Beach in reach
We've scoured coasts, combed beaches and searched the shore in our hunt for the coolest seaside stays, where the hotels are never far from the water’s edge. Clifftop castles, beachy B&Bs and island idylls – you'll find them all here, alongside sandy resorts and Caribbean retreats. You just have to decide whether your idea of beach-bum 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.
Style Modern minimalist via Miami
Setting Beside the Burj Khalifa
Holding its own next to the gargantuan Burj Khalifa building, the 63-floor Address Downtown Dubai hotel is a skyscraper stacked with style and opulence. Housing eight bars and restaurants, seven swimming pools, a signature spa and 196 elegant rooms, this towering totem of sophistication is taking luxury and comfort to new heights.
Sandwiched between the mountains and ocean, accessible by a chandelier-lit tunnel, balmy Baja Peninsula beach retreat Capella Pedregal in north-west Mexico is dedicated to pleasure. All 96 rooms in this luxe Cabo San Lucas getaway tout stellar sea views (the balcony-blessed Estrella Suite is fabulously flirty), with colourful Mexican art and plunge pools. Four swank dining venues span beach shack-chic to fine dining, including Crudo for raw fish fans. Stroll on the sand, float in the infinity pool or relax in Auriga Spa, where treatments are inspired by the lunar cycles. Yoga and candlelit massages are also yours to command.
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…