Beyond the Beach
You might think a beach is just a beach, but our Hidden Beaches specialists would argue otherwise. Choosing a hotel from our new Hidden Beaches brochure is entirely dependent on the experience you’re after, whether it’s boutique luxury or world-class snorkeling.
From their extensive travels, they’ve rounded up some of the best properties whether you’re seeking a complete hideaway or want to dine out on local delicacies.
Best boat ride
The British Virgin Islands have been attracting sailors for hundreds of years. Once sheltering Spanish galleons from pirate fleets, the islands are now a haven for yachts and sailboats. Gentle trade winds and calm waters make sailing between the 25 islands, islets and sandbanks a pleasure.
Charter your own private catamaran for a few nights and you have the freedom to explore at your own pace, spending a few nights on board. Your ship’s captain will lead you to untouched beaches and corals, most only accessible by boat.
Whilst the islands are refreshingly undeveloped, there are plenty of restaurants and bars to explore, from oil-drum beach barbecues to fine dining. Stay on board and your private chef can grill some freshly-caught fish or lobster.
- See our British Virgin Islands trip ideas.
Best beach villa
The simple pleasure of walking straight from bedroom to beach is arguably best fulfilled at the Paradee Resort on the Thai island of Ko Samet.
Each beach villa has its own private entrance, leading through to a polished four poster bed and sitting room. French doors open out onto your terrace, where you will find sun loungers and an infinity pool. Tucked in the shade is your very own dining pavilion where complimentary afternoon tea will be laid out daily.
The beach itself, accessible only to hotel guests, is a stretch of fine white sand lined with casuarina trees. The water averages a balmy 29C (84F) and is clear enough to see right through.
- See our Paradee Resort and Bangkok trip idea.
Best surprise location
The remote island of Sumba sits in eastern Indonesia, to the south of Komodo. A handful of tiny local villages pepper the undeveloped island, without a restaurant, café or inkling of tourism. Travel to the east of the Island and you’ll be amazed to find the Nihiwatu Resort – an award-winning retreat.
Thirty three expansive villas are spread across the hillside, each one built from local materials, carefully balancing traditional Sumbanese styles and rustic luxury. Crisp linens and private pools sit alongside organic gardens and hand-carved furniture.
It may be a top-class idyll, but it’s also closely tied to the local community, supporting numerous local projects that are possible to visit as part of your stay.
Whilst most secluded hotels involve a lengthy series of transfers, the Nihiwatu is only a short flight from Bali.
- See our Nihiwatu Resort and Seminyak trip idea.
The dual island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis has seen a complex tussle of colonial powers and hard-fought uprisings. The 18th century Ottley’s Plantation Inn has borne witness to battles, disputes and the abolition of slavery, falling into disrepair before being carefully restored by an American family.
The manicured gardens have regained their former glory and croquet is once again played on the lawn. Some of the rooms are set in the imposing Great House, overlooking the gardens and down to the ocean below or you could stay in a 200 year old cotton store, furnished with colonial antiques and beautiful maps. The pool and restaurant sit between the crumbling walls of the old sugar mill.
- See our Guana Island and Saint Kitts and Antigua trip idea.
No-one ever accidentally stumbles upon JapaMala on the Malaysian island of Tioman. Flying over the island, it’s hard to see many signs of habitation through the dense foliage or along the stretches of beach.
On arrival at the airport, a boat transfer around the coast is the only way to access the resort. Docking at a long, wooden jetty, you can see individual wooden chalets poking out of the jungle, with traditional thatched roofs and wide verandas. Each chalet has been painstakingly built around the jungle – so much so that the occasional tree or rock becomes part of the architecture.
There’s no phone signal or Wi-Fi to interrupt your stay and if you choose a Seaview Sarang with a kitchenette and private plunge pool, there’s no reason to even leave your room.
- See our JapaMala and Kuala Lumpur trip idea.
