Beach in reach
We've scoured coastlines, scaled cliffs and combed beaches in our search for the coolest coastal properties, where the water's edge is never far away. Clifftop castles, seaside stays and beach-side B&Bs – you'll find them all here, alongside paradise island resorts and Caribbean retreats. You just have to decide whether your idea of beach-hotel heaven is skimming stones in Brighton, surfing in Santa Monica or scuba diving in the Seychelles…
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Built into the medina walls, Heure Bleue hotel is an oasis of luxe in laid-back, countercultural Essaouira, the one-time playground of the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Dotted with carvings and draped with fabrics, seductive African Room has a spacious king-size bed and black marble ensuite, as well as a fabulous fireplace – ideal for heating up windswept Essaouira nights.
Underwater explorers will love Gayana Eco Resort's coral-dotted, marine-reserve dive centre (the treks into the Borneo jungle won't disappoint, either). Bali's Alila Manggis is splashing distance from seven of the globe's best dive sites and is edged by sublime snorkeling waters. Sumba, an hour's flight from Bali, is a hush-hush travellers' secret, and at Nihiwatu you'll sample the island's best: incredible ocean views, breeze-cooled outdoor living and world-class surf breaks in reach. A speedboat ride from Amanzoe, a marble-hewn hilltop haven in southern Greece, is the island of Dokos, whose diver-drawing coast lays claim to the world's oldest known shipwreck.
Swim with the biggest fish in the ocean - giant but gentle whale sharks - off the coast of Belize while staying at Francis Ford Coppola’s low-key retreat Turtle Inn.
Just-remote-enough Japamala Resort on tiny Tioman Island is the ultimate back-to-nature escape. Joined by a series of canopy-skimming walkways, the hotel's luxury treehouses and cliff-clinging chalets are secluded and serene, promising rainforest-ringed privacy and vertiginous vistas of the South China Sea.
If you like your holiday to be an excuse to flaunt designer resortwear and your ritziest accessories, then we've got your A-list. Perfect your red-carpet poses and make a beeline for Cap d'Antibes Beach Hotel on the Côte d'Azur for a showstopping seaside stay. Decking clad, day-bed-dotted Maçakizi is the place to be seen on Turkey's Bodrum peninsula – pull up a chair at the Aegean-facing bar or settle in for some sea-fresh fare at its destination restaurant. In Vietnam, The Nam Hai is a shoreside style icon on Hoi An's China Beach with an OMG infinity pool, a serene spa and seductive, butler-serviced, oceanfront villas.
Marbella has been the famously chic playground of old-school, look-at-me Mediterranean glamour for decades, and Marbella Club is one of the biggest reasons behind its rep. Opened by playboy Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe in 1951, the shore-side resort (which includes a spa, beach club, golf course, botanical gardens and champagne room, naturally) still attracts the glitz-garbed international jet set and those who like to watch them at play. Although these days, a lot of the younger guests slope off to barefoot-luxe coast club Nikki Beach down the road when they’re tired of lounging on the pool terrace…
If you have new-season swimwear to show off that is best accessorised by a 19th-century Mallorcan fort (every good bikini needs battlements for a backdrop), Cap Rocat is the place to do it. High in drama, blessed with sweeping sea views and radiating exclusivity from drawbridge to turret, it’s a secluded, adults-only hideaway, where supermodels and super yachters go for superlative service and one of the sexiest poolsides on the Med.
Surrounded by jungle and sea, boutique retreat Coqui Coqui Tulum basks on Mexico’s beach-blessed, south-eastern Riviera Maya, just a hop from coast-clinging Mayan temple Tulum. Combining rusticity with sexy seclusion, the seven breezy bedrooms are soothing spaces, with tactile concrete floors, white-linen draped four-poster beds and vast, hand-moulded sunken tubs for soaking à deux. Hammocks add a local touch, as do woven lights and own-label perfumery bath products (all rooms are lovely, but the ocean-facing Master Terrace Suites have private terraces with dreamy day-beds). Watch the waves crash onto the white-sand beach; then go temple-hopping. Viva Mexico!