Blissed-out holiday havens where panoramic sea views come as standard – but that’s not all they offer. Come on, dive in…
Who doesn’t love a sun ‘n’ sea holiday? But access to a comfy sun lounger isn’t all you need to consider – a great view is also essential for setting the seaside tone. We’ve sought out the best destinations that take you right to the water’s edge by offering the perfect sea view – and plenty more.
There’s an architectural rework of a Miami icon that in a former lifetime was a Prohibition-era party den; a French Riviera hideaway that’s as rejuvenating as an early morning swim straight off its deck and an eco hotspot that’s perfect for surfers. Then we head to the Maldives for a beyond-fabulous tropical escape, where eco-luxury comes into its own. Alternatively, tag a stay in Tulum onto a Stateside sojourn to mix a cocktail of Mexican cool and NYC style.
Best for Surfers, paddle-boarders and those who want to ride the waves.
The lowdown Beautiful beach shacks with an eco ethos.
Two years ago Hurricane Irma swept across the Caribbean causing widespread destruction. Many areas lost their tourism trade, with St Barths among the worst hit.
But the island has sprung back into action and Hotel Manapany, a whitewashed hotspot and the ultimate in beach-shack-cool, was the first to open.
Breezy cabin hideaways nestled in coastal groves are finished with Creole decorative touches and linen-draped four-poster beds.
The hotel is the first eco resort of its kind in St Barths, with hotelier Anne Jousse and designer François Champsaur incorporating solar panels and electric-car charging points.
Manapany is also chemical-free, produces its own water supply and uses natural bamboo towels.
HOTEL LES ROCHES ROUGES
SAINT-RAPHAEL, COTE D’AZUR, FRANCE
The lowdown Ruggedly handsome, with a French accent.
Best for Wild swimmers and nature lovers.
F Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘Tender is the Night’ hero Dick Diver was so intent on creating the perfect Riviera beach that he spends afternoons sifting pebbles from the golden sand. If he’d discovered this wild spot on the Côte d’Azur, he could have saved himself a lot of effort. Hôtel Les Roches Rouges positively relishes its rugged, rocky position and achieves a more dramatic version of beachside perfection. Days here are all about embracing the outdoors – one of the resort’s pools is cut into the monumental rock and fed from the sea.
The hotel is secreted away within a nature reserve; perfect for the French appetite for la vie sportive. Rooms also embrace nature, with hemp, cotton and chic rattan set against buffed timber.
When not eating and drinking, expect diving, hiking, sailing, yoga and surprisingly competitive rounds of pétanque.
Book it Double rooms from £300
NOONU ATOLL, MALDIVES
The lowdown Your own private blue lagoon.
Best for Those who dream big.
From above, the overwater villas that fan out from curvy-decked walkways look like a fantasy doodle made after a few mojitos: ‘Okay, so I want my own private pool and deck, with a water slide that goes whoosh into the sea. Ooh, and let’s make the roof open up, so I can see the stars from my bed, and maybe a glass floor in the bathroom so I can watch fish swim under my feet while I clean my teeth…’
The bleached wood villas offer a design masterclass in simple elegance, designed to feel like you’re on the most beautiful of yachts – without the constant rocking.
But the real beauty of Soneva Jani, the latest addition to the ground-breaking, eco-luxe Soneva stable, is that it goes beyond the ‘Maldives-is-for-honeymooners’ cliché. Yes, blissed-up couples will be in their element in the ultra private villas and top notch dining options, but so will families – Little Livingetc was kept happy in the Kids Club and busy learning to snorkel – and in the evening, everyone paddles over to the floating Cinema Paradiso, complete with popcorn, ice cream, and Bluetooth headphones, so the local sea life isn’t disturbed.
TULUM, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO
The lowdown A NYC-style hotel… With added sand.
Best for Sun worshippers with an eye for street art.
Back in the day, Tulum – set on Mexico’s Caribbean coast (think icing-sugar sands, jade-green water and balmy breezes) – was where travellers pitched up, tuned out and crashed in a hammock for a summer or two. Today, the chilled vibe has matured into something more sophisticated and, at Casa Malca, added cool comes direct from the New York art world.
It belongs to NYC art dealer Lio Malca and he’s peppered spaces with sassy works by Kaws and Kenny Scharf. In the bar, there’s a Keith Haring takeover, with patterns that dance around the walls in an endless kinetic jive.
This place has its own colourful past: decades ago, it was owned by drug baron Pablo Escobar, before being seized by the Mexican government. But the Narcos boss’s loss was our gain. Back on the beach, the hammocks are still waiting, the beach is idyllic and the nearby Mayan ruins are as spectacular as ever.
Book it Double rooms from approx £400
FOUR SEASONS HOTEL AT THE SURF CLUB
MIAMI, FLORIDA, USA
The lowdown Old-school Miami, remastered for now.
Best for Star-struck lovers of architecture.
What do you do with a Thirties gem of a hotel? Encase it in glass so it can be better admired. This is, in effect, the result of architect Richard Meier’s modernist revival of a Miami icon. Original spaces, such as the ballroom and Peacock Alley loggia, remain, but the core is now hugged on three sides by a series of rectilinear glass-block balconies glittering in the Florida sun.
So downstairs you can sip old fashioneds and raise a toast to Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, who honeymooned here. But then retreat upstairs to cream, dreamy luxury created by Paris-based architect Joseph Dirand.
Think marble, brass, huge windows and furniture by Molteni&C and Carl Hansen. In the unlikely event you grow tired of the high-roller life, the beach – and its Atlantic rollers – is the hotel’s ‘fourth wall’.
Book it Double rooms from approx £769