The Top 6 Totally Sublime Beach Escapes in Egypt

February 17, 2020

Sunrise Montemare Resort Sharm El Sheikh Egypt

Above: Sunrise Montemare Resort, Sharm El Sheikh

Of all the alluring travel destinations in the world, Egypt might already be on your bucket list. If it's not, let us share with you 9 reason why it should be. And yes, the pyramids and temples built by the ancient Egyptians are a jaw-dropping marvel of humankind, but Egypt's natural wonders are just as mind-blowing. Bordering both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, Egypt's total coastline is 1,150 miles - longer than California and Oregon combined. But unlike the American west coast, Egypt's beaches are mild and warm, with no shortage of soft sand and clear blue waters for every budget and every type of vacationer.


The North Coast

North Coast Egypt

North Coast Egypt
Clockwise: North Coast beaches,  Sachi by the Sea and Rixos  Alamein 

Known to locals as "Sahel," this massive stretch of land along the Mediterranean is a heavenly playground for affluent Egyptians, featuring the North Coast's infamous soft, white sand and clear, turquoise waters. Luxurious beach homes inside private compounds and full-service resorts sit side by side, all competing to be the spot for discerning summer vacationers. Its seasonal residents range from families to diehard party people, local celebs and occasional performances from pop stars like Jennifer Lopez.

Budget: $$$$

Unlike the rest of Egypt, the North Coast is on the higher end of the budget spectrum, so any bargain deals you might find will feel a bit shabby or rundown.

Where to stay:

Sharing a beach with Marassi, one of the North Coast's most exclusive compounds is Al Alamein hotel. Azure waters and white sandy beaches complement the modern blue and white decor of this Mediterranean beach resort. With premium service and facilities, this dream vacation can be yours for about $500 per night, per double room. Mirage Hotel Sidi Abdel Rahman is another gorgeous place to kick off your beach-loving North Coast experience, including chalets with a separate seating area and kitchenette. It's perfectly located for easy access to other North Coast destinations, and rates are about $350 per night. If an unknown relative died and left you a hefty inheritance, Rixos Alamein is an uppity 5-star resort with a swanky beach, indoor and outdoor pool, 6 restaurants, 7 bars, and a full-service spa. Booking a single night will set you back about $740 for two people, all meals included. Air Bnbs are growing in popularity but can be very hit or miss. Look out for places at Hacienda, Marassi, or Bianchi. Or better yet, if you have a local friend, now is the time to call in a favor.

Top things to do:

Egypt's trendiest crowd can be found drinking, dancing, and munching at late night spots like Sachi by the Sea, The Lemon Tree, La Bodega, and Rituals. Be warned, guest lists are a real thing in the North Coast, so make friends with someone on the beach, and they might let you get in under their name. For a more chilled out vibe, grab a casual bite and a shisha at one of M Porium Marassi Mall cafes.

When to go: 

Summers on the North Coast are hot and sunny from May to September, but June through August is the best time to go as most restaurants and bars shut down in the off-peak months, except the ones inside the hotel resorts which stay open year-round.

Sharm El Sheikh

Sunrise Monteare Resort Sharm El Sheikh Egypt

Above: Sunrise Montemare Resort, Sharm El Sheikh

In its heyday, Sharm El Sheikh was the Mykonos of Egypt. Famously popular with European vacationers, this Sinai hotspot was synonymous with the country's biggest party scene. While the atmosphere itself has mellowed out with the expansion of other vacation destinations, the beauty of Sharm El Sheikh's beaches and marine life are unparalleled in Egypt. If you're down for a one-stop-shop resort vacation, Sharm El Sheikh has got you covered.

Budget: $$$

While it's not the cheapest destination, you'll get a good bang for your buck. With quality resorts as well as easy access to water activities, desert safaris, or just plain chilling in the clear blue sea, you won't feel ripped off.

Where to stay:

Of all the top reviewed resorts in Sharm El Sheikh, Sunrise Montemare Resort is peaceful, tranquil, and amazingly priced at $100 per night. Did we also mention it's adults only? For those of you with kiddos, fear not, Sunrise Arabian Beach Resort is similarly priced and has all the bells and whistles of a blissful beach haven and an on-site kids club for age-appropriate games and activities. For a special occasion splurge, head to the Four Seasons Sharm El Sheikh where you'll be pampered with an absurd arsenal of amenities like chilled towels and hydrating face spritzers on their immaculately manicured beach, all for $400 a night.

