Tropical paradises

Indulgent retreats and unforgettable landscapes from Barbados to Borneo

Tropical paradises Relax in a luxury beach villa in the Maldives - © www.oneandonlyresorts.com/Barbara Kraft
By Chris Moss

Whether it's a honeymoon in the Carribean or a day out with the kids in Cornwall, we bring you ten wonderfully exotic escapes.

Barbados

For glitz, glamour and to see and be seen, Barbados is hard to beat. There’s not much modesty here – this island is all about the cash, baby. There’s no shortage of accommodation – much of it catering to moneyed lawyers, bankers, movie moguls and honeymooners who enjoy the discreet service the island’s renowned for. The uber-luxe Sandpiper is on the beach and its classy rooms and suites are nestled among lush tropical gardens. When you’re not watching the armies of gardeners tending to the lawns, you can occupy yourself playing polo or golf, sailing, or taking a refreshing dip in the sea/pool. There’s also the Barbados Wildlife Reserve (www.barbados.org/reserve.htm) where you can meet the local green monkeys.

Stay at
Sandpiper (+246 422 2251, www.sandpiperbarbados.com).

Borneo

The northern part of Borneo, an island with exceptional biodiversity, is Malaysian; its southern two-fifths are Indonesian. With pristine jungle, stunning scenery, eye-catching orchids, white-sand beaches and exotic ocean life, Borneo tops the bill for the ultimate adventure-filled tropical holiday. Enticements include staying in a local homestay, spending a night or two in the jungle, chilling on the beach and, of course, watching the wild and endangered orang-utans on the north of the island.

Book with Intrepid Travel (020 3147 7777, www.intrepidtravel.com).

Cayman Islands

The exotic Caribbean Cayman Islands are famed for their pristine beaches, romantic sunsets and plush hotels. This tropical paradise is perfect for a relaxing beach holiday, but it’s equally suited to family holidays thanks to the calm seas, and nature-watching breaks; keen birders can spot parrots, doves, tricoloured herons, coots, blue-winged teals, rare West Indian whistling ducks and many more. There’s a wide accommodation choice but self-catering gives the greatest flexibility; the eight elegant apartments that comprise the beachside Turtle Nest Inn, ten miles from Grand Cayman capital George Town (and the airport), have Spanish-inspired architecture, terraces, whitewashed walls and terracotta tiles. While you’re there you can go snorkelling in the crystal-clear sea, take a dip in the freshwater swimming pool, or simply relax on the beach.

Stay at
Turtle Nest Inn (www.turtlenestinn.com).

Cocos Islands

These gorgeous Australian islands in the Indian Ocean, nestled between Sri Lanka and Australia, almost 2,800 kilometres north-west of Perth, are blissfully free of big resorts and chain hotels. Charles Darwin, who was on The Beagle when it sailed around the atoll, collected specimens to take back to Kent. Snorkellers, scuba divers and passengers on the glass-bottomed boat can spot colourful fish (around 500 different species), reef sharks and turtles. The islands are also home to many seabirds, including white terns, frigate birds, waders and herons. The tropical climate means sunny days, though there is slightly higher rainfall between March and July. Swim, cycle, fish, walk or simply laze in a hammock.

Stay at Cocos Cottages (+08 9244 3801, www.cocos-cottages.cc).

The Eden Project, UK

Who says you need to take a plane to a tropical paradise? Cornwall’s greatest tourist attraction started life as a chalk mine. Now its two biomes provide a habitat for two climates. In the tropical rainforest biome – the world’s largest conservatory – plants, including mangroves, Fijian ferns, Australian umbrella trees and the endangered bottle palm from Mauritius, thrive in the humid 30-degrees-centigrade-plus temperatures; the cooler Mediterranean biome hosts olive and citrus trees and an array of flora from the world’s non-tropical zones, such as cacti common to the Californian desert. There’s a big emphasis on sustainability, but in a gently informative way – learn about the Eden Project’s involvement in Thailand’s Forest Restoration Research Unit or why it’s important to source your soy responsibly. Plan to spend at least four hours here to make the most of your visit. The food’s also top notch – especially the own-made Cornish pasties.

The Eden Project
(01726 811911, www.edenproject.com).

