Autumn Is the New Summer: Browsing the Best Off-Season Beach Breaks

  • Natasha Robinson
  • 14 September 2010

The sunny season in my neck of the woods (Czech Republic) has been a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it affair and I must have blinked. If you too are still a little peeved by the summer washout and aren’t yet ready to batten down the hatches in preparation for another gruelling winter, fear not! There are still plenty of places to replenish that flagging vitamin D. And better yet, you won’t have to break the bank or fight tooth and nail for your patch of sand. Bliss! Here we check out which whl.travel destinations have the best beach-break ability to blow away those autumn cobwebs.

Creole Capers

The island nation of Cape Verde is situated 450 kilometres off Africa’s west coast. A former Portuguese colony, the archipelago has a multitude of ethnic and cultural influences from Brazil, Senegal and Portugal. Think fabulous food, dancing and irrepressible salsa rhythms!

Tarrafal Beach is the largest and most impressive stretch of sand on the island of Santiago, Cape Verde

Tarrafal Beach is the largest and most impressive stretch of sand on the island of Santiago, Cape Verde. The fishing village of Tarrafal is the site of an colonial Portuguese political prison.

Comprising a string of volcanic islands ringed by white sand and turquoise sea, the country serious rivals the Caribbean as an autumn and winter sun destination, but for the time being remains pleasantly unspoiled and crowd-free. Its excellent year-round climate and almost constant sunshine mean sun worshippers have plenty to be thankful for and water-sports enthusiasts will not be disappointed either.

Choosing the best beach is a tall order, but the endless stretches of white sand around the main town, Santa Maria, on the island of Sal are hard to fault, as is the vast Curralinho beach on the island of Boa Vista. Boa Vista is also a fabulous spot for snorkelling and sailing, whilst São Vicente island offers the best windsurfing. The cooling breezes off the island of Sal make for great surfing and the whole archipelago offers top-notch diving, with abundant sea life including turtles and plenty of caves, rocks and wrecks awaiting exploration.

Oman’s 1001 Arabian Beaches

One of the more unspoilt and under-frequented destinations in the Middle East, the Sultanate of Oman, boasts a 1700-kilometre coastline with some of the finest (and emptiest) beaches and cleanest waters in the Gulf, if not the world. Unbearably hot during the summer months, Oman is the perfect place to visit in autumn; October is a very pleasant 25 degrees Celsius with plenty of sunshine.

Oman is a haven for five species of rare turtle, four of which nest here

Oman is a haven for five species of rare turtle, four of which nest here. Tours to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat are extremely popular with visitors. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/[email protected]

The capital, Muscat, has some great sun spots, including Qurum Beach, a favourite with picnickers and day trippers thanks to its shady palms, as well as the more secluded Bandar Al-Jissah, a bay that provides the perfect city getaway sheltered by cliffs and hidden from onlookers.

If you’re looking really to get away from it, 4×4 car hire opens the way for a two-hour drive over the dunes from Muscat to Sifah Beach, voted one of the world’s best beaches by the Guardian newspaper’s readers. Getting there is half the fun apparently, but being there isn’t so bad either. For your own private tropical paradise, fishing boats from there are available to whisk you away to one of many little coves off the main strand.

As you would expect, water sports are available up and down the coast with excellent diving, snorkelling, fishing, sailing and kayaking on offer, as well as dolphin-watching trips.

Panama’s Caribbean Coast

Situated on Panama‘s Atlantic coast, the province of Bocas del Toro – actually an archipelago of seven large islands and hundreds of smaller ones – enjoys a brief dry season during the months of September and October, which means not only is there welcome respite from the frequent rain, but the water is at its clearest. Year-round tropical temperatures and calm azure seas mean boat trips, deep-sea fishing, kayaking and snorkelling in the area are pretty spectacular.

The islands of Bocas del Toro in Panama are popular with backpackers, hippies, divers and surfers

Although off the mainstream tourist radar, the islands of Bocas del Toro in Panama have been popular with backpackers, hippies, divers and surfers for some years now. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Carlos Adampol Galindo

The archipelago is surrounded by coral reefs (home to a dazzling display of sponges and fish), caves and wrecks that make it one of the top dive sites in Central America. Above the water, light ocean breezes help keep the temperature down and make Bocas del Toro a popular spot with surfers picking between easy beach breaks and challenging tubes over the reefs. Travellers on a budget will be pleased to note that water sports can be organised in Bocas at a fraction of the price in neighbouring Costa Rica and Honduras.

If lazing around in a hammock is more your scene, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better place to do absolutely nothing. With its palm-fringed, white-sand beaches set against a backdrop of lush rainforest, Bocas is the epitome of a paradise on earth. The best beaches include Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos, named after the poison-dart frogs who make it their home, and Cayos Zapatillas, a long stretch of ivory sand in a protected marine park with some of the best snorkelling in town.

Philippine Dream

Regularly lauded as one of the best beach destinations in the world, the Philippine island of Borocay, located about 200 kilometres south of Manila is small but perfectly formed. Its two main beaches – White Beach and Bulabog Beach – sit opposite each other, with White Beach catering more to the party crowd with its bars, clubs and restaurants, and Bulabog offering the best wind- and kite-surfing in town.

Fire dancing is a big hit on Boracay's beaches

Fire dancing is a big hit on Boracay's beaches. The beachfront Bamboo Lounge bar and restaurant is a great place to check out this mesmerising entertainment. Photo courtesy of Flickr/www.boracay.travel

There are other smaller beaches and coves too that offer more seclusion and privacy, such as Balinghai Beach, which is enclosed by high rocks and whose nearby coral garden makes it a perfect spot for snorkelling. Another quiet beach is Cagban, which means ‘cave’ or ‘chest.’ Legend has it that there are still treasure chests secreted in the sand and surrounding caves.

In addition to some world-renowned diving, Boracay is the place for sailing in a paraw, a double-winged boat ideal for groups of two to six people. They can be rented with or without crew, depending on your sailing skills.

September is considered off-season, which means there is plenty of cheap accommodation and lots of elbowroom on the beach – welcome relief after the hectic summer months. The weather is at its best during October and November, when the temperature drops a little and makes the prospect of lazing around on the beach all the more enticing.

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adventure travel, beaches, Cape Verde, ecotours, islands, marine conservation, oceans & reefs, Oman, Panama, Philippines, responsible travel, whl.travel,

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