Soak in the summer at these beach getaways in Korea

by .
Korea Tourism Organization

Editor's note: Summer is here, so check out these great spots and plan on hitting the beach before it's too late!

DONGHAE (East Sea)  Sea of beauty

The East Sea (Donghae, 동해), known for its clear waters and expansive, white sandy beaches, is one of the most popular summer vacation spots in the nation. People come from far and wide to catch the stunning view of the sun rising over the East Sea and most beaches in the area even hold an annual Haedoji (해돋이, Sunrise) Festival. Though these festivals only take place in the wee hours of New Year’s Day, the sight of the sun slowly peeking over the ocean’s horizon is a mesmerizing sight any day of the year.

Sokcho Beach in Sokcho, Gangwon-do Province
Sokcho Beach (속초해수욕장) is well known for the picturesque pine trees that stand proudly along its white sandy coast. One of the perks of this particular beach is that there are many tourist attractions in the surrounding area including Yeongnangho Lake and Mt. Seoraksan (설악산), one of Korea’s most famous mountains.

Given the beach’s range of facilities (parking lots, campsites, and accommodations), Sokcho Beach is a convenient place a weekend trip. Visitors can even rent a pole and go fishing at nearby Jodo Island or walk towards the pier to get some fresh sushi at one of the local fish markets. One of the biggest draws of Sokcho Beach is that it is located only 500 meters from the Express Bus Terminal, making it easy to find for even first-time visitors.
Festivals held at Sokcho Beach include the Haedoji (Sunrise) Festival on January 1 of every year and the Sokcho Beach Festival, held mid-July to early-August of every year.

Beach Stats: Sand: White / Length: 700m / Width: 50m / Area: 29,000㎡
Visitor Facilities: Shower rooms (2) (max. occupancy: 240 each), locker room, RV campsite (about 12000㎡), volleyball court, small soccer field, jokgu (Korean foot volleyball) field, outdoor stage, parking lot (capacity: 300 small cars, 70 large cars), beachside walkway (1.2㎞), & information center (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

Gyeongpo Beach in Gangneung, Gangwon-do Province
Gyeongpo Beach (경포해수욕장) is the largest beach on the east coast and is only about a kilometer away from Gyeongpodae Pavilion (경포대), which is famous for its sunrise view. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of Gyeongpo Beach, however, is its fine powdery sand, which is perfect for romantic barefoot walks along the beach.

Beach activities include banana boating, jet skiing, and waterskiing. For a more relaxed pace, take the Gyeongpo tourism carriage (10,000 won for adults; cash only) around Gyeongpodae for some sightseeing. In addition to the annual Summer Beach Art Festival, held towards the end of July, there are also a number of cultural events and folk performances held throughout the year.

Beach Stats: Sand: White & Powdery / Length: 1.8km / Width: 80m / Area: 144,000㎡
Visitor Facilities: Shower room (80 shower stalls), locker room, campgrounds (2,800 campsites), RV campsite (23000㎡), drinking fountain, & parking lot (capacity: 1,000 cars)

Naksan Beach in Yangyang-gun, Gangwon-do Province
Naksan Beach (낙산해수욕장) is one of the top beaches of Gangwon-do, drawing more than a million visitors each summer. Its sandy beach runs besides clean waters and is bordered by rows of pine trees. In addition to its natural beauty, Naksan also has a variety of convenience facilities such as banana boats and water auto bikes, adding a little variety to the typical beach experience.

The beach is also a top pick for those who are interested in Korea’s traditional culture as it is close to Naksansa Temple and Uisangdae Pavilion, which was built to commemorate Great Monk Uisang. As an added bonus, the pavilion is one of the best places in the area from which to view the rising sun.

Beach Stats: Sand: White / Length: 1.8km / Max. Occupancy: 60,000
Visitor Facilities: Campgrounds, locker rooms (14), shower room (6 buildings), drinking fountain, & parking lot

Guryongpo Beach in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province
Guryongpo Beach (구룡포해수욕장) is about 24 kilometers away from Pohang and 1.5 kilometers from Guryongpo-eup County. The beach is edged by thick groves of pine trees on one side and affords a wide-open view of the coast out towards the sea. Thanks to the gentle slope of the ocean floor and the clean sea water, Guryongpo Beach is a favorite vacation spot for those who like to swim. The beach is also popular among fishermen, many of whom fish at Yeongilman Bay.

Beach Stats: Sand: White / Length: 400m / Width: 50m / Area: 20,000㎡ / Max. Occupancy: 10,000
Visitor Facilities: Shower rooms (2) (max. occupancy: 24 each), locker room, public restroom, drinking fountain, & parking lot (2,200㎡)

SEOHAE (West Sea)  Eco-experiences along the coast

Beaches along the West Sea ((Seohae (서해), Hwanghae (황해) or Yellow Sea)) are easily accessible from Seoul and are therefore extremely popular among citizens and travelers who may not have a lot of time on their hands. The beaches of the West Sea are also great places to catch the sunset and many have tidal flats teeming with small marine life.

