The Best Beaches in Korea (Close to Seoul)

From the Beaches Florida to the Beaches of South Korea

I hail from another peninsula that is very flat (Florida).  We don’t have hills; we have beaches, and I am very turned on by beaches. Unfortunately, Seoul is not blessed with beaches. Hills and mountains inundate Seoul and South Korea.  This may pleasure the whims of godless Canadian hikers who prefer to worship rocks, trees and rainbows; but, it does nothing for those of us who worship waves, coronas, and frisbees.

This leaves us beach junkies in quite a dilemma. How do we get our fix?  How do we exorcise our Casper?  Where do we go to feel warm, course, sand filter between our toes?  Where do we go for the scent of a salty ocean breeze and the wonderful sensation of the closest star on our shoulders?

The Bad Beaches in Korea

Let me start with places I think you should avoid.  If you want to go to a nice beach, avoid the west coast of Korea.  I’m not picky but I just don’t enjoy mud beaches that look like human cest pools or toxic waste dumps.  Sorry Korea, I’ve said very nice things about your country, but your closest beaches to Seoul suck.  Additionally, I live in Dongdaemun so it takes me close to two hours by subway and bus to reach the closest beach on the west coast.  If I took a direct shuttle to the airport(for 10 bucks), it would still take me an hour to an hour and thirty minutes to reach the ugly beaches.   Of course, if you live closer to Incheon than it certainly makes sense to visit these beaches because they are so close. Contrarily, for 14,000 won you can find yourself within the vicinity of some of the nicest beaches in Korea within 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Avoid Busan

Here’s the huge shocker.  If you want to spend a weekend or day at the beach solely to be at the beach, then avoid Busan.  It is overcrowded, the water is freezing, and the beach is ugly.  It’s also going to take you four to five hours to reach Busan.  As I wrote in an earlier blog,

“As to why Koreans decided to make Busan their official beach city is beyond reason.  Don’t get me wrong, Busan has other redeeming qualities but their beaches look like pig dirt bordering upon a muddy, frigid lake.  I’m reminded of an ugly couple who found each other and know they belong together but are still scared to embrace each other due to low self-esteem.  This is the relationship of ocean and beach in Busan.  Korea deserves a better representative of its beachfront property.”

Are you still not convinced that Busan has ugly beaches?   Please take a look at this wonderful blog entitled, “Beautiful Busan,” and take a close look at some of the waterfront property.  Don’t get me wrong, Busan has a fairly active nightlife and can be a fun place to visit.  However, based solely on the quality of its beaches, there are far better options in Korea.

The Good Beaches in Korea Close to Seoul

So, what beaches are worth visiting?  The nicer beaches outside of Jeju Island are between the eastern cities of Gangneung and Sokcho.  The main beach of Gangneung is the beautiful Gyeongpo beach.  Anywhere north or south of this beach will place you on a nice beach with blue water and real sand.  I specifically wrote about Gyeongpo Beach and Gangneung in an earlier post and you can read that here for more information.  The best part about Gangneung is I can get there in about the same amount of time that it takes me to get to the closest beach on the west coast.  Of course, the payoff is actually worth the trip.  If you leave by 7:00, you will arrive before 9:30.  That’s almost too much time to spend at the beach if you developed paper pale skin like I have while living in Seoul.  Look below at the splendor of Gyeongpo Beach and Lake.

The next quickest option is to take the bus from Seoul to Sokcho.  Sokcho probably hosts the best beaches in Korea as well as Seoraksan Mountain – a paradise for all of the hikers.    Sokcho takes about four hours to reach by bus so I would recommend Sokcho for a weekend trip and Gangneung for a day trip. Of course, both are wonderful places that you should visit multiple times as they have a lot to offer. Sokcho is a small city (about 100,000 people) and is a very popular destination.  If you plan on visiting during the summer, you might need to consider making hotel reservations a few weeks in advance if you plan on staying for the weekend.  Check out groups like When in Korea that often feature trips at low prices where you can choose between Seoraksan or chilling at the beach.

Considerably the nicest beach on the South Korean peninsula is Naksan beach.  I remember how delighted I was when I arrived in Naksan last summer after Busan squashed all of my hope for beach trips in Korea. Naksan boasts what I would consider the closest thing Korea has to white sand on a beach(They claim many of their beaches have white sand).  This beach is between the other two and is generally a longer bus ride to reach.  Ahhh, but what a wonderful feeling to float in the Eastern Sea (Sea of Japan).

So, what have we learned?

1) The Beaches on the west coast of Korea are ugly and muddy.  Only visit them if you live to the west of Seoul.

2) Busan is far away and the beaches in this city suck.  If you want nice beaches, avoid Busan.  However, if your goal is partying by a semblance of a beach than Busan has the best beach social scene.

