Children clutching brightly colored plastic inflatables splash into the calm waters of Eurwangni Beach, shooting ripples in all directions. Many onlookers lie spread on the golden sand, while others seek tented shelter from the summer sun. All are seeking respite from the urban buzz of South Korean capital Seoul, about 30 miles inland.
Surrounded on three sides by water, South Korea has a number of beaches worth exploring, although they are open only for a couple of months each year: Most officially open in June or July, closing at the end of August. But even if visitors miss this narrow window, watersports, beachside festivals and other events take place along these coastal stretches throughout the year.
On South Korea's west coast, the sandy shores and shallow waters are also blessed with tidal flats rich in marine life. To the east, you'll find vast, white-sand beaches lapped by clear water and spectacular sunrises. Meanwhile, the cluster of islands located off the south coast offers visitors the opportunity to do some exploring.
Here's a roundup of the best places to hit the sand:
Sokcho Beach in Gangwon-do is close to popular tourist sights like the hot springs, Yeongnangho Lake and Seoraksan National Park. Photo Credit: Anne Majumdar
Sandy Sokcho Beach, in Sokcho-si in Gangwon-do, is fringed by lush, green pine trees and is close to popular tourist sights, including the hot springs, Yeongnangho Lake and Seoraksan National Park. Tuck into some fresh sushi at one of the fish markets located down by the pier or grab a rod and catch your own at nearby Jodo Island.
Also located in the northeast, Naksan Beach is close to the Naksana Temple and Uisangdae Pavilion built to commemorate the scholar-monk Uisang.
The shallow waters at Eurwangni make it ideal for kids to take a dip, while the strip's plentiful seafood restaurants add to its appeal.
The gently sloping ocean floor at Guryongpo Beach, about 15 miles from Pohang on the east coast, combined with its clean water makes it a favorite among swimmers. Dense pine forests to one side give it a scenic plus.
The rare plants that cluster around a natural cave at Jungmun Beach on Jeju Island make it ideal for a seaside trip with an eco twist. Photo Credit: Anne Majumdar
Pitch a tent, either on the silvery sand or among the nearby trees, and wake up to the sunrise over pretty Hyeopjae Beach on Jeju Island, set against a backdrop of black basalt rocks and great views of Biyangdo Island in the distance.
The rare plants that cluster around a natural cave created by coastal erosion at Jungmun Beach, also on Jeju, make it ideal for a seaside trip with an eco twist. Weak swimmers and children beware: The water can be choppy, making it popular for windsurfing.
The Polar Bear Swimming Contest at Haeundae Beach. Photo Credit: Anne Majumdar
For festival fun
Popular Haeundae Beach in the city of Busan not only attracts hordes of visitors during the summer months but is a busy spot year-round thanks to its packed calendar of events. Summer sees the Haeundae Sand Festival and Haeundae Beach Festival take center stage, with the Busan International Film Festival taking place here during the fall. When the temperatures really drop, hardy swimmers brave the cold for the Polar Bear Swimming Contest.
If mud-slinging is more your thing, then head for Daecheon Beach on the west coast, where the annual Boryeong Mud Festival pulls fun-seeking crowds in the summer, with many also lured by the winter Sunset Festival.