Where To Head For Winter Sun

Posted on: 17 December 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

We pick out the destinations that will satisfy your need for some winter sun.


Satisfaction has been in short supply this year. The pound has plummeted, the summer was a washout and your house is nearly worth less than your shed.

What you need is a double dose of full-fat, supersaturated satisfaction, and we know exactly where you’ll find it.

From no-news, no-shoes desert islands to full-spec, plush spa resorts, here are the destinations where your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Africa

Shiri Beach, Fumba, Zanzibar

The mangrove-fringed beaches of Zanzibar’s southwest coast are less popular than those on the north and east, but if you’re visiting between December and February, when the northeast monsoon is blowing, this is where you want to be.

The water is the same ludicrous shade of blue, the sand slightly more golden and, as Shiri beach faces west, it offers awesome sunsets.

Day-trippers are unheard of and the guests at the Fumba Beach Lodge, five minutes away, seem reluctant to leave the hotel’s own perfect little strip of sand, making Shiri beach all yours.

Vamizi Island, Mozambique

Part managed by the Zoological Society of London, Vamizi is a favoured haunt of Nelson Mandela and the apotheosis of the African ecoresort.

Just eight miles long by a mile wide, and considered among the last untouched African wildernesses, the island describes itself as “a conservation project funded through low-impact, upmarket tourism”.

It goes without saying that the white-sand beaches are Bounty-bar perfect, but the biggest draw is the wildlife, with 112 avian species, samango monkeys and giant coconut crabs playing supporting roles to the main event - a pristine reef within wading distance, said to be home to more types of coral than the Great Barrier Reef, on which new marine species are still being discovered.

Nkwichi Beach, Malawi

There’s something of Neverland about Nkwichi - “squeaky sand” in the local dialect - a brilliant white beach on the rocky shores of Africa’s third largest lake.

The six chalets, with crooked terraces, are straight out of PeterPan, and the fireflies that dart around the campfire at night are clearly pals of Tinker Bell. All that’s missing, fortunately, is Captain Hook and that infernal crocodile!

Asia

Bai Dai, Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Phu Quoc is being called the new Phuket, so you’ll need to move fast before they pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

The best beach on this tiny island off the south coast of Vietnam is Bai Dai, a strip of beauty wrapped around the island’s northwestern tip. Halfway along is a solitary shack where a man called San will fry you fresh fish, bring you cold beer and string a hammock from a palm tree for your postprandial nap.

Ko Lone, Thailand

Discovering the island of Ko Lone so close to the neon-lit atrocity that is Phuket seems unlikely but take a 15-minute boat trip from the flashing lights of Chalong Bay and you’ll findla dolce vita.

Just two miles long and half a mile wide, Ko Lone has no roads or shops, and the only footprints you’ll see on the beaches will be those of the native fishermen. What makes it doubly satisfying is that it’s as cheap as Iceland’s chips. Well, almost.

The Serendip Riviera, Sri Lanka

The basic ingredients - lapis-lazuli waters, icing-sugar sands, long hours of winter sunshine and exclusive little beachside hideaways - are here in spades.

All that’s missing is the crowds: times are tough for Sri Lanka, and many hotels on the island consider 60% occupancy to be a crazy dream. The result is empty beaches, uncrowded pools, room upgrades for the asking and more time devoted to you.

The place to stay is the brand-new Talalla Retreat, a boutiquey yoga place on mesmerising Talalla beach, with a resident Aussie surf guide to steer you through the world-class breaks.

Atlantic

São Miguel dos Milagres, Brazil

Few travellers outside Brazil have heard of this local secret, between the resorts of Recife and Maceio, but that’s all about to change.

The limpid, jade-green, reef-formed swimming pools, the seemingly endless, empty sands and the gentle, friendly vibe have attracted the attention of top-end outfits such as Amanresorts and middle-market specialists such as the travel giant TUI, whose scouts have been seen hard at work researching the beach.

Go now, if only for the immense satisfaction of having been there first.

Caribbean

Malliouhana, Anguilla

It is rare to find a hotel where the staff start to cry if they see a guest so much as frown. Family-run Malliouhana is one such place, overlooking the perfect beach at Mead’s Bay, on Anguilla.

The huge rooms have stunning views, the huge staff have stunning smiles and the huge restaurant has two Michelin stars and a stunning cellar of 25,000 bottles that holds the Wine Spectator Grand Award.

For children, there’s the best adventure playground in the Caribbean and for ladies, a 15,000 sq ft spa.

Maroma Resort & Spa, Mexico

Despite its sugar-soft sands, sparkling turquoise seas and jungle-fringed beaches, the Riviera Maya has often failed to fulfil its promise of exotic tropical idyll.

Keep the faith, though, because the further south you drive, away from the horrors of Cancun, the better it gets. By the time you reach the Maroma Resort and Spa, you’ll find exactly what you had in mind.

Set in 25 acres of jungle, the hotel is a low-key jumble of thatched palapas, staffed by locals and offering obscure Mayan spa treatments.

Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Known to breathless backpackers as “the new Goa”, Tayrona offers a Garlandesque idyll of hippie living on the Caribbean’s most dramatically beautiful beaches.

Reached via slippery jungle paths, a necklace of white-sand coves such as Concha, Chengue and Cinto lie between the green fingers of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Glover’s Atoll, Belize

There are many who believe there’s hidden treasure on this tiny, nine-acre atoll, named after the pirate John Glover and lying 45 miles off the coast of Belize.

If you’re looking for a truly uncommercialised desert-island idyll, you won’t find better than this. Water comes from a rainwater well, breakfast from the coconut palms and supper - if you’re lucky - from the sea.

The beach is straight out of Captain Jack Sparrow’s dreams, and there’s a spectacular 2,700ft drop-off into Bartlett Trough, which lies 100yd offshore, so if you can’t dive, this is the place to learn.

Indian Ocean

Anse Georgette, Praslin, Seychelles

The most beautiful beach in the Seychelles is widely believed to be that of Anse Georgette, a small but perfectly formed strand that coyly hides her charms beneath the takamaka trees at the back end of a golf course.

The problem is that her firm, gently sloping sands, her ample shade and her perfect curves are too small to share.

Zighy Bay, Oman

It’s not the easiest beach to get to – guests arrive, Milk Tray-style, by paraglider – but for sheer spine-tingling drama, you can’t beat Zighy.

Cut off from the rest of the sultanate by the UAE, the mile-long sweep of sand, pinched between soaring 8,000ft peaks of glistening limestone and the Strait of Hormuz, looks like the kind of place you’d see Bond wading ashore.

The Beach House At Manafaru, Maldives 

The Beach House at Manafaru aims to satisfy your every whim by applying the shotgun effect to hospitality. Each of the 68 villas comes packed with WiFi, DVD players, iPod docks and swathes of plasma, as well as huge outdoor bathrooms, plunge pools and glass floors.

If lounging doesn’t satisfy, there’s tennis, volleyball, badminton and the only 18-hole golf simulator in the Maldives. There's also a spa, infinty pool and private desert islands for indulging castaway fantasies.

Are you going away this winter? Do you have any recommendations for good getaways?

If so, let us know by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other readers in the 50connect forums.

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