Salty air. Waves lapping rhythmically against the shore. Birds playing in the surf. You know, like this. Ahhh … heaven. Don’t you wish you were there right now?
Well today, you’re going to get as close as possible! We’re taking a virtual vacation to the beach. And unlike the real thing, airfare is free, there’s no sand to get in your mouth or shake out of your shoes, you’ll never get a sunburn, and no seagulls will sneak off with your food!
On your virtual trip to the beach, we’ll be guiding you through a visit to some of the best beach destinations in the world. You’ll explore tucked-away islands, swim with whale sharks, and even try cliff diving (because virtual adventures are completely risk-free!)
We’ve also included tips to make your virtual vacation as immersive as possible, starting with that track we linked in the first paragraph -- turn it on now if you haven’t yet!
If you watch all of the videos we included in this post, your beach vacation will take the better part of a nice, long, relaxing day.
- Technical Note: some of the videos don’t have a title image and will show up as a black square or a weird gray cassette tape, but they should all work just fine when you click play!
Table of Contents
We also have a Podcast episode all about Bali! Monkey thieves, temples, Jeremy crashing a motorbike into a tree, and coffee made from … er, poop. Lia and Jeremy are talking about the breathtaking island of Bali, including all of the must-dos and please-do-nots.
Listen above or just click here to launch your Podcast app! Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes.
Psst: Looking for more beachy posts, or planning a trip to a real beach? Check out some of our other posts!
- What to Pack for a Beach Vacation
- The Perfect 3-day Itinerary for Maui, Hawaii
- The Best 2-Week Itinerary for Bali, Indonesia
Tips for your Virtual Vacation
When you’re craving an escape, just looking at photos isn’t enough. So we’ve also included musical cues and videos to help trigger the parts of your brain that produce realistic memory and serotonin in response to sensory input. Basically: we’re sciencing you to the beach.
To help your brain get on board, we have a few more tips to make your virtual trip more realistic:
Add a smell trigger
We’ve got sound and sight taken care of, but a smell trigger will really help your virtual vacation feel immersive and realistic.
If you have an ocean or beach scented candle, light that now. You can also use incense for spiritual Bali, or just something coconut-scented for a tropical vibe.
Or, just go grab a tube of your favorite sunscreen (the one you always pack in your beach bag) and slather it on -- the scent will produce strong feelings of beachy nostalgia!
Pack a lunch (for the beach)
What do you usually eat at the beach? Eating your favorite vacation-only foods will bring you right back to your favorite beach vacations (it’s science!), so pack yourself a lunch with your favorite beach vacation snacks. Even frying up some fish can trigger that scent-activated memory!
For me, a ham and cheese sandwich with mayo and mustard brings me back to childhood trips to the beach; shrimp cocktail with saltine crackers and salted green mango takes me to our honeymoon in Cartagena; ice cream sandwiches conjure up summer days by the pool; and a fish taco sends my husband back home to California’s Central Coast, where he grew up.
Don’t forget the drinks
What’s a beach vacation without a cold drink? Stock up on whatever you like to drink on vacation to hydrate yourself into beachy bliss. Sidenote: is it just us, or does Coke always tastes better on the beach?
Also, if you need enabling: YES, this is the PERFECT time to bust out your blender and whip up some margs -- or at least one of these classic tropical cocktails. 2pm on a Sunday? You’re on vacation, baby! It’s 5 o’clock on island time! Also: legal recreational …enhancements are appropriate and helpful, too.
Ahem: not quite ready for all that? How about a tropical smoothie made with coconut milk, pineapple, and mango instead? Honestly, literally anything blended with banana, pineapple, coconut, and -- if you can find it -- guava, apricot nectar, or passion fruit will taste like you’re on an island somewhere.
You can also blend milk and your favorite ice cream or sherbert to whip up a quick milkshake at home.
Set the scene
We recommend pulling this post up on the biggest screen possible -- say, your living room TV -- and setting the scene around you.
Put a couple of towels down on the ground and scatter that decorative bowl of seashells around you. Grab your tropical houseplants and arrange them nearby (monsteras are excellent for this purpose).
Have some souvenirs from your favorite beach vacations? Use those, too! But out sombrero you picked up in Mexico, that sarong you bought in Hawaii, and that woven purse you snagged in Bali.
Dress for the part
It’s hard to feel beachy if your house is freezing and you’re bundled up in your PJs, so crank the heat up (you’re on vacation, it’s ok!) and throw on your favorite cozy beach cover-up or bathing suit and your favorite sandals.
Mist yourself with sea salt
It might sound wacky, but we recommend spraying yourself with a sea salt spray! You can use a spray like this on your hair, or just mix sea salt and water to spray yourself down.
