Barbados

Eight dazzling Caribbean festivals you can cruise to next year

Always wanted to shake your tail feather at Junkanoo, the biggest and best of the Bahamas’ many festivals? Or perhaps you’d prefer to check out Pirates Week – 11 days of pirate themed fun and festivities across the three Cayman Islands?

No matter which Caribbean festivals and events you have your heart set on attending, there’s a cruise that can take you there. Here’s our guide to the Caribbean’s best parties  – and the cruise lines that encompass them.

1. Bob Marley Birthday Bash, Jamaica

February 6

Reggae fans from around the world flock to the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica, to pay tribute to the King of Reggae on his birthday, at his former residence on Hope Road. Expect a myriad of reggae entertainers, often including the superstar’s sons – take a bow Ziggy, Damian and Stephen – and grandson, Skip Marley.

In addition to the museum in Kingston, the small museum in Nine Mile (Bob Marley’s birth site) near Ocho Rios is a popular destination as is Negril, where current reggae artists perform live in honour of the music legend.

Bobmarley.com

2. Carnival, Trinidad 

Late February/early March

Together with Brazil, the Caribbean is synonymous with carnival  – five days to a fortnight of revelry held in the run-up to Ash Wednesday. Each island has its own carnival, but the biggest and the best party takes place in Trinidad.

Get your sequins on for the battle of the steel-pan bands, elaborate floats basting soca and calypso music, twirling dancers, outlandish costumes and wild street parties that rage until dawn.

The outfits won't disappoint Credit: istock

Big, bright, loud and proud, it’s the mother of all carnivals – and everyone is invited.

Ncctt.org; trinidadcarnivaldiary.com

3. St. Patrick's Week, Montserrat

March 10-17

Help Montserratians celebrate their Irish heritage (an official green shamrock is stamped in your passport at the airport, while the national flag shows an Irish harp symbol) during St Patrick’s Week.

Yes, you read right: locals paint the Caribbean island green for a whole seven days in memory of the Irish who settled there in the 17th century, after Protestants expelled them from the neighbouring island of St Kitts.

Leprechauns, shamrocks and Guinness abound during St Patrick’s Week but there’s also a distinctively Caribbean twist to festivities, and cruise passengers can look forward to riotous street-drumming jams and Twenty-20 cricket matches.

facebook.com/Montserrats-St-Patricks-Festival

4. Antigua Sailing Week

April

One of the sport's most famous regattas, Antigua Sailing Week is equal parts serious racing and serious partying. Five days of formal racing runs out of Falmouth Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard on the south coast of Antigua, and is followed by a lively après sailing scene.

Inaugurated in 1968, Antigua Sailing Week is said to be the major event that drives year-round awareness of Antigua and Barbuda.

Sailing means big business in Antigua Credit: getty

sailingweek.com




5. Crop Over Festival, Barbados

167953_10150341026415507_2322947_n.jpg

July

Barbados bound? Don’t miss Crop Over Festival, the island’s top event celebrating a 200 year-old tradition that honors the end of the sugar cane season. This legendary six-week festival features dusk till dawn parties, Instagram-worthy parades, arts and crafts markets and culinary-driven street fairs.

Grand Kadooment Day marks the end of Crop Over and sees revellers take to the streets in flamboyant masquerade-style costumes.

Parades aplenty on Grand Kadooment Day Credit: getty

barbadoscropoverfestival.com

6. Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica

July

Dubbed “the greatest reggae show on earth”, Reggae Sumfest sees Bob Marley devotees and die hard rastafarians from around the world descend on Montego Bay (or Mo Bay as everyone calls it) to jam with world class reggae artists for a week. Last year’s line-up included Jamaican heavyweights such as Spice, Damian “Junior Gong” Marley, Beres Hammond, Popcaan and Capleton, alongside international headliners. Sumfest, which started in 1993, kicks off with a beach party on Walter Fletcher Beach.

Montego Bay Credit: istock

reggaesumfest.com

7. Pirates Week, Cayman Islands

November

The Cayman Islands’ national festival, Pirates Week (actually longer than a week) promises parades, games, fireworks, music and more for the whole family to enjoy.

