For lesser known destinations, do your research before booking

If you are thinking about booking your first trip to Las Vegas or Cancun or Honolulu, there really isn’t much risk because those places are visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year (or month) and if there were major issues you’d have heard about them. But if you are thinking about visiting a small island or remote beach area somewhere, it pays to do quite a bit of research before you go.

Even in resort areas that seem to be popular, there are surprises to be had. For example, not all Caribbean islands actually have nice beaches, or beaches at all. Even so, many people flock there to go diving or snorkeling or sit by the pool or sit at the outdoor bar, but that might not be your thing.

Belize, as an example

In the past decade or so you’ve probably heard people raving about how Belize is the next big thing in the Tropics. There are a lot of reasons to love the place, but many people are bound to be disappointed. Yes, this is an example of a place where the two most popular Caribbean islands in the country – Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker – have almost no real beaches between them.

Both islands are meant to be surrounded by mangrove forests, which are thick plants that grow right out of the salt water on the coast. They protect the island from the many tropical storms the areas get, but that hasn’t stopped a few resorts from removing the mangroves from part of a beach. What this leaves you with is a plot of sand by the sea, but if you go swimming you’ll be walking on the slimy remains of the plants below.

The Placencia Peninsula in Belize actually does have long sandy (and natural) beaches, but it’s a bit hard to reach and there isn’t much infrastructure there. Both of these areas are perfect for some people, though a poor choice for others, so you need to really investigate before you book.

Ko Samui, Thailand, as another example

Actually, Ko Samui is one of Thailand’s most popular resort islands (behind only Phuket), so you might not worry about booking there yourself, but there are reasons you should. The most popular beach on the island is Chaweng Beach, and on the sand it looks lovely. The resorts lined up on the beach also look lovely, ranging from simple and cheap huts to deluxe 4-star resort hotels. The problem for many people is everything else in the area.

If you were to spend your entire holiday on the beach and going between the resorts, bars, and restaurants on the sand, you might be fine. The problem comes on the road directly behind the resorts, and everything else in town. The area is very ugly with broken sidewalks and large signs trying to crowd each other out of the view.

Worse still, the “nightlife” area behind Chaweng Beach is nothing more than a red light district. This is very common in Thailand, and it’s a fine way for some single men to spend their holiday. But for families it’s quite something else. Most of the rest of the island is not like this, which is why it’s so important to read guest reviews and look at videos and such until you are pretty sure you know what you are getting into.