Entirely self-sufficient (the island produces its own electricity and water), it’s perfectly acceptable to waft about like castaways here.
You’ll soon find your rhythm: rising late, downing towels on one of the island’s bone-white beaches and wading out into the shallows to keep cool. When the midday sun gets too much, there’s the heavenly spa to retreat to. Food is a highlight thanks to Como Shambhala’s super-healthy rainbow- coloured plates, or for something a bit different, the hotel will arrange a tiki-hut dinner on the beach.
Honeymoon high: When there’s a full moon, book a candlelit spa treatment under the stars.
Room key: One-bedroom beach house.
Delivering colonial Caribbean luxe with a strong dash of daring. Sugar Beach is a modern-day Romancing the Stone-esque retreat. Whitewashed plantation-style villas are dotted around the hills, surrounded by ficus trees, red cedars and flowering heliconias. and the resort is home to one of the best treetop spas in the world. To cap things off.
St Lucia’s extraordinary pitons rise from the sea seemingly book-ending the resort. This year sees Glenconner. a second white-sand beach added, providing further mileage for that barefoot post-dinner stroll…
Honeymoon high: Sailing around the pitons aboard Sugar Beach’s 42ft yacht. Manatee.
Candy-cane striped umbrellas, wooden ceiling fans and palm-tree prints are just a few of the things that make this hotel so iconic. Expect classy colonial architecture, rum cocktails adorned with absurdly large flowers and warm smiles at every turn. Complimentary afternoon tea (scones and Wedgwood china) is served every day and has been for the last 25 years – well worth dragging yourselves off the beach for – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Cobblers Cove’s charming old-fashioned ways.
Honeymoon high: A trip to Bridgetown Market with chef Leo to pick up ingredients for a dinner a deux.
Room key: The Camelol suite on the top floor of the hotel’s main plantation house comes with a rooftop terrace and plunge pool.
This year sees the first full year of operation for this hotly anticipated Indian Ocean escape. Tucked away in the lesser-visited Noonu Atoll, it has 25 chic villas sprinkled across five palm-strewn islands (so masses of space), but what really sets the resort apart is the technology and imagination that’s gone into the place. Villa roots retract at the press of a button allowing the spectacular night skies in, and there are two-storey over-water villas with slides from the top deck straight into an Evian-dear lagoon.
Honeymoon high: Scanning the starry skies in the Maldives’ first over-water observatory
So many Maldivian resorts, so little time… This one, in the North Male Atoll, was the first ever all over-water villa resort and is as good as it gets. Not too large (44 villas), it has sound eco credentials and strong spa game (reiki, meditation and Tibetan singing bowls). Ride around barefoot on bicycles, snorkel with mantas and give in to your every desire at meal times – there’s nothing they can’t whip up here. Sleeping under the stars for a night, dining on a deserted island and watching movies with your toes in the sand are just a few of the things in store for honeymooners.
Honeymoon high: Dinner in Lagoon Champa, a tiny thatched hut on stilts with glass floors. Located offshore, boat required.
Room key: A Crusoe Residence.
As far as all-indusives go, Sandals Royal Caribbean Montego Bay practically wrote the rulebook. Occupying the largest stretch of powder-soft sand in northern Jamaica, this was Sandals’ very first opening, and remains brilliantly geared towards couples to this day. Last December saw the resort up the ante with a handful of splendid thatched over-water villas just like in the Maldives. Each one comes with butler service.
Honeymoon high: Sailing down the Martha Brae River on a bamboo raft.
You could be among the first to christen this magnificent, all-inclusive resort located in hip Los Cabos. With 304 sleek suites, it’s a sprawler. but with size comes splendour – and serenity, if you have kids in to, thanks to a brilliant kids club and separate hangout for teens. Expect luxury on tap (L’Occitane goodies in the bathroom), a handful of ravishing restaurants and a spa with a long list of soothing agave-based treatments. All this just 35 minutes from the airport
Honeymoon high: Whale watching around the Baja California peninsula.
Room key: Presidential Suite.
What started as a 16-room hotel more than 50 years ago, is now one of the jazziest hotels on Antigua spanning 17 acres of prime coastline. Relaxation is the name of the game here. Really, the only decision you need to make is pool, hot tub or sea. But while it’s highly tempting to keep to yourselves 24 hours a day, the Pelican Bar’s steel band is worth emerging for as is the manager’s weekly cocktail party.
