7 of the best hotels for a winter sun getaway
There’s high demand for a dose of sunshine this winter, so we’ve huddled together a few of our favourite hotels that still have space on their sunbeds. Whether you’d love to round off 2021 with a last hurrah holiday or take off on an exotic trip to beat the January blues, here are some ideas for a beachy start (or end) to the year.
Escape the Christmas rush in Mauritius
This year, you could start the celebrations early and jet away to the tranquil, sunny shores of Mauritius. December marks the beginning of summer and although the increased humidity brings more rainfall, showers are usually short and sharp and are rather refreshing in the high-20s heat. The swanky new Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort & Villas has a wow-factor setting on a secluded beach, just a stone’s throw from the aquatic wonderland of Blue Bay Marine Park. Aside from the location, we love the fun activities included in your stay – Creole language lessons, forest hikes and smoothie-making, to name a few. Don’t miss the Spice Spoons cooking experience, where you can rustle up traditional Mauritian dishes with a master chef before tasting your creations. Visit during December and you’ll have no trouble getting into the Christmas spirit as the festivities are in full swing. Staying for the main event? Celebrate Santa’s arrival with a lavish Christmas Day Bubble Brunch, including free-flowing Prosecco.
Snorkel in the Seychelles
When the party invites are ticked off your calendar and the decorations are packed away, it's easy to feel jaded in January. A guaranteed way to liven up the gloomy days is by escaping to a tropical island, especially one that's home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. One of our top picks in the Seychelles is the newly-opened Mango House, literally a luxurious home-from-home – it was once the residence of a famous Italian photographer. Perched on the edge of a sheltered bay teeming with vibrant marine life, you can while away the hours' snorkelling, kayaking or sinking into a cushioned lounger by one of the three pools. Foodies will delight at the choice of eateries; there are five outlets serving up everything from coconut-grilled seafood to Japanese sushi. Plus, if you're celebrating your honeymoon or anniversary, Kuoni guests are treated to a 'Bubbles and Art' experience, where you can clink Champagne glasses as you unleash your inner Van Gogh with the help of a local artist.
‘New Year, New You’ in the Maldives
After spending most of December eating, drinking and being merry, your New Year resolution may be to kick-start a healthier lifestyle. Rather than jogging on frosty pavements and dusting off your gym membership, you could fire up your motivation with a (rather luxurious) health-focused holiday. Kagi Maldives Spa Island is a tiny speck in the North Malé Atoll, designed around the floating Baani Spa, one of the Maldives most highly-anticipated wellness havens. Taking care of yourself is no hardship here; the sound of rolling waves accompanies your morning yoga session and you can tuck into tasty dishes, guilt-free, in the clean-eating Spa Corner. There’s plenty of restful therapy on offer; you can unwind with a blissful spa treatment, take to the water on a dolphin-spotting cruise or simply soak up the peacock-blue views from your private pool villa. However, if you need a little encouragement to get moving, the personal trainers in the state-of-the-art gym will get your fitness regime back on track.
Go on great-value getaway to Thailand
The winter months are a dreamy time to visit Thailand as there's low rainfall across most of the country. We especially love the island playground of Phuket, where both partygoers and relaxation-seekers come to play. Some areas, such as Patong, are a maze of neon lights and lively bars, but there are also sleepy beaches and hideaway hotels. You can have the best of both worlds at Marina Phuket Resort, a great-value resort that we've made exclusive to Kuoni guests in the UK. This secret jungle oasis is a picture of tranquillity yet only a short stroll away from the urban buzz of Karon, so you can dip in and out of the action as much as you like. When you're not lounging by the lagoon pool or paddling up to the swim-up bar for an icy refreshment, you can feast on Thai cuisine in a trio of restaurants or venture out to sample local street food in the nearby night market.
Discover the Caribbean’s best-kept secret: Dominica
From November to April, the big-hitting Caribbean islands of Barbados, Antigua and Saint Lucia are especially popular with holidaymakers. To escape the crowds, we have a little-known gem up our sleeve. Dominica is an island of hidden volcanic coves, bubbling springs and pristine rainforest. Although many lodgings come in the form of rustic guesthouses and small, eco-friendly boltholes, there are a handful of five-star retreats where you can enjoy this slice of paradise in style. At Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski, you have all the comforts of a high-end hotel but still feel a huge sense of place. The low-rise buildings are in keeping with the wonderfully wild setting – tucked between towering mountains and the Caribbean Sea. Cabrits Market, the signature restaurant, is reflective of a traditional Creole market with fresh, farm-to-fork food. Once the stars appear, head to the Rumfire bar to sip pirate-themed cocktails by the fire pit – we recommend the ‘Black Pearl’, a heady blend of spiced rum, grapefruit and local sugar-cane syrup.
Try watersports in Sri Lanka
The ‘teardrop of India’ is ideal for a winter trip with an exotic twist. The southwest coast is peppered with plush resorts – one of the best is Cinnamon Bentota Beach, an iconic hotel that’s recently upped its game with a serious makeover. Inside, the space has a stylish design – think rich colours, bold artwork and hand-loomed textiles, and the lobby’s intricately-painted ceiling is a highlight in its own right. Outside, well-kept gardens wrap around the caramel-hued buildings, leading to either a mangrove-fringed river or the ocean, depending which way you walk. Relax by the pool, have a go at windsurfing and jet-skiing, or take a thrilling ride on a WoKart®. For calmer pursuits, you can try your hand at locally-inspired activities like cinnamon tea tasting, puppet making or coconut leaf art. When you’re ready for a change of scene, hire a driver for the day to explore Sri Lanka’s temples, towns and tea plantations.
Take a trip to the ‘70s in Gran Canaria
If you’re not keen on travelling too far-flung, the Canary Islands are an excellent alternative for a balmy break over the wintry months. In Gran Canaria, a stay among the wind-sculpted dunes in Maspalomas feels like you’ve been dropped in the Sahara, albeit with a little more creature comforts. It’s here you’ll find Seaside Palm Beach Hotel, an ultra-glam retro resort that’s more Miami than Maspalomas. Arriving into the jazzy lobby is like stepping into 1970; expect vintage furnishings, zig-zag prints and a vibrant colour scheme. Couples will love the spa and the grown-up dining at Esencia, where renowned chef Steffen Schenk plates up modern Mediterranean fare with flair. Come nightfall, head to the Salon Bar for live music and sangria or take your drinks al-fresco beneath the palms that are festooned in fairy lights.
This feature was published on 1st December 2021. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.