Ngapali (pronounced Napally and said to be named after the Italian city of Naples) is Myanmar’s premier beach destination. Located on the Bay of Bengal coast in Rakhine State, its main feature is an idyllic stretch of white sand and palm tree-lined coast, with a number of resorts spread out next to traditional fishing villages.
There are also some new hotel developments on the beaches nearer the airport (which is named Thandwe after the nearby inland town, but is in fact located closer to Ngapali – about six kilometres north of the main beach).
Activities around the Ngapali beach
Ngapali is about relaxing and enjoying the sun, but other activities include taking trips on local fishing boats; kayaking; snorkelling or scuba diving amongst the brightly coloured fish; and cycling or motorbiking down the beach and around some of the local villages.
To find out more about water sports, go to the Ngapali Water Sport Centre website. Ngapali also has an 18-hole golf course which is located between the main beach resorts and the airport. Surfing is possible during the monsoon season, which is the quietest time of year in Ngapali. This can be a lovely time of year to visit, but the choice of hotels is restricted – and it can rain for extended periods of time. Also, swimmers should be aware that currents can be dangerously strong at this time of year.
Fishing villages in Ngapali
Along the beach, south of the hotels, is the fishing village of Jate Taw (Gyeik Taw), which offers a slice of local life that is quite different from the immaculately groomed resorts of Ngapali (and may be in danger of being consumed by the construction of more hotels). Further south, in the next bay, you will witness traditional rural Myanmar existence, as yet largely unaffected by modern development.
The first fishing village is about two or three kilometres down the beach from the main stretch of hotels (the distance depends on which hotel you are staying at), and can be reached by foot. To explore further south into the next bay, it is advisable to hire a bicycle (around K2000/hour), motorbike (around K3000/hour) or take it in as part of a fishing boat tour. These can be arranged through your hotel.
Boat tours, bike tours and hot air ballooning
On boat tours you can ask to go to the fishing villages; islands just off the coast; go snorkelling; or visit a large hilltop Buddha at the far end of the bay to the south of Ngapali, which offers panoramic views over the bay and out to sea. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also reach the Buddha by bicycle or motorbike. You will need to continue all the way through to the end of the bay to the south of Ngapali’s main beach, and then up the hill – and bear in mind that the final section is fairly steep and rocky! The Buddha can be seen from the entire bay, so the direction is clear.
To get the best possible views of Ngapali and the surrounding coastline, you can take to the skies in a hot air balloon; price is US$275 per person and you can book your trip by clicking on the button on the right side of this page (the ballooning season in Ngapali runs from the end of November to mid-March). Half-day and full-day rafting tours and cycling tours with good quality mountain bikes and guides are also available in the Ngapali area.
If you fancy some time away from the beach, the town of Thandwe (called Sandoway in colonial times) has a number of pagodas and a busy market that make it worth a visit. It is located seven kilometres inland from Ngapali.
Food and restaurants
Unsurprisingly, one of the delights of Ngapali is its delicious fresh seafood, including fried squid, king prawns, lobster, snapper, barracuda, fish curries and more.
Most hotels have beach view restaurants that are open to everyone, and at lunchtime a fun (and cheap) option is to head to the independent beachside restaurants centred around Angel Bar and Restaurant, which can be found at roughly the midway point of the main beach. Just off the coast to the south of Ngapali, Pearl Island is a charming spot where giant lobsters are served up at a restaurant with sun canopies that line the beach.
There are also dozens of restaurants, as well as art and souvenir shops, that line the main road parallel to the beach – with the biggest clutch situated just north of Silver Beach hotel.