Myanmar’s “Secret” Sandy Paradise!
Swaying palm trees, turquoise waters and shimmering white sand … thinking of Myanmar? If not, don’t worry – you’re not alone! Located approximately 400km Northwest of Yangon on the Bay of Bengal coast lays Ngapali Beach – a postcard-perfect paradise in Southeast Asia with all of the beauty and none of the crowds!
Myanmar is well known for its spectacular temples in Yangon and Bagan and the trekking from Kalaw to the balancing fishermen at Inle Lake. This country, however, is also home to Ngapali Beach (pronounced Napally and rumoured to be named after the Italian city of Naples after a homesick Italian traveller who named the beach thus!).
The Traveler’s Choice Awards actually named Ngapali Beach the 3rd most beautiful beach in 2018, and being the aspiring beach bum that I am, I never miss an opportunity to splash in the ocean waves and wiggle my toes in the sand!
What time of year is best to visit Ngapali Beach?
Like most of the rest of Myanmar, Ngapali Beach has just two seasons, dry and wet (rainy). The rainy season runs from June to September and the dry season from October to May. I visited during the second-to-last week of May, which is heading into the low/wet season (which runs from May-ish to September-ish). This meant that food and accommodation options were limited, as many resorts and restaurants close down for the season. There are places that stay open year-round, so you’ll always have a place to sleep and eat, though it can be trickier in terms of transport options.
Where to Stay in Ngapali
Whether you’re in the mood to treat yourself to a beachfront hut, or looking to keep costs low and roll dormitory-style (like me), Ngapali Beach has accommodation options to suit every budget. There are multiple resorts and guest houses lining the beach, and several budget-friendly options an extra 90-second walk across the street from the beach. You can definitely expect to pay higher prices in Ngapali Beach than in the city, but the beach access justified it for me!
WeStay @Chillax House Hostel – From the moment that I arrived at this hostel (and my bus dropped me off directly in front of the entrance – WINNING!), it felt like home. The manager, Myat, was super friendly and greeted me with enthusiasm that I wasn’t expecting at 5 am! There were cushions to crash on, both in the main lobby area and on the balcony upstairs, and we were allowed to use the showers before checking in.
You can find someone lounging in the common area or on the balcony all day, the showers are large with hot water on both floors, and the dorm rooms are spacious and comfortable. The entire hostel was extremely clean, and the vibe from all the staff was very welcoming. The free breakfast is delicious (pancakes with bananas and honey, fried eggs, fried noodles/vermicelli/rice depending on the day, bananas, fresh drip coffee, purified water), and the location is less than a 2-minute walk to the beach! The staff, cleanliness and location make this place a super perfect, affordable option in Ngapali Beach! Check availability at WeStay @ Chillax House Hostel here.
Since I visited in low season, quite a few of the accommodation options were closed down, but I did hear from other travellers that Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort, located right on the beach, was really nice, and I had a fresh juice from Amata Resort and Spa, also beachfront, which looked amazing if you can fit it in your budget!
There are also lots of accommodation options further North, closer to the airport but further from the beach, which apparently have a wider selection of affordable accommodation options, however you probably want to rent an e-scooter or motorbike (which does sound fun!) to get around and access the other end of the beach. I am much too lazy for that, and was very happy with my choice and 2-minute walk to the beach!
In high season, more good options for travellers on a budget include:
Mingalarpar Ngapali Guest House – With dorm beds starting at $12 US per night, this hostel is great value for money with clean beds, friendly staff and surrounded by lovely gardens. The guesthouse is located close to the beach (just 50 metres away) and offers a delicious free breakfast and even free airport transfers. Run by a lovely local family, you won’t want to leave here!
Three Seasons Guesthouse – Another family-run guesthouse that gets exceptional reviews is Three Seasons. Offering home cooked breakfast, comfortable beds and lots of smiles, the $15 US price tag for a single room at this guesthouse is amazing value for money.
Kipling’s Bay Guest House – A tad more expensive at $32 US per night for a double room (with garden view), this guesthouse is perfect for couples or those wanting a little more comfort and style. Located in an authentic old wooden Burmese house with a lovely garden, each room has its own bathroom and terrace. Just a 5-min walk from the beach, a stay at Kipling’s is a relaxing old time!
