Southeast Asian Beaches You’ll Want to Keep to Yourself

The soft white sand and sparkling, clear blue water are table stakes when it comes to a Southeast Asian beach vacation. Bonus points for the relative absence of other humans or global brands. But what you find yourself talking about when you get home are the little things that can’t be replicated: the hand-tossed papaya salad served on the sand in Phuket, the hypnotic massage in a clifftop gazebo in Bali. Beaches like Boracay in the Philippines and Thailand’s Maya Bay—closed indefinitely in October because of its polluted waters—are cautionary tales of overexposure. Our job was to suss out parts of the region where you can live out that beach fantasy worth traveling 15 hours for, as well as shine a light on those players that stand as a bulwark against unchecked tourism. In Cambodia, new private island resorts have sprouted up on dots of land that had long been uninhabited. In Vietnam, there are still beaches yet to be dominated by megalithic resorts, where it’s possible to slurp oysters beachside with nary a soul in sight, and in Indonesia, it’s actually possible to have a beach entirely to yourself. Our only caveat? That you keep them to yourself.