Santorini: Beach hopping around the island

Santorini Pyrgos Vista

The stunning view from Pyrgos, with Fira and Oia in the background.

Our second morning in Santorini brought better weather, less wind, and even more sunshine. We had our breakfast at Agnadi Villa then hopped on the bike, determined to find the ancient city of Akrotiri. The roads on Santorini are marked only with directional signs, and somehow we ended up ascending the tallest peak on the island. Riding next to the sheer cliff on one side we decided it would be better to turn around, so we headed back down and found the road we actually wanted, heading towards Akrotiri. We did stop to take in the view, though.

Santorini caldera view

The caldera view from the road near Akrotiri.

When we got back down to sea level we stumbled upon one of the greatest views we found on the island. Right by the side of the road we found ourselves to be in the bottom of the “U” that makes up Santorini’s caldera. Looking towards the west, we could see Oia at the far tip of the island, the active volcano in the center, and the tall humps of Santorini’s rocky outer rim wrapping around the cool blue water. We rode on from here for a few minutes and stopped for lunch, then moved on to Akrotiri…which we bypassed for want of getting to a beach. We figured Akrotiri had been there for millenia and would still be there in a few days. After parking and taking a short little hike, we found ourselves on Red Beach.

Red Beach Santorini

Do you wonder why they call it Red Beach? This beach was beautiful, required a short little hike over some lava to get to, and thanks to its color was nice and warm.

The red sands of Red Beach were warm and felt nice on the toes, but the very rocky waterline made it kind of difficult to get in and out of the cool water. We hung out here for a while, watching people come and go, and when we did get in the water found ourselves covered with thin strips of seaweed. We decided that we should probably get our money’s worth out of the quad bike, so we got back on and headed towards Fira to find another beach, only to miss our turn and go all the way to our new favorite beach on the island by mistake! Hooray for happy mistakes!

Perissa Beach, Santorini

Perissa beach didn’t have many rocks to struggle through, the water seemed a tiny bit warmer, and the scenery couldn’t be beat.

It was about 4:00pm when we pulled up to Perissa Beach. There were more people here, and the sand was devoid of seaweed. On closer inspection, the sand extended far enough into the water that you wouldn’t hurt your feet getting in and out. Of course we changed back into our bathing suits, laid out our towels, and frolicked in the calm blue water. There were a few other couples around doing the same thing, but all-in-all not a whole lot of tourists as it was late in the day. We decided to head back towards Fira before dark, and left somewhere around six. It was time for dinner, and our tummies were rumbling when we pulled into Fira.

Caldera view from Fira before sunset.

The sun heading towards the horizon from Fira, really lighting up the caldera.

Fira, Santorini

Fira clings to the edge of the cliffs above the caldera. Beautiful, no?

Fira donkeys, Santorini

A caravan of donkeys climb the cliffside in Fira.

With gyros in our bellies we explored Fira a little bit, snapping a couple of photos here and there. We shopped around a little, and enjoyed the picturesque white houses and steep pathways heading up and down the side of the cliff. Of course, Fira is where the cruise ships dock, and one was in port that day, so we did this all with about 3,000 of our closest friends, none of which seemed to make it to Oia, of course.


Santorini sunset

Santorini sunset

After a bit of shopping we rode back towards Oia, taking the low road. Carolyn wanted to stop and take some pictures of old boats and stuff we had seen in the late evening light, and when we were finished we watched a stunning sunset. It was a little bit chilly, so the short ride up the hill to Agnadi Villa had the added value of Carolyn clinging to me for warmth as we rode through the darkness.

Santorini ocean view

The bluest blue ocean with the bluest blue sky.

If I haven’t convinced you that Santorini is the most beautiful place on Earth yet, I’d like to submit this last image as evidence. Santorini has the most otherworldly landscape I’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t even seem strange if there were melted clocks everywhere, because the whole place made me think of Dali paintings. That whole landscape is surrounded with this blue, blue, blue water.




So, where’s my favorite beach?

Beaches are pretty much my favorite places to be when it’s warm, and I’m lucky enough to have been to a few of them. I love clear, blue water, gentle surf, and plenty of people to watch. I haven’t been to all of these beaches with Carolyn, but the best ones always involved her on a towel next to mine reading a book. Let’s have a look at my favorite 10 beaches in the world and wish we were at one (or all) of them instead of in a cold office in Korea.

Haeundae Beach, South Korea

Haeundae Beach, Busan, South Korea

This might be my favorite beach for cold weather, because there’s no shortage of places to get a nice hot coffee. The water is a beautiful blue green. On a clear day you can see Tsushima Island, Japan. Unfortunately, Haeundae beach is nuts in the summer, with about a bajillion people crowding up shoulder to shoulder under umbrellas to avoid the sun. Why anyone would avoid the sun on a beautiful beach defies my logic, but what the hell? When in Rome Busan, right?

