There are so many great beach spots to choose from across the globe. I started off trying to narrow it down to ten, but in the end I added a few… and added a few… So it’s 13 of the best beach breaks for 2019!
Short haul sun and sand
Normandy, Zakynthos and Zadar
Normandy’s string of beautiful beaches are probably not what you think of when you hear the name, you’re more likely to think of the cheeses (Camembert and every other town seem to have their own cheese), or of seafood, cider or the infamous beach-battlefields of WW2. Or William the Conqueror and the Bayeux tapestry. Or art – many artists have painted this region, including Monet, Degas and Eugene Delacroix.
But the beaches are long, golden, sweeping and beautifully backed by rolling hills and dotted with beautiful ports and hamlets. And this year the region will mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day so there are numerous commemorative events if you fancy that sort of thing. Plus Rouen is preparing for the Rouen Armada, where ships arrive from all over the world and sail up the Seine…
Where to Stay? I do fancy some of the chateaux – Chateau la Cheneviere looks gorgeous! but if you’re travelling to Normandy for a beach break with the benefit of great food then La Marine is a very good option.
It’s in Barneville-Carteret, which is across the channel from the Channel Islands and known for its excellent cuisine. The hotel directly overlooks the bay, built to offer the best views to the greatest number of rooms and to its lovely restaurant, which also has a Michelin star. Yet rooms start from just €117 per night.
Practical Details: Caen Airport is the closet to Barneville-Carteret, about 115kms away, but it’s a beautiful drive down from Calais, along an historic coastline if you have the time.
My head is always turned by Greek Islands too, and this year I couldn’t help but notice that Shipwreck Beach on the Greek island of Zakynthos had won the top spot in Canadian travel company Flight Network’s annual list of the world’s best beaches. There’s a shipwreck right on the shore, the water is bright, bright azure, the sand is straw yellow and the cliffs surrounding it are stunning bright white.
And of course there’s Zadar on the Dalmatian Coast which I have already mentioned twice this month…
Tropical Island Idyll
The Maldives, Belize and Grace Bay in the Turks & Caicos Islands
Ok, so The Maldives is one of those destinations I’ve longed for for as long as I can remember longing to travel somewhere. But these thousand or so tiny islands, where you can find some of the world’s most perfect beaches of fine, white sand, have always been a pretty expensive holiday option.
However, it seems that is changing. Apparently there’s a growing market for independent travel, and a growth in the availability of accommodation on the non-resort islands. Locals opening up B&Bs which have really taken off for example. Which makes it a bit easier to bespoke up your visit with a bit of private island resort razzamatazz and a bit of affordable access to some of the world’s most idyllic beaches.
Where to Stay? We recommend The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi which is a gorgeous looking private island resort with rooms starting from under £200 per night. Well-run and offering tons of family-friendly activities, and some of the largest and most comfortable beach villas in The Maldives. The reason it’s so affordable isn’t that it’s not beautiful, because it certainly is beautiful, and its beaches are just as good as any you’ll find anywhere, but it is a large resort with 221 rooms and large restaurants, buffets etc. But it is very well designed – designed not to feel crowded!
Practical Details: Most people arrive on the Maldives at Velana International Airport on the island of Hulhule, just a short distance from Malé. Transferring to your resort is different depending on the resort. Some are a speedboat ride away, some require seaplanes.
I’d also love to visit Belize for the diving, but I don’t think I’m quite experienced enough yet, and I did notice that Grace Bay in the Turks and Caicos has been declared the world’s best beach this year too.
Beach break + adventure
Flores Island, Galle, Panama and Tulum
Earthquakes have recently seen Indonesia in the headlines, but only a very small part of the country has been affected. Your tourist pound might contribute to the cost of recovery, so unless there’s a threat to the area you’re headed to, there’s no reason not to plan a visit later in 2019. And with visa restrictions recently lifted and a substantial upgrade of the airport infrastructure in Indonesia, the government is really welcoming us in.
Sumatra is incredible, and if you’re looking for an eco-resort then Indonesia is for you, but I quite fancy seeing the Komodo dragons! The Komodo National Park sounds amazing, but I recently learned that you can also find them on the west coast of the island of Flores – so named because of its abundance of beautiful flowers. Flores is part of the East Nusa Tenggara province, which is well known for its beaches and dive sites, and it’s got a volcano!
