Why: Whichever end of the island you opt for, you won’t go wrong. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, ranging from lush green and blue coves found towards the north of the island, to dramatic volcanic landscapes, reminiscent of prehistoric times, in the south. The beaches aren’t bad either – think miles of white-gold sand and an incredible aquamarine ocean. When planning a visit here, it’s worth bearing in mind that the majority of the island’s best beaches are situated to the north, but this part is more built up and therefore busier. The south of the island is far quieter and more tranquil, but the beaches are mostly darker, volcanic sand. Fear not though, whichever you choose you can make day trip excursions either by boat or road between the two sides.
Where to stay: The Ladera Hotel commands dramatic views, perched high on a hillside overlooking the ocean. Although the property doesn’t have its own beach, there’s plenty of other options, like the stunning pool which offers breathtaking clifftop views. The hotel is quiet and provides the ideal setting for sitting outside with a good book and a cocktail. Opt for one of the new hillside suites for unparalleled luxury.
Where to eat: For a romantic and memorable experience, you’d be hard pushed to beat The Cliff at Cap. The restaurant is open-air, situated atop one of the island’s many cliffs, and offers panoramic views of the ocean (on a good day you can see over to neighbouring Martinique). The menu is a fusion of French and West Indian flavours, and it’s built up quite a reputation.
Why: This is the real Jamaica. You can expect island life at its finest, complete with traditional markets, winding streets and stunning Georgian architecture (although we make no guarantees about the buildings’ state of repair). There’s easy access to many unspoiled beaches, and the locals here are genuinely welcoming. If you’re after all-inclusive, this may not be the place for you, but if you’re willing to make the two hour drive from Kingston, you’ll be richly rewarded. There are fewer tourists, hardly any chain hotels and the shopping is independent and authentic. The scenery is also stunning – Port Antonio has been dubbed ‘the Jamaican Riviera’, which is also reflective of its fascinating and glamorous history.
Where to stay: Trident Villas and Hotel offers unrivalled luxury for those who want to totally relax and switch off. The private beach next to the hotel is small, but a perfect place for reclining on a sun-lounger and watching the world go by uninterrupted. The sea water is clear and unspoiled, and if you fancy some adventure, one of the hotel’s water sports guides can organise and accompany you on an excursion: choose from sea kayaking or a boat trip along the stunning coastline. When you’re ready to retire for the day, you can relax in one of their spacious suites where the decor is modern and fresh, perfectly complementing the sea views that many rooms offer.
Where to eat: If all this ocean living has made you crave seafood, then make your way to Wilkes Cuisine Seafood restaurant. From the outside, it looks rather unassuming and casual. But the menu is sure to impress, and there’s also a semi-open kitchen and delightful sea views. Many visitors to Port Antonio have called dinner here a highlight of their trip.
Why: We’ve all heard of Cape Town, but Paternoster is a sleepy South African seaside town that remains relatively unknown. Escape the crowds and make the two-hour journey from Cape Town, where you’ll be richly rewarded by this traditional fishing village with picturesque sea views and a culinary scene that’s out of this world. A trip here is worth taking some time to plan in advance, as it can take months to secure a reservation at popular restaurants – Cape Town foodies frequently make the lengthy round trip for a special meal out.
Where to stay: For an unbeatable beachfront location, try the Paternoster Dunes Boutique Guesthouse. There are only five bedrooms available, so overcrowding is unlikely to be an issue. The location itself is peaceful and serene, with little traffic nearby to create noise. If you don’t fancy another day on the beach, there’s a heated outdoor pool to enjoy. The rooms are pretty and well appointed, ideal for relaxing in after a day of exploring in the sun.
Where to eat: Try out The Noisy Oyster for modern fine dining, with a South African twist. The menu pays homage to the restaurant’s enviable seaside location, and you can expect deliciously fresh seafood dishes like pan roasted angel fillet and clam linguini. Or opt for South African comfort food at Gaaitjie, a renovated fisherman’s cottage serving up creative takes on local classics – but be sure to book in advance, this one’s a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike.
Why: For those in search of a little adventure, head to this bustling city to truly immerse yourself in the culture of Cambodia. Siem Reap is the perfect base for exploring the famed temples of Angkor, which are only a short journey away. There’s incredible architecture to enjoy all over the city, as well as a whole host of shops, restaurants and traditional cafés.
Where to stay: When you’re ready for a little rest and relaxation, escape the crowds and head into the neighbouring countryside, where you’ll find the luxurious Phum Baitaing resort. It’s an exclusive development of 45 villas, outwardly designed in harmony with the natural landscape, each with a private terrace. If you fancy ‘splashing’ out, 20 of the villas offer private pools for added indulgence. Be sure to visit the resort’s Spa Temple for a selection of treatments, perfect for zoning out and focusing on your wellbeing.
Where to eat: For beautiful surroundings and world class food, opt for Cuisine Wat Damnak – recently named on the prestigious Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants list. Expect authentic Cambodian dishes coupled with French cooking techniques, producing extraordinary results. The restaurant sources its ingredients almost entirely from neighbouring farms, and forages a great deal too. The menu changes weekly to reflect the best produce on offer.
