There's nothing quite like a sandy beach and open ocean in the summer to wash away the fatigue of everyday stress. With long, stretching coastlines, Korea offers a variety of beaches for midsummer vacations, each with its own unique personality. The Korea Herald suggests some of the nation's best beaches for relaxation, for crowded fun and for fun experiences.
Quiet seaside paradises
For those seeking a quieter, more relaxing summer getaway, The Korea Herald suggests some of the country's hidden seaside gems.
Suntan at Sageunjin Beach
A quiet strip of sand tucked away on the eastern coast between the cities of Sokcho and Gangneung, Sageunjin Beach is one of the few in Korea where you can focus on nothing other than soaking in sunrays and getting a nice, toasty tan.
Away from the ruckus of yelling children splashing about, Sageunjin beach has been dubbed "the bikini beach," gated off exclusively for those who want to shed their cumbersome clothing and bathe in the sun.
Visitors can rent parasols, lounge chairs and foam mattresses on the spot for 10,000 won ($8.60) each, and also put up tents on the wooden decks that line the shore. Some 200 lounge chairs, 30 wooden benches and 300 parasols are available for rent.
In addition, the area is isolated by a tall fence made of straws and wood, blocking any unwanted glances and allowing beachgoers to enjoy some privacy.
The beach is a rare, unsullied piece of nature that has been closed to the public for the past century, reports say. While throngs of visitors have been flocking for years to the nearby Gyeongpodae Beach, one of the biggest and most popular beaches in Korea, Sageunjin Beach has remained relatively untouched by human hands, keeping its waters sparkling and its sands pristine.
As of 2013, pets are allowed on the beach as well, perfect for those who do not want to leave their furry companions behind during the holidays.
Location: Gangneung, Gangwon Province Inquiries: (033) 640-4925
Rocky scenery at Bunam Beach
At Bunam Beach, small mountains of rocks are scattered along the seashore, making for a ruggedly scenic view. The beach is thus frequented by photographers and filmmakers who want to capture its raw beauty and by skin scuba divers looking for a wild seascape. At the same time, it remains relatively hidden from the vacation map, sought only by those in the know.
Formerly a military base that was closed off to the public, the beach is another natural retreat that has managed to stay untainted and undeveloped. The barbed iron fence is still there, and entry is only allowed until around 6 p.m. on weekdays. The beach is strictly managed and operated by an association in the nearby village, comprising those who are set on preserving the ecological purity of the area.
Location: Samcheok, Gangwon Province Inquiries: (033) 572-3011
Tranquility at Woongcheon Beach Park
Yeosu's most recent man-made beach boasts still waters, a quiet atmosphere and a wide wooden boardwalk perfect for tranquil nighttime strolls.
"The area is becoming one of the nicest neighborhoods in Yeosu," said Park Jae-hong, businessman and longtime resident of the city. "It's still relatively unpopulated, but I expect people will be filling it up sooner rather than later. I often drive up here alone at night to enjoy the sea breeze, or with family and friends for a fun gathering."
A separate grassy area is available for camping, and a handful of families venture to the beach for a barbecue on the wooden decks. A line of new apartments overlook the seaside, creating a peaceful residential area.
Location: Yeosu, South Jeolla Province Inquiries: (061) 690-2114
Beaches with something special
If you love the water but are looking for something more than just sunbathing or making sand castles, these beaches will give you an extra dash of excitement.
Ride the waves at Surfyy Beach (Yangyang Hajodae)
Surf's up! Surfers irritated by many beaches' restrictions on surfing in the peak summer season can head over to the newly opened 33,000-square-meter Surfyy Beach now open in Yangyang's Hajodae Beach. By separating zones for surfers and swimmers, Surfyy Beach resolves the safety issues that lead to restrictions on surfboards on other beaches.
The beach offers surf shops and surfing classes of all levels, as well as an exclusive camping ground with eight recreational vehicles and 100 tents that let you crash right along the water. Campers can bring their own camping equipment if preferred.
At night, the entire beach turns into a big party, with street performances from Hongdae indie bands and a lounge featuring a live DJ. If you're looking for a spot to surf, camp, and party, Surfyy Beach is the best place to be.
Location: Yangyang, Gangwon Province Inquiries: (070) 4279-6678
Walk on water at Busan Songdo Beach
If you're not content with just looking at the ocean from the beach, check out Songdo Beach in Busan. The beach has a brand-new "Sea Walkway" that opened this past June, a 104-meter bridge that stretches from the beach out to Songdo Geobukseom Island.
The bridge stands just 5.5-8 meters above the water, and is designed to make you feel as if you are walking on the water itself. The curving walkway has glass-paneled floors that allow you to peer down into the water as well. An additional section is scheduled to complete construction next February.
The attraction is designed to offer a different kind of experience from the Oryukdo Skywalk, which feels more like an observatory at 37 meters above sea level.
Songdo Beach is a convenient stop for those traveling to Busan. It is just 3 kilometers away from downtown Busan, which has attractions like the Jagalchi Market, and is surrounded by restaurants and hotels. It is known for its beautiful summer scenery, framed by mountains and trees.
Location: Seo-gu, Busan Inquiries: (051) 240-4000
Famous beaches: if you can brave the crowd
For those who want to hit the beach, then do some sightseeing on the side, Korea's most famous beaches have convenient tourist attractions in place. But beware -- it may be difficult to see the sights through the crowds in peak season.
Busan Haeundae Beach
Haeundae Beach is perhaps the most famous beach in all of Korea for vacationers. With rough sand and hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars just a few minutes' walk from the water, it is the ideal place to kick back and relax -- if you don't mind the crowds. Fame comes with huge influxes of tourists every summer that crowd the beach. Foreigners who vacation at Haeundae might be puzzled at first by the sight of countless parasols obscuring the sand from view, also effectively blocking the ocean from a distance.
The parasols, in addition to floating tubes and other beach equipment including swimsuits and beach chairs, can be rented out at booths at the beach's entrance. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of Haeundae is that it is located in Busan, which offers a host of city attractions for those who are looking for a balance between natural and urban tourism.
Location: Haeundae-gu, Busan Inquiries: (051) 749-7614
Gangneung Gyeongpodae Beach
Gyeongpodae Beach is a sand bank sandwiched between two bodies of water -- the East Sea and Gyeongpo Lake. The picturesque beach is in the beautiful city of Gangneung, which also has a forest and old historical sites for a comprehensive tourism experience. In summer, the quiet city becomes packed with visitors who crowd the beach strip.
Gyeongpodae Beach is an excellent destination for those who are looking to enjoy the beach without the lines of parasols or party atmosphere, but still want the conveniences of an established tourist beach complete with banana boats, jet skis, and nearby seafood restaurants.
Gyeongpodae Beach is also the most convenient spot for visitors who want to experience a trip to Korea's east coastline, whose beaches are known for their tranquillity and their tree-lined, park-like atmosphere.
Location: Gangneung, Gangwon Province Inquiries: (033) 640-5129