Festivities begin on Cayman Brac before moving to the main island, Grand Cayman, and concluding on Little Cayman (which, as the name suggests, is the smallest of the three Cayman Islands).

Conceived from an idea to throw an event that would attract tourists, the festival draws heavily on Cayman’s history of pirate attacks. Legend has it that the first settlers of Little Cayman fled due to a pirate invasion, while it’s rumoured that Blackbeard buried his treasure in the caves of Cayman Brac.

Pirates descend on the Cayman Islands Credit: getty

Piratesweekfestival.com

8. Junkanoo Festival, The Bahamas

December 26 and January 1

The Bahamas’ version of Mardi Gras is called “Junkanoo” – pronounced junk-uh-noo – and it starts in the twilight hours of Boxing Day. Crowds come to Nassau for the colourful street parade replete with dancing, music, impressive floats and iridescent costumes (that can weigh over 200lb/90kg each).

The origin of the name Junkanoo is hotly disputed but many claim that the word originated during the slave trade from John Canoe, a legendary African prince who demanded to celebrate with the slaves on their days off. Others believe that “junkanoo” comes from the French word “l'inconnu” meaning “the unknown” – in reference to the masks worn by the Junkanoo performers.

bahamas.com/junkanoo

Junkanoo: the Bahamian’s version of Mardi Gras Credit: iStock

How to do it

The following cruise lines operate numerous itineraries in the Caribbean:

Carnival

Celebrity Cruises

Costa Cruises

Cunard

Disney Cruise Line

Holland America Line

Norwegian Cruise Line

Princess Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Caribbean cruises for non-cruise people

The Caribbean is the world’s largest cruise-ship destination and for good reason: it's the easiest way to explore a variety of islands, and the most economical. Travel in the Caribbean can be extortionate and because cruises cover accommodation, meals, transportation and entertainment in one price, they are comparatively affordable.
Still not convinced a Caribbean cruise is for you? Here’s a handful of boutique cruise lines plying the Caribbean Sea:

The sounds of steel drums have become synonymous with the Caribbean Credit: iStock

Sea Cloud Cruises

A German-American company that operates luxury cruises in the Eastern Caribbean on their two traditionally rigged sailing ships, Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II. 
seacloud.com

Star Clippers

The brainchild of Swedish entrepreneur Mikael Krafft, Star Clippers operates three tall-ship sailboats that primarily sail under wind power and carry no more than 170 passengers.
starclippers.com

Windstar

This boutique cruise line carries between 200 and just over 300 passengers on its small ships, and is known for its immersive and authentic experiences and unique, port-intensive itineraries. 
windstarcruises.com

View and read the full article here

Where the experts holiday: Eleanor Keymer, Bespoke honeymoon and travel planner

Bespoke honeymoon and travel planner, Eleanor Keymer, has visited over 100 countries and lived in both the Costa Rican jungle and the urban London jungle. As a result, friends and friends-of-friends have long been seeking Eleanor’s advice about favourite destinations, leading her to set up her own travel planning service.
Here Eleanor shares her travel highlights to date, with Just About Travel readers

 

What do you like to do on holiday?
I like to go wildlife watching – nothing beats seeing nature at it’s finest. I also like to get off the beaten track and discover lessen-known parts of the globe. It could be discovering a hidden spot, having an authentic experience or heading to a new region – basically it means finding places that won’t turn up in any guidebook.

Where did you last go?
I recently returned from Swaziland which is where my fiance grew up. The kingdom of Swaziland is a tiny, serene little green jewel in the middle of a problematic region. Instead of a making a brief stop off on your way to Kruger National Park, KwaZulu-Natal or Mozambique, I’d recommend staying at least a week to do the country justice.

Do you know where you’re going this year?
I do. First up, I am off a road trip around Spain with my Father and baby daughter, Tara. Then in June, my fiance and I are headed to Sorrento (Italy) to tie the knot. We’re also off to Aldenery – the northernmost of the inhabited Channel Islands – for a friend’s wedding before travelling to Nambia, Botswana and Zambia followed by Barbados and the Dominican Republic at the end of the year. It’s going to be a busy remainder of the year – and I can’t wait!

