The best retreats for barefoot luxury travel

Luxury is a subjective notion – for some, it’s as simple as a hot bath; for others, it might be somewhat more lavish, involving lashings of vintage champagne(or perhaps a combination of the two). But when it comes to hotel design, the term can ring alarm bells – all too often ‘luxury’ is a byword for diamanté-encrusted bling and dark-polished surfaces, a concept that can leave us cold.

Formal and high-maintenance environments just aren’t relaxing. For those of us who lead busy urban lives filled with the pressures that technology brings, the concept of luxury has shifted. It’s about switching off emails and being outdoors, off-duty and make-up free.

Enter three resorts that offer just that – Maalifushi by COMO in the Maldives, with its white sand and crystal water; Chinzombo in Zambia, a safari camp that takes luxury under canvas; and La Semilla in Mexico’s Playa del Carmen, a boho, surfer-style home from home.

So leave those heels at home and embrace the new barefoot you – albeit with a glass of bubbly...

maalifushi by Como


The lowdown A stress-busting, feel-good, beachside retreat.

Best for A sublime but seriously luxe mind and body boost.

Arriving by speedboat anywhere is a treat, but zooming into island retreat Maalifushi takes the experience to a whole new level.

Decked out with nude tones and natural fabrics, its 62 stylish yet understated over-water and on-land suites and villas nod to the local architecture with subtle details such as outdoor showers crafted from indigenous timber.Inside, clusters of metallic lighting provide a shot of modern cool.

Holistic, Asian-inspired healing is the focus here and with eight light-filled treatment rooms – all of which face the glittering Indian Ocean – you’ll be blissed-out in no time.

Get the most from your stay by booking yourself in for an invigorating, stress-busting Taksu massage – being gently kneaded to the sound of swishing waves will quickly zap your troubles and set you up for the sporty activities on offer; think complimentary daily open-air yoga, as well as snorkelling, diving and sailing.

Food-wise, the choice is extensive and seriously nutritious, with organic fare and plenty of sushi on the menu. You’ll leave refreshed, radiant and raring to go.

Book itwater suites from approx £600 B&B.



The lowdown A decadent safari camp that blurs indoors and out.

Best for Travellers with a wild side.

With direct access to the South Luangwa National Park and some of the richest game areas in Africa, Chinzombo is a wildlife fanatic’s paradise. Its six spacious ‘villas’ blend into the surroundings, with wide-open terraces and panoramic views of the banks of the Luangwa river.

To describe Chinzombo as a camp doesn’t really do it justice because every comfort has been considered here – cooled sleeping areas, huge bathrooms complete with freestanding baths, private pools and Norman’s bar for a quenching gin and tonic after an exhilarating day’s exploring.

Yet for all these modern touches, the camp remains connected to the environment and has an adventurous spirit thanks to little touches such as rolled-up canvas, packing-trunk furniture and enormous tree-stump tables. You may even get wildlife wandering through the camp itself, but fear not – the hosts and guides here are among the best in Zambia.

Book itdoubles from approx £442 full board, including park fees and activities.

Hotel la semilla

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

The lowdown A rough-luxe oasis on Mexico’s Riviera Maya.

Best for working off that post-beach margarita with a gentle jungle run.

Fancy swimming in the Caribbean before exploring some Mayan ruins? Then Playa del Carmen is the place for you. Once a fishing town, this spot on the Yucatán now has its own Fifth Avenue, filled with designer stores from the likes of Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss and Christian Dior. But if shopping isn’t your bag, just kick back and relax at this intimate B&B, located in the hip Calle 38 district.

La Semilla’s nine rooms are dressed in boho fashion, with beaten-leather suitcases used as chests and clothes rails suspended from the rafters. Above all, though, the hotel is beautiful, peaceful and quiet (it’s child free and there are no TVs, although it has Wi-Fi).

The in-house Cocina Loft serves a healthy, balanced breakfast and for dinner, La Semilla is right next door to one of the best restaurants in town, La Cueva Del Chango. Out at sea, the diving is to die for, while local spas specialise in Mayan treatments that use the healing energy of the sun. In other words, this place is hot...

Book itdouble rooms from £66.

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