With some 1,200 miles of coastline, Myanmar offers some beaches that are easily the equal of Thailand or the Philippines—with very little of the tourist crush and touts that bedevil more popular beach spots. To be sure, Myanmar’s growing openness has reached its beaches too; Ngapali Beach has seen its star steadily rise among Southeast Asia beaches, with Ngwesaung and Chaung Tha beaches hot on its heels. The dry season from December to April is the ideal time to visit Myanmar’s shores, though many local punters will have the same idea. To experience the beaches at their best, avoid the weekends and Myanmar festivals (Thingyan chief among them).
Before you go, keep in mind that the rules for visiting Myanmar’s beaches are ever-so-slightly different from what you’re used to in Thailand and the Philippines. Do not wear skimpy bikinis or other skin-revealing bathing suits on Myanmar beaches. Locals are unused to the exposed skin we take for granted in more popular beaches elsewhere. Still, those who are respectful and aware of local customs will be rewarded with secluded, idyllic beaches that rival the best in the world.
Ngapali Beach, Rakhine State
This is Myanmar’s best-developed beach, a 2-mile white-sand oceanfront that offers many of the activities you’d expect to find in world-class resorts elsewhere: you can go kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving around the nearby sea.
The seafood scene around Ngapali is also a significant draw—you can eat the day’s catch right on the sea, or enjoy a beer while watching the sunset on the Indian Ocean.
Hotels around Ngapali Beach offer accommodations fitting all budgets, from beach cottages to air-conditioned villas, but vacancies may be difficult to get during the Thingyan holiday season.
Getting there: Fly in via Thandwe Airport from either Yangon Airport or Mandalay Airport. A taxi or a prearranged hotel transfer covers the 10-minute drive to Ngapali Beach.
Tafook (Dunkin) Island, Mergui Archipelago
A standout in an already impressive collection of excellent beaches: Tafook Island’s pristine white sands represent a highlight of a Mergui Archipelago tour.
These are Myanmar’s most out-of-the-way islands, but the trip is worth it. Have a picnic on the beach, go kayaking around the strikingly blue waters around Tafook Island, or snorkel in the shallows.
The rest of Mergui Archipelago should not be missed: the diving around the islands’ waters are top-notch, from the coral reefs off Zadetkyi Island to the anemones, nudibranchs, and exotic tropical fish around Cockscomb Island.
Getting there: Fly into Kawthaung Airport, then either take a day-trip tour or a liveaboard from Kawthaung to the Mergui Archipelago. Liveaboards from Phuket in Thailand are also available, though they’ll stop over at Kawthaung to process your visa.
Maungmagan Beach, Tanintharyi Region
The British colonizers knew a good thing when they saw one, which is why Maungmagan Beach was a favored retreat for Westerners before World War II. Close by to the port town of Dawei, Maungmagan is just the most popular of several beaches within easy driving distance.
You won’t find palm trees lining the beach: Maungmagan favors pine trees, though the crystal-clear water is still the equal of any tropical beach in the region. Accommodations and facilities are rustic for now, but that may change with the impending construction of a nearby industrial port.
Getting there: Fly into Dawei Airport and take a rented motorcycle or local taxi to the beach. Dawei is also a five-hour drive west of the Htee Kee border crossing from Thailand.
Kabyar Wa Beach, Mon State
A beachfront full of potential, Kabyar Wa Beach has been slated for development (still unfulfilled) for the past decade. Come before the bulldozers evict the bamboo huts on the beach; you’ll enjoy eight miles of unspoiled golden sands with very few other foreigners to share the sight.
The beachfront restaurants (in the aforementioned bamboo huts) stay open only for a few months between November and April, the dry season. No hotels can be found nearby, either; just slim pickings at Ye Township nine miles away.
Getting there: Take a bus from Yangon to Ye, a trip lasting ten hours; then take a taxi to the beach.
Ngwesaung (Silver Beach), Ayeyarwady Region
One of two beaches within relatively easy driving distance from Yangon (Chaungtha is the other), the sleepy fishing village of Ngwesaung sees a massive surge in patronage during weekends.
Ngwesaung’s white sand and clear waters compare favorably to Ngapali Beach’s, making a perfect backdrop for local activities like horseback riding, watersports or just long walks along the beach, ending with selfies at the twin stupas of Kyauk Maumghnama Pagoda.
Several luxury resorts have set up shop in Ngwesaung if you prefer a comfortable overnight stay. You can also try a “glamping” package at Ngwe Saung Yacht Club for a closer-to-nature experience.
Getting there: Take a bus from Yangon to Ngwesaung, a trip lasting five hours. Ngwesaung on Google Maps.
Chaungtha, Ayeyarwady Region
It’s a bit closer to Yangon than Ngwesaung. Thus it’s a bit busier, with the crowds reaching a crescendo during weekends and significant Myanmar holidays. Come to Chaungtha to experience a consummately local beach crowd, with an abundance of cheap seafood and inflatable rentals.
The hotels and resorts on the Chaungtha beachfront range from basement-budget to mid-range. To escape the weekend crowds, take a motorbike to more secluded beaches up north, or visit one of the neighboring islands via hired boat.
Getting there: Take a bus from Yangon to Chaungtha, a trip lasting five hours.
Teyzit (Tizit) Beach, Tanintharyi Region
There are both benefits and drawbacks to Teyzit Beach’s seclusion. As it’s a 16-mile journey from Dawei township, Teyzit has a fraction of the crowds you’ll find at Maungmagan Beach far to the south.
Fewer crowds mean less trash and more of the golden white sands and clear water for swimming in. You won’t feel like you have it to yourself, though—you’ll share the beach with a smattering of local swimmers and fishers taking in their day’s catch.
There is little by way of dining or beach amenities on Teyzit Beach, save for a beer station at a small village north of the beach.
Getting there: Fly into Dawei and take a motorbike to Launglon Village, then drive the rest of the way to Teyzit Beach.