3) The east coast of Korea is the answer for nicer beaches.  A one day beach trip to Gangneung is very manageable.  If you leave by 7 in the morning, you can be sitting on a lovely beach before 10.

4) For a weekend trip, Naksan and Sokcho have the most beautiful beaches in Korea outside Jeju Island.

Ziplining close to Naksan Beach.

Getting to Gangneung

1. Most people take the bus into Gangneung, since it is the fastest and most economical way to travel into the city. You can take a bus from the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (take Seoul subway line 2, exit 4) daily from 6:30am to 11pm. It takes about 3 hours and buses run every 30 to 50 minutes. From Seoul’s Express Bus Terminal in Gangnam (take Seoul subway line 3, exit 1), buses run every 15 to 30 minutes, daily from 6am to 11:30pm. There are two bus stations in town, the newer one (far from the city center) and the older one, which serves buses from closer cities.

2. If you prefer to travel by rail, you can take a train from Seoul’s Cheongnyangni Station. There are usually between four and nine trains daily into Gangneung. The best way to arrive by train is to catch the “sunrise” train the night before, sleep on the way, and arrive in time to see the sun rise over Jeongdongjin Beach. There are daily Mugunghwa trains leaving at 10:40pm, arriving at 4:40am for early risers, and a midnight train that arrives at 6:22am. Night owls can take either the 2pm train that arrives at 8:10am or the 5pm train, arriving at 11:15pm.  Be weary of taking the early morning train.  I tried to purchase a train ticket that left at either 4:40 AM or 5:30 AM and the train station did not open in time.

Once you arrive, take a cab (7,000 won or less) to Gyeongpo Beach or visit the tourist information center behind the bus terminal for information on busses that will take you to the beach.

Read more:

Getting to Sokcho

1. Go to Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (Gangbyeon Station of Seoul Subway Line No.2, Exit 4).  Take a bus bound for Sokcho. (Time it takes: 2hrs, 50mins to 3hrs, 30mins/ First bus at 06:25, last bus at 23:00 / Runs 49 times daily.)

2.  At Gangnam Express Bus Terminal (subway line 3 or 7, Express Bus Terminal Station), take a bus to Sokcho. (Time it takes: 4hrs. / First bus at 06:30, last bus at 21:00 / Runs 27 times daily)

The beach is simply a five minute walk from the bus terminal in Sokcho.

To Get to Naksan Beach

1. Go to Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (Gangbyeon Station, subway line 2).  Take a bus to Yangyang (Takes approx. 3hrs, 20mins / First bus: 6:30am, Last bus: 6:19pm / Buses depart every: 20- 50 mins / Fare: 17,400 won)

2. Or go to Gangnam Express Bus Terminal (subway lines 3 and 7) →Take a bus to Yangyang (Takes approx. 3hrs, 40mins / First bus: 6:30am, Last bus: 11:30pm / Buses depart every: 40-50mins / Fare: 15,200-24,600 won ) 

From Yangyang Bus Terminal to the beach

In front of Yangyang Bus terminal → Take city bus no. 9 or 9-1 towards Naksan → Get off at Naksansa temple and walk for 5mins. (200m – 300m)

These are not the only beaches worth checking out.  I believe the northeastern Coast of Korea is full of good beaches.  For instance, check out all of the great beaches in Yangyang.  My goal is to simply point you in the right direction.  Good luck, and if you have any questions feel free to contact me and let me know if you need an extra person to go catch some surf, I’m always about the Salt Life.

The Beauty of Naksan Beach

naksan beach post-3

naksan beach post-5

naksan beach post-6
naksan beach post-1

naksan beach post-8 naksan beach post-9

naksan beach post-7

Reccomended Links

Pine and Ocean– My review and early photography of Gangneung and Gyeongpo Beach.

The Asia Files- An absolutely stunning write-up on visiting Sokcho Beach and Seoraksan.

Naksan Beach– The official site for Naksan Beach

Gyeongpo Beach– The official site of Gyeongpo Beach

Seoraksan– A hikers paradise close to Sokcho beach with numerous trails, climbs and attractions.


32 Comments Add yours

  1. Beautiful shots….I am amazed at just how beautiful the beaches in Korea are….for some reason I had always imagined they would be dark and rugged….


    1. kaliber411 says:

      For the most part they are not good beaches. However, there are a few gems and like any place South Korea has it’s own distinct charm.


  2. Carrie hk Kim says:

    oh i live the beaches in Kanwondo such was naksan, sokcho, so mucsh difference from west. I donno the west is easy to get from seoul but to muddy for me. but the mud gets so much valuable seafood which koreans enjoy 🙂 and i also love south including jeju. but the east is the best because you can enjoy not only the beach but the mountains !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooooh. Make sure to check out my post on Seoraksan! I’d bet you love it. The mountains are gorgeous!


