Phi Phi is an island that has everything and it can be covered in a day, but to appreciate its treasures you will need longer. It offers great fishing and secluded beaches, and accommodation ranges from beach huts to air conditioned rooms. Traditional thai massage, snorkelling and diving all have to be tried. The island is bliss and I wish I was there. Be sure to seek out tourist info before you leave. You can even arrange for a guide to wait for you upon arrival. Thailand has so much to offer.
The district of Gracia in Barcelona is one of the main student areas and therefore has a laidback, arty feel. There are many little squares, churches, bars and cafes to explore as well as Gaudi's Parc Guell within walking distance. When you're wandering about under the stars there are young, interesting people to meet in every square.
It's a lovely place to stay, much more relaxed than the city centre and easy to get to by metro and cheap(ish) by taxi in the early hours of the morning. Also, if you fancy a day by the sea, skip the undesirable beach in the city (Barcelonetta) and head for Sitges, 15 minutes by train, for a lazy day by the water and a big seafood paella, getting the last train back (about 10 pm) and heading out into the city.
The West Coast is only now starting to be discovered by tourists. Yes, the water is cold and yes, the wind can blow but the views and of course, the seafood, more than make up for it!
Paternoster has a great beach and a lovely, unspoilt fishing village feel. Head to the hotel for some of the best 'honest' seafood you'll find in the Cape.
Head up West Coast Road for about 80kms
This Santorini hotel is amazing. It is only two minutes from the black sand Kamari beach in Santorini and in a very nice flower garden.
This small island, closer to Africa than Europe, is the southernmost tip of Italy. It has some of the prettiest and remote beaches in the Mediterranean, most of which are empty outside the months of July and August. Snorkel with manta rays, watch dolphins from a boat, or hire a bicycle and cover the island's 20 sq km in a day. Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on the Isola dei Conigli (Rabbit Island), and the Riserva Naturale Isola di Lampedusa, a wildlife nature reserve, is an undiscovered land of walks and megalithic sites. If you visit, don't forget to pack Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's literary masterpiece "The Leopard", his grandfather used to own the island.
The Chiringuito-with-No-Name at El Palmar beach, located half-way between Tarifa and Cadiz on the Atlantic coast is my favourite beach bar in all Europe.
This modest, unassuming shanty serves tinto de verano, a refreshing red wine and soda mix, boquerones (delicious deep-fried anchovies) and other tasty snacks. The charm of this secret gem lies in its unspoiled nature and totally undeveloped facilities. El Palmar is a deserted stretch of sandy, wind-blasted beach that goes on as far as the eye can see. There are no high rise concrete hotel blocks, no fancy restaurants, no lager louts demanding full English breakfasts.
Almost everyone in the bar is a local: either a crusty old fisherman taking a break from putting out the nets to discuss the tide and have a cold beer, surfer dudes or youngsters who come to watch the last 'golden ray' of the sunset while listening to local rock bands. It's always very, very windy here and there is little shade from the intense sun, except in the bar!
The bar can only be reached by car on route A-48 (autovia de la Costa de la Luz)
Far North Queensland has the tropical luxury of Port Douglas with lazy ceiling fans, cocktails and fantastic food but also back to basics four-wheel driving beyond Cape York with hidden pristine beaches. Even the main road from Cairns is a World Heritage area. The Coral sea is the most eye-catching aquamarine but take heed of the signs warning of salt-water crocodiles (salties.) The realisation that you're no longer top of the food chain gives you a whole new perspective on life. Still wanting to feel small in the marine world but much safer? Take a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas. Much quieter than the backpacker chaos of Cairns, no "salties" out this far, choose a boat with a marine biologist on-board and swap watching on BBC 2 for a snorkel and flippers. See it soon - global climate change might mean its all gone in thirty years time. Even that fact on its own has been life-changing for us.
We visited the reef with Wavelength www.wavelength.com.au/ - oldest in operation, set up by a marine biologist
Shop 20, Meridien Marina Mirage, Wharf Street Port Douglas
+61(0)7 4099 5031
Often voted the best beach in Britain, Barafundle Bay is definitely worth the walk over the rugged cliffs.
The wide bay is filled with golden sand bordered by dunes at the back and craggy cliffs with rockpools and secret caves on either side. A wonderful place for a picnic, a paddle or a potter in the rockpools.
Visitors can park their cars at Stackpole Quay, have a bite to eat in the National Trust cafe in the boathouse and see the world's smallest harbour, with room for just one boat!
Barafundle Bay, Stackpole Quay, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Google map: bit.ly/p5yNCJ
Fidden Farm Campsite sits right at the end of the Ross of Mull near Fionnphort. The beach is white and fine-grained and the water is crystal-clear. The views across to Iona are beautiful. You could sit outside your tent looking out across the bay (possibly watching seals if you are lucky) forever ...
