Ngapali Beach: Paradise Found in Myanmar
Visiting Myanmar’s many pagodas, temples and ancient capitals was a big part of our recent holiday there. We loved immersing ourselves in the country’s rich culture and history. But after nearly two weeks of temple hopping, and being constantly on the go, we were exhausted. Some relaxation time was definitely in order, before flying home and getting back into the daily grind. So we were very glad that we’d arranged a little beach break in Ngapali Beach at the end of our trip.
Ngapali Beach is Myanmar’s most popular seaside destination. It is situated on the Bay of Bengal coast, in the South of the Rakhine State. Ngapali (pronounced Napally) was supposedly named after the Italian city of Naples. It has four beaches, and its main beach is renowned as one of the best beaches in South-East Asia.
Why should you include Ngapali Beach on your Myanmar trip?
Ngapali Beach is one of the hidden gems of Myanmar. It’s a little slice of paradise that not many people seem to have discovered. Visiting at the start of the season (November), it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves. Compared to many other beaches in Asia, Ngapali Beach seemed empty. In November, seventy percent of the beach chairs were not being used. This made us very happy; there was no need to wake up early just to secure a sun lounge!
Not only is Ngapali Beach quiet, it’s also a tropical paradise. The beach is long, pristine and the sand is almost pure white. Hundreds of coconut palm trees line the beach, and the clear blue sea is really warm and inviting. Most people wouldn’t expect to find a beach rivalling some of the best in the world, in a country like Myanmar. But Ngapali Beach could give some of our Australian beaches a run for their money!
There are many hotels along Ngapali Beach, but it doesn’t have the same overdeveloped resort feel that you might find in other places, such as Cancun. It’s still underdeveloped and I hope that it stays that way. But sadly I suspect that larger scale development will soon kick in, so it’s best to visit before it changes shape forever.
What to do in Ngapali Beach?
The main reason for our stay in Ngapali Beach was to relax! We were keen to just sit on a beach chair (which we didn’t have to fight for), and watch the world go by while we worked on our tan. The views are incredible, and after so much activity in the previous two weeks, we were really happy to just put our feet up for a bit.
I loved watching the local ladies walk up and down the beach selling all sorts of tropical fruits, such as bananas, coconuts, mangoes and pineapples. It didn’t matter whether or not you bought their fruits, they would always give you a big smile anyway. And no, unlike the tourist touts in Bagan or Mandalay, they never hassled you for a sale.
Get a Massage
Most hotels in Ngapali beach have spas that offer a range of massages. I don’t often get a massage, even though I should. My back would probably thank me for it! In Australia, they are just so expensive, and I never seem to find the time. But you just can’t say no when an hour-long massage sets you back just AU$25, and you have nothing to do all day!
I used our hotel’s Spa (Thande Beach Resort), but from what we’ve heard, later in the season, there are even massage tables on the beach. What’s not to love about a budget massage (with prices starting from AU$15) combined with an incredible view!
Watch the amazing sunset
The sunsets on Ngapali beach are usually jaw-dropping, and you definitely should not miss them. Every night was a slightly different show, with each sunset more spectacular than the ones before. It’s the perfect time to take a stroll on the beach, and if you’re a photographer you will get some fantastic photos.
Alternatively, you can head to one of the beach bars around half an hour before the sunset, and order a cocktail. All of the bars offer happy hour just in time for sunset. What’s better than a cocktail paired with a fabulous sunset?
Take a snorkelling trip to Pearl Island
Snorkelling in Ngapali is definitely not on par with the Maldives, but we enjoyed our snorkelling trip nonetheless.
You can book a snorkelling trip to Pearl Island from your hotel, or even better, book it on the beach. There are many locals who walk the beach trying to sell them. We booked a trip from a local guy named Chit. He wandered up and down the beach all day touting his trips. We paid US$25 for the two of us for a half-day snorkelling trip.
The next morning we met Chit on the beach, and he directed us to a traditional fishing boat with two other locals who would be our guides. We had the boat all to ourselves, and the snorkelling gear was of surprisingly decent quality. Our two friendly guides didn’t speak English, but I’m not sure this would have been any different if we’d booked with the hotel. Either way, there was no need for complex communication. They took us to different snorkelling spots, and off we jumped into the water to explore Ngapali’s underwater life.
We were apparently extremely lucky to spot a turtle and two stingrays during our trip. According to Chit, they are rarely seen. I also swam over a sea snake, which was the wrong kind of luck! But I’m pretty sure he was just as scared of me as I was of him, and we both swam away from each other quickly!
