Through our many travel experiences in Southeast Asia, we can say that we have become familiar with the many stunning beaches and beach resorts in this part of the world. However, there is one in particular we wanted to see for ourselves and to capture what some call the “most beautiful beach in Asia”. Our destination? Ngapali Beach. This place was just paradise and easily makes our top 3 list. In this blog post, we’ll tell you why it’s worth spending some time in Ngapali at the end of your Myanmar trip.
1. Ngapali Beach: Our Review
First of all, if you (like us) are curious to know how the word “Ngapali” is suppose to be said, the locals told us that the “g” is actually silent so it’s pronounced ’Na-pal-li’. Located on the west coast of Myanmar, Ngapali beach is about 300km northwest of Yangon as the crow flies.
Ngapali is the most famous seaside resort in Myanmar, but you certainly don’t get that impression on first sight. Meaning that Ngapali is, to the contrary, incredibly peaceful and the beaches are surprisingly quiet for such a well known place. Nightlife and discos aren’t really a big thing here, instead people meet for happy hour on the beach. And since Ngapali is oriented to the west, it makes for the perfect place to marvel at the beautiful sunsets.
The beaches around Ngapali
Although we talk of Ngapali Beach as if it’s only one beach, the resort actually extends over seven kilometres and boasts a total of three bays, two slightly larger ones and one very small one.
The beach in the south
The longest stretch of beach with most hotels is located in the south, between the village of Ngapali and the fishing village of Gyeiktaw. It was on this particular beach that we spent most of our time. Despite most of the hotels being located here, the beach is safely nestled far away from your typical ‘mass tourism’.
In some areas, the sand has texture so fine and colour so light, you find it hard to believe. Our favourite part of the beach was quite further up north, not far from some big rocks.
Even further north, there is what we’d call a small “food mile”, where you’ll find heaps of fantastic and super cheap restaurants by the beach. We came here almost everyday to enjoy the gorgeous sea views and a delicious meal – it was an absolute dream.
The beach in the north
This particular beach in the far north directly borders the neighbouring airport – which some would find rather disruptive, but on the other hand, with such infrequent air traffic, we reckon we’d find it rather exciting to watch the planes had we lived there.
The northern beach is also home to some very expensive hotels and among them is, of course, the Hilton. We found it rather unpleasant that the beach was built directly and exclusively in front of the Hilton Hotel with a protective wall. However, the beach does become much nicer further down south, but only to end with a very dirty section down in the lower south corner. Reason being, there are only a few hotels here, which means less money and motivation to keep it clean, so the section is mainly used by locals for swimming. It goes without saying then, that there are also less restaurants and bars located along the Northern Beachfront.
Who is Ngapali suitable for?
In Ngapali, we seem to have encountered two main groups of travellers: couples (both young and elderly), and families with children. Although we would hands-down recommend Ngapali to anyone looking to relax and chill.
If you are looking for good parties and clubs however, you will be sorely disappointed. People come here for the beaches and tranquility, the main point of this place is relaxation. Most people – including us – are drawn to Ngapali at the end of their travels in Myanmar. We certainly recommend the same to you guys, as Ngapali was the perfect end to our Myanmar trip.
Prices in Ngapali
We now come to the least exciting part: the price range in Ngapali. This place is certainly not ‘cheap’, and by that we are mainly referring to the inflated accommodation prices, which are disproportionately high compared to the rest of Myanmar.
What’s most expensive are no doubt the accommodations right on the beach front (read more about this in Chapter 5 of this blog article). Here, you can expect to pay about 100 Euros per night, depending on the type of room and beach views. Therefore, in comparison, the food prices seem very affordable. For a meal on the beachfront, it usually cost us around 6-8 euros for the two of us (drinks included!).
2. Boat tour: Snorkelling and Islands
If you’re not the sort of person to be lying on the beach all day, every day, then a boat trip to the offshore islands of Ngapali would be a very refreshing adventure and is also one of the most popular activities here. We also decided to embark on one of these ourselves and rented a private boat for 30,000 kyat and a 4 hour trip around the islands.
We started around 9am and headed straight for two snorkelling spots right at the beginning. Here, you can snorkel past several rock structures, but don’t expect too much from the underwater world. There are only a few surviving corals left, as the majority have suffered from bleaching due to warming temperatures. On the up-side though, we did get to see quite a lot and often came across some very colourful fishes too.
After snorkelling, our boat driver took us through a nearby harbour of a fishing village called Gyeiktaw. Despite having already driven through the village with our moped the day before, we found the perspective from the water very appealing. Our last stop was the offshore island called Pearl Island, which to our dismay was frolicking with people, however, the beach was still incredibly beautiful and paradise-like.
3. Trip to the Mountain Buddha
Another very worthwhile trip is a visit to the standing Buddha, which has the unpronounceable name “Tilawkasayambhu Buddha”. Situated atop a hill right on the coastline, you get a stunning view of the bay and it’s local fishing village from high above. There are no admission fees but do think about wearing appropriate clothing.
We rented out an e-scooter for the ride there and, with the exception of that last steep incline, the journey through the fishing village was easy. The last part was so steep that Kathi had to dismount because the e-scooter wasn’t powerful enough enough to carry both of us. You can park scooters just before the Buddha and walk the last few hundred metres.