Eurwangni Beach in Incheon, Gyeonggi-do Province
Eurwangni Beach (을왕리해수욕장), located near Seoul and the Incheon International Airport, is one of the most representative beaches of the West Coast. Aside from its gorgeous view and white sand, the beach’s shallow water provides the perfect place for children to go swimming. Nearby amenities include a number of lavish resorts and restaurants serving fresh seafood. Having dinner outside on the terrace of one of these restaurants is the perfect way to watch the final rays of sunlight disappear over the horizon, not to mention a great way to impress your date!

Beachgoers can also rent a fishing boat or rent a pole to fish off the side of the pier. The beach holds a sea festival every August with swimming, beach wrestling, and other events.

Beach Stats: Sand: White with shells and rocks / Length: 700m / Max. Occupancy: 30,000
Visitor Facilities: Shower rooms (2), locker rooms (2), drinking fountains (3), restrooms (3), campsites, fields, training center, & parking lot (capacity: 600 cars)

Daecheon Beach in Boryeong, Chungcheongnam-do Province
Daecheon Beach (대천해수욕장) is the biggest beach on the west coast and is known for its shallow and calm waters. The sand at Daecheon Beach is especially soft and easy to wash off because it is composed of tiny bits of eroded shells.

Just a little way down from the beach is Daecheonghang Port, home to a multitude of restaurants serving up succulent seafood. The fresh grilled clams, one of the area specialties, are particularly mouthwatering, especially after a long day of swimming. Visitors to Daecheon Beach also have the added option of taking a short trip to Dabodo, an uninhabited island populated by strangely shaped rocks. In the summertime, a ferry runs regularly from the beach to the island.

Daecheon Beach is also home to one of the most well-known festivals among internationals in Korea—the annual summer Boryeong Mud Festival. In the winter, the beach draws large crowds once again as locals and tourist flock to the shores for the annual winter Sunset Festival.

Beach Stats: Sand: White sand of finely ground shells / Length: 3.5km / Width: 100m / Max. Occupancy: 500,000
Visitor Facilities: Shower rooms (3) (max. occupancy: 90), locker room, campsites, drinking fountain, cooking area, snack bar, parking lot (capacity: 10,000 cars), Mud Experience Center (charges apply), & seasonal tourist information center (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese; open from June to the end of August)

Muchangpo Beach in Boryeong, Chungcheongnam-do Province
Known for its scenic coastal drive, clusters of pine trees, and beautiful sunsets, Muchangpo Beach (무창포해수욕장) is regularly visited by family tourists throughout the year. The beach is particularly famous for what is known as the ‘Moses Miracle,’ a natural phenomenon in which extreme tides reveal the seafloor for only a few short hours two or three times a month (around the 15th and 30th days of the lunar calendar). The exposed sea floor makes a path about 1.5km long that reaches all the way from the beach to Seokdaedo Island. Many visitors stop along the path to gather sea cucumbers, turban shells, and baby octopus. The hours of the sea parting differ each month, so make sure to check the exact time before visiting by calling +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese).

Visitors to the beach may also be able to see traditional fishing in which stacked stone formations rely on tides to catch fish.

Beach Stats: Length: 1.5km / Max. Occupancy: 120,000
Visitor Facilities: Shower room (1), locker room (1), campsite, drinking fountain, & parking lot (capacity: 800 cars)

Byeonsan Beach in Buan-gun, Jeollabuk-do Province
Byeonsan Beach (변산해수욕장), part of the Byeonsanbando Peninsula National Park, is one of the best and oldest beaches of the west coast. The beach (opened in 1933) gets its name from its abundance of white sand (‘baeksa’) and pine trees (‘cheongsong’). Since the waters are warm and only an average of one meter in depth, this particular spot is a favorite for beachgoers who enjoy wading or splashing around in the surf. Campsites and accommodations are located nearby, offering plenty of room for single and family vacationers.

Beach Stats: Sand: White / Length: 2km
Visitor Facilities: Shower room (2), campgrounds, drinking fountain, & parking lot (capacity: 150 cars)

NAMHAE (South Sea) Clear waters & local flavors

There are a countless number of islands (and therefore, beaches) along the South Sea (Namhae, 남해). Each beach has its own local flavor, meaning that there are almost limitless options for visitors willing to travel a little further from Korea’s capital. The South Sea is also home to Jeju Island, a favorite tourist site in Korea. Islands in the South Sea provide visitors with a vastly different experience from those along the east or west coast.

