Best Beach Festivals | 5 of the Best Fyre Festival Alternatives for 2019
Forget having to *ahem* persuade customs officials for your bottles of Evian, and head out to these real hedonistic destinations
Photo: Courtesy of SXM Festival
Not all beach festivals are born equal, and as you’ll know if you’ve watched that Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix, some people are better at making the most of the sand than others.
See, it isn’t easy, the whole ‘organising a party on a paradisiacal island’ thing, but, well, the concept behind it is still pretty simple to understand. We all like the idea of lounging on a beach, surrounded by a bunch of other people also lounging on a beach, with the sun baking down, crystal clear water washing out in front of us, top-notch live music ringing in our ears.
But if - as we can probably all agree - Fyre Festival probably isn’t the best beach festival in the world (more like a Lord of the Flies cosplay than a hedonistic slice of paradise) then what are the alternatives? What are the actual, legitimate, best beach-based music festivals in the world?
We’ve put together a handy list of the coolest, most adventurous, most enjoyable beach fests known to man, to curate your year ahead. Best of all, attending these doesn’t involve supporting an event run by people with no problem asking a guy to suck someone’s dick so that festival-goers could drink Evian.
Best Beach Festival #1: SXM Festival
Where? St. Martin/Sint Maarten, Caribbean
When? 13-17 March 2019
Why? If you want a festival which actually offers white sandy beaches, secret jungle retreats, and cliff-top villas, look no further than SXM techo festival on the island of Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, going into its third year in summer 2019.
Saint Martin is divided into a Dutch side and a French side (and so has the curious distinction of being home to the only land border between France and the Netherlands, despite being thousands of miles from either). It also means there’s a fascinating mix of cultures in the area - as well as the nightlife that makes it famous.
The island was hit badly by Hurricane Irma in 2017, but has since bounced back in a big way. By attending SXM Festival, you're not only going to be living out your dreams, but also contributing to a festival which supports local businesses and helps the island get back on its feet.
The line up meanwhile is a world-class gathering of the hottest names in house and techno - from the inimitable Axel Bowman and Appolonia, to the sensational Nicole Moudaber, legend John Acquaviva, psychedelic artist Rebolledo, and Swiss icon Sonja Moonear.
Best Beach Festival #2: Primavera Sound
When? 30 May-2 June
Why? Primavera is significantly less off the beaten track than the other options on this list - this is probably the most acclaimed, and one of the best-known, music festivals the world over, and with good reason. As Primavera has grown over the years, it’s become a fascinating blend of main-stage superstars, secret performances, art exhibitions, record fairs, and more. It really does span genres too: this year you can catch Nas, or Nina Kravitz, or Tame Impala, or Solange, or Carly Rae Jepsen - you would be hard-pressed not to find someone to dance to.
It’s rare that you can say there’s something at a music festival for everyone and really mean it, but at Primavera, that’s the case - and you get it all with the backdrop and beaches of Barcelona, and the mouthwatering tapas that comes with it.
Best Beach Festival #3: UNUM Festival
Where? Shëngjin, Albania
When? 31 May-3 June 2019
Why? The only entry on our lovely list in its inaugural year this year, UNUM Festival is by every calculation shaping up to be one of the best.
A new house and techno festival held in Shëngjin, Albania, UNUM offers the stunning scenery of the Albanian Riviera: a rare European sight off the tourist trail and as of yet not quite on every post you see on Instagram - though that’s probably going to change in the years to come.
The boutique festival has an unusual mix of perfect beaches and the lush pinewoods of Shëngjin, and you can expect fierce mountain ranges to be providing the backdrops for much of it. There’ll be sunrise and sunset parties as the music plays 24 hours - the line-up boasts international artists like Ricardo Villalobos, Adriatique, Luciano, and Joseph Capriati - and for those who like to occasionally stop dancing, cultural day trips to the historical cities of Shkoder, Lezha and Shëngjin are on offer. It’s also Albania. So you won’t be spending much.
Best Beach Festival #4: Fresh Island Festival
Where? Zrće Beach, Croatia
When? 15-17 July
Why? It’d be easy to stick to house and techno when you’re looking for beach festivals. The huge boom in European music festivals in recent years has put the two hand-in-hand in the minds of many travellers. Many of the most famous electronic festivals now take place in Croatia - Outlook, Dimension, Ultra to name a few - but the country is also host to one of the best hip-hop festivals of the year: Fresh Island Festival.
Fresh Island is the biggest urban beach festival in Europe and takes place on Croatia's Zrće Beach. It’s obviously doing something right, because Snoop Dogg decided to record the music video for his song 'Is You With Me' with Madcon during their visit to the festival.
This year the line up includes Tory Lanez, Lil Uzi Vert, and Yxng Bane. Gigs are held inside some of the best clubs on the Croatian coastline, there are pool and boat parties, and all of the above look exactly as hedonistic as you would expect.
One look at the gallery of images on the Fresh Island website would be enough to get any hard-partying hip-hop enthusiast searching for flights to Croatia.
Best Beach Festival #5: Lake of Stars
Where? Lake Malawi, Malawi
When? 28-30 September 2019
Why? The Lake of Stars festival takes place on the shores of Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa, and will be enjoying its 16th anniversary in 2019. Widely referenced as being one of the most important music festivals on the African continent (reportedly generating over $1.5 million per year for the Malawian economy), performers are typically a mix of African artists and musicians from the UK and USA.
Foals, Young Fathers, and Major Lazer are among the alumni of the festival, and the genres on offer span all the way from jazz to Afro-pop, to EDM, reggae, percussion, and back again.
The focus is on contemporary art, and while the traditional culture is represented, the festival is more keen to give a platform to contemporary Malawian and African artists.
What's great about Lake of Stars is that it encompasses much more than just the music. You'll find interactive talks, star poets, traditional dance, fashion, theatre and art on the bill. Morning yoga and dance classes are available if you're up early enough.
Lake of Stars is a vibrant festival; a brilliant mixture of artistic and cultural discovery, and as the name suggests, the views are quite unlike anything you’ll have seen before - particularly if you’re a stargazer.
This is routinely described as not only one of the best beach festivals in the world, but one of the best music festivals in the world full stop.