The feeling of salt on your hair and skin -- as if you were just out of the ocean -- and the smell of the salty spray will trigger sensory cues in your brain and make your virtual vacation feel more real.
Now that you’ve primed your brain to transport you to the beach, let’s take a trip! You hop on a short sunset flight to the first destination of your virtual beach vacation!
Virtual Vacation to Hawaii
You’ve arrived in Hawaii! Which island? Doesn’t matter! You’re going to all of them, because in a virtual vacation, geography doesn’t apply and air travel is free and totally sustainable. Shaka brah!
But in case you’re wondering, you’re starting in Maui.
When you touch down in Maui, Hawaii, you’re greeted with beautiful traditional Hawaiian music.
First things first: you head to your favorite cafe in Laheina for a creamy iced coffee. And a pineapple, because there’s a stack of them right outside and when in Maui, you can’t NOT get a pineapple.
You’re feeling amped up from that coffee, so you decide to walk it off with a nice long stroll down the Wailea Beach Path.
You’ve still got caffeine buzzing through you when you walk past a sign: “Cliff-jumping adventure! Risk-free or your money back!”
It seems perfectly legit, and hey, you’re on vacation, right?? So you swallow down your anxiety, throw up the shaka, hop in the back of some guy’s pickup truck, and find yourself staring down an 80-foot drop into the water below…
Whew, what a rush! You’re ready for something a little less high-adrenaline.
Your new cliff-jumping friends offer to give you a ride to Oahu in their helicopter. Isn’t that nice? So you hop into a helicopter and take off to soar over the palm trees and lush mountains of Kaui.
They drop you off back at your resort. It’s finally time to hit the beach! You head down the shore on the Kaanapali Beach walk.
Ahhh, you made it to the beach!
You take a nice long walk down the beach. So long, in fact, that you end up strolling along the coast in Oahu. Remember: virtual vacation geography doesn’t exist!
You sit and relax, watching the waves roll in and maybe doing some yoga or stretching, because beach you is very zen!
After a nice long break at the beach, you head to the Feast at Lele to enjoy a sunset luau.
You wish goodnight to Maui. Then, you hop right on a plane to your next destination …because on this virtual vacation, you don’t need sleep! Sleep is for reality.
Virtual Vacation to Bali, Indonesia
You hop off the plane in Bali and hear beautiful traditional Balinese Gamelan music playing.
The wafting smells of incense and Canang Sari fills the air as scooters fly past you.
Speaking of scooters, they’re the best way to travel in Bali! You pick one up at a rental shop near the airport and hop on for a self-guided scooter tour of Bali.
Lucky for you, riding a scooter is just as easy as riding a bike. So you definitely don’t crash it into a tree, like we did the first time we rented a scooter in Bali.
On your scooter, you drive all over Bali, taking in the sights. You visit temples and rice fields and markets.
… and then you do another virtual Bali tour, because the first one was so good!
You stop in Ubud to eat at a local warung, and order a fresh coconut and a plate of Nasi Campur.
As you’re eating, a family of monkeys calmly relaxes in a corner. Unlike most of the monkeys in Ubud, these monkeys are friendly -- they don’t try to attack you, steal all of your belongings, and run away with your food. In Virtual Bali -- unlike real Bali -- you don’t have be afraid of all those adorable monkeys!
Since you’re in Ubud, the cultural center of Bali, you visit the Royal Palace to watch one of their daily traditional dance performances.
You didn’t understand most of it, but it was beautiful!
But listen: enough eating and enjoying local culture. You came to Bali for one reason, and one reason only: beaches! And monkeys. And food. And temples. OK, you came to Bali for a few reasons.
But mostly beaches!
So you hop back on your scooter and high-tail it straight to the coast.
Ahh, you’ve arrived! The eastern coast of Bali is the jumping-off point to several of Indonesia’s beautiful islands, namely the Gili Islands and the Nusa Islands.
You hop on a boat and head to Nusa Penida. Nusa Penida is a lush island filled with private coves and pockets that are difficult to get to.
Luckily for you, your scooter also has a flight mode. So you take off on a flying scooter ride of Nusa Penida, leaving realism behind!
Wheee, flying scooters are the best way to fly! You take another lap around the Nusa Islands (ahem: yes, we know, “Nusa” actually means islands, but it sounds weird to be like “the Nusas” so … anyway, oh look, a flying scooter!).
Finally, you head back to your villa to relax in your infinity pool, which is also on the beach because Bali is amazing (both virtual Bali and real Bali).
You’re not sure whether this villa is worthy of your virtual vacation vibes, because you are a QUEEN and you have NEEDS. So you check out a neighboring villa -- just in case.
