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Best of coasts and islands

Great places to stay on the world's loveliest islands

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Don’t waste precious travel time dragging your flip-flopped feet to the beach. We’ve rounded up ten places to stay on some of the world’s most beautiful islands – and they’re all a stone’s throw from the beach. Best of all, you don’t need to sell your granny to enjoy an island getaway, we’ve picked everything from luxe resorts to apartments to hostels, ensuring a beachside break for every budget.

Palm beach on Isla Mujeres. Image by Slow Images / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images.Palm beach on Isla Mujeres. Image by Slow Images / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images.

1. Thatch Caye Resort, Belize

Why we love Belize's central coast: less crowded (and often less costly) than those in the north, the cayes off Belize’s central coast are smack in the middle of some of the country’s most amazing diving, snorkelling and fishing sites. Slackers take note: there’s no shortage of tropical breezes and palm-tree-slung hammocks.

Why we love Thatch Caye Resort: sitting eight miles off the coast, Thatch Caye is a privately owned island resort with environmental sustainability built into almost every aspect of its design. Eleven beautiful thatched-roof cabañas built from local hardwoods sit on stilts over the ocean, connected by paths winding through native mangroves. Electricity for both private and communal facilities is generated from solar and wind sources, with a single diesel generator kept as backup. Thatch’s excellent restaurant employs local chefs and serves organic Garifuna, East Indian, Maya and North American dishes, and in the evenings guests can sip drinks beneath the stars while watching tropical fish swim below their feet at the newly built Starfish Bar. Beachside campsites accommodate travellers on a budget.

2. Lahaina Shores, Maui, Hawaii

Why we love Maui: Maui is the postcard island where snorkellers pause for green turtles, zipliners swoop over jungles and early risers watch the sun punch through morning clouds from the top of a lofty volcano.

Why we love Lahaina Shores: they’ll have you at aloha at Lahaina Shores, where the staff seems genuinely happy that you’re visiting. The seven-storey property is the only oceanfront condo complex in central Lahaina operated hotel-style with a front desk and full services. The adjacent beach is a good place for beginner surfers.

3. Stermasi, Mljet Island, Croatia

Why we love Mljet: of all the Adriatic islands, Mljet may be the most seductive. Much of the island is covered by forests and the rest is dotted with fields, vineyards and small villages. It’s an unspoiled oasis of tranquillity that, according to legend, captivated Odysseus for seven years. We’re sure he didn’t regret a moment.

Why we love Stermasi: these apartments are ideal for those wanting to enjoy the simple life and natural beauty of the island. All nine places are well presented, bright and modern, sleep two to four people, and either have a terrace or private balcony. Sandy beaches are on your doorstep, and the family owners couldn’t be more helpful.

White sand beach on Ko Chang's east coast. Image by Elena Ermakova (lunarlynx) / Flickr Open / Getty Images.White sand beach on Ko Chang's east coast. Image by Elena Ermakova (lunarlynx) / Flickr Open / Getty Images.

4. Birds and Bees Resort, Ko Chang, Thailand

Why we love Ko Chang: Bangkok Thais have long escaped the urban grind with weekend trips to the eastern seaboard. Some of the country’s first beach resorts sprang up here, starting a trend that has been duplicated wherever sand meets sea. Ko Chang and its sister islands offer the best ‘tropical’ ambience in the region but expect crowds.

Why we love Birds & Bees Resort: retreat into a tropical garden resort bisected by meandering paths and decorated with tongue-in-cheek artwork. There’s a semi-private beach and an incongruous wholesomeness for a resort affiliated with PDA, the Thai NGO responsible for the country’s successful adoption of condom-use and family-planning services.

5. Stavroula Palace, Kissamos-Kastelli, Crete

Why we love Crete: Crete (Κρήτη) is in many respects the culmination of the Greek experience. Nature here has been as prolific as Picasso in his prime, creating a dramatic quilt of big-shouldered mountains, stunning beaches and undulating hillsides blanketed in olive groves, vineyards and wildflowers. Crete’s natural beauty is equalled only by the richness of a history that spans millennia. Quiet Kissamos-Kastelli has a more Greek feel than other north coast resorts. Perhaps the distance from Hania has saved it from the extremes of package tourism. For beach lovers, it’s a great base; along with the fine sandy beach in town, there are nearby Falasarna and the beaches around Gramvousa (usually accessed by boat trip).

