Beach Destinations for People Who Don't Like the Beach

More than sand

Photo: John [CC by SA-2.0]/Flickr

For many people, the ideal vacation involves the beach. These warm-weather tourists think sunshine, white sand, cocktails in coconut shells and clear water make a perfect holiday. But what if you don’t see it that way? What if you're one of those people who thinks of the beach as a place for sunburn, toe-searing sands and skin-drying salt water? Or maybe you’re not so negative. Perhaps you think an afternoon on the beach is fine. But a weekend or a full week? Boring. If you like your beach-going in smaller doses, there's hope for you. Here are eight beach destinations that are ideal for people who don't like the beach. The other attractions in these places will make your seaside holiday not only palatable, but downright enjoyable.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

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Along the southern shore of New Jersey, Atlantic City boasts one of America's oldest and most famous boardwalks. The city's downtown beaches feature a lively and social scene (during the summer). There are beachfront bars and burger joints, and most of Atlantic City's major hotels offer oceanfront rooms. The waves are often surfable during the tourist high season, drawing some of the East Coast's best wave riders. If you don't care for beaches, you can, of course, stroll the historic boardwalk area and do some shopping, eating, sightseeing and people watching. The city's many casinos are within walking distance of the sand, as are additional shopping options. And Atlantic City was doing live entertainment back when Las Vegas was nothing but a patch of Nevada desert. The only drawback for this New Jersey destination is that it's not warm enough for swimming year-round.

Venice Beach, California

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A popular spot for people visiting Los Angeles, Venice Beach boasts one of the most colorful oceanside scenes on the West Coast. The sands are crowded with sunbathers and the waters are swimmable, if not crystal clear. The people watching is what makes Venice a total tourist attraction (as opposed to simply a beach destination). Venice is home to iconic places such as Muscle Beach and the paved "boardwalk" area — called the Ocean Front Walk — that is a favorite spot for roller-skaters, performance artists and buskers. This promenade is not only a great place for people watching, it also holds a variety of attractions, from tourist souvenir stalls and clothing boutiques to henna tattoo artists and fortune tellers.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

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The crystal clear waters of the Croatian Riviera have made Dubrovnik one of this decade's most buzzed-about tourist destinations. There is a variety of beach options here. The Lapad beach area, a couple of miles outside the city center, features clean sands and a perfectly balanced setup: bars and shops on one end for the "beach scene" crowd and less crowded, more remote stretches of sand on the other end for those seeking some sandy solitude. Pebble beaches, closer to the city's Old Town, are alternatives that are equally popular during the summertime. Dubrovnik is a sightseer's dreamland. The historic Old Town rivals the Italian towns of the Amalfi Coast in terms of history, photo-worthiness and atmosphere. An energetic summertime party scene takes place all around the city and strolling anywhere within the ancient Old Town walls is a great way to soak in the unique ambiance of this timeless place.

Saint-Tropez, France

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Once a sleepy seaside village near Monaco, Cannes and Nice, the town of Saint-Tropez became a hit among the jet set after it was featured in the 1950s Brigitte Bardot movie "And God Created Woman." Beaches are the undeniable stars of the show here. Tahiti Beach is one of the sexiest stretches of sand in Europe, while the more-relaxed Pampelonne and Jumeaux beaches are attractive to families and the chill-out crowd. Within walking distance of the sand, you will find classy cafes, buzzing local markets and plenty of shopping opportunities. Although the boutiques here are not cheap, local and domestically made wines and souvenirs won't break the bank. The atmospheric harbor area has a charmingly historic feel (except for the multimillion-dollar yachts, which are a sightseeing attraction in their own right).

Sentosa, Singapore

William Cho/Flickr.

Sentosa is an island that sits next to mainland Singapore. With a nearly 2-mile stretch of man-made beachfront, this is where Singaporeans come when they want to hit the sand. The beaches are divided into three areas. Tanjong Beach features a distinct lack of crowds and a feeling of tranquility, while Palawan Beach is quite family-friendly, and Siloso boasts a lively social scene with plenty of bars and cafes right next to the water. The other attractions on the island are what make it a great destination for non-beach-lovers. Resorts World Sentosa, within walking distance of the sand, features a massive aquarium and a theme park, while Siloso Point offers a glimpse of Singapore's colonial past with a collection of historic buildings. Sentosa also has a golf course, spas and one of the world's best butterfly gardens. All these attractions are within a few minutes of one another, making this an ideal destination to leave your beach-loving companions on the sand and enjoy yourself inland.

Da Nang, Vietnam

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Mainly known as central Vietnam's harbor city, Da Nang also has some of the best beaches in the region. It boasts almost 20 miles of sandy coastline, a growing collection of upscale beach resorts and a wide oceanfront boulevard. The famous China Beach, once a popular spot for American military personnel stationed in Vietnam in the 1960s, offers a number of on-the-sand amenities and surfable waves. Locals prefer to head to centrally located My Khe Beach or to Non Nuoc Beach, which sits outside Da Nang's main urban core. The list of attractions goes well beyond the seashore, however. The city's unbelievably fresh seafood, numerous shopping options and historic sites like Marble Mountain and a museum featuring ancient Cham artifacts give tourists plenty to do when it's time to step away from the sand.

Cape Town, South Africa

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Sitting on the southernmost tip of the continent, South Africa's Cape Town is one of the world's most picturesque cities. The beaches here are very attractive during the Southern Hemisphere's summertime. The ever-present Table Mountain provides stunning views that are enough to make even the most unenthusiastic beach-goer enjoy spending the afternoon on the sand. Camps Bay and St. James Beach are the most popular spots, though Boulders Beach, with its unique rock formations and personable penguin population, is a treat for all visitors. There is plenty to do away from the beach as well. The attractive Two Oceans Aquarium, historic Robben Island (the prison that held Nelson Mandela) and the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood are great sightseeing options for spending time away from the beach, and there are plenty of shopping, eating and wine bar options in the heart of the city.

Bondi Beach, Australia

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Sydney's Bondi Beach is arguably the most famous stretch of sand in Australia. Its well-known lifesaving group, the oldest lifeguarding corps in the world, watches over the crowded waters, where sunbathers, swimmers and surfers create one of the liveliest beach scenes on Earth. However, a lot of action also takes place away from the sun-tanning, water sports and swimming. Campbell Parade, Sydney's main oceanfront boulevard, features restaurants, bars, shopping opportunities and some of the best people watching in Australia. The Marine Discovery Center and the popular outdoor markets are nonbeach extras that you can put on your itinerary. There is also a boardwalk that passes along the scenic cliffs that sit outside the beach area.