags : samaratop travel moments


  1. Mahahual looks amazing! I always look for beaches with white sand and calm, shallow water. Looks pretty perfect to me. We’re thinking of going to Costa Rica next year so will be interesting to compare the Caribbean beaches to South East Asia.

    1. Mahahual is just so pretty! I never get tired of looking at my photos of that beach 🙂 I’m looking forward to hearing how you like the Caribbean beaches compared to the ones in SEA! 🙂

  2. We loved our time on Langkawi as well. It delivers the goods without the massive tourist bubble… but the secret is out!

    Best beach of 2012 for us was Wailea Beach in Maui

    1. It’s true, the secret is definitely out, but the beauty of the beaches in South East Asia is that they are never crowded even though so many people visit them every year 🙂

  3. I’m so glad you’ve rated your favourite beaches as it’s always something I look for when traveling or on holiday. Great scuba, great beaches, and great parties. We’re heading to Vietnam and Cambodia in January so it’s great to hear about Otres Beach and Long Beach, we’ll be sure to visit them both.

    After traveling to Central America and the Caribbean for 9 months earlier this year I have to say my favourite beaches are those on Bocas Del Toro, an archipelago site off the coast of Panama. There are a few amazing, and very different beaches, depending on what island you go to. Red Frog Beach is the most popular, you have to take a water taxi and there is a requirement that everyone must leave the beach by about 6pm, the plus side is, it doesn’t get too busy. Another favourite is Playa Bluff which on the main island (Isla Colon) which is an hour bike ride from Bocas Town and is usually completely deserted except for when there’s a surf competition. The waves are so big and powerful here we only went so far as having the water up to our knees. And finally the best of them all Zapatillas Beach, on a very small island which is totally uninhabited, apart from the turtles. It takes about 40 minutes by water taxi and you can walk around the whole island in about half an hour. This is the ultimate paradise which I think will be hard to beat!

    For more on Zapatillas see:

    1. Hi Beth, thanks a lot for the recommendation! We spent some time in Bocas in spring 2011, but we didn’t have enough time to explore the further away beaches while we were there. We loved Red Frog Beach though! Zapatillas Beach sounds amazing – I hope we’ll get the chance to see more of Bocas one day 🙂

  4. Ladies, this sounds fabulous – especially Koh Rong! I’ve heard a bit about Otres Beach lately, too, and everything I hear echos what you say here, aka paradise!

    I’ll be getting some beach time in in 2013 (2012 has been woefully devoid of beaches for me), but from Africa instead of Asia and the Americas. Hopefully the beaches will be able to hold a flame to what you’ve shared here!

    1. Africa- amazing! Where are you planning to go? I have always wanted to go to Zanzibar for their amazing beaches, and maybe combine it with a safari in Kenya 🙂

  5. I remember emailing with you guys about Koh Rong, so glad you ended up enjoying it as much as you did! I think my favorite beaches of 2012 were the black sand beaches in Hawaii. Truly stunning!

    1. Yes – we didn’t like any of the accommodation options on the island, but we loved that beach! So secluded and just stunning.. We haven’t been to Hawaii yet but keep reading about it on so many blogs that we are now dying to go! 🙂

  6. Ugh, the photos in this post seriously have me drooling! I can’t wait to finally get some beach time in Belize next month!

    As for the best beaches I visited this year… well, none of them can hold a candle to the ones you guys chose here!

  7. Yes it does ;-))
    French Polynesia is be far the most beautiful we saw during our world trip! Especially Bora bora 😉

  8. Those five beaches are BREATHTAKING! I am a humongous fan of Perhentian Island Kecil in Malaysia, it epitomises paradise and is the sort of place you hope hubby-to-be might take you on your honeymoon. Take a read here

    A bit more about the Perhentian Islands this hot beach spot

    If you like adventure and water sports there is an incredible 5 point snorkelling trip you can do which includes snorkelling with sharks! Have a browse here


    1. Thanks so much for all the links, Heather – so much inspiration! I hope I’ll make it back to South East Asia soon; the Perhentians have been on my travel wish list for a while now!

Leave a Response