Top things to do:

If you're into diving or snorkeling, you'll get a little light-headed from all the incredible options to choose from. Almost every hotel beach has stellar reefs right off the shore with colorful coral, sea turtles, dolphins, and a rainbow of exotic fish. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. National Geographic named the S.S Thistlegorm one of the World's Greatest Scuba Diving Spots, and Ras Mohammed is considered an underwater mecca inside avid diving circles. Back on land, desert safaris on 4-wheelers take you deep into the mountains for incredible sunset views. For hikers and history buffs, take a trip to Saint Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, one of the world's oldest active monasteries and the famously religious location of the Old Testament revelation. This UNESCO World Heritage site is accessible via organized tours or, for the more adventurous, experience a sunrise hike. Your hotel will gladly arrange a trip.

When to go:

Located on the very southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, Sharm El Sheikh is best enjoyed in the spring and fall. Even the locals avoid the sweltering heat of the summer if that's any indication. Winter months are mild and pleasant, but the water will be a tad chillier. 

Dahab

Snorkeling the Blue Hole in Dahab, Egypt

Above: Snorkeling the Blue Hole in Dahab, Egypt

If you tend to roll your eyes at fist-pumping beach parties and house music, head to Dahab, where the mood is uber casual and blissfully low key. This mellow beach town shuts down around midnight in favor of early mornings, where the waters host some of the best snorkeling and diving sites in the world. Teeming with beautiful coral and colorful marine life right off the beach, Dahab is perfect for beginners or casual explorers. For experienced scuba divers and free divers, head to the notorious Blue Hole, a massive sinkhole off the beach dubbed the "Underwater Cathedral," known for being equally stunning and potentially deadly... mwa ha ha ha! But seriously, even if you're certified with a million hours in your logbook, join a trained guide who will make sure you get in and out safely.

Budget: $$

Dahab's unpretentious, laid back vibe is easy on your wallet, with pleasantly affordable accommodations, food, and drink options.

Where to stay:

Jimmy Hotel Dahab is a prime choice, located steps from the beach, and an easy walk to the town's lively main street. The owner, Jimmy, is affectionately dubbed the major of Dahab, and he will bend over backward, making sure you have a rad time at the hotel or on one of the many excursions they organize. Comfortable rooms with AC, a pool, and beautiful outdoor seating are a steal at $50 per night. Dahab Paradise offers many of the same amenities at the same price for a more secluded option, with its own private beach across the street.

Top things to do:

Diving and snorkeling are Dahab's top activity with tons of reputable dive centers that offer classes and trips and rent out gear for daily use. The Lighthouse district is Dahab's central hub for food, drinks, and shopping. Relaxing beach cafes with reclining sunbeds are the place to be during the day where you can hop directly into the water for a quick dip between a cold beer and afternoon snacks. If you're looking for a no-frills dive bar (tempting, but no pun intended), head to the rooftop of Churchill Pub. Outdoor excursions are plentiful and well worth your time. Take a camel ride along seaside cliffs to the Blue Lagoon and watch the sunset or hop on a 4-wheeler bike into the mountains and dine with the Beduins

When to go:

The summer heat in Dahab is rather intense and best avoided in June, July, and August. Optimal months for warm days and breezy evenings are April, May, October, and November. 


Ras Shitan

Ras Shitan Nuweiba Beach Egypt

Above: Sleepy hammocks at Ras Shitan's beach camps

If there ever was a hippie beach town in Egypt, this is it - although it's not so much a town and more of a collection of minimalist eco beach camps right along the water. Picture thatched roofs made of palm fronds, colorful rugs, and floor cushions against the dramatic backdrop of the Sinai mountains. The water is clear, calm, and warm with friendly marine life swimming peacefully about. If you're looking for a party, look elsewhere. If you want to enjoy some peace and quiet with a little puff puff pass, you've come to the right place.

Budget: $

Planted right along the sand, steps from the water, this serene paradise could be yours for as little as $20 per night for the most rustic accommodations that still have four walls and a roof. Got your camping gear? Some places will let you pitch your tent on their beach for even less.

Where to stay:

For an authentic Ras Shitan experience that will earn you approving nods from the locals, book a room at New Moon Island Camp for $30 a night. Or if you prefer the extra creature comforts, Nuweiba Lodge or Nakhil Inn are go-to options, both around $50 a night.

