Some travel the world in search of the best white sand beaches. Then there are those who long to bask beneath the sun with a penguin by their side.
From Hawaii to South Africa, you can find beaches all over the world inhabited by wildlife. These creatures graciously share their homes with tourists while going about their everyday life. They’ll pose for pictures, acknowledge your presence, and happily accept your food (though we strongly advise against feeding them).
In California, we are no stranger to beaches. We grow up learning to surf, quickly become accustomed to salty skin and tangled hair, and live minutes from sand. Yet one thing that’s missing from our vast expanse of coastline are rare forms of wildlife. Whether you’re looking to add an adventure to your bucket list or planning your next trip, these are six of the best beaches to find wildlife.
Monkey Beach | Ko Phi Phi Don, Thailand
Take a short 30-minute boat ride Northwest of Phi Phi Island and you’ll find the hidden cove of Ao Ling (Monkey Bay). This small beach is home to a colony of monkeys who happily share their beach in hopes of getting food or water in return. Be warned that while these monkeys are adorable, they also aren’t afraid to go after what they want and can be hostile. From personal experience, your best bet is to admire them from afar and empty your pockets of anything food-related.
Boulders Beach | Cape Town, South Africa
There are numerous reasons to visit South Africa, but a beach filled with friendly penguins is just the icing on the cake. Protected by the Table Mountain National Park, this beach is clean, safe, and relatively uncrowded. The white sand beaches, warm ocean water, and adorable penguins attract nearly 60,000 visitors a year. To see the baby penguins first frolicking the beach, visit in January. Avoid coming during feeding season in September and October.
Pig Beach | Big Major Cay, Bahamas
It’s common knowledge you might find fish, crabs, and sharks in the ocean. Few people would suspect to swim alongside a pig. Pig beach in Big Major Cay is one of the only places in the world where you will find pigs treading in the ocean and walking along the beach. To get to this uninhabited beach, you’ll need to take a boat from Exuma to Big Major Cay. The pigs are rumored to have been dropped off by sailors who planned to come back and cook them. The sailors never returned, but the pigs survived on excess food dumped from passing ships.
Assateague Island | Maryland & Virginia
The wild horses found on Assateague Island have true grit. They’ve learned to adapt to harsh conditions: limited food, blistering temperatures, occasional storms, and mosquitos galore. Yet these feral animals have managed to make the small island their home for hundreds of years. Local folklore has it that the horses survived a Virginia shipwreck off the coast of Assateague and have called the island home ever since. Regardless of how they came to call the coast of Virginia and Maryland home, be wary. These horses have been known to kick and bite curious visitors who get too close.
Laniakea Beach | Oahu, Hawaii
Oahu’s North Shore is a haven for green sea turtles, swimming in and around the island’s reefs. At Laniakea Beach, or Turtle Beach, many of these turtles come out of the water and explore the sand. Volunteers of the “Show Turtles Aloha” considerately donate their time to monitor the beach and ensure turtles are being properly treated. You may even see red tape around resting turtles, a sign to tourists to let them be. To increase your odds of seeing the turtles of Lanaikea Beach, visit during the summer when the surf is quieter and therefor easier for the turtles to safely navigate.
Teluk Duyung | Malaysia
There are no shortage of monkeys in southeast Asia. Malaysia is no exception and has its own monkey beach located inside Penang National Park, the smallest national park in the world. Teluk Duyung, or monkey beach is just a short boat ride from Teluk Bahang fishing village. A tour boat operator will take you to the beach, where you will need to then hike through the jungle to reach the prize. Just like the monkeys at Monkey Beach in Thailand, the monkeys here are also tame and eager for food. Stay safe and be aware of these feisty little fellows.
Have you been to any other beaches with wildlife? Have any you think I should add to this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!