Things to Do in Ngapali Beach
Full disclosure on this one – I went to Ngapali Beach with the sole intention of being a lazy beach bum, getting over jet lag and winding down in preparation for my upcoming Vipassana meditation retreat. I planned to splash in the waves, read a book, do some journaling and bask in the sun and wasn’t really looking for adventure BUT there are some things to do if you’re looking for a little more adventure.
Lazy Beach Days
The number one reason I came to Ngapali Beach – to be a beach bum! Take your sarong or towel with you, some water and a book, plant yourself next to a palm tree and prepare to relax!
Boat Trips & Fishing Villages
Ask around and you’ll quickly find that the local fishermen are more than happy to take you on a guided tour to one of the local fishing villages. You can see the town from a different perspective (how the locals live AND from the water), and you will have the option to do some snorkelling as well!
Snorkel & Scuba Dive
I visited Ngapali Beach during the low/wet season, which meant that the visibility wasn’t the greatest for snorkelling or scuba diving so I opted not to partake in these activities, but they are definitely available if you’re interested!
Bicycle Around Town
A very affordable way to get your butt off the beach for some exercise and to explore a little bit more of Ngapali is to rent a bicycle. There is only one main road along the coastline, and you can complete your bicycle tour in a few hours in the morning before the heat of the afternoon sets in!
Pose with Said Instagrammable Hanging Palm Tree!
If you’ve ever seen an Influencer on social media with a gorgeous photo on a hanging palm tree in Myanmar– chances are this is where they found it! An easy few minutes walk on the beach (from where I was staying), located near the Art of Sand Resort, is a picture-perfect palm tree to practice your photography skills with!
Watch the Sunset
As Ngapali Beach is located on the West Coast, you have the opportunity to see amazing sunsets! Bring a sarong and again plant yourself on the beach to watch the sun go down in an array of colours that look like a painting come to life.
Where to Eat in Ngapali Beach
Seafood lovers rejoice! Ngapali is definitely a beach paradise, and with that comes an endless supply of fresh, affordable seafood! For the vegetarians, you will have no problem finding vegetable curry, noodle, rice, and tempura dishes here, and for the gluten conscious – do not fret as you too will easily find grilled seafood and steamed rice, curry and soup dishes all to suit your fancy!
There are many beach-facing hotels along the coast with gorgeous views and scrumptious meals, but if you’re on a budget like me, simply look on the other side of the road for menus half the price and you won’t be disappointed!
Bravo’s Coffee House
If you like to start your mornings caffeinated, then pop on into this café for an espresso, frappe, or iced cappuccino, or if you’re more of a fruity morning person they also have fresh fruit and yoghurt smoothies. Breakfast was included at my hostel, so I didn’t partake in this morning ritual, but others ventured there for their second caffeine kick of the day and I grabbed a mid afternoon smoothie – definitely a good place to check out!
This little restaurant became my daily lunch spot! I rotated between ordering papaya salad, vermicelli vegetable soup, and noodle dishes – all of which were around $2000 kyat each (approx $1.30USD), along with a fresh juice (if the electricity was working). The staff were so friendly and always gave us a hand fan to cool down from the sweltering heat, and usually brought us some fresh banana or pineapple for dessert.
One of my favourite restaurants in Ngapali Beach. Although it is located about 5km away from the beach and a $4000 (approx $2.30USD) tuk-tuk ride, the food and service made it well worth it. I went with a group of 4 people so we split the tuktuk, and everyone actually wanted to go back the next day. I ordered a potato curry, and there was also a seafood curry, vegetable curry and fried vermicelli with seafood on the table – all of which were $3000-5000 (approx $2-3.25USD), and absolutely delicious. The owner was an extremely friendly local lady who gave us free coconut rice and fried bananas for dessert! The place was clean, the food was phenomenal and the service was impeccable!
Located about a 15 minute walk from WeStay hostel along the main road another great find! The owner, Ko Lay Aung, was a local man with perfect English and perfect customer service. From the moment we got there we felt welcomed and like 5 star customers, and the food did not disappoint. I ordered the Fisherman’s Fish Curry which was a delicious steaming bowl of spicy Barracuda soup and cost me $3000 kyat (approx $2USD).
Also at the table was a whole Snapper ($10,000mmk/$6.50USD), vegetable tempura ($2500mmk/$1.60USD), and a cream of vegetable soup – all highly recommended. We ordered some fresh pineapple juices, and local beer, and were given a complimentary tea leaf salad (YUM) as an appetizer, complimentary rice with our meals, and complimentary pineapple and bananas for dessert. Up until my second visit, I couldn’t recommend this restaurant highly enough.