Why we love Stavroula Palace: this cheery and good-value waterfront hotel has breezy, modern rooms with balconies (some overlooking the sea). The town centre, the best beach and the top waterfront eateries and bars can all be reached within a few minutes’ walk. If you’ve got tots in tow you can lie by the pool and still keep an eye on them as they frolic around the recreation area out the back.

6. Pink Sands Resort, Eleuthera, Bahamas

Why we love Eleutheramost people come here to do…absolutely nothing. That’s right. The beach bum is the true royal here, their every do-nothing need met by mile upon mile of obliging shores. These are the supermodels of the beach world: pink sand, sunlight dancing on cerulean waters, sheltered coves, dramatic cliffs.

Why we love Pink Sands Resort: walking into the intimate open-air lobby, with its koi pond and carved Moroccan swing and ancient fig trees, feels like entering an Arabian Nights fairy tale. The 25 sleek cottages are their own private mini-kingdoms, with sitting areas and porches and minibars stocked with everything from sparkling wine to Cracker Jacks. Some have million-dollar views of Pink Sands Beach, while others are tucked away beneath the trees.

Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island by Mike's Birds. CC BY-SA 2.0.Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island by Mike's Birds. CC BY-SA 2.0.

7. Casajanca, Lipari, Sicily

Why we love the Aeolian Islands: rising out of the cobalt-blue seas off Sicily’s northeastern coast, the Unesco-protected Aeolian Islands are a little piece of paradise, a magical outdoor playground offering thrills and spills at every turn. Stunning waters provide sport for swimmers, sailors and divers while trekkers can climb hissing volcanoes and gourmets can sup on honey-sweet Malvasia wine. Lipari is the largest and liveliest of the seven islands.

Why we love Casajanca: a stone’s throw from the beach at Canneto, this is charming little hotel has 10 rooms, all decorated with polished antique furniture and impeccable taste. The dappled courtyard, a relaxing place to enjoy breakfast, boasts a natural thermal water pool that’s perfect for winter stays.

8. Poc-Na Hostel, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Why we love Isla Mujeres: if you are going to visit just one of Quintana Roo’s islands, then Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) is probably the place for you. Sure, there are quite a few ticky-tacky tourist shops, but folks still get around by golf cart and the crushed-coral beaches are better than those of Cozumel or Holbox. There’s not much here, and that’s the whole point: come to bask in quiet shallows or stretch out on the sand, to snorkel or scuba dive.

Why we love Poc-Na Hostel: it is only moments away from one of the island’s nicest beaches and it is lovingly decorated with shells and hibiscus flowers. It’s an example-setting hostel, and once the pool is constructed it will be even better.

9. Pearl Beach Bungalows, Lombok

Why we love Lombok: blessed with exquisite white-sand beaches, epic surf, a lush forested interior, and hiking trails through tobacco and rice fields, Lombok is fully loaded with tropical allure. Finally, the reality seems to have caught up with the hype, and with a new international airport and renewed interest from around the globe, Lombok’s time is now.

Why we love Pearl Beach: this is a new private island resort with a wonderful sweep of white sand leading to a turquoise sea. The cottages are simple, bamboo affairs with outdoor baths and a hammock on the porch. The bungalows are quite chic, with polished concrete floors, soaring ceilings, sliding glass doors, a gorgeous outdoor bath, and a fabulous day-bed swing on the wood porch. It’s owned by the folks behind Dive Zone, mainland Lombok’s best dive shop (www. divezone-lombok.com).

Turks and Caicos 2008 by Ben Ramirez. CC BY 2.0.Turks and Caicos 2008 by Ben Ramirez. CC BY 2.0.

10. Sibonné Beach Hotel, Turks and Caicos Islands

Why we love the Turks and Caicos Islands: this tropical dream is the deserted Caribbean destination you’ve been looking for. It has white-sand beaches, clear blue water and a climate that defines divine. Secluded bays and islands where you’ll see more wild donkeys than other travellers. Historic towns and villages where life creeps along at a sedate pace. Divers and beach aficionados will rejoice at the clear warm waters teeming with marine life.

Why we love Sibonné Beach Hotel: deservedly popular and occupying a divine stretch of sand on Grace Bay, Sibonné is a real anti-resort and it gets our vote. With five room categories ranging from comfortable to luxurious and a friendly relaxed feel (no officious security guards here) this is a great place to enjoy the beach in a low-key surrounding.