On The Road
Seven Of The Best Beach Hotels On The Planet
The seafront palaces marrying luxe with location
Shutters on the beach, LA. Photograph courtesy of Shutters on the Beach
The beach is a place of sacred intimacy, a place where you can be yourself, flop down on a towel, pose like a starlet, launch yourself with unknown vigour into the sea. Whatever you want, here is the place, here is the time. Unlike the swimming pool – where the sunbeds point towards the water’s edge and so make for a towel-based panoptican where everyone is looking at you looking at them – on the beach, everyone points towards the waves and the endless azure skies, so everyone is a bit more chill. And chill is what you want on your holiday. Chill and rosé wine. To ensure you have enough of both, it is sensible, if not essential, to choose a hotel close to the shore, because you don’t want to be sweating it out in taxis between the two. To help you in this end, we have traversed the globe to bring you the best beach-front hotels anywhere.
Cuixmala, Mexico. Photograph by Mr Michael Gilbreath, courtesy of Cuixmala
The Cuixmala estate was built by the financier Sir James Goldsmith, whose damascene conversion from unabashed capitalist to environmental guardian surprised many. He had been called a buccaneer; suddenly, a friend to the monkey. At any rate, he started buying up vast tracts of rainforest to protect it from loggers and then decided to build himself the world’s largest private house. Now it is the world’s most beautiful hotel and run by his daughter, Ms Alix Goldsmith Marcaccini. It sits on a rocky escarpment with commanding views of sea and forest, and is all mellow hues, bright blues and endless white halls. The pool, which muscles its way onto the beach, makes for the best of both worlds. It is quite simply beautiful.
What to pack
Cary Arms & Spa, England
Cary Arms & Spa, Torquay. Photograph courtesy of Cary Arms & Spa
A holiday at the British seaside has always been a gamble. Travel to the beach for a day and you invite disaster, for you are at the caprice of the weather. An ill wind and you are done for, so it is far better to have a hotel to retreat to close by. Doubly so when it has such a beautiful spa as the Cary Arms in Babbacombe, Devon, which, when viewed from the sea looks like a little pale-hued village. Arranged on the cliffs are the main hotel, beach huts, serviced cottages and a charming restaurant, all in a little huddle. And a huddle that leads directly onto the water, too. It is as English as a cream tea and just as delightful.
What to pack
Shutters On The Beach, US
Shutters on the Beach, LA. Photograph courtesy of Shutters on the Beach
If you stand on the seashore in Santa Monica in a friendly light and towards land, Shutters On The Beach seems to be almost an extension of the beach, as if it were made from the sand. If it were, it would be the grandest sandcastle ever. This clapboard edifice is the grande dame around here, an artefact of a bygone time. The service is pitch perfect, the restaurants stuffed full of seafood and the rooms, well, the rooms are like the rooms you would draw if you were asked to imagine the perfect beach hotel rooms. Sparkling mahogany floors, white shutters, rattan chairs and baths with views of the Pacific. Even the pool is raised so it has views of the vast golden-sand beach.
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Pangulasian Island, Philippines
El Nido Resorts Pangulasian Island, Philippines. Photograph courtesy of El Nido Resorts
El Nido’s Pangulasian Island in the Philippines is an eco-resort and you see that clearly when you fly above it. It seems to merge in and out of the forest that surrounds it, as if it has one foot in the world of flora and fauna and the other in the big, broad world of commerce. It’s very nice. Nicer still is the 750m-long white-sand beach that leads to a warm, blue, embracing sea. There are 42 villas of varying sizes and with varying-sized pools, but if we had to choose a place to hunker down, we might be tempted by that lovely silent slice of untouched beach.
What to pack
Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman
Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman. Photograph courtesy of Six Senses
To say the scenery at the latest Six Senses property on the Musandam Peninsula of Oman is a bit special is like saying diamonds are a bit shiny. It looks like something from a story book or Star Wars or from Mars – great mountains shooting out of the brown and grey earth, rubbing up against the sapphire coast and the private marina of the hotel. If you look at the hotel from a dhow in the sea, you notice it is all low slung, so nothing breaks your reverie. Should you want your reverie broken, you could seek distraction in its vast spa, or its hilltop restaurant, or beach-front eaterie, or indeed with a guided trek in the mountains.
What to pack
Ocean House, US
Ocean House, Rhode Island. Photograph courtesy of Ocean House
Built in 1868 not long after the end of the Civil War, Ocean House in Rhode Island was looking a bit tired before its recent six-year-long renovations. Now, after a $146m facelift, it is as perky as a Pekinese. The new owners have cut the number of rooms, made the place more homely, installed a farm-to-table restaurant and, in hues of turquoise, cream, blue and yellow, created a little homage to those grand old colonial-style hotels of yesteryear. There is, naturally, a spa and a 20m lap pool, but you probably won’t use it because, in all likelihood, you will find yourself on the hotel’s private beach, thinking, dreaming, lying.
What to pack
Finca Cortesin, Spain
Finca Cortesin Hotel Beach Club, Spain. Photograph courtesy of Finca Cortesin Hotel Beach Club
Impeccable service, white-walled traditional Andalusian architecture and a garden that Ms Gertrude Jekyll would approve of, Finca Cortesin is a happy dream. The scale and style of the whole place are palatial. Each of the 67 airy rooms has a 4m-high ceiling, there are 23,000sq m of manicured gardens and, a short walk away, the beach and its vast club. There are Balinese sunbeds so comfy you want to sleep on them, a 35m infinity pool and endless views of the lapping Mediterranean Sea.