This is a pretty sweet villa, but it occurs to you that you don’t actually need a villa, since on your virtual vacation, you have no need for sleep.
So you say goodbye to your villa -- infinity pool, gardens, and all -- and hop on the private jet that just magically appeared outside ready to take you to your next virtual vacation destination ….
Virtual Vacation to Riviera Maya, Mexico
Bienvenido a Mexico! You step off the plane in the Cancun airport to the cheerful sounds of this song, and absolutely nobody hassles you to get into a taxi. Instead, everyone waits calmly for you to approach them.
You drive straight to the coast, enjoying the views of Cancun and that bright blue Caribbean water.
But Cancun isn’t exactly your scene -- you feel like relaxing, not partying! So you hop on a boat and head 15 minutes away to tiny Isla Mujeres.
What a beautiful little island! You take a nice long stroll around the central part of the island, past markets, shops, and restaurants.
One of the best things to do in the Riviera Maya, especially on Isla Mujeres, is to go swimming with the largest fish in the world, the confusingly named Whale Sharks!
You take a snorkeling trip with these giant, majestic, polka-dotted beasts. It is perfectly safe and, unlike our last trip to Isla Mujeres, your tour does not get canceled for high winds!
Isla Mujeres is wonderful, but you want to see more! So you hop on a nearby sailboat, which also flies, and take off on an impromptu tour of the Riviera Maya.
You can’t leave the Riviera Maya without swimming in a cenote! Don’t worry, the water has absolutely no chance of making you sick and ruining your virtual vacation.
You’re not quite ready to say goodbye to Mexico, so you grab a couple of street tacos to go and take one last trip around the Riviera Maya.
As the sun sets over the Caribbean sea, you say goodbye to Mexico.
Luckily, your next destination isn’t too far away, and the water is just as vibrantly blue….
Virtual Vacation to San Blas, Panama
On the Caribbean Coast of Panama, the San Blas Islands -- actually named Kuna Yala -- are a chain of teeny tiny islands owned all and inhabited by the Indigenous Guna people.
You’ll be visiting the islands sustainably with an Indigenous-owned and run tour provider. In real life, your tourism dollars would help to preserve the culture and way of life of the local Indigenous people, but since this is a Virtual Vacation, you’ll be supporting the locals via the less tangible benefits of education and awareness instead. Yay, ethical virtual tourism!
The Gunas are your hands-off hosts, and they’ve provided plenty of activities for you to enjoy and experience their beautiful home.
The activities are as follows: swimming, snorkeling, relaxing. Oh, and eating freshly caught fish.
You find a hammock, lay back, and relax. Now THIS is a beach vacation!
During your stay in Guna Yala, you are staying in a tiny, rugged beach hut. No villas here -- this is remote beach isolation at its finest! Your hut has only a bed with a mosquito net, and a little private balcony just steps away from the ocean.
When you sleep, you can hear the waves lapping the shore, so close it sounds like they’re directly underneath you.
The island shares showers, bathrooms and one single strip of power outlets. There is only electricity for a couple of hours a day.
For the first day or two you charge your phone, but as time goes on, you don’t bother. Instead, you read, recharge, and relax.
You feel completely isolated from the world, and it is wonderful.
Each morning, you hop in a boat and visit a new island. Each island is exactly as beautiful and remote as the last one.
In the afternoon, you explore your home island and discover a dock on the other side of the beach, next to a volleyball net.
You also find a small shop selling traditional Mola textile art handmade by the Gunas.
Each morning you wake up, take long relaxing walks on the beach, swim, relaxing in a hammock, snorkel, and feast on fresh fish prepared by your gracious hosts in the communal cafeteria hut.
And so you spend many happy days.
Happy days turn into happy nights and long sunset walks on the beach.
Very, very long sunset walks.
Eventually, your virtual trip comes to an end, as all things do.
As you board a boat back to Panama City to catch your flight back home, you feel sad that the journey is over, but grateful that you have such vivid memories to slip back into when you need to. And you can always come back when you most need an escape. The waves will be here, waiting for you!
Your plane takes off from Panama City and carries back towards home, relaxed and rejuvenated from your virtual vacation.
Did you enjoy your virtual vacation to the beach? Which destination did you like best: Hawaii, Bali, Mexico, or Panama?
Psst: Looking for more beachy posts, or planning a trip to a real beach? Check out some of our other posts!
- What to Pack for a Beach Vacation
- Isla Mujeres, Mexico Travel Guide
- 25 Things Nobody Tells You About Bali, Indonesia
Did you enjoy your virtual trip? Save it to revisit later on Pinterest!