Jungmun Beach in Seogwipo-si
Jungmun Beach (중문해수욕장) inside of the Jungmun Tourist Complex is a unique beach made of a gradient of black, white, red, and gray sand as well as the black volcanic stone that it characteristic of Jeju Island.

To the right of the sandy beach is a natural cave that was created by coastal erosion. Rare plants flourish near the cave, offering a convenient spot for a little eco-focused sightseeing. The waves and tides can be rather rough along Jungmun so while conditions are great for wind surfing and jet skiing, weak swimmers and young children are advised to stick close to the shoreline under the careful watch of the lifeguards.

The Jungmun Tourist Complex is also home to an aquarium, the Yeomiji Botanical Garden, Cheonjeyeon Waterfall, and examples of the traditional houses of Jeju Island. Various events are held along the beach and in the complex throughout the year.

Beach Stats: Sand: White, black, red, grey / White sand length: 560m / White sand width: 50m
Visitor facilities: Shower rooms (3), locker rooms (3), campgrounds, drinking fountain, & parking lot (cap.: 150)

Hyeopjae Beach in Hallim-eup, Jeju-si
Hyeopjae Beach (협재해수욕장) is one of the best beaches on Jeju for novice swimmers since the waters are shallow with no sudden drops. Tiny shells in the sand give the beach a silver sheen and make for a firm feel that is perfect for long walks along the water’s edge. Once you get into the water, you’ll be pleased to discover that the water is so clear that you’ll be able to look down and see your toes! A pleasant beach with plenty of space, Hyeopjae is all the more beautiful because of the black basalt rocks to one side and the view of Biyangdo Island stretching out in the distance. Overnight visitors to the beach are welcome to set up tents on the sand or in the adjacent grove of trees.

Hallim Park, a major tourist attraction, is only 5 minutes away on foot and is well-worth a visit. Landscaped with an abundance of subtropical plants and topiaries, the park is also home to lava tubes, natural wonders that also serve as a cool escape from the summer heat.

Beach Stats: Sand: White with some small shells / Length: 200m / Width: 60m / Max. Capacity: 6,000
Visitor facilities: Shower room (10) (occupancy: 10+), locker rooms (3), campgrounds (occupancy: 2,000-3,000), police stand (open during beach season only), first aid center, & parking lot (capacity: 177)

Haeundae Beach in Haeundae-gu, Busan-si
Haeundae Beach (해운대해수욕장) is perhaps the most well-known beach in the country, transforming into a sea of red beach umbrellas in the summer months. The waters are shallow and there’s little change in tide. Sand at the beach is rough, which makes brushing yourself off at the end of the day a breeze. Since Haeundae Beach is located right in the city of Busan, it is extremely popular and is always packed with vacationers, so make sure to get there early if you want to grab a spot.

The beach is famous for its view of the sunrise and moonrise as seen from Haewoljeong Pavilion. Haeundae’s Dalmaji-gil Road, which is located between Haeundae Beach and Songjeong Beach, is another recommended spot for a romantic view of the moonbeams glistening off the water’s surface.

Haeundae Beach is also extremely well known for its many cultural events and festivals that are held throughout the year. The Haedoji (해돋이, Sunrise) Festival and Polar Bear Swimming Contest are held in the winter; the Haeundae Sand Festival and Haeundae Beach Festival are held in the summer; and the Busan International Film Festival is held in the autumn.

Yet another attraction of the Haeundae area is its natural hot springs. It is even said that Queen Jinseong of Silla completely recovered from a disease after bathing in one of the area’s hot springs.

Beach Stats: Sand: White, rough / Length: 1.8km / Width: 50m / Max. Occupancy: 120,000
Visitor facilities: Shower rooms (3), locker rooms (3), drinking fountains (3), restrooms (3), & parking lot (capacity: 4,800 cars)

Sangju Beach in Namhae-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
Sangju Beach (상주해수욕장), the biggest beach on the southern coast, has everything a seasoned beachgoer could possibly want: good sand, clear waters and nearby groves of beautiful trees. The unique rock formations and stones scattered along the shoreline (not to mention Mt. Geumsan towering overhead) make this beach look like something right out of a fairytale. The silver-colored sand on the beach is exceptionally soft and seems to beg visitors to take off their shoes and enjoy a barefoot stroll.

In addition to swimming and beach activities, visitors can go hiking in the mountains or in the shoreside pine groves, which are said to be the pride of Sangju Beach. The beach has many tourist facilities including a shopping center and accommodation facilities. On one side of the sandy beach are campgrounds, which are typically frequented by college students and young couples.

Beach Stats: Sand: White / Length: 2km / Area: 20,000㎡ / Maximum occupancy: 120,000
Visitor Facilities: Shower room (maximum occupancy: 400), locker room (1), campgrounds, restrooms, drinking fountain, & parking lot (capacity: 200 small cars)

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