Costa Blanca

Say bye to Benidorm! 10 of the best alternative beach breaks

Photo of Anita IsalskaPhoto of Anita Isalska
By Anita Isalska

4 June 2019 | Updated 9 February 20246 min read

View of a beach with pinkish sands and clear, turquoise waters surrounded by golden rocks in Sardinia

Budelli Island, Sardinia Glamorous beach breaks await on the unsung Med isle of Sardinia.

Drop the sunblock and back away from that beach towel. It’s time to seek horizons beyond Benidorm, Majorca and the rest of the beach-lover’s A-list, and we’re brimming with ideas for alternative holidays.

Golden sands and periwinkle-blue skies are guaranteed, but you’ll find them on unsung Mediterranean isles, quiet rivieras and rugged Atlantic islands instead.

Crossed off Croatia? Make Montenegro your next stop

With family-friendly resorts, charming seaside towns and pretty pebbled beaches, Croatia is a classic beach break. But you’ll discover similar splendour without the crowds in nearby Montenegro.

One of the top holiday hotspots for 2024, Montenegro’s sublime stretch of Adriatic coast is turning heads as an underrated beach destination. Picture quaint fishing villages, dramatic shorelines and water oh-so blue.

Active beach bums will want to make a beeline for Budva. Once you’ve tried your hand at parasailing and sea kayaking, you can guzzle cocktails in Budva’s trendy beach clubs.

For quieter beach breaks with the family, look to Becici and Petrovac. Both resorts boast an idyllic sand-shingle sweep, book-ended by lush green mountains.

Splendid Conference & Spa Resort

  • Becici, Montenegro
  • 15 August 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Stansted

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Unmoved by Majorca? Sardinia’s shores are waiting

Despite excellent beaches on every coast, the island of Sardinia doesn’t draw anything close to the same volume of visitors as Majorca.

Find Sardinia’s best sunbathing spots along the northern Costa Smeralda, home to the island’s most glamorous resorts. Western Alghero is also excellent for kicking back on a beach, but the most peaceful pace can be found amid the baroque beauty of towns such as Oristano.

And you won’t long for the Moorish forts of Majorca: Sardinia’s crumbling nuraghe (towers), which date right back to the Iron Age, add mystery to the island’s stunning coast.

Hotel Arathena

  • San Pantaleo, Sardinia, Italy
  • 10 August 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Gatwick

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Bypass Bulgaria and make a beeline for Poland’s Baltic coast

Bulgaria is no longer the only contender for cheap and cheerful beach breaks outside of the Med. Enter Poland’s Baltic coast.

Don’t let its chilly name fool you – with beaches ranging from the activity-adorned to the blissfully unspoilt, plus summer temperatures in the mid-twenties, Poland’s Riviera is anything but Baltic.

Spa town, Sopot, has one of the best beaches with 4km (2.4 miles) of fine sand, while across the Gulf of Gdańsk, the wonderfully wild Hel Peninsula is 35km (22 miles) of stunning, untouched beaches.

It’s set to become the latest package holiday hit, with TUI eyeing up new breaks to the region. Our tip? Get there first.

Hooked on the Canaries? Drop your anchor in the Azores

It takes somewhere truly remarkable to beat the Canary Islands’ rugged terrain, volcanic sands and crystalline waters. But the Azores in the North Atlantic might just have the right stuff.

Like the Canaries, this Portuguese archipelago boasts beaches and rippling cliffs, but it remains something of an unknown land for travellers. Almost all nine islands are ideal for surfing (the largest isle São Miguel has the best choice). Alternatively, embrace a quieter pace on Santa Maria island, a patchwork of golden coves, green pastures and white-washed houses.

The Azores is also one of the world’s best places to whale watch, with one-third of the world’s whale species letting off steam in these deep blue waters.

Canadiano 1982 urban nature Hotel

  • Ponta Delgada, The Azores, Portugal
  • 21 September 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Heathrow

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Addicted to the Algarve? Fall head over heels with Parga

Plenty of beach destinations rival coastal Portugal, if you know where to look. Parga, on a pine-fringed stretch of Greece’s northwest coast, strikes a similar balance between family beaches and lively tavernas.

