Escape the miserable British weather this winter with a trip to one of these stunning tropical destinations...
Five star surroundings: Downtown Dubai is a mix of old and new, a busy, attractive neighbourhood which features iconic landmarks such as the Dubai Fountain (think the Bellagio Fountain on steroids) and the world’s tallest structure, the Burj Khalifa. The Old Town is home to the Souk Al Bahar, which features a range of boutiques and waterfront restaurants.
Stay in style: Base yourself at the upscale, 4* boutique hotel, Manzil Downtown Dubai; design is contemporary Arabian, with slick, modernist touches such as white marble bathrooms and Instagram-style art. There are several delicious restaurants to choose from, including The Courtyard, serving Mediterranean food al fresco, and The Boulevard Kitchen, which has a more Middle Eastern focus. Sun-worshippers will also welcome the outdoor pool.
Don’t miss: The hotel is just across from the Dubai Mall, thought to be the world’s largest shopping mall, which contains over 1,200 shops. Brands range from Mango to MaxMara, mixing high street and designer labels. It also boasts an aquarium and an ice rink. Mall of the Emirates, home to a diminutive 466 stores, offers the country’s only indoor ski slope (with real snow), so you can park the husband and kids while you concentrate on bagging those bargains…
HOW: A double room at the Manzil Downton Dubai starts at £125 (720 AED). For more information, and to book, visit vida-hotels.com/en/index.aspx. Return flights to Dubai start from around £338 with Royal Brunei Air, flyroyalbrunei.com (three nights including flights costs £525pp).
W+H TIP: Where possible, aim to fly long haul on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner (Royal Brunei Airlines offers Dreamliner service on all long-haul flights); features include mood lighting, a generous seat pitch, extended leg room, bigger windows, more overhead luggage space, cleaner healthier air, reduced cabin noise and a touch screen monitor for the latest inflight entertainment.
W+H TIP: The annual month-long Dubai Shopping Festival runs throughout every January, where you can bag amazing discounts and deals. Visit www.mydsf.ae/ for more details.
Five star surroundings: Bangkok is a teeming capital city, with a historic and traditional past – palaces, temples, markets – as well as modern rooftop bars, shopping malls and more. It has plenty to offer sight-seers, particularly if you’re staying for a couple of days as a stopover en route to some of the country’s beautiful islands.
Stay in Style: Situated on a busy street surrounded by elegant embassies is Bangkok’s Banyan Tree, the fourth property to be established by the eco-conscious hotel group. The Kingsize Club Rooms have magnificent views over the city; situated upwards of the 30th floor, this becomes particularly impressive at night, when everything lights up. With a capacious bed, separate living area and a bathroom boasting a bath big enough for two, it’s got everything you need. Special touches include the daily signature scented oil in a burner, and a gift of his and hers toiletry bags. Guests also have use of the well-equipped gym, and the rooftop pool on the 21st floor, where you can swim laps surrounded by skyscrapers. Club Room guests also have access to the Club Lounge, which serves daily buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, canapés and cocktails.
Don’t miss: Featuring eight restaurants (one of which is on a boat, which you can book for a beautiful and atmospheric dinner cruise), we loved Saffron, which serves sumptuously made traditional Thai food such as pork springrolls, warm duck salad and massaman curry. Sharpen your appetite with a pre-dinner cocktail at the hotel’s rooftop Moon Bar, on the 61st floor; try a signature Vertigo Sunset, with fresh fruit juices and Malibu, as you watch the sun go down and the city’s lights twinkle into life on what feels like the top of the world. Explore some sights beyond the hotel: must-sees include the Grand Palace, former home of the Thai Royal, and Buddhist Temple Wat Pho, which houses the country’s largest reclining Buddha statue, at 46m long and 15m high. Shoppers shouldn’t miss the massive MBK or Siam Paragon malls, or barter at the authentic weekend Chatuchak market.
HOW: Prices at Banyan Tree Bangkok start from approx. £88 per night in a Deluxe Room, or for around £150 in a Club Room King. For reservations and enquiries, visit www.banyantree.com. Non-direct flights to Bangkok from London start from approximately £459 with www.emirates.com in September (three nights in a Club Room including flight costs £684pp).
Five star surroundings: Endless golden beaches, softly waving palm trees, lush rainforests, cocoa plantations, first class snorkelling…everything about St Lucia suggests indulgence and relaxation, so where better to head off to for some much-needed winter sun?
Stay in Style: The laid-back, family owned Bay Gardens Hotel in Rodney Bay is a mere 20 minutes’ drive from the capital, Castries. Decorated in cheerful, Caribbean shades such as bright oranges, citrus yellows and tropical limes, it’s a comfortable, cosy resort. It’s not on the beach, although guests are allowed to use the beach at nearby sister hotel, Bay Gardens Beach Resort (where you can water-ski, snorkel, scuba dive and more), and has three lovely swimming pools dotted around the property. The Spices restaurant offers delicious home-style Caribbean and West Indian cuisine.
Don’t miss: Enjoy a rainforest hike on the Jacquot trail which takes you through lush territory, passing ravines, creeks and waterfalls, and finding out about the local flora and fauna (www.rainforestadventure.com). Or take a dip in the Sulphur Springs (www.soufrierefoundation.org), nicknamed the world’s only drive-in volcano’! You can have a mud bath and enjoy the naturally heated water. The truly adventurous (and fit!) can scale Gros Piton, one of the two distinctive mountains the island is known for, which stands 2,619ft above sea level (www.grospiton.com); and if you love chocolate, take a tour of the cocoa plantation on the Rabot Estate, owned by the Hotel Chocolat chain (www.thehotelchocolat.com).