Jericoacoara, Brazil

Brazil is famous for its beaches, and Jericoacoara, 300 kilometres north of Fortaleza, doesn’t disappoint. Some 20 years ago, it was a modest fishing village that had no telephone connection and a rudimentary road system – electricity was only installed in 1998. And although it’s grown in size and wealth thanks to international tourism, it’s remained relatively undeveloped. But that’s to its advantage: the 6,850-hectare National Park of Jericoacoara comprises dunes, lakes, sandy beaches and tranquil seas. But it’s not all about nature – recent years have seen Jericoacoara become popular with wind- and kitesurfers, though it’s also good for surfing and sandboarding, and you can organise horseriding on the beach.

Stay at Pousada Carioca (+ 55 88 12 75 61, www.pousadacarioca.com).
Pousada Carioca is a small, quiet B&B with a pretty garden (look out for the hummingbirds) and hammocks to relax in after a day of kitesurfing. Breakfasts are healthy, with lots of fruit and home-made coconut bread.

Maldives

The Maldives, a string of atolls in the Indian Ocean, south-west of Sri Lanka, top many a list for a dreamy romantic getaway. The 130 villas at exclusive chain One & Only are sumptuous; each has access to a private beach and a pool, a flatscreen TV for when it’s too dark to gaze out on to the calm blue sea, espresso- and tea-making machines, a sun terrace, and spacious bathrooms with baths perfect for early evening, pre-dinner wallowing with a glass of champagne. Tropical-themed bedrooms have cosy beds made up with Egyptian bedlinen and there’s even a pillow menu to ensure you get a good night’s rest after a hard day on the beach.

Stay at One & Only (01753 899900, www.oneandonlyresorts.com).

Seychelles

Think coconut groves, gently lapping waves, stunning sunsets and pretty fish to spot while snorkelling and you’ve got the Seychelles, a beautiful archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. The islands, whichever you select, are ideal if you’re feeling overworked and stressed; the pristine beaches, clear blue seas and general laid-back vibe will soothe even the most frazzled office worker. Mahé is the largest and most developed island and a good choice for first-time visitors.

Book with
Abercrombie & Kent (0845 618 2200, www.abercrombiekent.co.uk).

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a popular beach holiday destination for good reason – it’s got beaches, archaeology, nature and incredibly warm hospitality. Serene Pavilions is a new boutique hotel set in a seven-acre coconut grove on Sri Lanka’s west coast. Each of the 12 highly stylish luxurious pavilionshas its own private plunge pool, sitting room, furnished kitchenette, private bar and jacuzzi. The beachside hideaway is only 45 minutes from the capital, Colombo, but feels remote. When not enjoying the swimming pool or gazing dreamily out to sea, you can dine on delicious cuisine such as shrimp and mango salad.

Stay at
Serene Pavilions (+94 38 229 4447, www.serenepavilions.com).

Uepi Island, Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands archipelago consists of mountainous, forested volcanic islands to the south-east of Papua New Guinea, and are an adventurous travel destination for anyone looking for a tropical holiday with added oomph. In common with other tropical destinations, the islands can get very humid; most tourists visit during the dry season, which runs from the end of May to the start of December. It’s a water-lover’s paradise, with gorgeous coral reefs to explore with a snorkel, World War II shipwrecks for intrepid scuba divers, underwater volcanoes, surfing, kayaking and wildlife-watching on Lake Te’Nggano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Uepi Island consists of a rainforest-covered barrier reef with a stunning sandy beach.

Stay at
Uepi Island Resort (+61 3 9787 7904, www.uepi.com).
The Uepi Island Resort has four recently renovated spacious beachfront bungalows with a deck and an all-important hammock.

Time Out guidebooks

1000 Great Holiday Ideas

Plan your perfect trip with this inspirational compendium of failsafe holiday suggestions. It's packed with fresh ideas for traditional breaks, from beach idylls to winter sun and family camping, along with great suggestions for trying something different – all around the world. Whether you're looking for a weekend break or the trip of a lifetime, Time Out's worldwide team of travel specialists can take you there.

Buy '1000 Great Holiday Ideas' from the Time Out shop for the discounted price of £7.99.

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