There is nothing more relaxing than a beach holiday; the combination of sun, sea and sand provide the ideal setting to forget about the daily grind and completely unwind. Here’s our list of favorite beach holiday destinations from around the world to help inspire your travels.
Hainan Island, China
China’s southern province is on the same latitude as Goa or Hawaii, has year round temperatures that remain comfortably above 22 degrees Centigrade, and is lapped by the warm waters of the South China Seas. Its ‘tourism island’ of Hainan is a tropical playground of modern resorts, lush interiors, cool highlands and hot nightlife. The island capital, Haikuo, is an enjoyable place to spend a day, with its smart waterfront, crumbling colonial remains and busy beach but, away from the urban sprawl, the rest of the island’s charms are very much geared to the huge influx of visitors who’ve come for some much-needed R&R.
Paphos was once the capital of Cyprus, and today its history is recognized by UNESCO, protecting its ancient heart as a World Heritage Site, the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite. Today’s Paphos is a charming harbor town set against the backdrop of the Troodos Mountains. It’s a town of contradictions, with its protected upper town (Ktima) retaining its traditional charm, while lower Kato Paphos (the holiday zone) choc-a-bloc with good restaurants, trendy cafés, friendly pubs and lively clubs. There are shingly stretches around the waterfront hotels of Kato Paphos, but the centrally situated Municipal Beach is better. Faros Beach, like the Municipal Beach, has a Blue Flag for cleanliness and its range of good facilities. There are, in fact, six Blue Flag beaches in Paphos – Pachyammos, Alykes, Municipal Beach, Vrysoudia A and B and Faros. Just a mile or two south of Paphos, you’ll find more beaches at Geroskipou. Watersports operators located on the beach rent out everything from pedalos to windsurfers. Off shore, there are over 40 different dive sites on offer, including shipwrecks, some of which are only a short distance from the harbor. The harbor-front tavernas enjoy the best views in town – a great location for you to dine and take in the views.
The vibrant Belle Époque resort of Biarritz was one of the premier resorts for the rich and famous in the 19th century. And its fine pedigree still shows today. The town retains a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere with fantastic beaches, surfing and sporting facilities. And it’s these sporting facilities – particularly the surfing in the wild Atlantic – that gives the town its laid-back, west-coast vibe (incongruous set against the elegant villas and Art Deco hotels but all the more enjoyable for it). The town’s embraced its second life as an inclusive and chilled-out seaside resort, and with its fabulous sea life center and Go-Karting track, it makes a great family day out. Its main beach, La Côte des Basques, is a real stunner too. This southwest corner of France is deep in Basque country – and the region blends almost seamlessly with its Spanish neighbor: the town’s just half an hour from sultry San Sebastian, and it’s thrilling restaurants. So enjoy Biarritz, its pulsating nightlife and bo-ho boutiques, for sure – but do head down the coast, where hidden coves and delightful fishing villages await.
Cayo Coco, Cuba
Also known as Coco Key, Cayo Coco is one of a string of offshore keys, or low-lying islands, hugging the northern coast of Cuba. It’s a tropical paradise of whispering palms, soft sands and elegant accommodation surrounded by turquoise waters. The resort is linked to the mainland by an impressive 27-mile causeway. White sands form a gentle barrier between this offshore playground and the lapping waves of the Atlantic – and, beyond, the world’s second largest coral reef. With 15 miles of soft sands underfoot, it’s no surprise that the beach never really feels crowded. Indeed, despite its popularity, the island never feels overrun. Along with the excellent scuba diving, Cayo Coco’s a great place to explore the riches of the sea in other ways: notably deep sea fishing. There’s plenty of ways to explore on land, too. There are waymarked trails for bicycle trips, horseback riding or off-roading. Take the causeway back to the mainland for a day trip to Havana, though, and you really won’t be disappointed. The Caribbean’s only real city simply sizzles with energy: and, now relationships with the US have thawed, there’s a tangible quickening of the pulse. The best time to go? Now.
The coastal town of Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya, with a population of half a million. With some of Africa’s best white-sand beaches, a cosmopolitan mix of races and nationalities in the city’s vibrant old-town and a string of world class resorts fanning out in either direction, Mombasa is usually the first choice for travelers seeking the thrill of Africa with the comfort of modern tourist facilities. The reefs, as well as providing rich snorkeling and diving opportunities, act as protective barriers – creating ideal conditions for swimming and water sports. Nyali beach, at Mombassa, can get busy as it’s so near the city, but sands are clean and there’s a good range of beach bars and restaurants to refuel in. The string of beaches to the north are interrupted briefly by the wide mouth of Kilifi Creek, whose azure, calm waters are a popular port of call on the international yachting circuit. A touch more peace can be found at the beach havens of Mtwapa and Takaungu, with endless deserted sands backed by swaying palms. Kiwayu Island is the beach and watersports choice of the rich and glamorous. South of Mombasa the beaches are bordered by lush green coastal rainforests with prolific birdlife, and baboons which often ventures onto the sands.
The further north and west you travel in Mallorca, the wilder and more dramatic the scenery gets, especially around the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, which pierces the perma-blue sky. Around its foothills lie fascinating little towns such as stylish Deia, with its traditional stone-built Majorcan houses augmented by swish boutiques (and boutique hotels) climbing a valley overlooking a beautiful stretch of coastline. Chic little Deia is the Balearics you thought you’d lost. Captivating, charming and culturally rich, this hilltown clings to the contours of Mallorca’s rocky northern shoreline – and is, literally and figuratively – a world away from the mega resorts of the south. Long since a magnet for artists and counter-culture types – the poet Robert Graves lived here from 1929 until his death in 1989, and the likes of Richard Branson Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones have villas here – the town retains its laid-back cosmopolitan frisson. Nude swims off the town’s shingly beach are de rigueur on summer weekends, so be prepared! In town, you’ll find fine dining and fine art. That’s the Deia difference – instead of nightclubs and karaoke, it’s jazz cafes and Michelin tapas here.