Sizzle on Krioneri Beach, the most central of Parga’s sunbathing spots, or seek out relative calm on family-friendly Valtos Beach (backed by an excellent camp site). Summer adds fizz to the old town’s bars, but sleepy Parga never gets too raucous.

Beyond the beaches, board a boat to pretty Paxos and Antipaxos, or unleash your inner Lara Croft by rambling the spooky ruins of the Necromanteion (20km southeast of Parga), which the ancient Greeks considered a gateway to the Underworld.

Parga Beach Resort

  • Parga, Greece
  • 11 September 2024
  • Bed & breakfast
  • From Manchester

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All glitzed out in the Amalfi Coast? Dip a toe into Calabria

The Amalfi Coast doesn’t have the monopoly on glam. The ‘toe’ to Italy’s boot, Calabria is brimming with grand gems.

In Tropea, winding streets snake through its centro storico, offering up stunning sea views in the most unlikely of places. And along its coast, the impressive Santa Maria dell’Isola church is the postcard shot. For a little extra luxury, sailing is one of the top experiences in the area.

Further south is Scilla. Once famous for its star role in Homer’s Odyssey, today the town’s main drawcards are its pretty pastel houses, a sandy beach, and Castello Ruffo, which sit high on a rocky promontory.

Swap Crete for the underrated Albanian Riviera

For many western European tourists, the name ‘Albania’ elicits more bewilderment than wanderlust. But Albania shares the same Mediterranean waters and balmy weather as Greece and southern Italy.

Though popular with Balkan travellers, only a trickle of foreign visitors arrive to Dhërmi, whose turquoise waters gleam brightly enough to warrant sunglasses, and the trio of islands of Ksamil cove are swimmable from the mainland. With its blend of clear waters and dreamy villages, Albania makes an excellent alternative to Crete (though we’d warn that Albanian rakia is a little stronger).

*Note: The easiest way to reach the Albanian Riviera is to fly to Corfu and take the cost-effective and quick ferry across to Saranda.

Swap slow living in Malta for fly-and-flop in Formentera

Are you yearning for stress-free island life, with slow food, fresh air and coastal splendour? Malta might be the classic choice, but unsung Formentera has got fly-and-flop beach breaks down to a tee.

This laidback lovely boasts stunning sand spits without a resort in sight, boho beach bars and ocean views aplenty. As in Malta, the snorkelling and diving is excellent with clear waters and a number of wrecks to explore. Es Pujols has the island’s best seafood restaurants or head to Playa de Levante for top-notch surfing.

With new Jet2holidays’ packages for summer 2024 (ferry transfers from Ibiza included), tranquil Formentera might not stay quiet for long. Go now before the crowds arrive.

Partied out in Ibiza? Embrace the night in Ios

Though best known for its wild nights, Ibiza’s appeal ranges from charismatic coastal villages to yoga tourism. But hop across the sea and you’ll find the Greek Isle of Ios is also tailor-made for good times and culture fiends.

Once overshadowed by its nightlife-loving neighbour, Mykonos, Ios is making its way onto the holiday scene – popular for its hippie party vibe and golden, sandy beaches.

Chora is the island’s capital and its main square is where you’ll find lively bars and music-pumping clubs. Luckily the town’s beach, Gialos, is a calm and quiet spot to recover during the day. For chilled-out beach club afternoons, head to Mylopatas.

Give Menorca a miss and discover France's tiny islands

Menorca may already be quieter than its bigger sister, but for a holiday that seriously feels one step removed from remote, the Îles d'Hyères are just the ticket.

The main island, Porquerolles, is about 20 minutes from Hyères on France’s south coast and its national park designation means much of the island is wonderfully untouched. Transport is of the two-wheeled kind (cars are banned) and hotels are few and far between.

Plage Notre Dame is one of the best stretches of sand on the island, though its other beaches certainly won’t disappoint. For history and panoramic views, there’s Fort St. Agatha, while art-lovers can get a fix at Fondation Carmignac.

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