A day or two later, I went back with a different mixed group of people. I am not sure if it was a full moon or what, but the customer service we received was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as the previous time. Our food took a very long time, some of the dishes came out wrong, we never received the chilli or sauces we asked for and the owner Ko Lay Aung seemed to be preoccupied and then almost annoyed at our presence. When it came time to pay, we were overcharged for some things and asked for clarification, and then he also added more to our bill to charge us for the “free” tea leaf salad, explaining that only the first one was free. This was fine, but we would have appreciated the heads up on this fact, especially since we didn’t even get the tea leaf salads until AFTER our meals, and therefore probably wouldn’t have asked if they were still on their way as we had been told.
I honestly hesitated even mentioning this place at all, but since I had such an amazing experience the first time, I decided to include it with the disclaimer to maybe only go one time?!
How to Get to Ngapali Beach
Flight – Every airport in Myanmar services flights to Thandwe – the closest airport to Ngapali Beach. If you value time over money, this is definitely a good option.
Bus – Ngapali Beach is a bit out of the way when it comes to planning a “route” in Myanmar, but it is still easily accessible by bus, which is by far your most budget-friendly option.
How to get to Ngapali Beach From Yangon
The beach is a simple 11 hour night bus ride away from Yangon, and there are multiple companies that service this route. MAKE SURE TO BOOK A VIP BUS FOR MAXIMUM COMFORT. As with all busses in Myanmar, the VIP busses are not that much more expensive, but WAY more comfortable, with wider seats, pillows and blankets, air conditioning, snacks, and sometimes even a bathroom on board.
The bus that I took cost 21,000Ks/$13.70USD. It had A/C, reclining seats, TVs on the back of the seat in front, USB charging ports, and they also provided blankets, snacks, water, and even came around with a tray of mints and motion sickness tablets. We did not have a bathroom on board, but we stopped once quite early for a 30 minute dinner aka “tea break”, and several times throughout the night for bathroom breaks. At one point a girl on the bus really needed to go to the bathroom and the bus driver had no problem stopping at the next stop for her to get off.
How to get to Ngapali Beach From Bagan
The bus goes through either Pyay or Yangon and you can do a back to back morning bus for one and then catch a connecting night bus for the other.
From Pyay there are no busses with Air Conditioning, only the busses departing from Yangon have A/C. I personally think that I would be fine without A/C on a night bus because I get VERY cold, but most people I met said they wouldn’t dare travel on a day bus without A/C so I suppose it’s a personal preference!
Where to go Next?
Depending on where you’re at in your Myanmar route, you really have two options on where to go next: North or South. If you started in the North in Mandalay, then the next logical stop is Yangon. If you started in Yangon, then the next logical stop is somewhere up North (Bagan, Inle Lake, Mandalay). The transportation options leaving FROM Ngapali Beach are very limited though, so read on to find out how to connect your choices to get you where you want to go next!
Getting out of Ngapali Beach by Plane
All flights from Ngapali Beach/Thandwe ONLY FLY DIRECT TO YANGON. You can fly INTO Thandwe from any of the airports, but you cannot fly to any airport other than Yangon. This is some sort of government or business strategy, but several travellers did not realize this until they got here! If you are planning to fly, just know that you will have to backtrack back to Yangon and cannot go directly North to Mandalay from here. I was also told that there are foreigner vs local airfare prices, so make sure to double-check this if you’re searching online!
Getting out of Ngapali Beach by Bus
There are also NO DIRECT BUSES to continue your journey up north. Yangon and Pyay are the only places you can take a bus directly to from Ngapali Beach, and then you can take a connecting bus to Mandalay/Bagan/Inle Lake from there. You have to take a day bus to Pyay at 8am to be able to catch the connecting night bus to Bagan, and 5:45 am for the bus heading for Yangon, all of which can be easily booked by your hostel/guest house/resort.
To get to Kalaw/Inle Lake, you’ll have to spend a night in Pyay or Yangon because the connecting bus leaves too early to be able to make it there in time for the next bus. The bus to Inle Lake leaves at either 2, 3 or 4 pm bus from Pyay, or 7 pm from Yangon.
So is it worth the trek? Despite its distance from the most well-known cities of Yangon or Bagan, Ngapali Beach is definitely well worth the detour and this sandy gem would be the perfect place to rejuvenate either at the end of your Myanmar route or in the middle of your temple-hopping SE Asia trip!