When most of us think of going on holiday we think of long days spent in the sun, lying on golden sands lapped by warm turquoise waters. Beach holidays are undoubtedly the most popular type of break for Brits – no doubt partly because we don’t have much of a beach scene at home! Fortunately, while there might not be much opportunity for relaxing in the sun by the sea in the UK, there are some fantastic beaches right on our doorstep in Europe, and for the more adventurous, some stunning tropical beaches further afield. Here’s a guide to our top beach destinations.
Best beach resorts for families
There are plenty of beach destinations in Europe and further afield that will appeal to families – with beautiful, clean seas for kids to splash around in, exciting watersports for teenagers and numerous activities for all the family to enjoy.
The Algarve in Portugal is a firm favourite with families. Miles and miles of golden Blue Flag beaches, loads of watersports such as banana boating and jet skiing and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere create the perfect conditions for a break away. Those with teens might like to consider staying in the lively resort of Albufeira or Lagos, where there is a buzzing nightlife scene. Villamoura offers a more upmarket experience, set around an elegant port bustling with classy bars and restaurants. While for peace and quiet, Praia de Rocha or Cavoeiro are perfect.
There’s a wealth of family activities to enjoy here, including the Almancil Go Karting Fun Park , sailing along the coast on a Leãozinho (a replica pirate ship – guaranteed to be a hit with the kids!) and a visit to the Zoomarine – an interactive sea zoo with live shows and 4D-cinema shows involving sea animals.
For those looking to enjoy the warm Mediterranean climate of the Greek Islands, Crete makes for a fantastic family beach holiday. This island is beautiful. A multitude of beach resorts are found here, many of which are backed by pine covered hillsides with tiny whitewashed houses and ancient Byzantine churches looking out across the water.
Excellent family holiday resorts on Crete with good, clean beaches and a relaxing atmosphere include Georgioupolis, Bali and Agia Galini. Georgioupolis and Bali are smaller and quieter, with very little traffic in the town, so are probably more suited to families with young children. Agia Galini is bigger, with more to do and so may be preferable for those with older children. Those on a budget might want to consider the burgeoning tourist resort of Kalamaki, where prices tend to be cheaper.
For a lively family holiday with plenty of amenities, family attractions such as waterparks and wide, sweeping beaches, resorts such as Benidorm on the Costa Blanca and Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol are ideal.
And if you want to make your family holiday as stress-free as possible, consider opting for an all-inclusive package. This is especially handy for families with small children, as all meals and drinks are provided by the hotel, so you don’t have to worry about finding a suitable restaurant or sorting out money. What’s more, all-inclusive hotels generally have a whole wealth of activities on offer, from watersports, to Kids Clubs to sporting events, and a good evening entertainment programme. Top destinations for all-inclusive holidays include the Caribbean, Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, Turkey and Majorca.
Best beach resorts for a relaxing break
One of the main reasons for booking a beach holiday is for pure relaxation. Reclining on soft golden sand, feeling the warmth of the sun on your face and hearing the waves gently lap the shore… bliss. Not for you the crowded beaches of Kavos or Benidorm – it’s all about peace, quiet and beautiful surroundings.
Worlds apart from the mass commercialism that is synonymous with certain other Mediterranean resorts, Pargo on the mainland of Greece has retained its authentic Greek character and attracts relatively few foreign tourists. Here you’ll find a small town surrounded by lush, forest-covered hillsides, guarded by an impressive castle on the headland. The resort is incredibly scenic, has a lovely small-town feel and boasts some stunning tranquil beaches.
The island of Zante is a great bet for relaxation by the beach, with a number of beautiful, laid back resorts to choose from. Alykes is located in a beautiful, green area of the island – a peaceful fishing village surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. From here you can get to one of the most photographed beaches in Europe; the stunning Navagio beach. Also known as Shipwreck Beach, this secluded cove is only accessible by boat. Surrounded on three sides by high chalk cliffs, the beach has soft, pure white sand lapped by some of the bluest water you will ever see. An absolute must for anybody staying on the island. You can arrange tours through local businesses such as Navagio Boat Trips.
For a laid-back beach holiday with a difference, consider visiting the small island of Santorini. You won’t find the expansive golden shores most of us associate with beach breaks here – instead the pretty bays and inlets are carpeted with black and red volcanic shingle and pebbles. Red Beach near Akrotiri is one of the most striking bays on the island, with dramatic red lava cliffs overlooking a glistening black cove, lapped by the bright turquoise sea – it’s almost looks like a vista from another planet. One of the main reasons to visit the island is for the stunning sunsets to be seen – some of the most impressive in the Greek Islands, particularly in the Imerovigli area.
For those willing to travel outside of Europe, there are some fantastic tropical breaks where you’ll find laid back beach relaxation in stunning surroundings. The Caribbean islands of Jamaica and the Dominican Republic boast some of the most spectacular beaches in the world, with fine white shores fringed by palm trees and warm, turquoise water. Destinations such as Cuba and the Caribbean islands predominately offer all-inclusive packages as well – so you won’t have to worry about paying for or organizing meals and drinks for the duration of your holiday. The ultimate in relaxation!
Best beach resorts for partying
San Antonio and Ibiza Town in Ibiza are the undisputed heavyweights of Mediterranean clubbing beach resorts; San Antonio the bawdy, chaotic sister to chic and elegant Ibiza Town. San Antonio has two main beaches; the S'Arenal de San Antonio in the centre of the town, with white sands overlooking the attractive bay, and small cove of Sunset Strip (Caló des Moro) in the north, lined by trendy bars and restaurants.
If you’re looking for a holiday where the nightlife is just as important as days spent relaxing in the sun, there are a number of clear favourites. The Greek Islands’ resorts of Kavos in Corfu, Faliraki in Rhodes and Mykonos Town in Mykonos all provide a frenetic nightlife scene and easy access to the beach. Of these, Faliraki and Kavos have a reputation for being more ‘earthy’ – think neon strip lighting, English themed bars playing only fools and horses 24/7, and commercial dance music pumping well into the night. Mykonos is somewhat more sophisticated, with undoubtedly the prettier beaches and a less rowdy (but equally lively) nightlife scene. Other top clubbing/beach holiday destinations in the Greek Islands include Kardemena in Kos, Malia in Crete and Laganas in Zante.
While resorts such as Kavos and Faliraki are arguably more about the quality of nightlife than the quality of beaches, on a holiday in Ayia Napa, Cyprus you won’t have to compromise on either. The frenetic Napa Square and surrounding area boasts over 250 clubs and bars, catering for music tastes of all description from funky house to cheesy dance classics. And what’s more nearby there’s the stunning Nissi Beach – a huge, wide expanse of pristine white sand lapped by warm, azure water that can hold its own against any beach on the Med.
Other party beach resorts of note include Gumbet in Turkey, Magaluf in Majorca and Playa de las Americas in Tenerife.