Where to Stay? Plataran Komodo is a secluded resort on a pristine and picturesque stretch of beach on the island of Flores. There are just 12 horseshoe-shaped Javanese-style villas to it, all opening right onto the beautiful sandy beach beyond which there’s a turquoise sea. There are private pools and a spa too – and gorgeous outdoor bathrooms. Plus you’re close to some incredible dive sites, and to extraordinary Komodo Island and its dragons. Rooms here start from around £200 per night.
Practical Details: the easiest way to get to Flores is via Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport. Of course it’s also possible to arrive by boat.
Sri Lanka is really coming into its own. Plagued by civil war for so many years, it’s now open and friendly and ripe for exploring. Plus, the surfing scene here is really taking off, which means more of its beautiful coastline is becoming accessible. For a good introduction to what this country is about, plan a beach break in Galle. Scented with spice and sea spray, Galle is an almost tropical feeling little city, sitting on and around a little wedge of land jutting into the ocean. Before the Portuguese arrived in the 16th Century, Galle was a small village, but they quickly turned it into a major spice port, building an impressive fort. The, now UNESCO Heritage Listed, fort is full of bijoux shops and cafes and boutique hotels. It’s a hang-out for writers, artists, poets etc. And beyond that is a charming warren of streets. And the beaches are just superb.
Where to Stay? The seven room Apa Villa Thalpe is located on its own stretch of private beach with stunning infinity pool. This is the ultimate in well priced luxury. The ambience is just what you want from such a perfect location and the rooms are comfortable with nice details. You can arrange meals, and massages too, if you want to. Rooms start from around £170 per night.
Practical Details: fly to Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, and from there it’s a two and a half hour drive to Galle. Or you can travel by train.
I would also like to see Panama. They’ve finally finished working on the Panama Canal, after a period that felt like forever. Plus Panama City is having its 500th birthday this year so it will be an extra special time to visit. AND the beaches and rainforest have long been on my list of ‘Incredible Places I Want to Visit’.
Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico is on that list too. Perched on a cliff, overlooking pristine, white beaches and a bright green sea, the ruins of the Mayan port of Tulum make even the most banal holiday snaps beautiful. And this is one of the best spots on the Riviera Maya if you want to see the bucket-list ruins of Chichén Itzá or Cobá. Plus the beaches are beautiful and the diving divine.
Beach and City
Havana, Miami and Dakar
Havana’s coastline is exciting. Stroll or drive the Malecón, with its mishmash of architecture, from art nouveau whimsey to neoclassical tradition, to square, solid, modern structures, lit up like a dream at sunset or sprayed by waves on a blustery day, and you’ll be able to appreciate the real drama of the ocean! You’ll also find many of the best beaches on the island of Cuba in and around Havana.
Playa del Este is probably the best known, and it incorporates several other named beaches into its 9kms of golden sandy charm. This is a great beach for a beach party, though it does include some quieter pockets, like Playa Boca Ciega, and Playa Guanabo, which is where the locals go. About 140kms east of Havana on the Via Blanca Highway is the resort town of Veradero, and Veradero Beach, makes a regular appearance in lists of the world’s best beaches. But the closest beach to the centre of town is Playa Bacuranao, which is known for its coral reef, and you’ll find plenty of snorkellers here.
Where to Stay: Overlooking the Malecón, the Hotel Nacional de Cuba is a bastion of old world Cuban sophistication and glamour. Gardens surround the hotel but beyond them is the water, and some of the 362 rooms have ocean views, as well as some lovely antiques. The hotel also has its own impressive museum and a beautiful sitting room. Rooms start from around £170 per night.
Practical Details: Havana’s Jose Martí Airport is close to town and well connected by public transport. Havana is warm year-round, with average daily temperatures ranging from 21-27°C. May to October is the wet season and June to November is the main hurricane season in the Caribbean. So for the best weather aim to visit between December and April. The days are longest in March and April. While the temperature’s not too humid and there’s little rainfall – these are probably the best months to visit.
I mentioned Miami previously as somewhere I’d like to visit in 2019 – it’s certainly got a beach and it’s certainly got a city! I did see that the Lonely Planet is recommending Senegal’s capital Dakar – which sounds fascinating. Apparently it’s great for markets and its general sense of joie de vivre, as well as its wonderful white, sandy beaches. Dakar has also just opened a brand new international airport, with the aim be to become a new African travel hub, so it should now be really easy to get to?
So many choices, and I had trouble narrowing it down to 13. I hope they have given you some inspiration…