As a habit of fact, there are some very strange and rather contradictory stories about the Buddha. One local, who was very proficient in English, told us that the Buddha was established one year before the devastating 2004 tsunami. The fact that Ngapali escaped the worst of the disaster, as shared by the locals, is something they pray and give thanks to the holy Buddha for its protection. On the other hand, however, we read somewhere that the Buddha was actually built in 2008 and ever since, has protected Ngapali from natural disasters. Who knows what the real story is? Either way, the panoramic view from up there is fantastic and we really enjoyed our trip up to the Mountain Buddha.
4. Our Restaurant Tips in Ngapali
In Ngapali we preferred to eat at the beach front, as the restaurants are all rather reasonably priced, the food tastes fantastic and the sea view is, of course, brilliant. Generally speaking, the restaurant offers here in Ngapali are very, very homogeneous, which means that the price ranges and menus are similar between the restaurants.
Sunset View Beach Bar & Restaurant
We got to try out a few beach restaurants and we enjoyed them all very much, however, the “Sunset View Beach Bar & Restaurant” was hands down our favorite. The egggplant curry with coconut milk was mouth watering! The restaurant is also very reasonably priced, usually only paying about 10,000 kyat (6 euros) for the both of us.
The “Sunset View Beach Bar & Restaurant” is located in the northern section of the main beach right in the “restaurant mile”. (Here there are several restaurants lined next to each other.)
Tip: There are more than one “Sunset View Restaurants”, as strange as that sounds, so watch out for the “original” one!
Htay Htay’s Kitchen
Along the main street we can recommend Htay Htay’s Kitchen. There we were one of the rare tourists among a crowd of locals having a great meal.
Ngapali Coffe House
An insatiable desire for good coffee had been nagging at us for days, so we couldn’t say no when we drove past Ngapali Coffee House. It’s part of Pleasant View Resort located just off the main street.
5. Our accommodation in Ngapali
Accommodation on the beach vs. Accommodation along the main street
Could you imagine a more comfortable way to spend your holidays than to stay somewhere right on the beach? Here, you’ll find yourself spoilt with choice! There are plenty of accommodations across both beaches here in Ngapali, most of which have direct beach access and also private pools. The disadvantage: prices are usually well above the Myanmar average. We are told that the price setting is regulated by the state so as to avoid “mass tourism” demand when prices are set too low. Whether this is true or not, we can’t say, but it does sound feasible.
An alternative to the beach hotels are the cheaper guesthouses, which are located two or three streets behind without direct beach access. Here you might be lucky enough to find a nice double room for only 25 euros per night. The disadvantage is of course no direct beach access and also lack of beach chairs, which unfortunately also can’t be rented on the beach.
Despite its drawbacks, we decided on a guesthouse – May 18 Guesthouse and we were very content with it. Although the rooms did lack some storage space, overall it proved to be very comfortable and clean. The bathroom was fine and the breakfast was to satisfaction. The owner was incredibly helpful and gave us heaps of good advice. The beach is only a mere five minutes walk from the guesthouse. Verdict: We would totally come back!
6. Getting around the area
Since most travellers hardly ever leave the beach and more or less stay within walking distance of the area, options for transport of any sort is rather limited. But we were insistent on exploring and seeing more of the surroundings, so we rented out an e-scooter with an hourly rate. And just like in Bagan, nowadays, Ngapali rents e-scooters almost exclusively to tourists. Not that it makes much of a difference on the road, however, it does lack “power” when it comes to steeper uphill sections, which makes it rather difficult for us at times, especially with two people.
The price rates for e-scooters here are relatively high in comparison to those in Bagan. By most rental providers, it costs around 3,000 kyat per hour, so roughly 2 euros. Whereas in Bagan, it only cost us 5,000 kyat to hire out a scooter for the entire day! When renting in Ngapali, we didn’t have to show a driver’s license, nor hand in our passport, pay a deposit or even fill out a form. We were only asked for our accommodation.
By the way, driving around Ngapali with a scooter is totally doable as traffic is not that busy and it doesn’t take long to get to places.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the e-scooters, open shared taxis might be a good option. However, they are rather scarce here, sometimes you’ll see them waiting in front of restaurants and hotels for customers. So if you’re planning a trip (eg. to the mountain Buddha) and don’t want to ride a scooter, then it’s probably best to hire a private driver.
7. Getting to Ngapali
We decided to travel by plane and would highly recommend this. Since we came from Inle Lake (Heho Airport), the flight to Ngapali didn’t even take an hour. We paid 90 euros for the flight with Air KBZ Airline.
The airport (Thandwe Airport) is located almost directly on the beach and thus, is perfectly accessible. Depending on the location of your hotel, it should only take between 5 and a maximum of 15 minutes to reach your destination – and price-wise, we paid 7,000 kyat for our transport.
However, this airport only flies to domestic destinations, which includes Yangon, Mandalay and Nyaung U (Bagan).
Most of the aircrafts flying the domestic journeys are small propeller machines (such as the ATR 72). We tested several airlines within Myanmar and found no significant differences. We felt safe and content. One could say they left a rather good impression on us :)
Have you ever been to Ngapali Beach? How was your experience? Leave us a comment below – we’re always happy to hear from you!