Honeymoon high: A boat trip to Prickly Pear Island, a pinprick just off the coast measuring only 100 yards across.
Room key: Rock Cottage, a grand beach house set on the headland has epic ocean views, and comes with its own pool, staff and the option of a private chef.
Why settle for one island when you can have them all? That’s something you’ll never have to worry about on an island-hopping holiday with Sandals Resorts.
Whether it’s the spice gardens of Grenada to the rum shacks of Barbados, you’ll be able to sit back and soak up the distinct character of the Caribbean, leaving you make the most of a vast swathe of holiday options that’ll create the sun-kissed trip of your dreams.
With a twin- or triple-centre stay at any of the 15 elegant Luxury Included resorts scattered along the Caribbean’s stunning coastline, you’ll be treated to luxurious accommodation, friendly hospitality and most importantly – choice.
Whether you’re after an active escape split between the sapphire seas of Saint Lucia and the lush green golf course at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort in Jamaica, or you just want to put your feet up and indulge in a massage at your resort’s Red Lane Spa, every Sandals Luxury Included resort gives you the chance to discover the vibrant soul of the Caribbean in ultimate style and unadulterated relaxation.
Sandals resorts offer unlimited land sports instruction, so how about indulging in tennis and beach volleyball before retiring to the swim-up poolside bar for a unlimited premium brand drinks at Sandals Royal Bahamian?
If leaping around on the powder-soft sand of the Bahamas doesn’t sound quite action-packed enough for your whole stay, there’s an entire underwater world to explore, and with unlimited water sports included in every Sandals stay, you’ll be discovering the Caribbean’s hidden treasures and navigating across the sea with fully-instructed scubadiving and waterskiing.
You can even plan your wedding around your stay at Sandals – with a free wedding service available, every resort makes saying “I do” in paradise elegant and easy. Once you’ve tied the knot on the pristine sands of Saint Lucia, you could hop on a short flight and escape to your own garden oasis at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort Spa for your honeymoon.
Meanwhile, if you’re simply a sun-seeker in search of somewhere to kick back and lounge on the beach, every Sandals resort is the perfect place to call home. With an array of swim-up suites, you won’t even need to leave the comfort of your luxurious room to catch those rays.
If you ever actually want to leave your lounger, you’ll also find plenty of activities and tours to be organised directly through the resort.
On return, when you’re feeling a bit peckish, you’ll find a sumptuous mix of specially selected 5 Star Global Gourmet restaurants to choose from. From cool French cafés to flavours of the Far East, there’s a pleasure for every palate.
Imagine the Maldives, but with more depth and personality. Here the clever Aussie owners, Rory and Melita Hunter, have created an ethics-first eco retreat, as well as supplying spoiling luxury with a high thread-count.
There’s a spa offering aromatic massages, vast villas with private splash pools hovering on stilts over the lizard-green water, and a superb waterside restaurant with a chill-out lounge and spicy fish amok on the menu. (Eagle rays launch themselves from the water as you eat mango and coconut for breakfast.) But beyond the industry-standard palm trees and beachside infinity pool, the differences are telling.
The oil drums repurposed as light fixtures, for instance, and the villa’s outdoor tables made from gathered driftwood on which guests mix their own drinks, with ingredients and instructions provided.
Then there are the sustainability projects, the hotel’s work supporting local communities and its marine conservation, all evidence of a keen commitment to the area. Not that any of it is forced upon guests. It’s perfectly acceptable to do nothing more than spend the day kayaking around the uninhabited island of Koh Rong, followed by a massage under the stars.
Water is the theme of a photography show on view through Labor Day at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art in Friday Harbor; it includes work from Ansel Adams, Dorothy Kerper Monnelly and underwater photographer Ernest H. Brooks II.
Titled “Fragile Waters,” it calls attention to this critical resource through 117 black-and-white photographs that capture the grandeur of water in nature.
Following years of population stagnation and decline, two of the pods of orcas that call the San Juans home experienced a baby boom this past year, producing nine new calves. The best spot to see the whales and their little ones from shore: Lime Kiln Point State Park, on the west side of San Juan Island.
If you time it right, you can picnic while watching the dorsal fins of the entire brood glide past.