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
This a tough question but I’d have to say Brazil. The South American giant’s ecosystems are legendary: Brazil boasts the greatest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth. Stir into the mix wild nightlife, beautiful beaches, thundering waterfalls and charming colonial towns and you couldn’t hope for anymore.

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Like many people, I dream of setting foot in remote, majestic Antarctica  – it’s one of those bucket list destinations. Antarctica is home to some of the world’s most extraordinary species and is a place of surreal beauty – I have to go.

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
I’d tell them to check out Chiddingstone Village – it’s one of the most beautiful and oldest villages in Kent. Visiting Chiddingstone is akin to stepping back in time – the tudor village is complete with half-timbered frames, gables and stone hung red-tiled roofs. If you think the village looks familiar, it may be because Chiddingstone has been used as a site for several films including ‘A Room with a View’. There’s a fantastic pub – The Castle Inn – that’s full of historic charm and serves a wide range of delicious locally-sourced, home cooked dishes.

How do you plan your holiday?
I turn to the internet as a source of travel information and also take into account recommendations by friends when it comes to planning my trips. However I still rely on travel guidebooks – Lonely Planet, Rough Guides et al – during my travels.

How often do you go away?
Whenever I can!

Who do you travel with?
My family, friends, my baby daughter… but I also travel a lot by myself.

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
It will be an interesting time for tourism in the post Brexit market. I think we will see more international tourists owing to the favourable exchange rates and I also think we’ll see more people coming from countries you wouldn’t expect.

Thanks Eleanor!
 

download-1.jpg

For more information on Eleanor’s destination and itinerary planning and advice, please visit www.eleanorkeymer.com/

Read the article here: http://www.justabouttravel.net/2018/03/27/where-the-experts-holiday-eleanor-keymer-bespoke-honeymoon-and-travel-planner/

Five celebrity honeymoon destinations

Ever wondered where the stars like to head for their honeymoon? Well wonder no more! The Sybarite has the low-down on the luxurious destinations that the A listers flock to, for a romantic escape

Seychelles, Caribbean
Celebrities love the Seychelles thanks to its winning combination of beauty (this 115 island archipelago boasts soft, sandy beaches shaded by palms and lapped by crystal clear waters) and privacy (the Seychelles government has introduced laws to protect the privacy of holidaying stars).
As such, the Seychelles has played host to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who honeymooned on North Islandback in May 2011, as well as Hollywood royalty: the Beckhams celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary on the island in 2009, while George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin and Salam Hayek and French husband Francois-Henri Pinault have all honeymooned here.
 

County Cork, Ireland
Reality star Kim Kardashian and her rapper husband Kanye West shunned traditional honeymoon destinations - here’s looking at the Maldives - in favour of, um, Ireland. That’s right: the power couple famously flew to the Emerald Isle for their honeymoon having fallen in love with the ‘calm’ of the Irish countryside on a previous visit. “We spent Kanye's bday in Ireland a few years back & fell in love with it! Its such a calming relaxing place!” Kim tweeted by way of explanation.
The fame hungry pair checked into the Castlemartyr Resort and Castle Oliver - a five star hotel in Cork which was declared the grandest hotel in Ireland by Conde Nast Traveller magazine, no less, in 2015. During their trip, Kimye were spotted hiking in the Ballyhoura Mountains, in addition to enjoying a helicopter ride over the Dingle Peninsula.

The Maldives
Katy Perry and Russell Brandand Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are just two of the high profile (former) couples who spent their honeymoons in the Maldives. And for good reason: these 1,190 coral islands, in the middle of the Indian ocean, are celebrated for their deep blue seas, Bounty advert beaches and sumptuous hotels such as the One & Only Reethi Rah.
American singer Stacy Ann Ferguson - aka Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie - and her hunky husband Transformers star, Josh Duhamel, holed up at the Maldive’s most glamorous resort, where they were snapped canoeing, taking cooking classes, private yoga and tennis lessons and spa treatments. Thinking of following in their famous footsteps? It will cost you. The couple’s suite reportedly cost £10,000 for the week.

