Best holidays – 2015 (TAKEN FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES)

Beach: the seasides to be beside

The Sunday Times Published: 11 January 2015

Unless stated, prices for holidays outside the UK include flights and transfers

1 Blue Waters, Tobago
££

On March 29, Virgin Atlantic will relaunch weekly flights to Tobago, touching down briefly in St Lucia before proceeding to one of the region’s most charming islands. The place to stay is the Blue Waters Inn, at Batteaux Bay, hidden up a dead-end track in 46 acres of tropical gardens. The 38-room hotel has just undergone a multimillion-dollar refurb, which has added a saltwater pool, a sun deck and two new dive boats(the drift diving here is as good as anywhere on the planet), but the old attractions are still the best: the soft curve of deserted beach, the hummingbirds crowding the feeder outside your room and the rum-punch sundowners in the Shipwreck Bar. A week starts at £972pp, B&B

(Henk Badenhorst/Getty)

2 Seaside digs, Anglesey
£, family-friendly

Everyone wants a sea-view cottage, and bitter experience has taught us that all the best properties are usually booked months, or even years, in advance. Getting the sea view means so much more than getting a sea view: you’re first on and last off the beach; you don’t have to drive; and you don’t have to pay bandit farmers a fiver a day to park in their fields. That makes you happier, more relaxed and unbearably smug. In the village of Benllech, on Anglesey, there’s a new apartment with a sea view. It’s called Sunrise, it sleeps four in modern luxury, there’s a stream outside, it’s two minutes from Benllech beach — and, as we went to press, it had availability in June, July, August and September. A week starts at £407/£708; that’s £102pp/£177pp

3 Beach safari, Languedoc
£, family-friendly

Our French campsite of the year has to be Camping Domaine de la Yole, at Valras Plage, south of Béziers, where 2015 sees the launch of safari tents — two-bedroom palaces in tasteful beige, with sundowner decks. They also have private bathrooms and a proper kitchen with a cooker and a fridge. The site is a joy, too: a forested haven with a water park, 15 minutes’ walk through the trees from the beach. As for the choice of sundowner, Domaine de la Yole has been making quaffable wines since 1771. A week in a safari tent starts at £210/£1,093 for a family of four, including return ferry crossings; that’s £52pp/£273pp

(Sourav Saha Photography/Getty) 4 Andaman Islands, India
£££

Not so long ago, you needed to obtain a permit from the Madras forestry department to visit the Andaman Islands. Getting there involved a five-day ferry crossing, and, while the accommodation was basic, it was well worth the effort. Virgin jungle cascaded down to beaches as crisp and clean as a starched tablecloth, then the sea — from milky jade to crystal blue, washing over kaleidoscopic coral reefs. Sitting on Ganganagar beach in 1998, we thought this would be a great place to open a hotel. Seems we weren’t the only ones: this month, Havelock Island gets its first boutique hotel. Set in the forest, a 10-minute walk uphill from the beach, Jalakara has just seven luxury suites, and it won’t break the bank: a week starts at £1,400pp, B&B My well travelled friends go here ALL the time – it is their favorite!

5 Celebrity Turkey for less
£-££

Bodrum’s northern peninsula is prime Turkish real estate, with luxury hotel operators scrambling to grab a foothold. Aman (doubles from £740 a night) and Mandarin Oriental (from £262) opened last summer, while Nikki Beach and Viceroy will launch in 2015. But this pine-scented paradise isn’t just for the super-rich. In Golkoy, a 15-minute walk from the celebrity hang-outs of Turkbuku, you’ll find Beyaz, a new seafront hotel that gives you all the sunshine, views and style at a far lower price. The 40 rooms are bright and simple, the main feature is the huge jetty that transforms from daytime lounge to lamp-lit night-time restaurant, and prices are a steal: from £295pp/£390pp a week, excluding flights Fly to Bodrum with Thomas Cook.

