6 Surprisingly Beautiful Beach Destinations in East Asia

Tokashiki Island, Japan is one of the beautiful beach destinations in East Asia
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Asia is world-famous for its beaches with beautiful white sands and clear, turquoise waters. Countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and the Maldives consistently top lists of the world’s best beach destinations.

South and Southeast Asia are especially renowned for their islands and beaches. Though you might not expect it, many beach destinations in East Asia are breathtaking. In fact, some of them can even rival other esteemed destinations across the globe.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but gives a great idea of the beauty of the beaches of East Asia. Perhaps it can even inspire your next beach getaway in Asia!

Japan

Japan is definitely famous for its natural beauty (e.g. Mt. Fuji), but many people don’t know about its beaches. And yet, some of the beaches in Japan are among the nicest I have been to, with incredible clear, aquamarine waters, perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving, or just relaxing in the sand to the sounds of the ocean.

1. Okinawa Island

Similar to Hawai’i, “Okinawa” refers to both a group of islands and the name of the largest island in the chain (Okinawa Island/Okinawa-honto). Most people have heard of Okinawa, but few people I have talked to actually have any idea how gorgeous these islands are.

Just look at the stunning, variegated blues of the water outside the Churaumi Aquarium on the big island:

Blue waters outside Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa Island, Japan

Outside the Churaumi Aquarium on Okinawa Island

If you ever get the chance to visit the Churaumi Aquarium, definitely do it! It’s one of the few aquariums in the world that has whale sharks.

Boat in water on Okinawa Island, Japan

Look at this beautiful gradient of blues!

Besides beautiful waters and beaches, the islands in this region have a distinctive culture, language, and history originating from their indigenous inhabitants known as Ryukyuans.

2. Kerama Islands

The Okinawa Islands are actually part of a larger chain of islands collectively known as the Ryukyu Islands (named after the Ryukyuans). In fact, the most picturesque beaches in the region are not on Okinawa Island! They are found elsewhere in the Ryukyu Islands, and they can be pretty far away from Okinawa and the rest of Japan.

Many of the islands with the best beaches, like Miyako Islands or Yaeyama Islands, can only be reached by plane from Okinawa Island. This can make them tricky to visit if you have limited time and/or visiting Japan from abroad. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting either the Miyako or Yaeyama Islands yet, but I absolutely plan to do so. I think they are among the best beach destinations in East Asia, if not among Asia as a while.

However, some islands with absolutely dazzling beaches are just a ferry ride away from Okinawa Island, including the Kerama Islands. I have visited Tokashiki Island (Tokashiki-jima) and Zamami Island (Zamami-jima), two of the Kerama Islands, and both islands have postcard-perfect beaches.

Aharen Beach on Tokashiki Island, the featured image for this blog post, has crystal waters perfect for snorkeling. It’s a serene spot to enjoy the gorgeous views and calming sounds of the ocean.

Aharen Beach on Tokashiki Island

Zamami Island also has many splendid beaches to spend the day at, including Furuzamami Beach and Ama Beach. Both beaches have pristine waters and sand, and lovely views of distant islands.

Zamami Island of Japan, one of the best beach destinations in East Asia

Furuzamami Beach on Zamami Island

Ama Beach on Zamami Island

I don’t think you could go wrong visiting any of the Ryukyu Islands, and they are definitely worth the trip!

South Korea

When people think of South Korea, they generally don’t think “lovely beaches.” But it’s true! There are actually thousands of islands around the Korean peninsula. With its many islands and extensive coastline, there are numerous delightful beaches in South Korea.

While the beaches on the west coast tend to be muddy and not as pretty, many of the beaches along the east coast (though sometimes rocky) feature some beautifully-blue waters.

3. Jeju Island

Jeju Island (Jejudo) is the largest island of South Korea, and features a volcano (Hallasan) in the dead center of the island. Jeju is one of the most popular domestic destinations for Koreans, especially for a beach getaway.

While the waters around Jeju is not quite as spectacular as those of the Ryukyu Islands, they can still be quite striking!

Jejudo/Jeju Island, South Korea, one of the great beach destinations in East Asia

Azure and aquamarine waters around Jeju

Jeju has a range of beaches: some with soft sand, some with stones, and some with volcanic rock formations. You can also take ferries to other smaller islands that surround Jeju, if its beaches aren’t enough!

Jejudo/Jeju Island, South Korea volcanic rock beach

Volcanic rock beach on Jeju

Beyond its beaches, Jeju offers tourists great hiking on Hallasan and other mountains, waterfalls, forests, and dramatic cliffs, in addition to other tourist attractions. Jeju has also developed its own unique culture and version of the Korean language (though some argue it is its own language and not a dialect) due to it being an island some distance from the mainland.

4. Bijindo

Korea’s coast is dotted with countless islands. I have visited a number of these islands, and one of my favorite destinations was a small, relatively rural spot called Bijindo (Bijin Island). Bijindo is actually not island, but two islands joined together by a bridge!

With a very slow pace of life and a large stretch of white sands set against a backdrop of far-off islands and flawless water, Bijindo is an extraordinarily gorgeous and placid place to get in touch with nature.

The pristine sands and waters of Bijindo

Jeju is totally beautiful, but I think Bijindo might be my favorite beach of this kind in Korea. Even more than other Korean beach destinations on this list, Bijindo feels like it wouldn’t be out of place if it were located in another country more famous for its beaches.

5. Busan

Busan is South Korea’s second largest city, located on the southeast coast. Because of its beaches, seafood, urban activities, and ease of access, this city is an extremely popular destination for both domestic and international tourists.

Busan and its beaches are more well-known among international tourists than other Korean destinations, Busan’s global recognition is certainly not on par with other tourist spots in Asia.

Of course, many of Busan’s beaches are pretty urban, and the waters are definitely not as clear or pretty as other locations on this list. However, I still really like the beaches of Busan. I think they have their own special charm and vacation vibes in spades.

Haeundae Beach is a massively popular beach. It’s very lively, and it has plenty of amenities available for visitors. The sandy portion of the beach is fairly sizable, and the water is nice enough.

Haeundae Beach in Busan

Gwangalli Beach is a fantastic beach to visit at night, with the Gwangan Bridge stretching across and beyond this crescent-shaped beach. There is plenty of room to hang out here, as the beach spans almost a mile/1.4 kilometers.

The bridge and buildings lit up at night and reflected in the water make for great photos. There is a multitude of cafes and restaurants along the beach, many with great views of the area.

Gwangan Bridge and the beach at Gwangalli Beach

Building reflections at night at Gwangalli Beach, Busan, South Korea

Buildings along Gwangalli Beach

Busan is a lovely city to visit any time of year, but it’s especially nice in the summer because of the beaches.

6. East Coast

As I mentioned before, the South Korea’s east coast beaches are a lot nicer than the beaches on the west coast. I have been to multiple beaches along the east coast, and they are usually quite pleasant.

The waters at a beach I visited as part of a group tour ranged in color from deep sapphire to vivid turquoise (unfortunately I don’t know the exact location).

South Korea East Coast beach with blue waters

Gorgeous waters on Korea’s eastern coast

Eastern beach cities like Sokcho and Gangneung are also well-known for their bright and beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating for nice pictures when I have visited.

A beach in Sokcho, South Korea on an overcast day

You can see Sokcho’s nice sand and a bit of the color of the sea, despite the rain

Luckily, there are many cities and beaches along the east coast, making it easy to find someplace to visit for any Korea itinerary.

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