Top things to do:

Going on a vacation in Ras Shitan is more about enjoying the camp's atmosphere, but for those looking to change it up for a day, head to Castle Zaman. The food at this mountain top restaurant is slow-cooked for hours before its ready, so you'll have to pick your menu choice in advance when you book your table. Whiling away the time isn't a problem though, they've got their own natural saltwater pool to laze around in with dramatic cliffside views of the sea.

When to go:

With temperatures that can reach over 100 F in the summer,  Ras Shitan is most enjoyable in the shoulder months of April, May, September, and October. 


El Gouna and Sahl Hasheesh

Sahl Hasheesh Beach and Le Maison Bleue Hotel El Gouna EgyptAbove: Sahl Hasheesh Beach, below: Le Maison Bleue Hotel in El Gouna Egypt

If modern luxury and laid back beach living had twin babies, they would be the neighboring towns of El Gouna and Sahl Hasheesh. Located on the Red Sea about 6 hours from Cairo, you too can sample the high life at a somewhat reasonable price tag. The beaches of Sahl Hasheesh are calm and tranquil, while El Gouna offers some of the best kite-surfing in the region. If you want to drop an extra few bucks, rent a jet ski or spend the day aboard a private yacht. Better yet, visit in September for the El Gouna International Film Festival and support the region's burgeoning film scene between days at the beach sipping fruity cocktails with international celebs.

Budget: $$$

For a high-end experience, both in quality and aesthetics, El Gouna and Sahl Hasheesh are reasonably priced with a wide range of options to satisfy most budgets.

Where to stay:

A highly developed ex-pat community means you'll find some great, reasonably priced places to rent on Air Bnb, especially in the more established town of El Gouna. If you want to kick up your Instagram a few notches, check into La Maison Bleue for a cool $300 a night or opt for the Middle Eastern-inspired Oberoi Beach Resort for $170.

Top things to do:

Mahmeya Island is a popular all-day getaway via a one-hour boat ride from the central city of Hurghada. When you're ready to peel yourself off your beach recliner, head to El Gouna Cable Park Sliders for an afternoon of wakeboarding (all levels welcome) or go sailing with Ocean Diva Catamaran Cruises. For food, wander around Sahl Hasheesh's Old Town or head to El Gouna's Marina for gourmet munchies at Le Garage, Mediterranean bites at MazaGouna or book a table in advance for the ever-popular Swiss themed Chuchichaschtli.


When to go:

Weather-wise, spring and fall are the most ideal, but there's really no wrong time to go to this part of the country. Summers are intense, but the water is still cool enough to feel refreshing, or opt for winter months where you can enjoy the sun by day and a warm fire pit at night.


Marsa Alam

Marsa Alam Egypt

Clockwise: Wild camels roaming the sea, sharks off Elphinstone Reef and crystal clear waters off Marsa Alam beaches

One of Egypt's most underrated destinations, Marsa Alam is a coastal town known for its eco-tourism and wildlife conservation. The locals take great pride in keeping their home clean and safe, coexisting peacefully with their animal friends. Steady tourism has led to an increasing number of high-end developments, so go now before the town's authenticity is undermined by its growing popularity. 

Budget: $$$

Accommodations, activities, and food straddle the line between El Gouna and Dahab, but a range of options means you can fit your Marsa Alam vacation to your allowance.

Where to stay:

There are highly rated digs for every style and budget. Go rustic in minimalist beach huts at Ecolodge Bedouin Vally Camp for $50 a night, enjoy a homestay vibe at Deep Ashri Hotel Apartments for $90 a night or go all out at the luxurious, all-inclusive Gemma Resort where a two-person stay runs for $220 a night.

Where to go:

Head north to the standalone Elphinstone Reef, the most popular dive site in Marsa Alam for an adrenalin-pumping dive with White Tip Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, and Tiger Sharks. Or take it down a notch and drive south for an hour to Wadi El Gemal, the third-largest Natural Park in the Arabian Desert. Covering both land and sea, this nature reserve is home to Acacia Trees, natural mangroves, roaming camels, and the Nubian Ibex. The waters host giant sea turtles, dolphins, and the manatee's favorite cousin, the dugong. For boardwalk dining and entertainment, Port Gharib has all the basics covered.

When to go:

Marsal Alam's southern climate means it will rarely drop below 60 F, even in its coldest winter months of January and February. For pleasant beaching and warmer waters, opt for anytime April - October. 



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