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The beaches of Kos are no secret. Every foot of the 290km (180 miles) of mostly sandy coastline has been discovered. Even so, for some reason, people pack themselves together in tight spaces. You can spot the package-tour sites from afar by their umbrellas, dividing the beach into plots measured in centimeters. Tigaki and Kardamena epitomize this avoidable phenomenon. Following are a few guidelines to help you in your quest for uncolonized sand.

The beaches 3 to 5km (2-3 miles) east of Kos town are among the least congested, probably because they're pebbled rather than sandy. Even so, the view is splendid, and the nearby hot springs are worth a good soak. In summer, the water on the northern coast of the island is warmer and shallower than that on the south, though less clear due to stronger winds. If you walk down from the resorts and umbrellas, you'll find some relatively open stretches between Tigaki and Mastihari. The north side of the island is best for windsurfing; try Tigaki and Marmara, where everything you need can be rented on the beach. A perfect day at the northwestern tip of the island would consist of a swim at Limnionas Bay, followed by grilled red mullet at Taverna Miltos.

Opposite, on the southern coast, Kamel beach and Magic beach are less congested than Paradise beach, which lies between them. Either can be reached on foot from Paradise beach, a stop for the Kefalos bus. The southwestern waters are cooler yet calmer than those along the northern shore; and apart from Kardamena and Kefalos Bay, the beaches on this side of the island are less dominated by tour groups. Note that practically every watersport, including jet-skiing, can be found at Kardamena. The southwestern tip of the island, on the Kefalos peninsula, near Ayios Theologos, offers remote shoreline ideal for surfing. You can end the day watching the sunset at Sunset Wave beach, where you can also enjoy a not-soon-forgotten family-cooked feast at Agios Theologos Restaurant, which rents molded plastic surfboards as well.

For yachting and sailing, call the Yachting Club of Kos (tel. 22420/20-055) or Istion Sailing Holidays (tel. 22420/22-195; fax 22420/26-777). For diving, contact Kos Diving Centre, 5 Plateia Koritsas (tel. 22420/20-269 or 22420/22-782); Dolphin Divers (tel. 2940/548-149); or Waterhoppers (tel. 22420/27-815; cellphone 69440/130533).

As already outlined, the island is especially good for bicycling, and rentals are widely available. If horseback riding is your thing, you can arrange guided excursions through the Marmari Riding Centre (tel. 22420/41-783), which offers 1-hour beach rides and 4-hour mountain trail rides. Bird-watchers will be interested in the wild peacocks in the forests at Skala, and the migrating flamingos that frequent the salt-lake preserve just west of Tingaki.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.