Our snorkelling trip was a great way to spend half a day.
Walk to the nearby fishing villages
Even if you are there to relax, you absolutely should take a stroll along this long stretch of beach. Not only is it an easy way to burn off the calories from those coconut mojitos you drank at happy hour the night before, but it’s also a great walk. At each end of the beach, you will find a fishing village.
If you walk south past all the hotels, and past the islet of the Pleasant View Restaurant, you will reach the traditional fishing village of Gyeik Taw. Gyeik Taw is a great place to see the locals getting on with their everyday life. It’s a totally different vibe to our immaculately groomed resort just next door. You’ll see locals unloading fish from their traditional fishing boats, packing up their nets, and sorting and spreading small fish out on the beach to dry in the sun. Sorting and drying out fish seems to be the job of the women of the village, while their husbands concentrate on catching the fish.
Sadly, as clean and pristine as the main beach was, the village beach was very dirty, with rubbish all over it. It was such a difference just wandering a few hundred meters down the beach.
Go on a hot air balloon ride
We had already taken a hot air balloon ride in Inle Lake, so we didn’t take one in Ngapali. But from what we’ve heard it’s a pretty epic experience as well. Oriental Ballooning offers daily flights for US$380 per person. Ballooning is rather pricey, which is the main reason we didn’t do it again.
Where to eat on Ngapali Beach?
Seaview Restaurant “The Original”
Seaview is run by a hard-working local family and is located right on the beach. It’s a feet in the sand dining experience, and all of the seafood served is caught fresh that day. The view across the sea and of the sunset is second to none, and the food is tasty and great value for money. Be sure to book if you want a front row table for sunset.
Pleasant View Islet Restaurant
This restaurant is located on an islet just offshore. It’s a great place for lunch or for sunset drinks. During low tide, you can walk straight to the restaurant, but at high tide, you need to take a very short boat ride. This seafood restaurant offers good food, but the main reason to visit is for its amazing setting and backdrop. Be warned though; prices here are about double those of the beach restaurants.
Sea Queen is situated very close to the beach, on the main road. This little local restaurant has excellent seafood, friendly service and it is reasonably priced.
The Green Umbrella
Also, set up right on the beach, just a few steps down from Sea View Restaurant, this restaurant offers the same beach setting and sea views. It serves delicious, fresh seafood. Even better, it also serves amazing cocktails! Head there for happy hour, when cocktails are 25% off.
Where to stay on Ngapali Beach?
There is no shortage of hotels on Ngapali Beach, and they were building a few more when we visited in November 2017.
Thande Beach Hotel
We stayed at the Thande Beach Resort. It is well positioned in the centre of Ngapali Beach, and it’s close to many of the beach restaurants. It had the perfect sunset setting, although their beach bar was overpriced and their cocktails were pretty average. The rooms were large and comfortable, but the bathrooms were quite tired and in need of renovation. Rooms start from AU$115 per night.
Bayview – The Beach Resort
This was where we originally wanted to stay but they did not have a beachfront room available at the time. This well-run hotel is at the northern end of the beach, and it has a choice of well-appointed bungalows, rooms and suites. It’s a good choice for honeymooners, and they even have a honeymoon package. Rooms start from AU$220 per night.
Amara Ocean Resort
The Amara is one of the most expensive hotels, and one of the most luxurious on Ngapali Beach. It is located north of the airport, making it very isolated from the rest of Ngapali. It offers traditional style wooden bungalows that are purpose-built by hand, providing unique accommodation in harmony with its surroundings. Prices start at AU$350 per night.
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How to get to Ngapali Beach?
The easiest way to get to Ngapali Beach is by plane. You can fly to Ngapali Beach direct from Yangon, Heho (Inle Lake), Bagan and Mandalay. It’s fast, safe and you won’t need any time to recover, which you might need if you travel by bus. The airfares range from $70 to over $100.
Flights arrive at Thandwe airport, and most hotels offer a pickup and drop off service, included in the price of the room. Thandwe airport is just twenty minutes away from the main beach of Ngapali, making it a very quick transfer.
Your second option is to travel by bus, but this takes over fourteen hours from Yangon, driving on very bad roads. It’s a lot cheaper at around AU$15 per person, but we wouldn’t suggest it unless you’re on a budget or really hate flying!
If you’re heading to Myanmar soon, be sure to leave some time to chill out at Ngapali Beach, at the end of your trip. After exploring the rest of the country, you will be glad to have some time to kick back and relax, in this incredibly beautiful location. We couldn’t think of a better ending to a holiday in Myanmar.