Forget Thailand’s crowded beaches and escape to Myanmar’s tropical paradise. This is the one sentence, that sums up our experience in Ngapali Beach. But let’s start at the beginning. We came to Myanmar for culture, history and the fantastic landscapes.
Yet, after more than 3 weeks round tripping the country we longed for some relaxation and decided to spend the last few days at Ngapali beach – and we didn’t regret making that choice!
Just what we needed after our Myanmar roundtrip – beach relaxation!
The best of both worlds: Infrastructure & solitude
Now, to get the expectations straight: Ngapali is no secret tropical beach, where you’ll get a Robinson Crusoe feeling and spend the days alone under a coconut palm.
Ngapali beach is not the right place for backpackers, but has a more sophisticated appeal.
Like here at the Hilton Ngapali Resort & Spa.
Ngapali beach has a rather developed infrastructure and is well known amongst locals and visitors. There’s an airport (Thandwe) and a couple of very luxurious and comfortable hotels – and we mean that by international standards, not local ones.
This was our private pool villa at Hilton Ngapali Beach Myanmar.
Technically you could also rent an apartment in Ngapali (they usually come without beach access), but we think Ngapali isn’t really a backpacker’s paradise. If you prefer beaches that are more off the beaten path you’ll be happier in the South of Myanmar (starting your explorations from Dawei further to the South). Here you can have some tropical beaches all to yourself – yet you’ll have to camp if you want to stay the night… 😉
The beaches of Ngapali are still rather empty, even though there are many hotels lined up for guests.
We on the other hand prefer beaches with some infrastructure – including restaurants and comfortable hotels. But don’t be fooled: Ngapali isn’t like any of the famous tourist beaches in Thailand – there is good infrastructure, yet it’s still rather quiet and laid back. Some visitors say it’s like Thailand 20 years ago.
Scenes like this are a daily routine – a local fishermen setting up his nets right in front of the hotel.
Small planes, low guest numbers
There are only 1 or 2 flights a day coming in at Thandwe airport and the planes are small 🙂 When we arrived at Ngapali only about 20 other guests flew with us – and we were the only guests getting picked up by our hotel shuttle. For us, this represents the perfect balance: Quiet beaches, not too many visitors, but still a comfortable infrastructure and some things to do!
You can easily stay at the hotel for a couple of days…
but there’s also a couple of things to see at Ngapali beach, like this Stupa.
Where to stay in Ngapali
Ngapali beach actually isn’t one strip of beach, but consists of a couple of sandy bays. We stayed at the Northernmost part of Ngapali beach, just minutes away from the airport – at the Hilton Ngapali Resort & Spa (read our hotel review here).
The Hilton Ngapali Resort & Spa offers a huge infinity pool, adjacent restaurant and bar and it’s own Spa.
This part of the beach has a disadvantage (which is also an advantage at the same time). In fact there isn’t really a beach here – at least not when the tide is high. Therefore the Hilton (and the neighbouring hotels as well) are built on a bit of elevated land and a concrete wall is securing the buildings from the crushing tidal waves.
The Hilton Ngapali Resort & Spa is a beach hotel without a real beach.
Therefore you won’t have a chance to lie down at the beach in the sand and sip your coconut, but only at the infinity pool right “above” the actual beach. Only when the tide is low you can walk down the steps and go bathing in the ocean. The advantage of this location is that it doesn’t get more quiet than this – the oceanfront villas are more private then anywhere else, because nobody can walk along the shores in front of them.
The oceanview villas at the Hilton are 100% secluded and private – nobody can walk past here.
We did check out the other beaches down South and they are incredible – wide strips of powdery light yellow sand. Yet here you’ll have a little less privacy and seclusion. So it’s really up to you. If you prefer to get a real beach vacation choose a hotel further to the South.
We checked out and ate lunch at another luxury hotel called Sandoway Resort and the beach here was incredible: clean, adorned with palm trees and virtually no people as far as our gaze reached.
The Sandoway resort has it’s own beach, but a little less privacy then the Hilton Ngapali Resort & Spa.
The local beach in the South
Further to the South the beach belongs to the locals, who are predominantly living from fishery. The beach is covered with nets and small by-catch that lies out to dry, dozens of small wooden boats float in the bay and the air reeks of fish. At least for now this part of the beach is still fishermen’s property, but we’ll see how long the local fishermen and their families can stay here, in their wooden huts at the beach – as the hotels are moving closer and closer and development isn’t stopping.
Further down to the South of Ngapali a fishermen’s village is located directly at the beach.
What to do in Ngapali
Honest to god, we spent the first couple of days at the pool dozing off in the sun, reading books and sipping drinks. Yet it wouldn’t be us, if we hadn’t gotten an itch to find out what else is there to do except for relaxation.
There’s only so many days we can stay put at the pool – no matter how beautiful it is!
1. Learn about the fishermen’s life
The first day we decided to check out the fishing village early in the morning, when the fishermen return from their nightly routine. Every night the ocean at Ngapali is dotted with neon green lights – that’s the fishermen out and about in their small vessels working the night away. They go night-fishing here every night, except for full moon.
At full moon their tradition forbids them to go fishing, as the fish are naturally drawn towards the light of the moon and they don’t want to use that (unfair) advantage. What a lovely tradition that is!
The neon lights off shore are from fishermen’s boats as they are fishing at night.
As soon as dawn breaks the fishermen return to their village and bring home the catch of the night, which is later sold at the local market (or to restaurants and hotels). To see the full spectacle you have to come early in the morning around sunrise.
We didn’t catch a sunrise, but rather a hazy morning with the fishermen of Ngapali.
2. Rent an electrical scooter & explore
The second day we decided to rent electrical scooters to drive around the area and explore a bit.
We passed by some public beaches (with no infrastructure) and local villages.
Our goal was to reach the very Southern tip of Ngapali beach and drive up a hill to see the “Tilawkasayambhu Buddha Statue“.
The Tilawkasayambhu Buddha Statue is located at the very Southern tip of Ngapali.
Although we had to push our scooters for the last meters of the steep way the view in the end was worth the hustle. Covered in sweat we arrived at the top, but the reward was in front of us. From up here you can overlook the southern bay with it’s tiny colourful wooden boats all lined up waiting for their next nightly tour.
The Southernmost bay of Ngapali beach as seen from the hill – what a view!
3. Watch the sunset at the beach
Beaches that face West are our favourite beaches… for obvious reasons: Sunsets at the beach are just something magical – and you won’t be let down in Ngapali.
5 days, 5 different sunsets.
Some from the pool, some from the bar… but always memorable!
4. Check out the Stupa in front of Hotel At The Rocks
Myanmar has one thing in abundance: Temples and stupas. The same goes for Ngapali – and there is one special stupa located on a rock right at the beach. Locals come here for sunset on their motorbike (they ride along the beach, but we recommend you take the street 🙂 ). It’s the place to be for couples and to take romantic photos!
The small patch of beach in front of the Hotel at the Rock is a perfect romantic hideaway!
Mostly though – you will just stay in your hotel and relax at the beach. So make sure to choose the type of hotel, that fits all your needs. Check out our review of the Hilton Ngapali Resort & Spa here!