Why: As everyone flocks to the lesser known north and east of the country in search of adventure, it’s easy for visitors to forget all about Sri Lanka’s stunning south coast. But this unassuming gem offers some of the very best of Sri Lanka – from virtually untouched beaches to a UNESCO World Heritage site at Galle Fort. Don’t expect this stunning part of the world to remain secluded for much longer – more and more visitors are becoming wise to its charms, and large hotel chains are following suit. If you’re after tranquility and undiscovered landscapes, now is the time to visit, before the secret really gets out.
Where to stay: Travel to Galle Fort for beautiful surroundings and minimal crowds, where you’ll find Fort Bazaar, a luxury boutique hotel perfectly positioned for exploring this charming old town. Fort Bazaar offers 15 luxury bedrooms and three suites, perfect for those seeking even more indulgence. Many rooms overlook a peaceful courtyard, shaded by old mango trees, which only adds to the serenity on offer here. Nearby, a selection of untouched beaches are waiting, perfect for a lazy afternoon swim in the crystal waters.
Where to eat: Sugar Bistro offers modern and quirky decor, with an open kitchen so you can keep an eye on all the action. The menu is a delicious fusion of classic Sri Lankan favourites with western flavours, and its proved popular with locals and visitors alike. Try the Batticaloa prawn curry or crab kottu with fried egg and green chilli sambol. If you’re after a glass of something cold, you’ll be delighted by the thoughtful and extensive lists of beer and fine wines.
Why: Still relatively unknown compared to its more glamorous neighbours – like St Barts and Mustique – this tiny island is a haven for those seeking quiet luxury. The pink sand beaches are legendary, but rarely crowded, and perfect for laying back in a lounger to watch the day go by. The only motorised method of transport on the island is golf buggy, which adds to the charm. You’ll fall in love with the island’s laidback rhythm and the welcoming locals – be sure to pack plenty of good holiday reads to keep you occupied as you laze the days away.
Where to stay: We love the look of Bahama House, a stunning nine-bedroom villa, which also offers two cottages for those seeking some privacy. The coral-hued house is ringed by tropical gardens and bordered by white picket fences, with interiors that are reminiscent of the old school glamour for which the Bahamas is famed. But you won’t want to spend too much time indoors, the views are breathtaking and the freshwater pool is the perfect place to swim a few lazy laps before indulging in a cocktail or two.
Where to eat: Harbour Island enjoys an excellent dining reputation, with plenty of restaurants offering high-quality Bahamian dining. Take a trip to the Runaway Hill Inn for phenomenal views and similarly spectacular food, featuring local classics like crispy Bahamian lobster spring roll. Or if you’re after a casual bite, try the Sip Sip café for Bahamian dishes with a twist.
Why: This tiny tropical island in the Indian Ocean is best known for its white sandy beaches, clear blue water and dramatic volcanic backdrops. Discover Indian temples, great Colonial estates, botanical gardens, and with its mix of French, Indian, Creole and Chinese influences, the island is also known for its eclectic cuisine and friendly hospitality. It’s a year-round destination, but with peak season between October and April it’s the perfect place to escape our winter.
Where to stay: A former sugar baron’s plantation house, the all-suite St. Regis Mauritius Resort’s rambling grounds and Colonial-style buildings can be found on a stretch of the island’s most stunning and secluded beaches, which just happens to be the island’s best kitesurfing spot. The rooms, clustered along the beachfront, reflect an understated, old-school elegance and come with their own butler service, garden or ocean view and private terrace.
Where to eat: We see no reason to leave the resort given the choice of dining options here, from the laid back Boathouse Bar & Grill, to the more formal Le Manoir Dining Room serving French-Creole dishes. But perhaps our favourite is the Floating Market, which serves Asian-inspired dishes in the most tranquil of pool-side settings.
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Why: At 26 kilometres long, Mahé is the main island in the Seychelles, and as such, is the most developed. You can find a large selection of resorts and activities here, as well as some of the world’s most stunning beaches. The island’s west coast is fringed by a long string of white sandy beaches, and there are plenty of luxury hotels dotted throughout. No matter where you decide to stay, the size of the island is ideal and ready to explore in a car ride that lasts no longer than 20 minutes.
Where to stay: MAIA Luxury Resort and Spa offers exclusive luxury – there are only 30 villas available. Set on the south west coast of Mahé, its unrivalled position means you’re perfectly placed to enjoy some of the island’s most spectacular sunsets. The villas come with private pools, but if you fancy a stroll, the nearby beach of Anse Louis is quiet and perfect for exploring some of the island’s coastline. Expect exquisite interiors with impeccable service, for a heavenly winter retreat that you’re sure to remember.
Where to eat: Marie Antoinette is one of the island’s most famous eateries – it was officially declared a national monument in 2011 for maintaining its original structure and design, which date back to the 1800s. You can enjoy award-winning Seychellois comfort food, prepared in the traditional way using local ingredients. The team here proudly boast that the menu has remained virtually unchanged since the restaurant’s opening in 1972, offering the same traditional dishes in a rustic and charming atmosphere, perfect for a relaxed meal with loved ones.