It’s cold out there! Dreaming of a winter escape? Discover these short and long haul options for guaranteed winter sun …
Best for: A Luxurious Flop and Drop
Tenerife, Canary Islands
What: There’s no need to travel 14 hours on a long haul flight for sunshine when Tenerife is only a four and a half hour flight from Dublin.
Where: We may save on our flights but we’re not slumming it when it comes to a mini break by staying in Bahia del Duque, one of Tenerife’s original luxury resorts located in the prestigious Costa Adeje area. Its attractions include endless sunny days (with average temperatures of 20°C in January and February), some of the best stargazing in the world (Bahia has its own observatory), two golf courses within a ten minute drive, and airport transfers only 15 minutes from the resort. As Bahia is modelled on a Spanish colonial village, everything is close to hand, from a fabulous spa, bespoke yoga lessons, five swimming pools and direct access to the promenade of the beach Playa del Duque. The resort also has an impressive culinary collection of 13 lounges and eight restaurants – including a floating brunch/dinner option. Guests can be as lazy or as active as they wish; the warm weather is ideal for hiking and exploring the island’s Jungle Park or the famous Mount Teide volcano and the Cueva del Viento, the island’s longest lava tube outside of Hawaii. www.thetaishotels.com
Best For: Historical Ruins and Gourmet Getaways
What: A five hour flight transports Irish travellers to Cyprus where indulgent gourmet options, easy access to the beach and all day sunshine beckon. Families and couples can e-bike around the coast, enjoy yacht tours to hidden coves, go wine tasting at the numerous boutique wineries dotted around the island, or visit charming villages to experience the island’s rich cultural heritage.
Where: Amara, a chic, beachfront property, along the coast from Limassol (closest to Larnaca airport) is largely undiscovered by regular visitors to the island. One of its USPs is that each and every room offers a view of the Mediterranean. For families, there are multi-roomed options, such as the Seafront Bungalows, which offer cosy two-bedroom cabanas with private pools. For couples, the secluded Rooftop Duplex Suites with private pool, sun loungers and dining area will appeal. And for gourmet travellers the hotel has two eateries headed up by celebrity chefs: Nobu Matsuhisa (the man behind the eponymous Nobu brand), and Giorgio Locatelli (founder and chef behind Michelin-starred London restaurant Locanda Locatelli).
Parents with young children are welcome to the hotel; there is an Amara Kid’s Club open from 10am to 7pm daily, free of charge for children aged four and over. For families with older children, highly recommended is an array of destination experiences one of which is hiking/cycling in the Troodos Mountains, where you can find the famous Painted Churches: a World Heritage Site of decorated Byzantine churches and monasteries. www.amarahotel.com
Best for: Luxe for Less
What: As Margot Robbie proved last year, A-listers now seem to prefer the lesser known Greek islands to Mykonos and Santorini. Remember Robbie was spotted on Sifnos, boarding a water taxi with her luggage? Following her lead, we predict that other lesser known islands will trend in 2024, like Syros which has an interesting history. In the Middle Ages Venetian crusaders ruled Syros and established the hilltop settlement that still exists today. It was once the wealthiest place in Greece – its capital Hermoupolis grew into a sun-drenched maze of marble pavements, palatial buildings and large, neoclassical public squares. Today the island remains an authentic place with an urbane, year-round arts scene, where numerous festivals (international film, jazz, street art, animation and classical music), and a university give the place a cultural vibe, in addition to the secluded beaches, diving spots, walking trails and foodie havens.