Barbados, Caribbean
Barbados may just be the hottest honeymoon destination du jour. Many top celebrities - like legendary performer Barbara Streisand and actor James Brolin and Westlife’s Kian Egan - have chosen to honeymoon in Barbados, aka Rihanna’s beautiful birthplace..  As have sports stars: golfing aceTiger Woods chose Barbados as the venue for his ill fated 2004 wedding to Elin Nordegren.
The jet set come for the first class restaurants, chic nightlife, championship golf courses and exclusive resorts like Sandy Lane - a favourite of Beyonce and Jay Z, Cindy Crawford, Donatella Versace and Simon Cowell.

Paris, France
“Paris is always a good idea.” So said Audrey Hepburn (who would have celebrated her 87th birthday last month) in the 1954 film Sabrina. Audrey Hepburn was absolutely right: Paris is always a good idea - especially for a romantic getaway.
Sacha Baron Cohen and his stunning wife Isla Fisher,  singer Lily Allen and spouse Sam Cooper and actress Anne Hathaway and her other half Adam Schulman, are just a few of the power couples who chose the city of love as their honeymoon destination. Blonde beauty Reese Witherspoon and second husband, Jim Toth, were also papped putting on a romantic display of affection, while honeymooning in chic Paris.

Celebrity honeymoon destinations

Wondering where to honeymoon? Follow in the footsteps of the rich and famous and head to one of these haute spots

 

County Cork, Ireland
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West may have tied the knot at Fort di Belvedere - a 16th century fortress in Florence -  but, for their honeymoon, Kimye flew to the Emerald Isle where they enjoyed a relaxing break in the Irish countryside. The power couple reportedly checked into Cork’s Castlemartyr Resort and Castle Oliver in Limerick and were snapped enjoying a bike ride in the Ballyhoura Mountains as well as, erm, several low key trips to the cinema. See: beyond the bling, they’re just like us after all…!

Palm Springs, California
Located 110 miles east of Los Angeles along Hwy 111, Palm Springs is where the Rat Pack cronies headed when they wanted to escape the intensity of Hollywood. However it wasn’t just Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr and Dean Martin who flocked to this desert jewel. Elvis and Priscilla Presley spent their 1967 honeymoon at 1,350 Ladera Circle, Palm Springs. Designed by the architectural firm of Palmer and Krisel and built by celebrated local designer, Robert Alexander, Elvis’ futuristic semi-circular Honeymoon Hideaway is currently on the market for a cool US$9.5 million.

Positano, Italy
Reese Witherspoon can be seen on the silver screen in Wild as Cheryl Strayed - a role which has earned the blonde beauty an Oscar nomination. Rewind three years and Reese and second husband, Jim Toth, were papped putting on a romantic display of affection during their honeymoon at legendary Le Sirenuse in Positano - one of the most picturesque corners of Italy. America’s sweetheart isn’t the only A lister to favour the Amalfi Coast. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and wife Priscilla spent their honeymoon on the Amalfi coast  - as did Kim K and her ex-husband, basketball player Kris Humphries.

Seychelles, Caribbean
Think of the Caribbean dream depicted in glossy brochures and you have the Seychelles - a 115 island archipelago of soft, sandy beaches shaded by palms and lapped by crystal clear waters. Little wonder than our favourite royal couple - take a bow the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - sought out the Seychelles’ ultra private North Island for their post wedding vacay back in May 2011. The Seychelles has also proved a popular choice with Hollywood royalty: George Clooney and new bride Amal Alamuddin chose North Island for their honeymoon as did actress Salma Hayek. It’s a decision that makes sense: the Seychelles government recently introduced laws to protect the privacy of holidaying celebs.

