Clients looking to fly and flop on exotic shores they can have to themselves? Laura French looks into the lesser-known options for winter sun.
There’s something quite novel about taking off in the heart of the cold, dark British winter and landing a few hours later in the height of a warm, bright summer, sun streaming down on your skin, locals gleeful with the type of energy a radiant blue sky seems to pull out.
Fortunately there’s a whole host of places where you can do exactly that, with a plethora of beach destinations whose temperatures are at their most pleasant when our climate is at its most volatile.
Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean all offer their fair share, without requiring a week in a plane to get there – and while the better-known spots can attract the crowds, there’s plenty of off-the-radar options for those wanting more secluded getaway.
We’ve done our research to find some of the best, so read on to find out where to send clients who’ve already done there, been that and got the (slightly touristy) T-shirt – and now want a winter sun beach break where they’ll have the turquoise seas and towering palm trees entirely to themselves.
Like Koh Samui, Thailand?
Bath-warm waters coloured electric blue, snow-white sands brushed with coconut groves, emerald-green rainforests carpeting the mountains; they might sound like clichés, but Koh Samui is about as close to the visions of a “paradise island” as you can get – if you take away the crowds. In reality it’s not shy of backpackers, tourists and big-name resorts, so if clients are after a more remote spot it might be worth looking to a lesser-known option.
Try: Koh Lanta and Koh Yao, Thailand
Why: The twinned Koh Yao islands close to Phuket and Krabi offer exactly that, with eco-friendly credentials, fewer visitors and only a handful of lodgings. The smallest of the two is Koh Yao Yai, where kayaking through mangroves, trekking through coconut plantations and bumping around on tuk-tuks are the main activities, with excellent local food on hand to boot.
For an extra-peaceful trip suggest pairing them with a stay on the nearby isle of Koh Lanta, where barefooted, carefree types amble along deserted sugary sands, and limestone formations float above aqua-coloured water that’s bright enough to glow in the dark.
Experts say: “Koh Yao Yai and Koh Lanta remain fairly quiet to tourists and have avoided an influx of hotels,” says John Parker, Premier Holidays’ product manager for Africa and Thailand. “Visitors coming in winter will see minimal rainfall with hot, sunny days.”
Book it: A week in a Garden Pavilion at Layana Resort & Spa, Koh Lanta costs from £1,999 per person, including return flights, transfers and breakfast, and valid for travel Jan 1-March 26, 2020.
From buzzy local hangouts like Enterprise Beach to brochure-worthy spots like Crane Beach – a long stretch of soft white sand, tinged with pink and fringed with palm groves – it’s not hard to see what lures beach-seekers to Barbados. Averages of 26C from December to February make it an excellent bet for winter, and for those wanting to indulge there’s a world-class culinary scene, combining authentic Caribbean street food shacks with elegant high-end restaurants.
Why: Just as bountiful on the beach front is Grenada. At its heart is Grand Anse, a two-mile curve of white, powdery sand that’s the archetype of a Caribbean getaway – all swaying palms and Powerade-blue ocean, shaded by an age-old almond tree. It’s not just about the beaches though; like Barbados it has a vibrant food scene, with exotic, fragrant markets laying testament to its reputation as the ‘spice island’, and verdant cocoa plantations producing some of the Caribbean’s best chocolate.
Experts say: “Grenada is an excellent option for travellers wanting to explore as well as relax,” says Jenny Peart, head of product at Caribtours. “There’s so much to do, from tree-to-bar chocolate experiences to diving around the eerie underwater sculpture park, and exploring lush national parks such as Grand Etang.”
Book it: Seven nights’ half-board at Calabash Boutique Hotel costs from £2,379 per person, based on two sharing a Junior Suite from May 1-October 31, 2020 and including flights, private transfers and UK airport lounge passes.
Like Hurghada, Egypt?
Pristine coral reefs inviting world-class diving, white-sand private beaches shelving cerulean sea, a historic old town complete with atmospheric bazaar, and the rolling sands of the Sahara only a stone’s throw away; it’s easy to see why Hurghada, the second-biggest town on the Red Sea, is a hit with holidaymakers after a dollop of adventure with their sun, sea and sand.
Try: Eilat, Israel
Why: It’s not just Egypt serving up dive-friendly Red Sea resorts; over in Israel you’ll find Eilat, a shipping port in the Negev desert that rose to prominence as a hippie hotspot in the ‘70s. Today it’s a favourite with locals after excellent diving, gold-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, with bath-warm temperatures year-round thanks to its location on the southern tip of Israel. Alongside a plethora of dive centres there’s photogenic snorkelling at the likes of Coral Beach Nature Reserve – where a protected reef hosts glowing clumps of coral in mustard, lime and fuschia – and Dolphin Reef, where visitors can swim alongside dolphins amid a calm, tucked-away bay.
Experts say: “Eilat is ideal for families, couples and solo travellers thanks to its abundance of water sports and other activities,” says Elena Ahmadian, marketing executive for Cyplon Holidays. “It’s set in an extraordinary desert landscape, with stunning bays bathed by an endless summer sun.”
Book it: A week at Dan Panorama Eilat costs from £1,229 per person, based on two sharing a Quadro Eilat Room including breakfast, return transfers and international and internal flights (via Tel Aviv).