Where to stay? Book the arty Hotel Aristide, a new boutique hotel opening this spring in a former neoclassical mansion, which is named after sisters and owners Jasmin and Oana Aristide. Oana says: “We have tried to make a beautiful home that also happens to offer everything that guests expect from a hotel. The vibe is relaxed but staff are professional and genuinely warm and kind. And we want the hotel to be connected to its culturally unique location, not just by virtue of being in Syros, but by being integrated in local culture and society.” The hotel’s suites have spacious private terraces and plunge pools, while other attractions include its roof terrace where dinner, prepared by Chef Petros Braikidis, is served surrounded by view of the Aegean Sea and other islands. Syros is a two-hour ferry ride from Athens or a 30-minute ferry ride from Mykonos. www.hotelaristide.com
Best for: High Octane Adventure
Miavana by Time + Tide, Madagascar
Where: An exclusive private island off Madagascar’s north-east coast which offers guests access to 2,500 acres of wilderness, plus five uninhabited islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
What: Miavana is the place for high and low octane adventures and activities including heli-surfing, diving with humpback whales, paddle boarding to deserted coves, orchid hunting, lemur trekking and fishing. A fleet of boats and helicopters can also take guests on excursions to the surrounding uninhabited islands, where visiting a colony of terns is a highlight. Other features include experiential wellness activities, such as yoga classes in the forest, listening to the dawn chorus, and picking wild vanilla and botanical herbs for customised spa lotions. Guests stay in one of 14 spacious villas which can sleep two adults and two children on a full board basis. www.miavana.com
Best for: Paradise Found
Where: Set in the Indian Ocean, Raffles Seychelles is on the the island of Praslin, otherwise known as the “Garden of Eden” because of its year-round sunshine and natural beauty – it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The resort is accessible via a 15-minute plane or helicopter, or by a scenic 55-minute ferry from Mahe island.
What: Guests stay in one of 86 villas which come with private plunge pools, outdoor pavilions and views of pristine sands, crystal-clear waters, and lush green hills. There are seven restaurants and bars within the Raffles Seychelles property, with seafood a speciality. For guests seeking off-property island life adventures, there are 115 islands ready to be explored with plenty of opportunities for adventure, diving, romantic cruises, and helicopter rides. www.raffles.com
Best for: Barefoot Luxury
Islas Secas, Panama
Where: Islas Secas is located off the rugged Pacific Coast of Panama and is regarded as one of Central America’s best-kept secrets. The 20 miles between Islas Secas and the mainland are an untouched “marine playground” teeming with wild fauna and flora, coral reefs, beautiful beaches and two vast, protected marine parks with exceptional sea life.
What: Stay on Islas Secas, a privately-owned archipelago of 14 islands in the Gulf of Chiriquí, home to four individually designed Casita sites and three tented Casitas, sleeping up to just 24 guests. Casita Grande is ideal for families or groups in search of barefoot luxury. It’s nestled within private tropical gardens, and has four separate casitas connected by a terrace, where sunrise yoga sessions are held. The indoor-outdoor living space gives Casita Grande a bohemian vibe, enhanced by its private plunge pool and open-air thatched-roof cabana for al fresco dining. The resort is a great base from which guests can undertake marine safaris, (viewing the humpback whale migration is a huge attraction) snorkelling, diving and exploring the biodiversity of Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. And after working up an appetite exploring, guests will enjoy the local Panamanian cuisine at the cathedral-like Terraza, a laid-back gathering hotspot on the main island. www.islassecas.com
Best for: Recreating The White Lotus
Koh Yao Yai, Thailand
What: With an average winter temperature of 24°C, it’s no surprise Thailand appeals, particularly picturesque Phuket – the country’s largest island – and the resort island of Koh Samui, one of the locations for Season 3 of the much-lauded TV show, The White Lotus.
Where: After a few months soft opening, Anantara Koh Yao Yai fully opened in December on one of Thailand’s last untouched islands, located in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, halfway between Phuket and Krabi. Occupying a space on the water’s edge, the 148-room Anantara Koh Yao Yai is on one kilometre of white sandy beach set against a backdrop of limestone formations that rise out of the waters of Phang Nga Bay. Its one- and two-bedroom beachfront pool villas sit right on the beach, while the penthouse has wide sea views and an upper deck with infinity pool. The resort has its own private jetty allowing access for guests transfers from Phuket (40 minutes) or Krabi (20 minutes). This lesser-known island is characterised by its mangroves and rubber plantations and tiny fishing villages. Scuba divers, bird enthusiasts and beach lovers are sure to be captivated by this island’s charm. www.anantara.com