Mustique, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean
The small private island of Mustique was where Sir Paul McCartney whisked wife number three - New Jersey heiress Nancy Shevell - a week after tying the knot at Old Marylebone Town Hall. The former Beatle benefited from a “little help from his friends.” Sir Paul - who recently collaborated with Rihanna and  Kanye West on the hit single Only One - honeymooned at Mick Jagger’s exclusive Mustique retreat that boasts six bedrooms, a butler, private chef 25ft swimming pool.
Elsewhere on the Caribbean island after just three months of dating, X Factor judge Cheryl Cole tied the knot with Jean-Bernard Fernández-Versini in high end Cotton House Hotel.

One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives
Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie and her husband of six years, Transformers star Josh Duhamel, spent their honeymoon here and who came blame them? The Maldives’ most glamorous resort is famous for its world class service, unprecedented privacy and views, exquisite accommodation, sumptuous dining, and ESPA spa where treatments include Watsu (WATer ShiatSU), a form of aquatic therapy which quiets the mind and relaxes the body, and The Maldivian Journey - a treatment which begins in the Watsu Pool, followed by a refreshing fruit mocktail, an invigorating body scrub and a heavenly full body massage. The couple’s secluded suite is reported to cost over £10,000 a week.

Paris, France
Some destinations are like a loaf of bread: they go stale over time or as tourists traffic picks up. Paris however is like one of its famous fine wines: the longer it’s around, the better it gets so we’re not surprised that Sacha Baron Cohen and his gorgeous wife Isla Fisher chose to spend their honeymoon in the City of Romance. The Borat and Ali G creator and his bride spent their honeymoon holed up in the Coco Chanel Suite at the Ritz while singer Lily Allen and hubby Sam Cooper stayed at the chic Hotel Costes.  Anne Hathaway and Adam Schulman are another couple who fell for Paris’ considerable charms as a honeymoon destination.

Barbados, Caribbean
Legendary performer Barbara Streisand and actor James Brolin chose to honeymoon in the British Overseas Territory and understandably so. Only a handful of places on earth are more seductive and beautiful in the flesh than on the postcard but Barbados is one of them. Even better: it doesn’t require a string of vaccinations to get there and you’re guaranteed sun and spoken English. Golf’s fallen superstar, Tiger Woods, also chose Barbados as the venue for his ill fated 2004 wedding to Elin Nordegren. Woods wed his Swedish finance at Sandy Lane Golf Club - a favourite haunt of Simon Cowell and cronies.

Memorable mid winter getaways

It’s wet, windy and dark at four o clock so it must be time to head abroad and bask in some winter sun. KH has the low-down on 10 destinations where sun, sand and sea come as standard

Palm  Springs, America
Surrounded by the stunning San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains, Palm Springs stands for everything I love: hot weather, fabulous sun tanned bodies and some of the some of the swankiest hotels and bars on the planet.
Located 110 miles east of Los Angeles along Hwy 111, Palm Springs is where the King of Cool and his Rat Pack cronies headed when they wanted to escape the intensity of Hollywood. However it wasn’t just Dean, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jnr who flocked to this desert jewel. Liberace, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable: name your star and they’ll almost certainly have had an extravagant home here. The question isn’t so much who has stayed and played in Palm Springs, as who hasn’t? The Best of the Best’s ‘Rich And Famous Tour’ shows you the estates of the all of the celebs who helped put Palm Springs on the map.
But the real reason you flock to Palm Springs is to drink designer cocktails and dance to fresh DJ spun tunes around kidney shaped pools until the wee hours. Sure, Palm Springs won’t suit everyone – you either get it or you don’t. But if you do, like me, you can’t wait to return.