Naples has nothing on Hogstone’s Wood Oven, a roadhouse style spot in Eastsound, the biggest village on Orcas Island. The dough is thin and crispy; the sauce is tart and tangy. Chef Jay Blackinton sources many of his ingredients from a nearby farm — and he was recently nominated for Rising Star/Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation. Pizzas run from $10 to $25. hogstone.com
Allow a few hours to explore the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park, an eclectic installation that spans 20 acres on the north side of San Juan Island near Roche Harbor. The rotating collection includes more than 150 original pieces, mainly by Pacific Northwest sculptors. Along the five marked trails, poetry from a local laureate celebrates the beauty of nature. Suggested donation, $5. sjisculpturepark.com
Dedicated in 2013, the San Juan Islands National Monument encompasses 1,000 acres across the archipelago. The easy 3-mile Iceberg Point trail, on the southwestern tip of Lopez Island, is a great introduction to the park. From rocky cliffs at the halfway point, you can spot the snow-capped Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and look for whales. Wildflowers are also plentiful in summer.
Without a doubt, the island of Sardinia is home to some of the very best beaches in the Mediterranean. Crystalline waters of dazzling turquoise, cobalt or emerald lap shores of white or golden sand – variously backed by fragrant pinewoods, plunging rocks or charming small towns. With more than 1,000 kilometres of coastline, a list of the island’s ‘best’ beaches could easily run into the hundreds.
And who can arbitrate on ‘best’ anyway, given that tastes vary so much on what makes a beach perfect?
To some, it’s seclusion and an air of exclusivity – a tiny, private-feeling cove flanked by sculptural rocks and pretty vegetation, with not a sunlounger or snack-bar in sight. To others, it’s a huge expanse of soft, strollable sand with wide views to distant islets and a cute nearby fishing village full of cafés and restaurants. Needless to say, Sardinia offers plenty of beaches like these, and more. You’ll always be spoilt for choice on this island, but here are some ideas on where you might start…
Sinis Peninsula – West Sardinia
Wild, undeveloped, windswept and dramatic, the coastline of the Sinis Peninsula is a protected wonderland of colourful landscapes. There are stubby cliffs, shapely sweeps of low-lying land, sleepy lagoons, reefs, gleaming beaches, miniature deserts of dunes, Greek ruins and even a small, cracked volcano. Uncrowded and entirely unspoilt, this is a wonderful area to bask in the elements, and to surf, cycle or snorkel. Two beaches you should include on your itinerary are San Giovanni di Sinis – a long gentle arc of pale sand overlooked by an old watchtower – and Is Arutas – where the sand is fine pieces of quartz, like shiny multi-coloured grains of rice. The nearby provincial capital, Oristano, is a handsome place and a good base from which to explore the peninsula.
Arcipelago di La Maddalena – Northeastern Tip of Sardinia
The Maddalena archipelago is a protected geomarine National Park comprising seven agonizingly beautiful islands – four of them uninhabited – plus innumerable tiny islets. Entirely unspoilt, it’s an aquatic Eden, with white sand, wind-sculpted rocks and dazzlingly clear water in barely credible shades of blue and green. Among the best beaches are the white-sand Cala Corsara on the isle of Spargi and the pink – yes, pink – Spiaggia Rosa on Budelli. Getting to and around the archipelago requires planning. From mainland Sardinia, you can embark from Santa Teresa di Gallura, Porto Pozzo, Palau or Cannigione. La Maddalena is the largest of the islands and there is some accommodation available in its eponymous town.
Mark Twain wrote “Heaven was copied after Mauritius.” Thanks to an enlightened policy of ecotourism and preservation, this tiny, pear-shaped speck of an island smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean remains unspoiled and intriguing.
Independent since 1968, Mauritius is a 28-mile-wide microcosm of European colonialism and cultural diversity, an exotic mosaic of Indian, African, British, continental, and Chinese influences.
Long a favorite of European sunseekers, it boasts sugar-white beaches, dramatic mountains, volcanic lakes, a gracious, Creole-speaking population, and a number of exquisite resort hotels – most of them sensitive to and respectful of the island’s natural beauty. Foremost is the secluded Oberoi, on the island’s less-developed northwest coast.
Grand without being glitzy, with 20 lush, tropical acres and a world-class spa, it exudes such an air of intimacy and calm that it might as well have a Do Not Disturb sign at its discreet entrance.
The island’s culinary treat is Spoon des Îles, the trump card of the island’s glitterati magnet, Le Saint Géran Hotel, Spa & Golf Club, located on 60 acres at the tip of the Belle Mare Peninsula on the island’s east coast.
