Going Coastal: Best Beach Hikes Around the World

Last updated April 22, 2024

Are you team mountain or team sea? We say coastal! Grab your hiking boots and get ready to hit the trails. We outline below four of the best beach hikes around the world. 

Picturesque coastlines, plunging cliffs and pebbled beaches. There’s nothing better than a hike with a maritime view. Beach hikes are a great way to explore some of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery imaginable. Whether you’re looking for a day hike or an adventurous trek across multiple terrains, read on for our recommended four beach hikes around the world.

1. GR34 – France

Difficulty Rating: Easy to Moderately Hard

Distance: 1,056 miles (1,699 km)

Average Time to Complete: 71 days

GR34 in France is a sight to behold. Rather, it offers many sights to behold. We’re calling this a beach hike, but in reality, it’s so much more than that. GR34 may more accurately be described as a multi-terrain expedition. 

Experience a range of wild earth while trekking along the French coastline—from sand dunes and sprawling hills to plunging cliffs and cyan waters. From start to finish, hikers can expect to feel like they’ve ventured through different worlds. 

The hike spans close to 1,100 miles (1,700 km) around the Brittany coastline, from Mont-Saint-Michel to Saint-Nazaire. Not up for nearly 400 hours of hiking? No problem. Hop on and off the beach hike trail as you please, as hiking segments span the entire coastline.

The trail has a few names, but is widely known as GR34, referring to Grande Randonnée, meaning a long-distance footpath. You may also hear some refer to it as the Brittany Coast Hike, or Sentier des Douaniers, which translates to the Customs Officers Path. When the path was created in the late 1700s it was patrolled by custom’s officers to prevent smuggling. Hence “Customs Officers Path.”

Regardless of what you call it, one thing’s for sure—it’s a coastal beach hike you won’t want to miss.

2. Kalalau Trail – Hawaii

Difficulty: Hard 

Distance: 22 miles (35 km)

Average Time to Complete: 12h 48m

Ready for an otherworldly experience? If so, it’s time to visit the Kalalau trail in Hawaii. This coastal trail is known as arguably one of the most breathtaking beach hikes across the globe and stretches 11 miles along the Nā Pali Coast of the island of Kauai. The trail leads from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Valley. Out-and-back, you can expect 22 miles of strikingly beautiful Garden Isle views. 

Experience waters painted in cobalt and teal, with sprawling and fresh emerald foliage surrounding the trail. The sights don’t come without a price though. Hikers beware. The views are extraordinary and awe-inspiring, but due to the narrow and jagged terrain, its rocky precipices have deemed it to be one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States. 

This beach hike may not be for the faint of heart, but if you’re experienced, it’s one you can’t afford to leave off your bucket list. Trek with caution, come prepared and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime. 

Rialto Beach Trail, Olympic National Park – Washington 

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 13.4 miles (21.5 km)

Average Time to Complete: 6h 35m

This out-and-back beach trail covers miles of the west coast’s mesmerizing views. The length of the trail spans about 13 miles (20 km), with most of the hike through sandy terrain. But it’s not all smooth sailing, and the Rialto Beach Trail should not be taken lightly.

To the west, rock formations jut out from the violent sapphire waters. Tall, tree covered cliffs line the east. While you’re trekking, take in the beauty and brilliance all around, but beware of what lies ahead. Hikers can expect to face driftwood and boulders head on along the beach.

Head north for Hole-in-the-Wall, a pocketed rock formation ideal for photo-ops. Wintertime gets frigid here so your best bet for an enjoyable beach hike will be between the months of March and October.  For extra mileage, consider heading about 15 miles north to the Ozette Loop to enjoy the forest-covered Lake Ozette.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path – Wales 

Difficulty: Easy to moderately hard

Distance: 186 miles (299 km)

Average Time to Complete: 12-14 days (15 miles per day)

Experience spectacular views of the Welsh coastline by trekking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path that hugs the entire southwestern coastline of the country. This beach hike stretches from St. Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south. 

The beauty of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is its varied coastal scenery—from red sandstone bays to headlands, emerald cliffs, beaches, estuaries and glacial valleys. Hikers that complete the route in full will pass through 58 different beaches along the Welsh coastline.

Similarly to the GR34 path in France, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path comprises many different hiking segments. The trail stretches for nearly 200 miles, so it’s not uncommon for hikers to continue to come back for more and try out different parts of the path. 

Plus, with such scenic diversity, it’s like a new experience every time. Varied geography also calls for varied walkability; sections of the trail can be quite demanding, where others are inviting of all experience levels and abilities. 

Good to know: The National Park Authority offers a free certificate to those who have walked the entire coastal path—no matter how long it takes.

Looking for More Beach Hikes?

Here are a few other popular coastal beach hikes we recommend:

  • Caines Head State Recreation Area in Alaska, U.S.
  • Point Reyes National Seashore in California, U.S.
  • Otter Trail, Garden Route in Eastern Cape, South Africa
  • Tierra del Fuego Coastal Trail in Ushuaia, Argentina
  • Dune Du Pyla in La Teste-de-Buch, France

Every corner of the globe offers its own rendition of coastline beauty—from volcanic headlands in Wales to cobalt Hawaiian waters. So, book your plane tickets, lace up and get ready to experience the extraordinary sights of the world’s best beach hikes. 

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