South coast, Barbados
When in Britain the sky is the colour of porridge, the leaves are falling and everyone is succumbing to the  flue, in Barbados it’s hot. Not sweltering sunstroke hot you understand, but blue skies, smattering of clouds, top up the tan hot.
Even better: it doesn’t require a string of vaccinations to get there and everyone speaks English. The majority of Brits make a beeline for Barbados’ fabled west coast which isn’t nicknamed the Platinum coast for nothing: this lap of luxury is where the jet set (think leggy models, real estate gurus, playboys and socialites) hang out.
Yes the west coast is good at showing off, but sometimes less is more right? So if, like me, you can survive a holiday without bumping into Simon Cowell and co, head south where you’ll find pockets of paradise that have not yet been lost. There’s no such thing as a bad beach in Barbados, but Brownes beach, Miami beach and Accra beach – all on the sun kissed south coast – are exceptionally fine spots to toast on a sun lounger and then spend longer in the paint box turquoise water than a dolphin.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio has always been hot (in every sense of the word) but right now the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City) is positively sizzling! The world’s best footballers were in Rio last summer for the FIFA 2014 World Cup and they’’ll be followed by the Olympic flame in 2016.
Most visitors touch down and make a beeline for the beach – be it the world famous Copacabana or its more salubrious sibling, Ipanema, both of whom have been celebrated in song and film. Regardless of where you to choose to stretch out your beach towel, expect to see Cariocas (aka residents of Rio) from all walks of life – families, favela kids, football players, pensioners, hawkers peddling sunglasses and sarongs, and socialites in huge sunglasses – coming together to get their groove on.
It would be easy – and perfectly understandable in light of the recent Siberian weather conditions in Blighty – to spend all of your time frying yourself silly on the golden sand. But Rio offers more than just a day on the beach and only a philistine would visit without ticking off the 125ft statue of Christ the Redeemer who stands, arms outstretched, on the summit of Corcovado Mountain – and ascending Sugarloaf Mountain (also referred to as Pao de Acucar).

Sanya, Hainan
A few weeks from now you could a) be counting the shades of gray in a February day or b) lying on the sand in Sanya (there’s more to China than the Temple of Heaven and Terracotta Warriors), working on the tan.
This oasis that sits on the same latitude as Hawaii hasn’t received the recognition it deserves, having only been opened to visitors 20 years ago. As a result, it’s not as fashionable as other Asian beach destinations, but it can only be a matter of time…
Sanya marks the southernmost tip of the island of Hainan, which is roughly the same size as Belgium. Dubbed “the end of the earth” (or the “tail of the dragon” due to its remoteness in relation to Beijing), this tropical city is famous for its beaches and doesn’t disappoint. Dadonghai Bay and Sanya Bay are both fine spots for those who want to fly and flop but, budget permitting, aim to base yourself 15km east at exclusive Yalong Bay. The beach here is the best and, unless you’re mad enough to go over Chinese New Year, it’s virtually empty.

Tel Aviv, Israel
Can’t choose between perfect beaches and bronzed bodies, a buzzy city atmosphere or architectural treasures? Israel’s largest city delivers them all – along with gastronomy, history and culture -  in spades.
Of course Tel Aviv has been in the headlines recently for all the wrong reasons but don’t be deterred from visiting: travelling to Tel Aviv – whose name means ‘Hill of the Spring’ – no longer constitutes an active threat. Tourists have rarely been targeted and you’ll be warmly greeted by Israelis looking to shed their country’s international reputation.
In fact we defy you to to resist the charms of the friendly – and unfeasibly good looking – locals who will bend over backwards to help you during your sojourn in the White City. Those that I was befriended by couldn’t get over the fact that, back home in Britain, I don’t know my neighbours – absolutely everyone knows everyone in Tel Aviv.
All told if you want to put the pep back in your step, if you want to live life to the full and be bold, bright and fabulous, Tel Aviv delivers.

Riveria, Mexico
If the weather is really getting you down, fret not. Simply pull out your sense of adventure and make for Mexico’s Mayan Riviera. True the journey to get there is something of an odyssey but this is a small price to pay for a perfect mix of winter sun, beautiful beaches,  sea as turquoise as glass, ancient temple ruins, fine food and loud and proud Latin culture – in short everything you could want from a Mexican holiday.
Cancun is the gateway to this pocket of sunny paradise but his resort lined strip only gives you a limited view of what the state of Quintana Roo (pronounced Kin tah nah roh) has to offer. Instead push onto Playa del Carmen which manages to be hip as well as hot. The postcard charmer has decades of experience of welcoming European and Americans sun seekers who flock here to see and be seen on Playa’s Bounty advert beaches. World class snorkelling and diving (the underwater world here is a paradise for snorkellers and divers of every ability) can fill your days or you can just drift off a beachside bed and ogle the mahogany flesh – expect a competitive parade of preening bling – that is always on display before hitting Quinta Avenida which hums with activity at any hour.

