Blissed-out beach havens where sea views come as standard – but that’s not all they offer. Come on, dive in…
oh, we do like to be beside the seaside… especially when, as with these getaways in france, the Maldives, Mexico and Miami, the waves are, literally, a short hop (or a slide) away
Beach holidays seem like the ultimate no-brainer. You just bag your spot, lie back and relax, right? Well… Up to a point. If by day three of a beach break, you tend to get a bit fidgety on a sun lounger, read on. We’ve sought out the cream of destinations that take you right to the water’s edge – but have plenty more to offer. There’s an architectural rework of a Miami icon that first shot to fame as a Prohibition-era party den – and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down just yet. And a French Riviera hideaway that’s as rejuvenating as an early morning swim straight off its shore.
Then we head to the Maldives for a beyond-fabulous tropical escape, where eco-luxury comes into its own. Alternatively, tag a stay in Tulum on to a Stateside sojourn to mix a cocktail of Mexican cool and NYC style.
HÔTEL LES ROCHES ROUGES Saint-raphaël, Côte d’azur, France
The lowdown Ruggedly handsome, with a French accent. Best for Wild swimmers and nature lovers.
F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night hero Dick Diver is so intent on creating the perfect Riviera beach that he spends afternoons sifting pebbles from the golden sand. If he’d discovered this wild spot on the Côte d’azur, he could have set his rake aside and saved himself a lot of effort. Hôtel Les Roches Rouges positively relishes its rugged, rocky position and achieves a more dramatic version of beachside perfection. Days here are all about embracing the outdoors – one of the resort’s pools is cut into the monumental rock and fed from the sea. The hotel is secreted away within a nature reserve; perfect for the French appetite for la vie sportive.
Expect diving, hiking, sailing, yoga and surprisingly competitive rounds of pétanque. Rooms also embrace nature, with hemp, cotton and chic rattan set against buffed timber.
Book it Double rooms from £200 (hotellesrochesrouges.com).
Soneva Jani Medhufaru Island, Noonu Atoll, Maldives
The lowdown Your own private blue lagoon.
Best for Those who dream big.
From above, the overwater villas that fan out from curvy-decked walkways look like a fantasy doodle made after a few mojitos: ‘Okay, so I want my own private deck, with a water slide that goes whoosh into the sea. Ooh, and let’s make the roof open up, so I can see the stars from my bed…’ Touching down on the ground (well, the water, really, as it’s all built over a serene lagoon), this dream becomes reality with consummate ease. The bleached wood villas are essays in simple elegance, designed to feel like you’re on the most beautiful of yachts – without the constant rocking. But the real beauty of Soneva Jani, the latest addition to the eco-luxe Soneva stable, is that it goes beyond the ‘Maldives-is-for-honeymooners’ cliché. Yes, blissed-up couples will be in their element, but so will families – Little Livingetc was kept busy learning to snorkel – and in the evening, everyone paddles over to the floating Cinema Paradiso, complete with popcorn, ice cream – and Bluetooth headphones, so the local birdlife isn’t disturbed. Book it A one-bedroom overwater villa costs £2,182 per night (soneva.com/soneva-jani).
Casa Malca Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
The lowdown A Nyc-style hotel… With added sand.
Best for Sun worshippers with an eye for street art.
Back in the day, Tulum – set on Mexico’s Caribbean coast (think confectioner-sugar sands, jade-green water and balmy breezes) – was where travellers pitched up, tuned out and crashed in a hammock for a summer or two. Today, the chilled vibe has matured into something more sophisticated and, at Casa Malca, added cool comes direct from the New York art world. It belongs to NYC art dealer Lio Malca and he’s peppered spaces with sassy works by Kaws and Kenny Scharf. In the bar, there’s a Keith Haring takeover, with patterns that dance around the walls in an endless kinetic jive. This place has its own colourful past: decades ago, it was owned by drug baron Pablo Escobar, before being seized by the Mexican government. But the Breaking Bad boss’s loss was our gain. Back on the beach, the hammocks are still waiting, the beach is idyllic and the nearby Mayan ruins are as spectacular as ever. Book it Double rooms from approx £400 (designhotels.com).
Miami, Florida, USA
The lowdown Old-school Miami, remastered for 2017. Best for Star-struck lovers of architecture.
What do you do with a Thirties gem of a hotel? Encase it in glass so it can be better admired. This is, in effect, the result of architect Richard Meier’s modernist revival of a Miami icon. Original spaces, such as the ballroom and Peacock Alley loggia, remain, but the core is now hugged on three sides by a series of rectilinear glass blocks, balconies glittering in the Florida sun. So downstairs you can sip old fashioneds, raising a toast to Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, who honeymooned here. But then retreat upstairs to cream, dreamy luxury created by Paris-based architect Joseph Dirand. Think marble, brass, huge windows and furniture by Molteni&c and Carl Hansen. In the unlikely event you grow tired of the high-roller life, the beach – and its Atlantic rollers – is the hotel’s ‘fourth wall’. Book it Double rooms from £769 (fourseasons.com/surfside).
CLOCKWISE FROM THIS PICTURE Dive into Casa Malca’s pool and imagine swimming straight out into the Caribbean; rainfall showers, artisanal products and original artwork greet guests in the suites; and celebrate Yucatan cuisine in the hotel’s restaurant
CLOCKWISE FROM THIS PICTURE all of Soneva Jani’s villas have a private pool; or go solo in your own lagoon-based hammock; the restaurant is headed by chef alexandre Geffroy; interiors feature sandblasted pine and soft organic shapes; and there are...
CLOCKWISE FROM THIS PICTURE Pared-back style in one of Hôtel Les Roches Rouges’ Sea View Superior rooms; loungers overlook the 30-metre long seawater pool; polishedconcrete floors feel cool underfoot after a day spent in the sun; and sip on a...
CLOCKWISE FROM BELOW The balcony of one of The Surf Club’s Oceanfront Rooms; unwind in the luxe surroundings of a City-view Room; the Four Season’s famous Peacock Alley loggia; and drinks are on tap in a Premier Room’s marble-clad bar