If you love the idea of lazing on the beach but know all too well that the family will be ready to get active after a few days in the sun, we’ve got you covered.
Whether it’s spotting elephants in the wilds of Sri Lanka before relaxing on a private island in the Maldives or combining hiking and history with pro football coaching in Sicily, our experts know the experiences that will stay with you for years to come.
Here’s a run-down of our favourite family beach holidays that come with a side of adventure.
Tropical island adventures in Mauritius
Mauritius is packed full of all the sights and sounds you could want from an exotic holiday. On this pint-sized tropical island, you’ll find a picture-perfect coastline leading to lush forests, tumbling waterfalls and rugged mountains – all ideal for running free and exploring. Hire a private driver/guide to sightsee at your own pace and head out in search of dolphins, treetop walkways and rainbow-coloured sand, then come back to flop on the beach or snooze by the pool.
To keep the kids entertained, stay at cool and contemporary LUX* Belle Mare, which has a fantastic kids’ club called Play for ages 3-11 featuring an outdoor culinary school and splash pool, as well as Studio 17 for teens, complete with a DJ zone.
For extra adventure, add a few nights at LUX* Saint Gilles on the neighbouring island of La Reunion, where fun outings include spotting whales from the water, off-roading to hike through volcanoes and swooping through canyons on a helicopter flight.
A cultural twin-centre in Greece
Our handpicked hotels in Greece raise the bar when it comes to family holidays. Start your twin-centre trip on the lesser-visited west side of the island, where you can explore ancient Minoan sites, build pink sandcastles on Elafonissi beach and stroll round Chania’s pretty harbour. Stay at Domes Zeen Chania, A Luxury Collection Resort, Crete which has excellent family rooms and is the place to stay for insightful local adventures. ‘Island insiders’ design its excursions, so you can visit an olive farm and go hiking through stunning gorges with added authenticity. Even the kids’ club activities go beyond the standard offerings, with Bedouin-tent-style supervised sleepovers and hands-on gardening to learn about sustainability.
Further east on the island, Domes of Elounda, Autograph Collection in Crete brims with culture and character, and its clever design – with family- and adults-aimed zones – will keep everyone happy. CORE is an open-air agora with pop-up shops, activities and events for families where the kids can meet mythological Greek monsters and try out every flavour at the ice-cream truck. The hotel also hosts movie nights, cooking lessons and family yoga, and can arrange local excursions to Knossos and the island of Spinalonga for a slice of history.
Sport, hiking and history in Sicily
Active families, this one’s for you. Verdura Resort, a Rocco Forte Hotel in Sicily pulls out all the stops for a fun-filled break surrounded by pristine beaches and olive groves. The resort has three championship golf courses, a 9-hole course, putting green and driving range for little golfers-in-training, plus a tennis academy and six clay courts where wannabe Murrays and Raducanus can get competitive. Football lovers are in for a real treat: in summer, Verdura holds four-, five- and seven-day Juventus Training Experiences when professional coaches share their pro soccer skills with the kids.
Sicily is a treasure trove of nature and culture, packed with experiences you can all enjoy together. We suggest spending a few nights in historic Taormina on the east coast, home to a beautiful Greek amphitheatre with events taking place throughout the summer. Hike up Europe’s highest volcano on a Mount Etna day trek (suitable for older children), learn the art of great pizza at a pizza-making class and step back in time in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Syracuse.
Beach and city living in Spain
Just a three-hour flight from the UK, Marbella has been a family favourite for decades, and with its incredible location overlooking the beach on the Golden Mile, Puente Romano Beach Resort is one of the region’s hottest resorts. Kids’ activities here range from paddle boarding and tennis to beach clean-ups to learn about sustainability – you can even arrange private tutors for catch-up sessions.
To see more of Spain, take off on a mini road trip and combine your time on the beach in Marbella with a city stay at H10 Casa de la Plata in Seville. A private walking tour is a fantastic way for kids to learn about Seville’s local history – tours can be tailored to your interests, so let your guide know whether it’s palaces, crafts, tapas or Game of Thrones that appeals. If a walking tour isn’t going to keep the kids’ attention, up the adrenalin levels and head for the thrills and spills of the city’s theme park.
The ultimate Indian Ocean twin-centre
Sri Lanka is ideal touring territory and if you book a private car with an experienced driver/guide, you’ll be able to take in the island’s highlights at your own pace. You can explore the Cultural Triangle and Minneriya National Park all from Cinnamon Lodge Habarana, so there’s no need to worry about the unpacking and repacking that’s needed when you move from hotel to hotel. Race to the top of Sigiriya Rock, explore cave temples and go on safari to spot wild elephants, then return to the lodge to watch monkeys play as the kids splash around in the pool.
It’s just a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Sri Lanka to the Maldives – our top recommendation for tropical island relaxation. Kurumba Maldives is only a 10-minute speedboat hop from the airport. The two-level Family Villas here come with a plunge pool and the resort has stand-out experiences ideal for families with older children: take a boat trip out to a remote sandbank for your own picnic in paradise, go snorkelling with turtles or see the underwater world on a glass-bottom boat cruise – you might even spot dolphins.
Temples, elephants and beaches in Thailand
Where else can you whizz between golden temples, spend time with gentle giants at an elephant sanctuary and relax on a glistening beach where your hotel has its own private night market? Start your time in Thailand at the exclusive Sindhorn Midtown Bangkok, where you’ll find spacious family suites and a rooftop infinity pool with sweeping city skyline views. From here, you can explore Bangkok with a private car and driver to create your own sightseeing itinerary.
If you’re travelling with children over 7, Elephant Hills Jungle Safari is our top suggestion. At this award-winning elephant sanctuary, located in one of the world’s oldest rainforests, you’ll create memories to last a lifetime as you watch the elephants bathe and help to prepare their food.
Round off your holiday on the soft sands of Katathani Phuket Beach Resort. There are plenty of pools to make a splash in – including one with mini water slide – and cute extra activities such as Junior Master Chef and traditional Thai kite making. The hotel even has its own private night market, perfect if you like the idea of a scaled-down version of the country’s buzzing evening events. Kathathani’s Grand Deluxe Rooms sleep four and the adult’s sleeping area is next to a roomy balcony, so after a fun day in the sun, you can sit outside with a glass of wine while the kids sleep.
This feature was published on 21st March 2022. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Siobhan O’Halleran.