Boracay, The Philippines
No visit to the Philippines is complete without spending some time on the island of Boracay whose pristine beaches and balmy waters provide a welcome escape for weary travellers. Yes, grass-roofed, fixed umbrellas are everywhere. And yes, hawkers do patrol the beach looking to sell their crafts. But it’s still possible to secure a stretch of sand for yourself, settle back and enjoy the unhurried pace of life. Some whinge that Boracay has become commercialised – that the island has too many resorts, eateries and bars (there’s even a shopping mall). Yet, while there are signs that the island is going upmarket  (Shangri La hotel has taken up a tenancy), Boracay still lags way behind any of its Thai equivalents, as far as rampant development goes.
At night, the island comes alive. Filipinos certainly know how to party. Head for the landmark beachfront bar of Hey! Jude or Bom Bom Bar – a sizzling hot sundowner spot. Under the setting sun and the blare of pop hits, you can enjoy timeless and unpretentious Filipino fun that modernity can’t surpass.

Cape Town, South Africa
It was back in 1850 that Sir Francis Drake described Cape Town as the “fairest cape in the whole circumference of the earth”. Fast-forward a few hundred years and Drake’s declaration still rings true. After a few grim decades, when the thought of visiting Cape Town and feeling the sun on your face was heavily tempered by the specter of violent crime, the city is once again back on the map, having firmly established itself as a travellers’ haven.
It might be possible to have a bad time in Cape Town, but it’s hard to see how. For in the aptly named ‘Rainbow Nation’, visitors can effectively combine a spectrum of different holidays in just one trip. The tourist target boasts an embarrassment of riches: its got awesome mountains, game reserves galore, cultural rewards in the shape of the city itself, scores of scenic attractions and yes – world class beaches where you can ogle the effortlessly gorgeous, long limbed locals basking in the sunshine. (You won’t see many soaking up the surf as the waters are cold enough to keep even the keenest of swimmers out of the ocean). Other pluses? Prices are reasonable, if not remarkably cheap and there’s no jet lag to contend with.

Dubai, UAE
As recently as two decades ago few Brits had heard of, yet alone been to, Dubai. Now the emirate is a permanent fixture on the winter sun scene thanks to its promise of guaranteed rays, without the need to fly halfway around the globe.
People, perhaps understandably given the emirate’s penchant for publicising its outlandish projects, have the wrong idea about Dubai – believing it to be all about  malls and modernity.
However scratch beneath the shiny surface and you’ll find another side to the ‘city of gold’. Alongside the skyscrapers like the Burj Al Arab (the self proclaimed seven star hotel) and the Emirates Towers sit historical sites such as Bastakia  and the creek – arguably the heart beat of Dubai. Here you can watch abras and dhows (traditional Arab sailing boats) weave their way across the water, as they have done for centuries. For further local flavour, factor in a tour of Jumeirah Mosque (Dubai is after all an Islamic state even if it isn’t quite how you’d envisage Arabia) before sauntering through the bustling souks. Bottom line? There’s awful lot to discover about Dubai beyond what you know from the glossy brochures.

Nha Trang, Vietnam
If you’ve ever wondered what Goa looked like before the hippies or Thailand before the high rise hotels, then Nha Trang could be your last chance to find out. Vietnam’s beach capital may not have previously figured on your mental map, yet when you get there it’s hard to see why not.
Allow me to paint the picture… the sea is the colour of Bombay sapphire, the sky is perpetually blue and the sand is platinum blonde and squeaks when you walk on it. Right now it’s warm rather than scorching, but six hours of sunshine a day is still a distinct improvement on Blighty. To the beach you can add cultural treasures, great surf and dive sites, good retail therapy, lively nightlife, fabulous food and everything from hostels to super swish resorts.
When night falls, seek out The Sailing Club: a friendly bustling establishment on the beach that’s a great spot for a night out. As you stand watching the waves crash onto the shore with a cool beer in hand while a calypso throbs in the background, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.