Beyond the beach
There’s nothing as idyllic as lazing on a beautiful stretch of sand – but A&K’s dedicated Beaches team can help you get even more from your seaside escape
Sun, sea, sand – and something more: that’s the A&K philosophy. Our Beaches team has the inside track on the best resorts in the most beautiful locations. They can also help you combine your R&R with some added culture and exploration. Getting you under the skin of your destination. Two of A&K’s beach specialists Lauren and Laura give us an insight into their favourite destinations, and their top tips on making the most of them.
Belize: For smooth sailing, deep diving and jaguar spotting
Sugar might be its biggest export, but Belize is sweet in more ways than one. With balmy Caribbean waters on one side, wildlife-rich jungle on the other, and a bounty of beaches between, this Central American star lies in one of the world’s natural sweet spots. Seeking an exclusive hideaway? The private islands of the Belize Barrier Reef offer just the place. Any stress you bring with you will disappear as quickly as your first ice-cool rum punch.
Beyond the beach: If you stare into the Belizean jungle, the jungle stares back – either with the stony gaze of a Mayan statue, or the glinting eyes of a jaguar. Be sure to take at least one guided excursion into this wild canopy. More treasures await in the water. Swim with shark and turtle in the world’s second-largest coral system, or dive into The Great Blue Hole – a natural wonder straight out of a James Bond set-piece. Set sail on calm waters, or explore stunning caves and grottos. This and more awaits in a country smaller than all in Central America but El Salvador. Small, but mighty.
Don’t miss: Diving into The Blue Hole of Belize, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Seychelles: For blinding beaches, island-hops and unique wildlife
In a picture dictionary, paradise would look like the Seychelles. Across the archipelago, coconut palms bow over sugary curves of sand, centuries-smoothed boulders and gentle waves. Technicolour coral reefs edge shimmering lagoons. Granite mountains soar inland. Add in a handful of intimate, eco-sensitive lodges, where you can eat organic food, dip in a private plunge pool or eat by candlelight on a star-spangled beach, The result – the ultimate sea escape.
Beyond the beach: The Seychelles was dealt a plum hand. There is fascinating wildlife here – from giant tortoise to the tiniest frog to rare black parrot. Expert-led tours, wilderness walks and boat trips will help you track them down. Ferries make it easy to island-hop for a more mixed-up break. Sail between the main island of Mahé (with its flourishing art scene), car-free La Digue and lush, lovely Praslin. Also, as well as some breathtaking hotels, there are plenty of characterful family-run eateries where you can gain an insight into Seychellois life.
Don’t miss: Wander through Praslin’s Vallee de Mai, home to rare coco de mer palms, with their famous seeds
Mauritius: For romance, R&R and a dose of culture
A stroll along a squeaky, white Mauritian beach at sunset will make even the most hard-hearted traveller swoon. This French-flavoured idyll is gorgeous. A glamorous choice for sand-between-the-toes relaxation and romance. The hotels are mostly five-star and spectacular. The weather warm year-round. The water crystal-clear and ideal for sea fun.
Beyond the beach: Mauritius is not your bog-standard paradise. Inland lies a lush, mountainous heart, where waterfalls thunder and birdlife thrives. Hikes in the Black River Gorges National Park might reveal several endemics – not least the rare pink pigeon. Long a stop-off on Indian Ocean trade routes, Mauritius is also a cultural hotpot. Here European, African, Chinese and Indian influences swirling deliciously together. Menus run the gamut from coq au vin to curry to noodles to fresh, fresh fish. Hindu temples rub alongside churches and mosques. Take a stroll around capital Port Louis, with its architectural mix-up and overflowing markets. Hit the island’s historic tea route, stopping off at tiny villages and old plantations.
Don’t miss: Quad bike through the emerald highlands and sugarcane fields of Bel Ombre Nature Park, stopping for a waterfall dip en route
Maldives: For overwater luxe and underwater paradise
Few of us can afford our own island. But a trip to the Maldives gives an inkling of what it might be like... Many of this Indian Ocean archipelago’s 1,000-plus isles are home to single resorts – clusters of exquisite villas teetering over the azure sea. Arrival by seaplane or speedboat simply adds to the A-list feel. This is ‘getting away from it all’ in the purest sense: bright-white sands, rustling palms, seemingly endless ocean; it feels as if nothing else in the world exists.
Beyond the beach: Beautiful above the water, the Maldives is arguably more astonishing beneath it. These seas are some of the richest in the world, bursting with iridescent corals and tropical fish, graceful manta ray, turtle and whale shark. Lagoon swimming is safe. The snorkelling is sublime. You could even learn to dive.
Don’t miss: Take a boat trip with a marine biologist, to learn about the Indian Ocean from an expert
The Caribbean: For supreme sands, laid-back living and endless choices
Many, many islands make up the Caribbean, but all of them seem to sing. There’s such lust-for-life across this Elysian region. It’s hardly surprising given its miles of golden sands, balmy breezes and air infused with tropical flowers. The Caribbean is the ideal choice for a beach break simply because there is so much choice. From reggae-infused Jamaica to volcanic St Lucia to spicy Grenada, there’s a Caribbean to suit everyone.
Beyond the beach: You could get active. Zip lines zing across many of the islands’ mountainous interiors. There are chances to surf and snorkel, sail and kayak, dive and cycle. You could immerse yourself in the local culture. From the British naval history of Antigua to the French-Creole vibe of St Barths. Stay in a historic plantation house in Nevis. Visit Barbados’ Jacobean mansion. And eat – the food here is a fantastic. A fusion of indigenous fruits and vegetables, exotic spices, fresh-caught seafood, colonial influences and plenty of soul.
Don’t miss: Carnival – most islands celebrate with feathers, sequins, dancing and parades in February/March. Though, in the Caribbean, most nights can be party nights if you like
- Holiday ideas
Cayo Espanto is a truly spectacular retreat. Three miles out to sea from the coastal city of San Pedro, it is the very epitome of an exclusive island hideaway. Peace, quiet and privacy really are the order of the day at this hyper-luxurious boutique resort
Turtle Inn is a true labour of love. Less than a year after Francis and Eleanor Coppola acquired this beachside refuge in 2001, it was swept out to sea by the forces of Hurricane Iris
Unpretentious elegance is the very essence of Victoria House Resort & Spa
Tucked away in a pocket of the Maya Mountains, Blancaneaux Lodge is a 20-room luxury resort where waterfalls tumble into turquoise pools above the jungle canopy
Begin the evening by attending an environmental talk in the library. Glass of wine in hand, you will learn about the island's various conservation programmes, key to the North Island experience
Located on the private island of Félicité, considered one of the most vividly beautiful islands in the Seychelles, Six Senses Zil Pasyon provides an exotic escape from the everyday
- Holiday ideas