HOW: Seven nights in St Lucia with Virgin Holidays, including direct scheduled flights from London Gatwick on a room only basis at the 3V Bay Gardens Hotel, and transfers, starts from £729pp. Price is based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a standard room and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on January 19 2016. To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk , 0344 557 3859 or visit one of our 110 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.
Five star surroundings: Ripe mango and banana bunches scent the air of local markets, gleaming game fish whip in the wake of a deep-sea cruiser, and elephants crush fallen jackfruits underfoot in the Sinharaja rainforest – Sri Lanka is full of irresistible charms.
Stay in Style: The Sun Aqua Pasikudah lies on the east coast of Sri Lanka, serving up gorgeous pristine coastline with golden, sunbaked sand. The water is clear and shallow for miles, and offshore you’ll find some of the island’s best diving – the shipwrecked HMS Hermes is of particular note. Perched on the waterfront, the luxurious hotel makes the most of its sun-drenched setting with boutique-designed five-star suites, gourmet dining, a fully stocked cellar of Old and New World wines, and excursions through jungles, mountains and underwater terrains.
Don’t miss: Maduru Oya National Park, just a 40 minute drive from the hotel, provides a sanctuary to wildlife: elephants, wild boars and water buffalo roam free. The neighbouring jungle village, Dambana, is also home to the last remaining tribe of Sri Lanka’s indigenous people. Similarly, with cultural attractions including Buddhist landmarks and archaeological sites such as the UNESCO heritage site of Sigiriya and ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa – it’s a perfect spot for your inner explorer.
HOW: Experience Travel Group (experiencetravelgroup.com, 020 7924 7133) offers 7 nights at Sun Aqua Pasikudah from £1,751 per person on a half board basis, including return flights from the UK.
Five star surroundings: One of the most popular Caribbean islands with visitors, it’s not hard to see why Jamaica’s winning combination of laid back lifestyle and glorious golden beaches keeps people coming from all over the world. Peppered with rainforests and mountains, this beautiful birthplace of reggae still boasts much British colonial architecture coupled with colourful Caribbean buildings.
Stay in Style: Unleash your inner Bond Girl by staying at GoldenEye Hotel and Resort, the former retreat of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. Located in Oracabessa Bay, on the north coast of Jamaica, it’s an idyllic cluster of pretty, whitewashed cottages and suites. Fleming penned all 14 of his Bond books in the hotel’s centrepiece, known as The Fleming Villa; maybe you’ll find inspiration here too? The resort features a freshwater infinity pool next to the beach, a spa, watersports centre, a library and mountain bikes to borrow to explore your surroundings.
Don’t miss: Hit the water with local Oracabessa Bay fishermen and help haul in the morning catch of wahoo, mahi mahi or tuna. If you find a fish you like, bring it back to the chefs at Goldeneye to cook for dinner. Climb Firefly Hill (www.firefly-jamaica.com), east of Ocho Rios, for pristine, postcard-perfect Caribbean views at the national heritage site that was once Sir Noël Coward’s vacation home. The country converted the home, which once hosted Churchill, Queen Elizabeth and Laurence Olivier, as a museum to the author. If you’re up for a challenge, Dunn’s River Falls is a must see and do; located in Ocho Rios, the 600 feet cascading falls are gorgeous. You can actually climb right up the falls.
HOW: Tropic Breeze (01752 880880: www.tropicbreeze.co.uk) offers a 7 night stay at GoldenEye based on 2 adults sharing a Lagoon Cottage on a bed and breakfast basis, including return flights and transfers from £2,249 per person (save up to £500 per couple). Stay until 19th December 2015 for a minimum of 5 nights and enjoy one night free of charge. Based on 11th November 2015 departure.
Five star surroundings: The stylish city of Miami is best known for the stretch of Art Deco designed hotels that line the seafront of its fashionable South Beach district. Packed with boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants, it’s the place to see and be seen! And on this 10 day trip, you also get a few days in Barbados – what’s not to like?
Stay in Style: The vibrant, white and yellow exterior of the Royal Palm Miami South Beach will make you feel sunny instantly. Inside, the interiors are slick and modern, with quirky touches like unusual lamps and cushions. Rooms have city or ocean views, and as well as being a few steps away from the beach, the hotel has two sizeable pools. Sandals Barbados (pictured) is a romantic, luxurious resort set in lush, well maintained grounds, and you’ll be superbly looked after by the friendly and attentive staff; many rooms have their own butlers.
Don’t miss: Once you’ve done the passeggiata down Ocean Drive, and checked out the lovely Art Deco architecture, there are other lovely neighbourhoods to explore, such as Little Havana, populated by many of the Cubans who fled to Miami after Castro came into power in the 1950s, or the Design District, where high end furniture and homeware showrooms are plentiful. Snorkeling, diving, and catamaran rides are all included at Sandals, and there are pool games and beach games throughout the day.
HOW: My America Holiday offers a 10 night holiday to Miami and Barbados, with 3 nights at the 4.5* Royal Palm Miami South Beach and 7 nights in a Caribbean Village Grand Luxe Room at the Sandals Barbados. Prices start at £2,659pp including flights with British Airways, 10 nights luxury hotel accommodation and return transfers from the airport in Barbados. The Sandals Barbados stay is all-inclusive. For more information or to make a booking, call 020 8290 9797 or visit www.myamericaholiday.co.uk