Islands for soaking up some winter sun
From an unspoilt corner of Thailand to a surfers’ paradise in the Philippines. Nicole Garcia Merida looks at some of the best island getaways for the winter sun.
From an unspoilt corner of Thailand to a surfers' paradise in the Philippines. Nicole Garcia Merida reports
It's hard to find a spot in Thailand that isn't overrun with tourists. A luxury yacht that sleepily travels the coast of Mu Ko Surin National Park does the trick though, says Joanna Booth in The Daily Telegraph. The archipelago is made up of five islands that look like promotional pictures of heavenly Thai beaches, except these won't be teeming with tourists. Booth's "castaway-lite" experience was organised by adventure specialists Intrepid Travel, which offers an itinerary of snorkelling, swimming and tours through local villages.
Your home for the week will be the twin-masted, 164ft "megayacht" Panorama II, which has "25 compact but comfortable cabins, a wood-panelled lounge, a lounger-filled sun deck and a shady bar-restaurant". She sails with a maximum of 49 passengers and the pace is relaxed, the atmosphere sociable.
The tour through the turquoise Andaman sea is designed to avoid the crowds, says Booth, ensuring you enjoy beaches at their almost-deserted best and prime snorkelling spots teeming with marine life. The trip puts you in touch with authentic Thailand you get to meet the formerly nomadic Moken in their wooden hurts by the shore and the people of Ban Tale Nok, a small fishing village where the men mainly fish for a living and the women make soap, shrimp paste and cigarettes wrapped in banana leaves.
A nine-day cruise starts at £1,767 per person. See intrepidtravel.com
Cobblers Cove: a gentle revamp
Cobblers Cove Hotel, on the west coast of Barbados, has been a firm favourite with British holidaymakers since the 1980s, says Nick Smith in The Times. Following a five-year renovation, the "air of a tropical family home has been restored", with rattan furniture and hand-printed fabrics in the main building, known as the Great House, which has retained its familiar pink exterior and trademark pink and white parasols. The bedrooms in the ten two-storey cottages have been refreshed as well. There's a new pool and sun deck, with direct access to the beach and the "tranquil waters" of the Caribbean. "The island is getting something of a gentle makeover too."
For years, Barbados has been viewed as "the ultimate fly-and-flop destination" for the rich and famous. Now, "chic dining spots pepper the Platinum Coast, as the western side of the island is known". But on the less-visited eastern side of the island, just a handful of hardy surfers brave the beaches that are pounded by the Atlantic. It's here, however, that giant leatherback turtles come to lay their eggs much as they have always done. "So, cheers to the things that change on Barbados, and bottoms up to those that are timeless and keep drawing us back."
From £364, cobblerscove.com
Siargao: the Philippines' best-kept secret
Siargao is covered in palm trees and surrounded by turquoise waters, and is one of the Philippines' "best-kep secrets", says Pearl Yan in Hong Kong Tatler. The island, known as the surfing capital of the Philippines, is also home to the Magupunko rock pools, a "magical spot for swimming, cliff jumping and exploring the surrounding coves and caves". Sohoton Cove is also a must-see. Head here to explore caves in the luminescent blue waters and to swim with hundreds of stingless jellyfish. Finally, head to Sugba lagoon. At the stunning blue pool you can rent snorkels and kayaks, and there's also a diving board if you're feeling brave. Stay at the Nay Palad Hideaway, a five-star, all-inclusive resort.
Prices start from $630 per person per night. See naypaladhideaway.com
Tenerife: land of sizzling sunshine
Tenerife, in the Canaries, is an island of two halves, says Stan Cullimore in The Daily Mail. The south is "a land of sizzling sunshine". The north is filled with "rainforest and bananas and with a reputation for not much else". Hotel Jardines De Nivaria is located down in the southwest of the island, next to the beach, Playa Fanabe. "Driving up to it in our hired car, we thought it was far too posh," says Cullimore. "Our suite was larger than the ground floor of our house, with views out over the waves." The resort has everything you could ever want from a "sunny seaside holiday". There is, however, a whole island to explore. Away from the beachfront tourist bars, the "friendly" town of Los Cristianos has "quiet, chic streets and a bustling little harbour".
Further east, along the southern coast, there are several "pretty" villages in easy reach. La Tejita, for example, is a "kite surfers' playground" that has Montana Roja (the red mountain) rising up in the background.
From £259. For details, see hoteljardinesnivaria.com/en