Best impact on arrival
You’ll see pictures beforehand, but nothing quite prepares you for arriving at Ladera. Driving from the airport, the road slowly climbs through rainforest, getting darker as the forest grows thicker.
On arrival, the staff will be waiting patiently under a carved wooden arch, prepared with cool towels and rum punch. There’s no check-in desk, you’ll be led straight to your suite. As the doors are opened, with appropriate ceremony, you are greeted with a stunning view of St Lucia’s twin Piton peaks with the Caribbean sea glinting below. The entire west wall of your suite is open-air, enabling you to enjoy the view uninterrupted.
The farm to table concept is becoming popular but few hotels do it as well as Belle Mont Farm on the tiny Caribbean island of Saint Kitts.
Book their Farm Breakfast experience and you’ll be picked up from your private villa and taken on a tour of the organic nursery by one of the hotel’s farmers. Finishing in the mango orchard, a large communal table is set up under the boughs of a wizened 250 year old mango tree. Breakfast is served in individual wooden crates, including freshly squeezed mango juice, homemade jam and pastries made that morning.
Eating with the farmers, you’ll find them keen to share their stories of years spent working on the island.
- See our Saint Kitts and Nevis trip ideas.
Best underwater world
Peeking out from the forest on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka is Jungle Beach. A low-rise scattering of wooden cabins, it’s a relaxed resort on a stretch of undisturbed beach. Catch the resort’s private speedboat – you might have to help push it into the sea – across to Pigeon Island Marine National Park.
The island is a half-moon of sand and rocks sheltering a flourishing reef. The shallow waters make it an ideal snorkeling spot with more than 300 reef fish recorded in the area. Infrequently visited by other people, you’ll usually be accompanied by only the occasional roaming reef shark, turtle or ray.
- See our Jungle Beach & Cultural Triangle trip idea.
Best pool and villa
Tucked away on the west coast of Mahé in the Seychelles is the luxurious resort of Maia.
The huge private villas here are so good that most guests check in, and rarely leave their room. Every villa is an extensive retreat of sunbathing platforms and open-air living spaces, surrounded by jungle. The interiors are elegantly furnished with polished wood, sumptuous fabrics and modern technology, balanced by local artisanal touches and thatched roofs.
The pool wraps around the side of the villa with views of the ocean below. If the pool isn’t enough, there’s an outdoor double sunken bath which your butler can fill with scented water.
- See our Maia Resort and Spa and Denis Island trip idea.
The Fish Shack at the Shanti Maurice resort, on the south coast of Mauritius, serves such good fish it’s become popular with the locals.
Reclaimed driftwood has been fashioned into chairs and tables placed right on the sand around an open-air beach barbecue. The menu, entirely dependent on the morning’s catch, might include prawns, lobster, sea bass or tuna which is freshly grilled to order. A disused boat has been claimed as a salad bar with ingredients from the hotel’s organic vegetable garden.
A great destination for dining choices, the Shanti Maurice also regularly invites a local Mauritian mama to come and cook a traditional family meal for guests. Home-cooked specialities will be served including curries and salads alongside tangy chutneys and freshly cooked roti.
- See our Shanti Maurice and North Coast Mauritius trip idea.
Best for doorstop exploration
Victoria House on the southern tip of Ambergris Caye, Belize is an understated beach resort with thatched villas and elegant suites - although you might not spend much time in the hotel.
A ten minute walk along the beach is the pastel hued town of San Pedro. Order a jack, a donut covered in guacamole and beef, and wander round the art galleries, shops and piers. No traffic is allowed on the island so you’ll find the locals whizzing round on golf carts. Hire your own to explore the wooden-clad buildings and rows of restaurants.
The list of additional attractions is enough to fill its own guidebook with highlights including a helicopter ride over the Blue Hole, snorkeling in the second largest reef in the world or taking a boat to spot wild manatee.
- See our Victoria House & Cayo District trip idea.
Audley's Hidden Beaches brochure
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