I can’t stand the UK winter and really want to get a dose of sun during this dreary time of year. Can you recommend some good places to catch some winter sun and sand?
If you want sunshine and beaches in the depths of the British winter, you’ve got to go tropical. That means a medium or long-haul flight, but it’ll be worth it when you can feel that powdery sand between your toes and the sun on your back…
Starting with the beaches that are closest to our shores, there’s North Africa, for a taste of the exotic, but a flight of under four hours. Oualidia in Morocco is less well-known than other Moroccan coastal resorts like Essouira, and therefore quieter, especially at this time of year. It’s popular with wealthy Moroccans and expat French, and has been dubbed "the St Tropez of Morocco".
But don’t let that put you off – winter is quiet season and although you’ll get some windy days, and chilly nights, temperatures should stay in the high teens. The resort is popular with bird watchers in spring and autumn, thanks to its population of pink flamingos, storks and egrets.
La Sultana is a lovely hotel on the edge of a lagoon. It’s elegant and modern and has a spa, pool and Jacuzzi. Rooms start from around £210 a night in low season. Fly to Marrakesh and take a bus or taxi for the three-hour trip to Oualidia.
If that’s not quite hot enough for you, try Bandar Jussa, a quiet bay in Oman that is home to the Oman Dive Centre. You don’t have to be a scuba pro to enjoy the briny adventures – there are beginner courses and snorkelling trips on offer – or you can avoid getting wet altogether on the dolphin-watching trips and sunset cruises.
The centre has its own accommodation – 35 “barasti” eco huts on the edge of the beach. They aren’t as basic as they sound – each has a private open-air bathroom (well, maybe not private from above, but on all other sides!), plus air conditioning and mini bar. They cost £100 for double occupancy. The best bit? Muscat is only 20 minutes away by car, so you can see the souks, the mosque and the fish market in a one or two-day side trip.
If it’s turquoise water and tropical fruit cocktails you had in mind, consider Brazil, where it’s hot, hot, hot over the UK winter. It’s a long flight to Salvador but if you’re staying in the town, Zank Hotel is a good bet. It’s stylish and understated and well away from the touristy places to stay. Rooms start from £200 a night and there’s a beach nearby, infinity pool and nightlife within walking distance.
If you’re happy to trek further from the airport, and as much as four hours by car, plus a boat transfer or two, you’ll get well away from the beaten track to the islands of the Tinharé archipelago.
They are still within the vast Bahia state, but not many visitors get this far. The place to head is Boipeba Island, picture-perfect beach paradise, with four little villages and only about 30 guesthouses, or pousadas, across the island. The fish and fruit are as fresh as they come, and you can take your pick from the pousadas on this website.
Not all beaches are about barefoot charm – how about a beach where the sand brushes up against the city limits? If you can hack the pace, try Chowpatty in Mumbai – it’s a popular beach for city dwellers looking to chill out, party or just hang out, at the weekend. There are families, party animals and couples alike. Expect beach games by day, but when it really comes alive is at night when the amusement parks, performance artists and street food pop up. This is not a beach for bathing – it’s more about people watching and atmosphere.
If you want somewhere to stay that’s an oasis away from the hubbub, try The Gordon House Hotel in South Mumbai. It’s contemporary, clean, the breakfast and wi-fi are free and it costs around £160 a night. While you’re there make sure you try street food, nip into the souk, grab a coffee in an Iranian café and try to get into a Bollywood film – or at least watch one being made.
If you want a city beach that’s a little less frenetic, try Miami. There’s still the party atmosphere and people watching, but fewer crowds and the temperature is in the mid 20s. Miami Beach, and more specifically, South Beach, have a great buzz. The draw is the art-deco buildings – hundreds of fascinating facades and designs overlooking the beach and its posing playthings, roller-bladers and waifs and strays.
Away from the beach, the Design District is Miami’s answer to New York’s Meatpacking District, with galleries, design shops, trendy cafes and bars.
As for where to stay, the Fontainebleau resort has it all – pool, spa, nightclubs, pool-side cabanas with flat-screen televisions… but is a pricey, at £248 a night, or there are cheaper options like the Ocean Surf, an art deco property in North Beach, from £64 B&B.
Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor
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