National Geographic named it the prettiest beach on earth. CNN claims the beach on the opposite side of the island is the best on the planet. My guide swore that the best beach on the island couldn't even be reached by car and was overlooked. So, how do you visit the most beautiful beach on Earth?
First you have to get to La Digue. Then you decide which is the best.
Thirty years ago I saw a poster for the Seychelles islands and was amazed—turquoise water, sugary sand and sculpted boulders that looked more like Hollywood props than something from nature. My trips throughout the years have gotten me almost within reach of this group of islands, but this year I decided to finally travel to the Holy Grail of beaches, Anse Source d’ Argent. I wasn’t disappointed.
Seychelles is in the middle of the Indian Ocean and it’s not cheap to get here. A direct flight from Houston to Mahe, the largest island in the archipelago, will set you back $1,600 minimum. With some flexible planning and creative stopovers like Ethiopia or Mauritius, however, you can knock $400 off the price. Yellow fever cards are required if you’ve been to any country that is considered a risk, as is an onward ticket to show you’re not going to overstay your welcome.
I decided to visit Comoros, Madagascar, and Mauritius all on this same trip and saved a ton of cash since I was already “in the neighborhood." They were all quite different from each other, but there was no contest. Seychelles was my favorite, and I'm glad I saved it for last.
The only town in the Seychelles that’s bigger than a few blocks is Victoria (on Mahe). The international airport is about 15 minutes south of this mini-metropolis and that’s where most visitors arrive. It’s easy to rent a car on Mahe and drive—nothing is more than 30 minutes away. The center of the island boasts mountainous jungles, waterfalls, and winding, steep roads. To the north is the island's most popular beach, Beau Vallon.
There are two options to get to the island of Praslin: plane or ferry. The flight is $70, lasts about 10 minutes, and takes passengers over cobalt seas so clear you can see the reefs below. The other option takes a little over an hour, isn't much cheaper, and definitely isn't for everyone—the seas can get very choppy and even scary. I have pretty good sea legs, but my baggage got wet on the return trip, and there were so many ill passengers, the attendants couldn’t dispense seasick bags fast enough.
Praslin, even prettier than Mahe, has less traffic and is famous for the coco de mer, an endemic palm with odd-shaped fruit that looks like... well, you’ll just have to see for yourself. This plant is so rare, it’s a crime to take its coconuts unless the tree has a special sticker. The fruit takes years to mature, has the largest seeds in the plant kingdom, and is a target for poachers. To see the unusual palm, visit the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve in the center of the island, a UNESCO World Heritage site that protects the plants. It takes about an hour to do the circular trail, but there are lots of stairs, so it’s not amenable to wheelchairs.
The most famous beach on Praslin is Anse Lazio, with a bar and restaurant footsteps away. It’s not cheap to eat and drink in the Seychelles, but wow, what a view.
Giant boulders jut out of the ocean, surrounded by colorful reefs, parrot fish, and sea cucumbers. Curious zebra fish like to nip on you when you stop swimming. Move your fingers around and watch them go into a frenzy. You can find your own secluded spot on the beach, but random busloads of Speedo-wearing octogenarians can suddenly appear, then vanish as fast as they arrived.
Beaches are public, so you can visit any resort you want and use their beach. This is the ultimate travel hack for an expensive destination like Seychelles.
Go to Raffles (for example) and enjoy their perfectly manicured shoreline, order a fancy coconut drink, and pretend like you’re staying in the $800-per-night resort, when you’re actually Airbnbing it. Raffles couldn’t have been nicer about our visit. The same with the Paradise Sun Resort. They welcomed us with open arms and treated us as if we were overnight guests. We stayed at The Bliss Hotel, a gem of a place for around €150 per night.
We still hadn’t made it to the most beautiful beach in the world, though. We had one more island to navigate. To do that, we took the short ferry ride to the nearby island of La Digue.
Hundreds of bicycles make up the island's traffic, as do giant tortoises, who park themselves in the middle of the road, oblivious to anyone who wants to pass. We rented bikes and navigated our way towards the south side. Along the way we passed through a vanilla plantation—coconuts grow so abundantly here, their broken shells are used as mulch for the wiry vanilla vines.
Finally we reached the end of the road. We parked our bikes, walked past the tourist stalls and there we were.
In truth, the trail to Anse Source d’ Argent was as stunning as the beach itself. Emerald green water flowed onto the pristine shore. The sculpted boulders seemed to have been put there by some talented decorator and the sun came out right on cue to show off the world-famous beach. Not only did it look truly amazing, but it was like that moment when you see the Eiffel Tower for the first time. You always knew what it looked like from posters and films, but to actually see it in real life? Wow. There’s a moment of awe when you finally see the place you’ve dreamed about seeing for a lifetime.
There are a couple of juice stands run by pseudo-Rasta guys that will spike your fresh drink with island rum on request. There are hammocks if you wanna hang out in the shade, or you can do what we did: bring a change of white linen clothing and turn your trip into a photo shoot. My only regret is that I hadn’t allocated another day or two on La Digue. The ferry was leaving in a few hours and I had one thing left on my Seychelles bucket list: Try the local specialty: Fruit bat.
To be fair, it’s less of a bat and more of a fox with wings. There’s no shortage of these creatures, and they’ve become a delicacy on the island. There was only one place I could find that served this all year round and it was Chez Jules on the other side of La Digue. We secured a taxi and made it to the restaurant after dodging a few giant turtles and weaving bicyclists. The drive was nothing short of spectacular as one beautiful shore after another came into view.
The fruit bat was served in a fruity coconut curry ironically enough and was delicious. The meat is almost black and one has to navigate around the bones. It feels like you’re eating an alien life form if you look too closely. Better to just imagine it’s a really dark chicken so you don’t get weirded out by its little bat wing skeleton. My friend was having none of it.
Then the taxi came to fetch us, and we caught the last ferry back to Praslin. On the 20-minute ride back, I had to smile. I'd been a little worried I might be disappointed. I'd been to The Maldives, Bora Bora, Phi Phi Island, Fiji and those are tough competition. Is one more beautiful than the other? They’re all stunning in different ways, but I had to agree with NatGeo. Was it worth flying to the other side of the world? Absolutely.