Magic Sands Beach, Hawaii

Magic Sands Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

Magic Sands beach on Hawaii’s Big Island was the only beach I visited very often when I lived on the island. The beach is beautiful in the summer with it’s white sand and surf ranging from lapping waves to big rollers. Its also situated next to one of the best shore diving spots on the island. You gotta bring your own snacks, though, and parking is okay if you get there early, but you gotta be careful or else your car could get broken into. It’s a good beach, but not the perfect beach.

Daecheon Beach, South Korea

Daecheon Beach, Boryeong, South Korea

Daecheon Beach is definitely worth visiting during the Boryeong Mudfest in July. It’s a beautiful beach nestled next to the East China Sea with nice, shell laced sand, and a plethora of convenience stores nearby for snacks. During the mudfest there’s also great people watching and festival food.

Jeongdongjin, South Korea

Jeongdongjin, South Korea

The last beach in Korea on this list is Jeongdongjin. Jeongdongjin is just about as far north as you can go in the Republic of Korea before you enter the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. So close that there are guard towers, barbed wire, and machine gun nests on the cliffs. For real. The population density here is pretty low though, especially for this country, and the ocean is clear, blue, and beautiful. There’s not a hell of a lot to eat though. Be ready for a weekend of supermarket food and the same variety of fish at every restaurant at this one.

Waikiki by kimubert, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  kimubert 

Waikiki Beach, O’ahu, Hawaii

Waikiki is probably the perfect urban beach. There is no shortage of snacks, restaurants, drinks, or people watching on Waikiki. The water is clear, beautiful, and filled with decent snorkeling if you’re into that kind of thing. Want to eat a stereotypical Hawaiian meal (in the tourist way, meaning pineapple and macadamia nuts) while being serenaded by some ukulele wielding locals? You can do that on Waikiki. It’s an easy beach. You don’t have to pack beforehand, think about things like sunscreen or lunch, or anything. It’s all easily purchased right there on the beach (at a premium, of course.)

Double-Six Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Double-Six Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Double-Six Beach is what I imagine Waikiki was like 50 years ago or more. None of the buildings rise above the tree-line, the easy to access shops and restaurants are hidden behind a beautiful row of trees and sea wall, and there’s a lot of people to watch. There’s really not a whole lot of downside to this beach. It’s not great for swimming, but that means you get to watch the surfers. There’s a lot of hawkers, but you can chalk that up to local color. It’s Bali, dude. It’s beautiful, good food is everywhere, and once you’re there it’s all pretty cheap.

Hawaii, Big Island483 by J. Stephen Conn, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  J. Stephen Conn 

Honokohau Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

Right next to Keahole International Airport is a little national historical site with a great beach. This beach features a reconstructed traditional style Hawaiian hut, a temple, fish pond, and I’m pretty sure an outrigger living in the hut. The water is blue and calm, and I’m pretty sure you could swim out to some great dive sites if you like. Additionally, it’s a short trek (maybe 100m or so) across a lava floe to get here, so it’s not going to be chock full of people at any given time. Sometimes you want quiet, right? Bring your snacks and drinks with you, because there’s nowhere to grab one once you’re here.

West Railay Beach, Thailand

West Railay Beach, Railay, Thailand

The Railay peninsula in Krabi Province, Thailand is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my life. There. I said it. Nestled in beautiful Phang Nga Bay (Ao Phang Nga), the Railay Peninsula is an otherworldly landscape dominated by towering limestone cliffs topped with lush jungle, a beautiful turquoise-blue sea dotted with limestone karsts called Mr. Hong’s Secret Kung Fu Island “hongs.” West Railay Beach is cordoned off at the north and south by tall limestone cliffs with low lying hotels, shops, and restaurants scattered along a dirt road behind the beach. It’s beautiful. There’s a ton of people to watch, and it’s easy to get a kayak and head straight out into the bay to really feel like you’re away from everything.

Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Kata Beach is beautiful. It’s not as chaotic as nearby Patong Beach, the water is clear and blue, and there’s a nice little island just offshore that makes a great counterpoint to a wonderful sunset. The Andaman Sea stretches out in front of you, and behind you a great enclave of restaurants, bars, and shops. While some might prefer the night life of Patong, it’s pretty nice to be able to get a cheap place to stay where you can stretch out and not be bothered by bedbugs or other critters. Kata is a great, great beach that really showcases Thailand’s natural beauty while also allowing you every modern convenience you might need.

Phra Nang Beach, Railay, Thailand

Phra Nang Beach, Railay, Thailand

Phra Nang Beach is certainly the most beautiful place I’ve ever laid eyes on. The water is a beautiful turquoise blue, the beach is framed by a gorgeous limestone cave, monkeys come out of the woods to feast on garbage and people’s bags of chips and unattended items at dusk, and the sea is dotted with those beautiful green little hongs as far as you can see. In the morning before the boats of tourists arrive, this beach is absolutely 100%, perfect.