6 Puglia for families
£, family-friendly

Finding a decent family hotel by the seaside in Puglia has been harder than the hype suggests. But now we’ve found it: the Gattarella Resort, in the Gargano National Park. The location is perfect — above Portonuevo beach, a couple of miles south of Vieste — but the kids won’t care about that. They’ll only see the pools, the skate park (which has official Vans instructors), the adventure playground and all the watersports, and with three kids’ clubs filling their days, you’ll be lucky to see them. Oh well. A week in a self-catering apartment in August starts at £493pp, including car hire

(Kim Walker/Getty) 7 Little island, Greece
££, family-friendly

Few tourists have heard of Ammouliani, and even fewer have visited, because until now, no UK tour operator has sold trips to it. Lying in the protective lee of the Athos peninsula, this tiny island of about 600 souls has long been a favourite with Greeks, who are drawn to its necklace of 24 white-sand beaches, reached by boat, on foot or by horse-drawn carriage. There’s not much in the way of tourist infrastructure: four tavernas, a couple of coffee shops, a handful of hotels and the odd mini market. Just like Greece used to be. A week at the charming Kastalia Hotel starts at £512pp/£777pp, B&B

(milangonda/Getty) 8 New in St Aggy, Cornwall
£, family-friendly

St Agnes is proper tin country: the stacks and wheelhouses of abandoned mines jut from the clifftops like ancient standing stones. Beneath them, the Atlantic begs you to come and play. Trevaunance Cove, St Aggy’s nearest beach, is a punchy, powerful beach break in winter and a more well-behaved animal in summer, when it’s ideal for improving surfers. The nightlife hub is the Driftwood Spars, which serves its own beers and supports local bands, but such is the popularity of the village as an all-round holiday spot, accommodation is like hens’ teeth. Until now: new for this season is the Old School House, a four-bedroom conversion 10 minutes’ walk from the beach. A week starts at £615/£1,695 — that’s £154pp/£424pp — and there’s plenty of availability (

9 Enter the volcano, St Lucia
££££

We love Ladera. It’s the only hotel on St Lucia that’s actually inside the Pitons World Heritage Site — the twin peaks are pretty much all you can see from the plunge pool in your open-sided room — and it has the finest restaurant on the island, Dasheene, which specialises in gourmet versions of St Lucian home cooking. The clincher is volcano-based spa treatments, one of which involves you and a significant other in a sulphur pit in the Soufrière volcano, where you wallow in the mineral-rich mud before the therapist scrubs you clean with volcanic sand (£99 per couple). A week starts at £2,169pp

10 Loo with a view, Norfolk
£, family-friendly

Feel free to use popular online user-review sites to describe this holiday cottage in Sheringham as “an utter toilet”.
That’s what it was. Now, though, the Victorian former public convenience has been transformed into a delightful two-bedroom holiday home, bang on Sheringham’s highly desirable sandy beach. The kids will love the novelty value — and it’s cheap. The owners, who’ve worked hard to overcome our reluctance to sleep in a former public loo, have (inevitably) named the place Wee Retreat. A week starts at £438/£715; that’s £110pp/£179pp

11 Beachfront villa, Crete
£-££, family-friendly

What price a peak-season beachside villa on Crete’s gorgeous western coast? Considerably less than you’d think, as it happens: the Stalos Beach Villa is a simple, comfortable, two-bedroom property with a proper kitchen, a shady garden and, down the steps, golden sands. It’s new for 2015 and, even though Chania is just five miles down the coast, you’ll be going there in order to stay put — save for the occasional mission to the mini market for another bottle of Lyrakakis rosé. A week starts at £749/£1,645; that’s £188pp/£412pp

12 More inclusive all-inclusive, Greece
£-££, family-friendly

The people behind the Sani Resorts, in Halkidiki, are launching an all-inclusive brand a little further up the coast, on the north shore of the lake-like Gulf of Toroneos. On its own beach, amid ancient olive groves, the Ikos Olivia will have 295 rooms, an Anne Semonin spa and Infinite Lifestyle — a marketing consultant’s way of saying “posh all-inclusive”. One feature of this “fine wines, free watersports and gourmet dining” deal that we particularly like is the opportunity to eat free of charge in local tavernas outside the hotel, thus avoiding the all-inclusive side effect of laying waste to the local economy. We also like the price; from £429pp/£699pp for a week

13 Studio for two, Cornwall
£-££

We’ve got a feeling that Praxis, a former artist’s studio overlooking the beach at Trebarwith, is going to be popular. There’s a pub and a cafe, and you can pick up the coastal path for the fabulous eight-mile hike down to Port Isaac — perhaps for lunch at Nathan Outlaw’s latest restaurant, which opens this spring. As for the flat, it has a woodburner and is new for this season. A week starts at £492/£1,302; that’s £246pp/£651pp

(Sebastian Posingis)

