Heading to the beach and leaving life's cares behind

A 2018 list of the best beaches in the world offers tantalizing prospects for escaping the urban rat race and exploring breathtaking scenery where the land meets the sea.

WEARY of winter and dreaming about a sunny beach?

If you want to go beyond dreaming and plan a getaway, there are a myriad of choices round the world to pick from. To lend a hand, Canada-based Flight Network, one of the world’s largest online travel publications, recently announced its 2018 list of best beaches.

The annual ranking includes a list of world top 50 beaches and top 50 lists for various continents, for untouched beaches and for urban beaches.

The lists, ranging from Iceland and Thailand to the Caribbean and Oceania, are compiled from suggestions from 600 travel journalists, bloggers, editors and agencies around the world. All the beaches are ranked according to sheer beauty, remoteness, sand and water quality, annual days of sunshine and average annual temperatures.

The top five beaches on the global list of 50 were Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece; Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia; Hidden Beach, El Nido, the Philippines; Praia do Sancho, Pernambuco, Brazil; and Tulum Beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Two Chinese beaches made the Asian Top 50 list — one in Hong Kong and the other in Taiwan.

Ham Tin Wan in Hong Kong

Away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, Ham Tin Wan on the Sai Kung Peninsula boasts secluded rural villages and a sandy beach. It is ranked No. 12 on the Asian Top 50 list. According to Flight Network, the area has about 227 sunny days a year, with an average temperature of 22.7 degrees Celsius.

The beach is on a popular hiking trail that starts at Pak Tam Au and ends at Sai Wan Pavilion. After an hour’s drive from downtown and then a 90-minute hike up green hills, around sandy bends and past cow pastures, visitors are rewarded with the wild Ham Tin Wan. It feels a world away from the neon lights.

Heading to the beach and leaving life's cares behind

Ham Tin Wan Beach in Hong Kong

Steven Wang, a Shanghai investor, says he once took his family to Hong Kong in winter and they walked the entire hiking trail. The stop at Ham Tin Wan was impressive, he said.

“It wasn’t chilly at all,” he recalls. “The temperature was around 24 degrees, and there was no problem playing in the water. My child was really excited.”

Wang says the sand and the water was very clean, and the beach was mostly deserted.

Ye Xiaonuo, a tour guide, says Ham Tin Wan is also a good campsite. Even in colder seasons, tents can be seen on the beach at night.

“It is particularly popular among young couples,” Ye says. “There is nothing more romantic than cuddling up together to watch stars at night or the sunrise at dawn. Many of the campers prepare ginger tea when it’s chilly. A cup of hot ginger tea always helps chase the cold.”

If you go

The beach is a bit far from the Hong Kong city center. Access is quickest by boat and a bit more arduous on foot. Travelers can take a taxi to Wong Shek Pier, then a sampan directly to the beach. For those interested in some exercise, take the hiking trail along the High Island Reservoir.

Qixingtan Beach in Taiwan

This tranquil, pebble-lined beach in the eastern county of Hualien sits where the mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. It ranked 23rd on the Asian Top 50 list.

Locals have long flocked there to enjoy the sweeping views and remarkable beauty, but they’re a bit reticent about sharing with visitors what has been called the island’s best-kept secret.

But nothing remains a secret in the Internet era. As more people share the beauty of the beach online, more visitors come every year from around the world, even in winter.

Heading to the beach and leaving life's cares behind

Roaring surf is a frequent feature at Taiwan’s Qixingtan Beach.

Local people advise visitors not to venture too far from the shore at Qixingtan because of strong winds.

“There is cliff under the water near the shore,” says a Taiwan blogger whose screen name is Chihiro. “You can see where the sea is a sapphire blue, darker than surrounding water, and that’s where the undersea cliff is.”

Walking on the beach is pure delight. Black and white sands sparkle after being kissed by the tides in the bay. It doesn’t disappoint at night either, offering a stunning site for gazing at stars and the moonlight reflecting off the water.

If you go

Qixingtan Beach is located at the northern end of Hualien City, very close to Hualien Airport. The airport serves only domestic island flights, so overseas visitors first have to disembark in Taipei. From Hualien City, visitors can take Bus No. 105 to the beach, getting off at the Meilun Industrial Park.

A sampling of some of the Top 50 world beaches recommended by Flight Network

Navagio Beach, Greece

Also called Shipwreck Beach, this site on the island of Zakynthos in Greece ranked fist on the list with its baby blue waters and towering golden cliffs. It is both exotic and picture-perfect. The shipwrecked Freightliner MV Panagiotis, washed up on the gravel beach, adds to the uniqueness of the resort. This is a popular destination, so be prepared to share paradise with others.

Whitehaven Beach, Australia

Ranked second on the list is Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands, with an average annual temperature of 27 degrees temperature. The sand on Whitehaven is some of the whitest on Earth. Visitors can access these 7 kilometers of island coastline along the warm, clear waters of the Coral Sea only by helicopter or seaplane. Seeing its untouched natural beauty from the air gives the impression of a tropical utopia with glowing sands and crystalline beaches.

Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

Ranking No. 6 on the Top 50 list is Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos. According to Flight Network, it is the most iconic and awe-inspiring stretch of sand in the world. The protective and remarkably colorful barrier reef, which sits 1.6 kilometers offshore, keeps the ocean swells at bay, making Grace Bay one of the most ideal places to soak in the warm waters of the Caribbean.

Swimmers can enjoy plush sands without the annoyance of rocks, seaweed or pollution. Those looking for an underwater adventure can take a short boat ride to the reef just minutes away. With sunny skies roughly 319 days a year, this island opens its welcoming arms to visitors year-round.

Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas

At the No. 12 ranking is Pink Sands Beach on Harbor Island in the Bahamas. It is fairytale-like setting with nearly 5 kilometers of stunning coastline, saturated in golden sun and covered with sand stained by red and pink shells that contrasts with the turquoise waters. Its waters are protected from strong ocean currents by an offshore coral reef that offers excellent snorkeling.

Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland

Perhaps one of the most unexpected sites on the Top 50 list is Raynisfjara Beach in Iceland. It ranks No. 18 on the list.

Flight Network says it’s an ideal destination for hardy beach-goers seeking a unique experience. Its black volcanic sand beach sits between scattered cliffs and enormous cave mouths, with roaring Atlantic waves crashing on its shores. This is a destination for travelers looking for raw, untouched natural beauty in a remote setting. But be forewarned that the site has only 160 days of sunshine a year and the average annual temperature is only 11 degrees, so beachcombing trumps swimming.

Heading to the beach and leaving life's cares behind

Reynisfjara Beach in Iceland

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