  3. Marimer Rivera says:

    Yes,your right!. I loved east-north beaches. Starting in Sokcho and continue down to Samcheok. Even you can continue driving far daejin. But avoid to far to pohang citie another ugly beach. Our family just camp close to the beach more fun for us if you want something diferent mangsang auto-camping resort.


  4. Laura Simli says:

    Hi there!
    I was just wondering, if u know whether its true that all beaches are closed from September on? And if u know, if closed really closed means or just that the facilities arent available anymore?
    Because after reading your article I so have to get to one of these beaches!
    Thank youuu


    1. I haven’t heard this but hotels still run and beaches aren’t barricaded – that much I know?


  5. Barbara Fabulous says:

    “whims of godless Canadian hikers” – Hah! Love it.


  6. Hey there!
    I see you know all about the beach scene and I am currently researching what city I would like to apply to teach in, so I was wondering if you could give me any suggestions??
    Thanks :)))


    1. If it’s Korea, stay on the east coast of the peninsula or even consider teaching in Jeju. The folks in Gangneung love their community.


  7. Kimchee Style says:

    If you would like nice beaches, maybe you should get out to Japan instead. Spend couple of days in southern islands of Okinawa and you don’t wanna come back here…


    1. This was about options for people who want to make day trips while living in Korea. I love vacations to Japan, but for traveling to beautiful beaches Thailand or the Philippines is the way to go.


  8. An Nguyen says:

    Brent, is it still cold to go hiking at Seoraksan Mountain in mid April? And thankfs for all the infos! It is very helpful. I originally planned to stay in Seoul only but a trip to Sokcho sounds great!


    1. It should be warmer in mid April and you could certainly do the hike. But dress warmly, it’s cold up top even during the summer.


  9. Lushin says:


    I am coming to Korea to visit my other half who lives in Wonju in early June. What are the best beaches I can take her to, I would like to surprise her. We only have Friday evening to travel and return on Sunday?

    Thanks in advance


  10. Joe Samuel says:

    Naksan is by far my favorite beach in the country. The sand, the water, the food, and the incrediblely beautiful and peaceful temple make this the paradise of the Korean mainland. I don’t know if anyone else mentioned this, but you can take a bus direct from Dong Seoul terminal to Naksan. It will drop you off about 1/4 mi from the beach. You can purchase return tickets across the street at the “bus terminal” building with a blusign and marked with a red K. Reply to this comment for more directions.


  11. 서성균 says:

    Even though it’s farther from Seoul, Sangju beach on the south coast is also good. Actually there are some unfamous paradises on the east and south coast , but it’s difficult to explain how to get there in English.


    1. Yes you are correct, but they are not close to Seoul.


  12. Olivia says:

    What a great post! Do you have any suggestions on what to do once we get to Naksan?


  13. Choi says:

    Busan is not famous because of its beach. It is big city who happened to have beach as well, you may make up your mind to travel to beautiful beaches in further distance, but convenience of casually reaching beach right in your city to chill and have beer, breathe some sea breeze is less hassle thus more beautiful. You should know Busan is highly populated so for many citizens it is the most convenient beach. As to non Busan residents visiting over is usually about having some friends over Busan so again it is rather about Busan being big city with lots of residents.


    1. This seems to clarify my point. If someone wants to go to a beach for the sake of going to a nice beach, don’t go to Busan.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Cyrus Brooks says:

    I disagree about Busan. It is great for body surfing/boarding. And there is Seongjong beach near it. And another nice beach to the west. There are also pretty beaches in Namhae and Geoje. They are a bit out of the way from Seoul, but worth a visit. Boryeong beach is great. It’s not only the blue water and nice color of the sand, but it’s how you enjoy the beach that matters. That said, Gyeongpo Beach is my favorite.


  15. dreachan says:

    I also disagree about Busan~ I went to Haeundae and Songdo Beach during Easter Holiday and I thought it was quite beautiful. There were very few people around this time so it was not overcrowded.


    1. Yeah, but the beaches are subpar compared to the east coast.


  16. Jamison says:

    Hello – i am trying to decide on which beach to go to for the weekend – Sokcho or Naksan? I am looking for clean sand, good food and things to do during the day and night in the social scene


    1. You will win either way. Neither city has a huge social scene, especially with big expat populations. Nonetheless, if you want the bigger social scene between the two I would recommend Sokcho as it’s closer to a denser population. I would recomend to do a google search of what nightlife exists in each area as I wrote this article quite a few years ago.

      Again, both beaches are not in big city areas. If you want a nice beach with a little more of a nightlife Gyeongpo beach and Gangneung may be a better bet.


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