Fidden Farm, Knockvologan Road, Nr Fionnaphort, Isle of Mull, PA66 6BN
Google map: bit.ly/iy30ko
My favourite beach I discovered while backpacking around Africa last year was Kendwa, on the north-western tip of Zanzibar’s principal island Unguja. Zanzibar is steeped in history, its capital Stone Town being a UNESCO world heritage site, with vivid reminders of the island’s past as the centre of the slave trade. You can (and I did) spend days wandering around the labyrinth of narrow streets and market stalls, senses inundated by exotic smells, colourful sights and deafening sounds. But if you can drag yourself away from the hustle and bustle and head north, you will come to Kendwa - a true paradise of white sand, clear skies and turquoise sea. But there’s much more to it than that: I stayed at Kendwa Rocks, a very chilled out backpacker place with accommodation of varying degrees of luxury – from basic dorms to luxury beach bandas. There is a bar/restaurant right on the beach (which is run by a very cool rasta who was always very friendly) which hosts a full moon party every month. I was lucky enough to be there for one of these legendary shindigs and the slight apprehension I felt as a lone traveller soon disappeared as I found myself drinking konyagi (a spirit which can be likened to a cross between gin and vodka) with other revelers and dancing until the sun came up. A truly once in a lifetime experience! I met such an interesting mix of people at Kendwa, from fellow European backpackers to Zanzibar locals and Maasai from northern Tanzania. An excellent place to relax, if you like your beach hangouts a little rough around the edges and with a real local flavour. It's also possible to take a boat trip to the neighbouring private Mafia island to snorkel or dive - highly recommended, and best booked by talking to the local guys who run the trips (as well as providing snorkelling gear and a modest lunch of barbequed fish and rice). The Maasai sell traditional art, jewellery and carvings in shacks along the beach and it's also possible to get a really good massage for around $5.
If you think Goa’s all about soulless package hotels and overcrowed beaches then think again. Reaching Agonda in the far south of Goa is like finding the holy grail – an almost deserted but absolutely beautiful beach. We stayed at Agonda White Sand in a simple but stylish en-suite wooden cottage set in a coconut grove with lots of space to chill out. And the beach was bang on our doorstep for swimming, dolphin spotting and the most amazing sunsets.
Situated on the False Bay coast near Cape Town, this harbourside eatery caters for families, students and couples. Located in quaint Kalk Bay, well away from the CBD and more obvious tourist haunts, the area is popular with surfers and beach goers. The Brass Bell can be credited with launching the careers of local bands, who play live.
Offering fresh seafood specialities al fresco, standard pub fare as well as eastern culinary delights, the restaurants, pubs and pizza terrace occupy different levels leading to adjacent tidal pools and the Indian Ocean. Choose from The Main, The Cabin, The Waters Edge, The Pavilion or The Bikini Deck. The nautically themed pubs offer a selection of beverages both imported and locally sourced. The crowd is unpretentious, the atmosphere is very relaxed and the staff friendly.
It is open all year round and even popular in winter, thanks to an open fireplace when the Western Cape experiences its seasonal rainfall and the seas can be rough. Bear this in mind if heading to the Western Cape for the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup.
With Silvermine nature reserve as a backdrop, it is uniquely positioned sandwiched between the crashing surf and the Cape Town to Simonstown railway line. Access is by pedestrian subway under the main railway line. The sandy white beach and station are on its doorstep but there is nearby parking for patrons wishing to take in the views of this superb coastline by car or motorbike.
+27 (21) 788 5455/6
Waterfront, Kalk Bay, Cape Town, 7945, RSA
Just had a refreshing stay at the Om Sai guest house at the Palolem beach in Goa. Palolem is definitely one of the best beaches in Goa and Om Sai offer good, spacious rooms with nice sit outs. The place is safe and the owners are great.
The third largest of NZ's islands is what New Zealand would have been like pre-Maori and pre-European. Thick bush, golden sands, blue water, more wildlife than anywhere I have ever been on the planet. The Best place to go kiwi spotting in NZ!
The only settlement on the island is the tiny town (pop 300) of Oban/halfmoon bay. The rest of this quite sizeable island is bush. Hire a canoe and paddle over to one of the many other islands in the area. I recommend Ulva Island, with its history and wildlife. The island is now designated predator free so many birds flourish. It was incredible.
Also have a night out at Gary's Church on the hill restaurant and sample some delicious sea food made by the friendliest chef in NZ. Wash it down with a few handles at the pub down by the hotel with all the locals.
The ferry ride over from bluff is an experience in itself ... massive waves toss you around and loads of people are sick! You would pay 200 dollars for that in Queenstown or Rotorua!
If you are there mid winter be sure to check out the Singles Ball for some great food, drink and some company ;) Just remember that everyone on the island will know who you hooked up with and will taunt you about it for the whole of your stay!
On a deserted beach about an hour south of Agadir, there's a stunning hotel called Ksar Massa. It's such a magical peaceful place and a great retreat. It's used by a company called fitscape which arranges fitness holidays. Lots of running on the beach, swimming, cycling, etc. We had an amazing time.
This area has a great vibe: very laidback and friendly and a wonderful collection of beaches from calm snorkelling beaches to great surfing spots. Superb choice of accommodations and restaurants too. The website www.PuertoViejoSatellite.com has the most comprehensive information source for the area with info on transport, hotel, activity and more.
Great beach only 10 minutes by bus from the centre of Cagliari.
Beach does get packed on Sundays but even then we were able to hire sun loungers and umbrellas.
Beach is five miles long so if you want it less packed you just have to walk a little bit.
There are cafes/bars surrounding the beach area so you'll want for nothing here.
Seen as one of best city beaches in the Med.
We got off at first stop at beach (Gorgona).
Yellow bus PQ or PF from Piazza Matteotti at west end of Via Roma on waterfront.
Buses go very regularly to / from beach with fares at €1 each way. Tickets can be bought from a kiosk at bus station or from most newsagent kiosks.
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