Picture it: aquamarine waters drifting onto a sun-drenched, black sand beach. Limestone cliffs in the background. Scattered palms to your side. There's barely anyone around. The cliffside keeps your location private. It's just you and the tranquility and romance of the cove. A cove, which is also commonly referred to a ‘shelter bay,’ is a small type of bay or coastal inlet. A cove usually has narrow, restricted entrance, is often circular or oval, and is often located inside a larger bay; structures such as inlets, sheltered bays, recesses or creeks in a coast.
To help you experience some of the worlds most calming beach destinations, we’re giving you a guide to our favorite coves. They’re a little off the grid and many are not easy to get to. (Think: traveling to Puerto Rico only to jump on another plane and fly to a smaller neighboring island, one with a single landing strip and a one restaurant town.) But once you arrive, they’re worth it. They’re isolated, but we’ve been there and we know they’re safe. They’re silent. They’re not pit stops on the cruise circuit. Oh, and because these beaches are fairly isolated, bathing suits or birthday suits are appropriate attire.
Not all coves are created equal, though. Some are a little more remote, a little more pristine, harder to reach. There’s something about escaping to an enclosed beach—a quiet and by definition, secluded locale—that is synonymous with luxury. If you’re looking for a luxe party, you might be better off at the nearest Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental (a short ferry ride away from most of these places), but if you want the indulgence of peace and quiet, a few days by yourself by the water, look below.
Big Sur, California
Known for being a hideaway for everyone from Jack Kerouac to Henry Miller, as well as a prime surf and soulful getaway, there is much to do and see in Big Sur. A haven for those looking for a unique retreat is Jade Cove, which offers visitors the opportunity to search for the ornamental sparkling green stone known for imparting serenity and tranquility. You can reach the cove by hiking the Jade Cove Trail, a looping path accessed from Highway 1 at the sign for Jade Cove Beach Recreation Area with prime views of the coastline, waters and secluded caverns. Stay at the Post Ranch Inn where you can sleep in a cabin-like cottage over-looking the Pacific. The resort is indulgent, private (it’s on its own 100 acre plot, far enough from Highway 1 that all you can hear is the ocean), and rustic with rough wood walls and fireplaces in every bedroom.
Sirius Cove is a small but scenic sandy beach facing Sydney Harbour. Surrounded by curving rock seawall and sheltered beaches, visitors can choose to spend the day exploring Sirius Cove’s surrounding trails or simply lying on the beach. Located near the Taronga Zoo, the serene cove can be accessed by Sirius Cove Road. For luxe lodging, stay at the Fraser Suites Sydney.
Red Sand Beach
Kaihalulu, Hana, Hawaii
Also known as Kaihalulu Beach, this small yet dramatic cove features unusual red sand and a wall of black lava rocks. While exceptionally strong currants at certain times of year sometimes make this spot dangerous for swimming, the beach is secluded and striking year around. It’s also an excellent spot for watching local birds like the Iwa and Koae Kea. To find Red Sand Beach, travel to the far side of Ka'uiki Hill south of Hana Bay and take the small trail near the community center (the nearest cross streets are Uakea and Hauoli). You can stay at Travaasa Hotel Hana, a sea green property above Kaihalulu Bay that serves locally sourced food and hosts authentic Hawaiian craft classes.
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
With a serene setting, 200-foot-high red clay cliffs and rich Wampanoag Indian culture, Aquinnah is a worthwhile destination for anyone seeking a combination of beauty and history. Also known as Moshup Beach, Aquinnah Beach is a secluded half-mile wind sand cove. It’s located on the west end of Martha's Vineyard – you'll find Aquinnah Beach on Beach Rose Way. For a hotel experience, book a room at the Outer Most Inn, an intimate and charming bed and breakfast.
Black Sand Beach
Home to one of the world's most unusual coves, Iceland is where you'll find Vik Beach, a black volcanic beach that provides a haunting experience, especially when it rains. Huge waves crash down loudly on the shore from the ocean, while basalt columns jut from the ground along the cliffside. Just west of the beach, you'll also find puffins. The cove is a quick drive from Route 1. Opt for a stay at Hotel Edda.
Oswald West State Park
Manzanita, Oregon Coast
You can access Oswald West State Park via US Route 101. Filled with local surfboarders and surrounded by mountains, the cove is hidden behind a half mile of woods. Book a room at the Coast Cabins. This boutique hotel offers a variety of luxury cabins, hot tubs and a world-class spa.
Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
Located 40 miles off the east coast of Nicaragua, Little Corn Island is an unspoiled tropical island paradise. One of its most notable features is Moss Cove, which boasts clear calm water perfect for a tranquil morning kayak or snorkeling excursion. You can access the cove from just north of Casa Iguana Dive Shop, where you can also rent your snorkeling equipment. For accommodation, stay at Little Corn Beach & Bungalow, which features comfortable bungalows, bunkhouses and cabins right on the beach, as well as a little bar serving handcrafted margaritas and coconut French toast in the mornings.
You'll find the beautiful golden sand Odeceixe Beach in a secluded cove that offers both river and sea options. While the ocean side has many waves, the Seixe River is what separates the Alentejo and Algarve regions. In the cove, you'll hear the falcons and storks that live in the cliffs nearby. Visitors can access the cove from National Road 120.
Make a reservation at Casa Fajara Rustic Boutique Hotel. Guests are immersed in beautiful nature views for a scenic retreat.
Culebra, Puerto Rico
An island-municipality of Puerto Rico, Isla Culebra is home to the mile-long Flamenco Beach, located in a tranquil cove. The island used to be a naval base, and has only been open to the public since the 1975. It’s also mainly classified as a national park – there is only one resort due to strict preservation laws. In the bay, visibility is high and there are underwater reefs that enhance the experience as marine fauna swim between the coral. To access the cove, most people choose to hop in a cab, which is a few dollars for the town, or rent a car from the eccentric dealer across the street from the single strip airport. It takes some effort to get there, and it feels remote once you arrive -if you’re looking for food, there’s a little bodega near the landing strip that gets food via ferry every few days; or you can eat fresh fish, cooked and sold daily in a little ranch house by locals- but it’s also soothingly quiet. You can stay at El Conquistador Resort, A Walford Astoria Resort, the sole lux resort on the island, or rent a little house on Airbnb or vrbo and enjoy the small town isolation.
Residing at the head of Tongue Bay under the Watch Hill, Coldbackie Beach features dunes, caves, waterfalls and striking red sandstone cliffs meeting hills. To access the cove, visitors can take the 1/A836 off Lairg Road. If you're looking for a luxury retreat accommodation, Inver Lodge Hotel is an option. You can get a Shiatsu at the Lodge’s holistic spa, or spend a night eating haggis and enjoying the best black and tan’s ever at the local pub.
Jessica Festa has traveled all over the world, chronicling her adventures on Jessie on A Journey.