14 Cape Weligama, Sri Lanka
££££

With its expert blend of colonial decadence, haute cuisine and 21st-century service, Ceylon Tea Trails, up in the hill country of Hatton, redefined the luxury Sri Lankan holiday. So we’re rather excited about the opening of the brand’s second branch, on the headland at Cape Weligama: 40 new butler-serviced villas and suites in 12 acres of gardens, just down the coast from Galle. Self-indulgent relaxation is the name of the game here, from the in-room spa treatments (which include a tea massage) to the outdoor cinema, but if you want to get active, there’s good surf on East Beach and safe swimming off West Beach. A week starts at £2,375pp, half-board

(Graham Bell/Getty) 15 Rent-a-boat, Cephalonia
££-£££, family-friendly

Assos is the tiny village at the foot of the old raisin terraces opposite the ruined Venetian castle on the presqu’île of Frourio. It’s a soporific spot, where the putt-putt of a motorboat is enough to stop conversation in cafes and tavernas on the pocket-sized waterfront. Speaking of boats, you’ll need one. A 15-horsepower outboard is enough, and pottering from beach to beach to quayside taverna along the coast is far more fun — and far less stressful — than doing it in a car. Dimitri and Yiorgios, at Assos Rent-a-Boat, will sort you out from about £40 a day (00 30 26740 51883). Stay at Villa Panorama, a new two-bedroom property with a pool and the best views in the village. A week starts at £511pp/£1,073pp, including car hire

16 Water park for grown-ups, Mallorca
££

A knighthood for the genius who came up with the concept of the world’s first adults-only waterpark. It opens on April 30 at the new BH Mallorca resort, and if the buildings look vaguely familiar, it’s because they used to be Mallorca Rocks, an offshoot of the Ibiza-based party pad. It has 656 suites, twice-weekly sets by international DJs and an Ibiza-style beach club. Then there’s the water park: a collection of high-adrenaline slides including the Aqualoop, a 360-degree human rollercoaster that reaches speeds of 38mph and is far too good for kids. A week’s all-inclusive starts at £839pp in July

17 Sardinia restyled
££-££££

Looking for the perfect little Sardinian seaside hotel? This is it, but that wasn’t always the case. Cala Cuncheddi, on the beach of the same name, was known as much for its bumbling waiters and iffy art as for its idyllic location. Now this 80-room hotel has thrown off its Fawlty Towers reputation with an extensive refurb that has earned it a review in Glocal Design Magazine — it was impressed by the Eames chairs, Artemide lighting and 50 shades of greige. The restaurant has improved, too, getting all the fruit and veg from local farms and serving slow food, small-plate suppers and Sardinian wines. A week starts at £885pp/£1,616pp, half-board, including car hire

18 Bargain Portugal
£

Northern Portugal: it’s cheap, it’s less than three hours from Stansted, and it has it all — fabulous beaches, enchanting villages, dense forests and sparkling rivers in which to waste entire days, refuelled from the bankside lanchonetes that pop up every summer. Moledo do Minho, just across the River Minho from Spain, is a summer retreat for Lisboetas who spend days on the beach and nights enjoying the festival-like atmosphere. Casa da Gale is a three-bedroom villa in an orchard at the edge of the village, 10 minutes from the beach. It has a pool and wi-fi, and a week starts at £595/£1,250; that’s £99pp/£209pp

Trending: hot hotels in Miami

Susan d’Arcy

Already the epicentre of US seaside chic, South Beach gets hotter still in 2015, with a slew of hip new hotels. First up is the Metropolitan by Como, set in the art-deco surroundings of the former Traymore hotel, on Collins Avenue. It is small, discreet, luxurious and quiet, with a rooftop hydrotherapy pool and a serene private beach (doubles from £150; ). Next is 1 Hotel South Beach, in the environs of the erstwhile Roney Palace, beloved of Rita Hayworth. The vibe here is boutique eco-swank: Keetsa mattresses, a triple-filtered water system, Oogavé natural sodas in the minibar and a yoga mat in each room (doubles from £215; ).

Then there’s Ian Schrager’s Edition, described by the pioneering hotelier as “intimate and glamorous”, with “barefoot chic” rooms. Jean-Georges Vongerichten does the cooking, it has an ice rink, and there’s a mini Studio 54 in the basement (doubles from £414; ). Too flash? Then try the Thompson Miami Beach — the first time the knowingly hip urban brand has been to the seaside. It has a local celeb chef, Michelle Bernstein, in the kitchen, DJs by the pools in the jungle gardens, and the 1930s House — the city’s most fashionable watering hole

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.