The first of chef Alain Ducasse’s star-spangled restaurants to open outside Europe, it draws from the island’s Creole, French, and Asian elements, infallibly showcasing the area’s renowned seafood.
For all the amenities available to visitors at the luxury hotels, the best beaches are the public ones, especially on weekends when Mauritian families turn up for reunions and food fests where all are welcome.
The old-world hotel where Ernest Hemingway’s tragic WW I hero Frederic Henry trysted with his goddess, Catherine Barkley, in A Farewell to Arms still dominates the banks of Lake Maggiore, in a setting that only grows more gorgeous with age.
The enormous 19th-century Grand Hotel et des Iles Borromees is as romantic and princely as in the days of the young American soldier, and the lobby bar still serves a stiff Hemingway martini to help guests slip into that mood of being “faint with love.”
The views alone are enough to warrant a certain lightheadedness: ask for any of the lakeside rooms for a priceless view over the 40-mile sweep of water toward the snow-dusted Swiss Alps and a glimpse of the four Borromean Islands.
The tiny but fabled Borromeans are named after the aristocratic Lombard family that has owned them since the 12th century. They consist of two Baroque palaces, a tiny fishing village, and two lavish gardens, whose springtime display of rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, resident peacocks, and golden pheasants is world renowned.
“What can one say of Lake Maggiore, and of the Borromean Islands,” wrote Stendhal, “except to pity people who do not go mad over them?”
All but unknown to the outside world, Bathurst and its sister island, Melville, are the ancestral home of Australia’s Tiwi Aborigines and provide the most fascinating cultural experience Australia has to offer.
Tiwi means “chosen people,” and for 40,000 years this culture developed separately from other Aboriginal groups, escaping the colonization suffered by those on the continent just 50 miles away—even the early Catholic missionaries were culturally lenient, allowing many Tiwi beliefs to coexist with the newly imposed religion.
Today, non-Tiwi can visit the islands only as part of Tiwi-owned and-operated tours. Local guides assist in total immersion: four-wheel-drive forays into Bathurst bushland in search of traditional “tucker” for lunch may turn up bandicoot, wallaby, some nice carpet snake, or—why not?—mangrove worms.
After a rib-rattling jeep ride to the very edge of Australia, pull up on a magnificent beach facing the Timor Sea and Indonesia. The nearby Indonesian archipelago is reflected in the local textile crafts, with batik patterns still being created by local cooperatives.
The Byzantine Empire may have ended with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, but tell that to the monks of Mount Athos. Women (even female domestic animals) have not been allowed to set foot in this 140-square-mile semiautonomous monastic state since the 11th century, but male visitors with the appropriate permit can step back 500 years to the time of this theocracy’s heyday, when more than forty monasteries housing 40,000 monks flourished.
Today there are twenty monasteries. Most of them resemble fortified castles from the outside, reminders that the monks once had to fend off pirates, Christian crusaders, and the Ottoman Turks.
Today’s population of about 2,000 brothers carries on an unbroken 1,000-year tradition of study and liturgy. Priceless artwork and manuscripts have been amassed over the years, and the sacred clutter of relics and icons may be seen by visitors participating in morning and afternoon prayers.
Visitors are also welcome to dine in the refectory with the monks (meals are vegetarian). Some monks are gregarious and welcoming, others oblivious to the limited but almost constant stream of guests during summer months, when it is most difficult to procure a permit.
There is no land access to Athos, a heavily wooded area where wildlife abounds. Unrestricted numbers of Greek men may visit Mount Athos, but only ten foreign adult males per day may enter, spending no more than one night at any given monastery.
Monemvasia’s nickname, the Greek Mont-Saint-Michel, conveys some of the charm of this small medieval town that clings to the side of an islandlike rock jutting out of the southern Peloponnesian coast.
Like Gibraltar, Monemvasia once controlled the sea lines between medieval Western Europe and the Levant. Within this walled city, the houses and distinctly Byzantine churches are still occupied and connected by a long, narrow causeway to the mainland town of Gefira.
Well-to-do Greeks have renovated once-crumbling ruins into vacation homes, but off-season, Monemvasia is nearly deserted, and the network of narrow side streets—sometimes just wide enough for two to pass—are yours alone.
Three centuries-old buildings have been converted into the Hotel Malvasia, “the rock’s” most atmospheric hotel, under government-controlled restoration. Each room is individually decorated with antiques: some have fireplaces, some have sea views.