LEISURE LETTER 69: 5 OF THE BEST BEACHES
Every once in a while you stumble upon a beach that defies convention — a beach that defies reality itself. These are not your run-of-the-mill, tourist-ridden swaths of sand. They’re far more elusive and uncontrived, charged with a primitive beauty that brushes up against the sublime. It may require a plane ticket to get there, and a cold drink when you arrive . . . But by all means leave the sunscreen behind. We’ll make our way for the outer edge, where paradise meets obscurity, and the sea sings a song of its own.
- Kyparissiakos Beach, Peloponnese, Greece
The trek took us along the Ionian Sea, through Corinth, and later Epidauraus. We went on into the rugged Peloponnesian wilderness by way of E65, to finally land at Kyparissiakos Beach, under the domineering glance of Mount Taygetos. There the sands were white and fine as dust and the cool waters shimmered in solar resplendence. It was as if an Aegean siren stood there beckoning us with azure arms, casting the spell of Circe.
* Before embarking, be sure to study in their entirety the myths and histories of ancient Greece. The Life Of Greece – Will Durant’s all-encompassing, 700 page Hellenic tome – is a great start. Don’t forget plenty of mezes, chilled aperitifs, an umbrella, and a pair of dark sunglasses. Here in the sands of Greece, there is no star more dominant than Apollo, the ever ruthless Sun. Such will be made apparent when you’re driving back to Athens with the bronze patina of an Olympian God.
- Chiaia di Luna, Ponza Island, Italy
We followed Apollo’s blazing trail to Ponza Island. In Ponza, dreams of la dolce vita weave between the fabric of day and night, among the cool slumbering shadows and into the timeless Mediterranean light. Chiaia di Luna is the crown jewel of this Tyrrhenian haven. High cliffs, cool grottoes, and the crescent embrace of the moon-shaped beach — all whisper tales of forbidden Italian romance.
* Arrive by boat in the early afternoon for an extravagant display of sunlight and electric water. If you’re looking for shade and seclusion, there are the tranquil grottoes to explore. Dramatic scenes of beauty enliven every step you take, which will finally lead you to one of Ponza's charming trattorias, for a dinner you’ll never want to forget.
- Tetiaroa, French Polynesia
The winds led us to Tetiaroa—an atoll far beyond the reach of most mortals. This was, at one point, Marlon Brando's private playground, which he discovered for the shooting of the film “Mutiny On The Bounty”. He came back later on, having fallen in love with the island’s Edenic charm, among other things. On Tetiaroa the sand burns hot and bright all day long, cooling in the golden hour when the wind lightly plays among the happy palms. Emerald veins of jungle rise along the steep and imposing mountains, alive with the secrets of antique Polynesian lore. It’s as if the spirits of the island dance to a rhythm only the initiated can comprehend.
* Arrive via private plane, one of those dual prop pontoon island hoppers, or sail in at sunset, sipping some kind of passion-fruit-something on ice. Once on land you’ll slide into a pair of briefs, perhaps a string bikini, only to take a revivifying splash in the surf. Or else there’s Brando’s way, which involves the plundering of a lazy canoe, and the paddling out to the middle of the bay with a 5 gallon drum of vanilla ice cream, to escape the raucous demands of Hollywood and enjoy a sweet treat in peace. The idea is to relax and let the lagoons, palms, and seaspray serenity transport you to a world where The Clock holds no sway.
- Balandra Beach, La Paz, Baja California Sur
It’s only 9am and the temperature has already reached 110 fahrenheit. The broken awning of the cerveceria didn’t help much in the way of shade. Things were getting desperate. Fortunately un hombre came and offered to take us to “the most hermosa playa en el mundo”. His ponga was anchored in the languid waist-deep water close by. We climbed aboard, as there was nowhere else to go. The motor sparked to life and El Capitan drove the ponga to Balandra Beach, the best kept secret of La Paz.
* There we saw such dazzling shades of topaz, as were beyond the imagination of a Cezanne. The magnificent cardon cacti flourished over the dry hills which fell to the dazzling shore. From here you could look deep into the heart of the Sea Of Cortez, and this heart, you felt, was your own. Everywhere the sea life whirled and sprayed in the deep, crystal clear channels of the bay. Truly this must be the most hermosa playa en el mundo.
- Yonaha Maehama Beach, Okinawa, Japan
Far out near the land of the rising sun, on the subtropical Island of Okinawa, we discovered the rarest of gems. Yonaha Maehama Beach—an edenic pool of crystal blue, a kind of fountain of youth and everything good and lovely. It was unexpected and surreal. The sands were white as doves and made peaceful communion with the softly purling shoreline. It was as if time had taken a vacation, leaving only the waves and the sky.
These beaches aren't just destinations; they're portals to otherworldly experiences. They're the places where reality dances with divine madness, and you're the star of the cosmic show. Pack a bag, pack some trunks, and go.