Summers in South Korea can be a sweltering, sticky affair. Lucky, then, that the country boasts ample shorelines where you can cool off and enjoy the warmer climes.
In case you didn’t know, South Korea has a set beach season that starts in early June, when the mercury starts rising, and continues until early September, when temperatures start to drop off. Although you could visit most beaches year-round, the defined beach season means that vendors open up their stores during this time and lifeguards will be keeping watch and water sports will be operational. Beaches in South Korea truly come alive during summertime, with crowds putting up their camping gear, whipping out their gas cookers, and reveling in the sunshine.
This is all to say that Korean beaches are far from a dreary affair — after all, what’s better than knocking back a cold one and nibbling on some tantalizing fried chicken with the waves lapping nearby? With that said, we’ve got your summer vacation all figured out with this list of South Korea’s best beaches.
Shinji Myeongsasimni, Jeollanam-do (신지 명사십리해수욕장)
The fact that a South Korean beach holds a Blue Flag certification (one of only five in East Asia) is testament to the work being done to improve the quality of Korea’s coast. According to the Blue Flag Awarding Body, “a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained” in order to qualify for Blue Flag status.
The beach in question is Myeongsasimni Beach on the island of Shinji, one of the southernmost islands connected to the mainland. It was awarded Blue Flag status in 2019. The shallow waters and gentle tides make it ideal for swimmers of any level, while the wide range of water sports on offer means that thrill seekers can get their fix, too. Apart from its prestigious certification, it truly is a quaint weekend getaway for those who love to dip their toes in the seawater.
Yangyang, Gangwon-do (양양군)
If you live in the northern half of the country, you would do well to check out Surfyy Beach in Yangyang. Situated on the upper reaches of Korea’s East Coast, this sleepy seaside town feels far removed from the manic rush of the large cities. While the area designated as Surfyy Beach is reserved for surfers, swimmers need only take a short walk down the greater Hajodae Beach (하조대해변) to cool off in the water. Daytime revelry makes way for sundowners and snacks at the beach pub as the sun sets. With the smooth tunes spinning in the background, you could almost be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to the Balearic Islands.
It would be remiss of us to leave South Korea’s premier tourist destination off this list; an island that millions flock to every year for its pristine shorelines: Jeju. More specifically, Hyeopjae Beach, set 45 minutes from Jeju City. As one of a few Korean beaches laying claim to fine white sand and turquoise waters, Hyeopjae does attract its fair share of visitors, but that’s not to say that you’ll be jostling for space. At 9 km long, you’re guaranteed to have your own little slice of paradise here, and the nearby Hyeopjaegul and Ssangyonggul caves provide some welcome variety if you’re looking to explore more of the island.
If you aren’t able to make it to the more remote corners of the country for your beach fix, you might want to consider a trip to the largest coastal metropolis, Busan. Busan’s beaches are nothing to sniff at, and Haeundae in particular is a great option for beach bums who fancy a day out getting sun-kissed. Flanked by towering residential apartments, there’s no shortage of attractions here. Visit the sprawling SEA LIFE Busan Aquarium, chow down on street snacks at the Haeundae Market, and indulge fantasies of owning your own yacht at The Bay 101 — a playground for the rich and famous. If none of those sights tickle your fancy then get your tan on and retreat to one of the many bars, restaurants, and izakayas that line the Haeundae strip, as soon as the sun goes down.
Three more great beaches
Other notable beach mentions include Gyeongpo Beach in Gangneung, Yulpo Beach down south in Boseong and Sangju Beach in Namhae. All of these are absolutely stunning and certainly worth a visit if you’re looking to make a beach expedition. With this list of beaches throughout the country, you don’t have to be resigned to dreaming about vacations elsewhere when you have some fantastic shorelines right on your doorstep.